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Kate Russell’s Tech Traveller

Kate Russell’s Tech Traveller

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Technology reporter Kate Russell is a pro at finding the best websites and apps to recommend to viewers of BBC Click (and us!). Check out her site Mywebdaily.com or tweet her @katerussell

Language and translation

Science fiction has always bestowed the future with some universal translation device — partly to keep the dialogue moving along smoothly, but also because it would be cool to talk to people from other worlds without running into a language barrier. Your smartphone can do a pretty good job of translating languages if you have the right apps. Free for Android and iPhone is Google Translate, which uses voice-recognition and text-to-voice to ‘listen, translate and speak’ more than 60 languages on the go. BlackBerry users can try FancyTran, which has similar features and is also free.

If you’re using Windows Phone 7, you can scan items with your camera — such as a menu or street sign — and have the Bing Translate app convert it into another language. This app is an old stalwart of the platform but has recently had a big overhaul. If you’re envious of that scanning feature, there are options on other platforms but you’ll have to pay to download them. ScanThing is an Android app (from £3.49) enabling you to scan text for an instant translation, supporting over 60 languages. iPhone users don’t have anything as comprehensive but Word Lens offers French and Spanish translations (from £2.99) in either direction.

Online traveller
Translating tips
If you want to go beyond your mother tongue and chat away with the locals on your next trip overseas, take a look at this trio of sites

Obliterate those language barriers with this social network, which enables you to stay in touch with fellow travellers with a built-in translator and speech synthesiser. It may not be as slick as the likes of Facebook, but if you’re looking for a simple way to chat to all your multilingual buddies, it can’t be beaten. Those who have impaired vision might also find its vocal mechanism useful.

Get your head around a new language with Duolingo, whose free lessons take the form of exercises to help your new tongue sink in. What makes this service so unique is that you’ll be translating websites and other documents somewhere on the internet — a job that’s phenomenally important to native speakers of that language. So far it’s only available for Spanish and German, with French, Italian and Chinese coming soon.

If you’re serious about learning a new language before you travel, get in as much practice as possible with Verbling. This service pairs you up with a native speaker of your chosen new language, who’s keen to get to grips with your language, too. Chat away with your new chum in different languages using conversation prompts and a guideline to coach each other to the best of your best abilities. Includes sign-language.


movies.msn.com/warhorse/map Follow in the heroic hoofprints of ‘War Horse’ Joey, as brought to life in Spielberg’s epic movie of the same name, with this interactive time-map on MSN Entertainment. It allows you to trace his path through the film’s war-torn landscape from the comfort of your own home.

Four of the best Practical travelling

iNap Arrival Alert
Ensure you never snooze
past your train station or bus stop again by downloading iNap Arrival Alert. Enabling you to set the GPS location
of your destination, it will ring the alarm on arrival. Android. Free.

Sleepy Traveller
iPhone users can reap similar arrival alerts from this app, which also displays a reminder of how far away you are from your destination. Ideal if you’re sleepy or need plenty of time to grab your bags. iPhone. Free.

I Am Here
Use this to send a Google Maps location privately to any one, or all, of your contacts. If they have this app installed you’ll then pop up on their map. If not they’ll receive an email with your location data. iPhone. Free. itunes.apple.com

Allergy Traveler
Food allergies and religious diets can be hard to explain abroad. This app provides pictures and translations outlining your dietary needs. The free version has a good selection of languages. Android & BB PlayBook. Free. play.google.com

Published in the October 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)