There haven’t been many episodes of Star Trek that didn’t rely upon the ‘universal translator’ to some degree, but while the idea of a device that could convert speech into another language is very compelling, it’s one that’s yet to be realised in any significant way.

Tl_extracted 1

There haven’t been many episodes of Star Trek that didn’t rely upon the ‘universal translator’ to some degree, but while the idea of a device that could convert speech into another language is very compelling, it’s one that’s yet to be realised in any significant way.

Google — surprise, surprise — is working on it though, and its new Google Translate iPhone app is extremely impressive. Google first launched its mobile translation service in 2008, but that simply offered a smartphone-friendly text-based version of its web translation service — you type in a word or phrase, choose a target language and get a written translation in return.

The Google Translate iPhone app, however, takes things to the next level and adds speech recognition to its language translation skills. In other words (no pun intended), you just need to speak into the iPhone microphone and the app will detect what you’ve said and not only provide an appropriate translation on-screen for 50 languages in a huge font, but will also provide an audio playback of the translation in 24 of them.

So, even if you don’t have much faith in your Swedish accent, you can still order a couple of beers by getting the waiter to listen to your iPhone. In addition to English, the app can also translate speech from 15 other languages, so if you have a problem understanding someone speaking in Polish or Portuguese, you can simply point them at the microphone and get the app to translate for you.

It all sounds a bit like something from science fiction, but incredibly, it works. You need to speak clearly for the speech recognition to be accurate and you’ll need an internet connection for new translations (old ones are stored in the app for later reference), but the Google Translate iPhone app is an invaluable tool for making yourself understood overseas. And, of course, it’s free.

[Google Translate iPhone app on iTunes]

Share with friends

Follow us on

Most recent caravan reviews

The Practical Caravan Caravelair Antarès 476 review – 1 - The Caravelair Antarès 476's quirky, one 'eye' looks hint at the unusual layout inside – it has an MTPLM of 1200kg (© Phil Russell/Practical Caravan)
The Practical Caravan Buccaneer Galera review – 1 - The silver sides are new and give the 2017-season Buccaneer caravans a distinctive, upmarket look (© Andy Jenkinson/Practical Caravan)
The Practical Caravan Hymer Nova GL 470 review – 1 - Its external styling is a little boxy and retro, but there's no getting away from the Hymer Nova GL 470's £27,690 price and 1700kg MTPLM (© Practical Caravan)

Xplore 554

£15,599

The Practical Caravan Xplore 554 review – 1 - The new-for-2017 Xplore 554 is aimed at couples and has a 1335kg MTPLM (© Practical Caravan)
The Practical Caravan Knaus StarClass 480 review – 1 - A Continental van with its door on the UK nearside, shows that Knaus is committed to wooing British caravanners – does it work with the StarClass 480? (© Peter Baber/Practical Caravan)
The Practical Caravan Swift Basecamp review – 1 - This graphics package was a £795 option, and there are plenty others to choose from (© Phil Russell/Practical Caravan)