First of all, there are many apps for digital devices, including cell phones, for helping with language translation when traveling, or trying to communicate in a foreign language anywhere. However, some apps are geared for language learners, and some are especially geared for tourists.
Specifically, a tourist would need words and phrases for getting around, or for ordering food, or seeking a restroom. Specialized travel apps produce those common phrases quickly. A feature of some of the apps is producing the pronunciation so the user can hear how the word should be spoken. That would have come in handy when we were in a tiny town in Germany in 2008, before we had smart phones. We tried to use a guidebook’s explanation of how to say the word for ‘laundromat’ but our inquiries baffled the friendly gas station clerk. We did get our clothes washed, but only after driving around for a long time, finding the visitor center, and finding someone who could understand us.
Google and Bravolol – Two Travel Translation Apps Listed in New York Times:
Last year, our local newspaper carried a New York Times article by Stephanie Rosenbloom, Don’t Be Lost For Words: Use Foreign-Language Apps. It highlighted two apps:
Bravolol – The World Phrasebook is free, and includes the following languages: English, Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Thai, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, Vietnamese (as of this posting). This phrasebook contains over 800 commonly-used phrases & vocabularies.
The application’s cartoon parrot can ‘talk’ and speak the words phrase you select. The free version has limited categories, and upgrading to the paid version is $4.99.
Google Translate is free, and has mobile, off-line, and desktop modes. Input what you want to say in your own language by saying it, typing it, or writing it with your finger. The app will translate it so you can speak it or show it to someone or let the app produce an audio translation. Or take a photo of written text and it will translate. The online version can translate 103 languages, and offline there are 52. The camera method can translate 29 different languages. (as of this posting)
The New York Times author recommended setting up the app before you travel, to select the two languages you’ll be using.
Two More Language Translation ‘Best Apps’ Lists:
Travel and Leisure – Testing Out the Best Translation Apps for Travelers. Describes four apps, two free, two fee.
Technology Personalized – 10 Best Translating Apps for Mobile Devices [Online & Offline] Describes and shows screenshots of ten apps. Many are free or have a free component. The article was updated Jan. 2016.