Why Use Pocket Translators?
The top performers in our review are the ECTACO 500AL, the Gold Award winner; the Lexibook NTL1560, the Silver Award winner; and the Lexibook NTL800, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a product to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of nine products.
Vacationing abroad can be a life-changing experience, but it can also be stressful. Throw in a language barrier, and you’ve suddenly got the potential ingredients for a Chevy Chase misadventure. Back in the old days, travelers would be forced to carry around cumbersome translation dictionaries to assist in communication. Today, there are pocket-sized language translator devices that can do the hard work for you.
Some of the best electronic translators on the market are equipped with speech-to-text recognition and speakers that pronounce a desired word or phrase aloud. This ensures faster communication, which could be critical in the event of an emergency. They also come with dictionaries full of common words and phrases, and they include bonus features like world clocks, currency converters and alarm clocks to make your travel experience easier.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. Manufacturers had no input or influence over our evaluation methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
Electronic Translator or Smartphone App?
Nowadays, there’s an app for just about everything. If you have a smartphone, you can download a translator app for a fraction of the cost of purchasing a portable language translator. So why is there still a viable market for standalone electronic language translators? The answer is simple: Not everyone owns a smartphone.
Furthermore, even those who do own smartphones may find electronic translators appealing because they don’t require internet or cellular connectivity to function. If you’re going someplace where you have no cellular coverage, or if you’re worried about incurring international data roaming charges, you may find an electronic translator a practical inclusion to your travel kit. For more information, check out our articles about electronic translators.
Electronic Translators: What We Evaluated, What We Found
We researched a wide array of portable language translators to determine which are the most functional for vacationers to foreign lands. We discovered that there’s much more to a translation device than the simple ability to translate a word or phrase into another language. Consider these points when making your purchase decision, and bear in mind that cheaper doesn’t always mean better.
Languages Galore: The More, the Merrier
Traveling abroad, you can encounter numerous languages you don't speak. We found the best electronic translators come packed with the capability to translate a wide variety of languages. These devices are typically more expensive, but they can be useful in many more places. Electronic translators like the Atlas SD302 or the BBK AM103 are limited in their functionality because they can only translate two languages, including English – whereas a device like the ECTACO 500AL is capable of translating numerous languages, which means you can get significantly more mileage out of them.
Beyond Mere Translation: Teaching Yourself a New Language
Simple portable language translators help you communicate with others, but the best devices on the market can also assist you in learning a new language. To that end, we recommend an electronic translator that reads translated text aloud so that it also doubles as a mobile teaching device – giving you the tools necessary to not only ask where the nearest restroom is, but to learn proper pronunciations so that you can speak the language capably.
Additional Features and Accessories
It’s easy to find a barebones electronic translator that will perform how it was intended to, but the best translators include additional features and bonus accessories. Some electronic translators come with helpful currency converters, world clocks and alarm clocks. Others include accessories like carrying cases that can protect them from damage, AC adapters for use without battery power, and ports that enable connectivity with computers and other devices. Additionally, you can find language translator devices that include simple games to help you pass the time.
Our Verdict and Recommendations
For frequent world travelers, we recommend a device capable of translating numerous languages, such as the ECTACO 500AL that comes with 26 languages and has the capacity to add an additional 23 more languages via USB connection, for a total of 49 languages. The Lexibook NTL1560 ranks second for its ability to translate 15 languages, while the Lexibook NTL800 ranks third with the capability to translate 8 languages. All come with useful features that assist you not only in language translation, but also in converting currency and other measurable units in other countries.
The right electronic translator can do the talking for you to help you travel in safety and with confidence. Armed with a portable language translator in your pocket, you can get much more out of your travels than you otherwise would if you spent half your time playing a game of charades with locals in order to communicate.