Though it’s not the first voice-to-voice language translation app in the App Store, Sonico’s iTranslate Voice is currently topping the paid charts in the App Store and is earning a wide range of ratings so far. I’ve always been intrigued by voice translation apps (see my reviews of Trippo Voicemagix and Vocre) and I thought iTranslate Voice, which debuted in the App Store a little over a week ago, was worth a closer look.
iTranslate Voice’s main screen is pretty bare, presenting only two microphone buttons to kick off dictation of the language you want to translate. The default languages are English and Spanish when you first open the app but you can choose between 15 languages (plus regional variations and dialects of a few of them) for voice translation in the app’s settings, along with eight more languages that can be translated via manual text input only.
Tapping on a microphone button yields a Siri-like beep to prompt you to speak and it can auto-detect when you’ve finished speaking and start translating. The translation is spoken aloud and shown in text on the screen in the selected language. Tapping on a bubble of text on the screen brings up a keyboard so you can refine or correct it for translation. You can turn off the option to automatically detect when you’ve stopped speaking and the automatic speaking of the translation results in the app’s settings if you’d like.
iTranslate Voice works, for the most part at least. Testing it with English and French (the only two languages I speak since I don’t count the mangled Spanish I can put out when pressed) yields reasonable results. For the tourist traveling abroad, iTranslate Voice will absolutely help you interact with others who don’t speak your language and, barring any exceptionally odd situations, should not get you into any trouble. Translations are reasonably quick on both Wi-Fi and 3G though they’re not “instant” as claimed in the app’s description.
iTranslate Voice also has a dictionary function that will display word definitions, a handy feature if you’re stuck on a single word when you understand the rest of a sentence or something printed on a sign.
Where iTranslate Voice has difficulty is where the previous translation apps I’ve tried have also provided incorrect results: idiomatic expressions. Though I’m a native English speaker, I’ve heard from several who have learned English as a second language that the idiomatic expressions are particularly difficult to comprehend. And French has its fair share of idiomatic expressions as well. Without an exceptional language database and perhaps even some human intervention, I wouldn’t expect any app to be very good at handling these but you should be forewarned if you plan to rely on iTranslate Voice, or any other language translation app available to date, as a 100% accurate translator.
The other consideration here is data usage. The actual translations are done remotely so you’ll need a data connection to use the app. If you’re traveling abroad, you’ll need to be mindful of your data usage to avoid racking up some exorbitant roaming charges or ensure you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network.
If data connectivity is not an issue you’re worried about and you understand its limitations with idiomatic expressions, iTranslate Voice is one of the better voice translation apps I’ve seen and at its introductory price of $.99, it’s a good value to boot.