Language Tools for International Travel

ili translation.jpg

It’s essential to overcome language barriers so that you can fully engage with the local community; it could even be vital for your safety and well-being. But if you’re not confident in the host language yet, you’ll need a few language tools for international travel to help you communicate as you develop fluency. Most of these tools cost little, but they could prove invaluable for your quality of life in a foreign country.

Translation Devices


A Japanese company called Logbar has created a gadget that translates your words instantly so it could make traveling the world much easier.

The device is called “ili” and at the moment it only works with English, Japanese, and Chinese but more languages will be added over time. It is set to be released in the US in June 2017.

pilot.pngThe Pilot Earpiece

The simple earpiece does all of the translating for you. It even translates what you say into the other person’s language. As a result, two people can seamlessly enjoy a conversation without speaking the same language. This technology is a US based startup that was crowd funded. The pilot earpiece is available for pre-sale now to be delivered end of summer 2017.


Translation Apps

Google Translate

The Google Translate app translates in voice and visual mode. The voice mode is an active translator for conversations in real time, but it’s best to use it with simple, common phrases, to avoid problems with voice recognition and pronunciation. Recent updates have improved the voice conversation mode for faster, more natural performance even when the mobile network is slow and unreliable.
The voice-to-text function will translate a spoken word or phrase to text, which can be displayed in full screen or “flash card” mode to show someone what you want to say. You can also create a favorites list for phrases or questions that you use most often such as asking directions or the cost of an item. The favorites will be available even when you’re offline.


Talk into your iOS devices and hear what you’ve said in a different language. SayHi is designed for instant communication. You can have a conversation with anyone without switching languages, even type rather than speak. The app works for around 40 languages, including Arabic, French, Italian, English and Spanish. 

Microsoft Translator

Need live translation when speaking to someone abroad? Download Microsoft Translator, an app that can live-translate speech and text, in real time. It recognizes speech in nine languages and written text in over 60 languages. You can download languages to translate offline, even make a group call with people who speak different languages and hear out everyone’s answers in yours. The app also supports voice in smartwatches and can instantly convert text in another language to yours so you can read signboards. Updated in December, the app has already seen more than a million downloads.  


Love collecting titbits and colourful local phrases whenever you travel? Download TripLingo, which teaches you essential phrases as well as street slang so you can fit right in. It can even translate your words, or instantly connect you to a live translator if you can’t get the phrase right. The database offers around 26,000 phrases in 13 languages and instant voice translation in 19 of them. You even get an audio lesson, an offline dictionary and a currency converter and tip calculator within the app. The app has just started including image translation.

Service Icon Cards

You can leave the guidebook and maps behind when you have a smartphone, but for some situations, you might need a backup.
The Center for Global Education offers a Service Icon Card that you can print. The card has a series of images that show services that you might need, including a telephone, post office, taxi and hospital. You can point to the image of the service when you don’t remember the word. When you run into a situation where the smartphone isn’t charged, or service isn’t available, the Service Icon Card could be a lifesaver.

ID Card

You should have an emergency ID card filled out with the names of your emergency contacts at home and in the host country. It should also list your allergies, blood type, special medical conditions, medications you’re taking and the name of your insurance company. Leave a copy with each of your emergency contacts, and keep one with you at all times.
Translate the emergency ID card to the local language so that any emergency situation can be handled quickly, with no delay caused by misunderstandings in communication.


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