Please sign in to post.

Translation apps

My wife and I are planning Italy tours next year. We do not know how to speak the language. We were wondering about translation apps. Does anyone have experience using smartphone apps that translate English to a foreign language and vice versa? We were wondering how effective they might be in lieu of actually learning the basics of Italian.

Posted by
1517 posts

Jim, I have never been good at learning languages from German in high school, Swedish in college, Italian for a trip two years ago, French for next year. Instead of worrying about the impossible, I try to learn the “polite” words—please, thank you, good morning/evening. And the all important “where’s the bathroom.” That got us by even in small Calabria villages where no one spoke English.

I also use both Google Translate and Microsoft Translate for phrases I may need, like food allergies. Except for auto correct, I prefer the Microsoft app. Neither is perfect and both make mistakes. But they do come in handy. Try both to see which you like best.

Posted by
7463 posts

We have used the free Google Translate App worldwide with great success. We were in Japan right before COVID struck and used it constantly to translate to Japanese.. When we got into a taxi I wrote where we needed to go. It was translated to Japanese characters which I showed the driver and off we went. I also could have it”speak.” I also used the Arabic in Egypt., other languages throughout Europe.
You choose the language such as English to Japanese and then download it to your phone. You will then not need to have cell phone service to use the app. Make sure you add all languages you need for your trip before you leave. This is an easy app to use.
You can also listen to how the translation sounds. You will be able to hear how the Italian sounds from the App!

Posted by
8976 posts

I've only ever needed to use translation apps to decode things like signs, menus or labels at the grocery store.
When on the tourist trail most of the locals who want your money will be able to speak some degree of english. Learn the local greetings, and how to say thank you etc. but otherwise you will be able to mange just fine. Don't sweat it.

Posted by
5221 posts

Google translate helps me at times, but I'd never go to a place like Italy without trying to learn at least some basic phrases. It's the same alphabet, after all, and not that hard to learn a few basics. Look in the back of any guidebook.

Posted by
5697 posts

I borrowed a Pimsleur Italian kit from the local library for basics -- and depended on 50-year-old high school Spanish and similarly aged college French to give me clues. Good enough for a quick trip.
Have used Google Translate to read Hungarian signs and grocery labels, with limited success. (Hint -- what looks like it says "Cheddar" is definitely not!)

Posted by
470 posts

Google Translate can be useful, although I wouldn't want to use it to translate entire conversations. I would also encourage you to invest some time learning a bit of Italian. There are simple free online programs where you could learn the basics. Duolingo might meet your needs. Good luck and buon viaggio.

Posted by
112 posts

Thanks for the tips. We have traveled a lot and have always managed without apps. However, there have been times when language got in the way. I was just wondering whether there were apps that were worth the trouble. Thanks for the tips. I will follow up.

Posted by
1117 posts

You can simply try Google Translate online and find out if it works for you. Simply enter the text of any Italian website, and you'll see how it turns out.

Those apps can give you a pretty good general idea what a certain text is about. They have improved immensely during the last couple of years, and the usually do a pretty good job. However, you still can't expect precise translations from them, and you will have to use a bit of caution because they do make mistakes.

Posted by
27428 posts

lawnmower spam on zombie reported for zappage

Posted by
857 posts

I agree that i would be worth learning some of the language before you go. However, Google Translate is good for those situations where you need to know what is being said (or written) and do not have the skills or vocabulary to figure it out. The phone app has a few other nice features as well.

  • You can manually enter text in any language by using the phone keyboard and it will convert it to the language you want.
  • You can speak to the app and have it converted to the language you want by using the microphone on your phone.
  • And you can also use your camera to translate - just focus it over the block of text you want to translate and as you are holding it, a translation will appear. It will not be as accurate as if you had manually entered it, but it will give you the gist of it.

Another good app is Reverso Translate - the translation is a bit better than Google but it is more cumbersome and slower than Google Translate.

And lastly, if you have an iPhone, the most recent IOS has a built-in translator that you can use by simply using your finger to highlight the text. A popup menu will appear giving you the option to translate what is highlighted.