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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

14 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
117 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best language translation devices

Last Updated November 2019

Traveling and spending time in places that are culturally diverse is exciting and insightful. Another perk of traveling is meeting new people, which means you want to eliminate language barriers as much as possible. If you’re not fluent in the native language or don’t have time to learn it, investing in a language translation device is a smart choice. 

These devices can translate between six and 106 languages, so they’re essential for leisure and business travelers. Language translation devices are used most often to translate speech, but if you need assistance reading signs or menus, some models have integrated cameras that read and translate text for your convenience. Basic models pair with an app, and if you’re looking for advanced functionality, premium language translators are standalone devices that operate on WiFi networks.

Step up your communication skills the easy way with a language translation device. Our buying guide includes specs and expert tips on using them, so read on to find out which one is best for your journey.

Familiarize yourself with the device — and if it has one, its app — before you reach your destination. You don’t want to be encumbered by a learning curve on top of trying to navigate and communicate in a foreign country.

Key considerations

How language translation devices work

Language translation devices offer real-time translation between you and speakers of foreign languages. These devices are two-way and are capable of translating native languages into English and vice versa. On average, expect a 0.3-second delay as your device translates speech or text — far faster than using an electronic dictionary or navigating unrefined translation apps. 

Required connections

Depending on the device, you need a WiFi connection, hot spot, SIM card, or data plan for it to work. The majority of language translation devices work over a WiFi connection or hot spot, as they’re the easiest to find in foreign countries. This is true for both standalone as well as app-required models, and it’s recommended to defer to your user manual to confirm the required connection for the device to work, since it may vary between countries and languages.

Language capabilities

These devices are capable of translating between six and 106 languages — the more you spend, the more languages you get. There are three language capability groups among models. Basic devices can handle six languages, though they’re not practical if they don’t cover the languages of countries you visit often.

Other devices can handle between 40 and 70 languages, though the range usually includes about 30 languages plus different dialects.

The most capable language translation devices peak at 106 languages, covering just about every language and dialect out there. These devices are more prepared to handle different accents and pronunciation variations as well.

Battery life

When you’re traveling around a foreign country, you need your language translation device at all times, which is why battery life is an important feature to compare. These devices are equipped with rechargeable batteries and come with their own micro USB cords for charging. If you don’t plan on plugging them into a computer USB to power up, you can purchase a USB power adapter, namely one that is compatible with the outlet and voltage of the country.

Pay attention to both the stand-by and active use times to get a true feel for the length of the battery life. On average, active use times range between eight to 24 hours, and stand-by lasts five to 150 days. Some consumers report their battery life lasts for an average week of travel use before requiring a full charge again.

EXPERT TIP

If you are traveling to more than one country on your trip, make sure your translator covers the languages of all the countries you visit.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Standalone vs. app devices

Standalone: Standalone models are more expensive, simply because they incorporate more technology as all-in-one devices instead of requiring app support on a cell phone. They’re equipped with screens that are easy to navigate with buttons, or they have touchscreen capability. This streamlined option eliminates the need for two devices — the translator and your cell phone with its app — so it’s ideal for minimalist travelers.

App required: App-required translators receive and deliver sound through the device, while the actual translation occurs on your cell phone. These models operate almost like Bluetooth-enabled transmitters. Button capability is limited in these models, as the majority of settings are handled on the app. While it may seem cumbersome to use two devices for translation, some consumers prefer app-required models, since there are frequent updates available to optimize functionality and add new languages or features. 

Photo translation

If you need help reading street signs or menus, spend a little more for a model with photo translation capabilities. These translators are equipped with high-definition cameras and software that read foreign text and display it in English. While incredibly cutting-edge, this function is still somewhat limited on translators. For the most part, photo translation only covers half of the languages the device can translate from speech. On the upside, manufacturers are selective when designing this function, so the most popular foreign languages are the ones covered with photo translation.

Noise-cancelling technology

Premium language translation devices tout noise-cancelling technology. These specialized filters isolate the closest audible speech to deliver an accurate translation. This is an essential feature if you plan on spending time in noisy atmospheres abroad such as busy city streets, train stations, and airports.

EXPERT TIP

When using your translator in a foreign country, don’t be surprised if someone tries to respond in English. It’s a great way to bridge communication and connect with native speakers.


Staff  | BestReviews

Language translation device prices

Language translation devices cost between $80 and $360. Price depends on how many languages they can handle and their number of integrated translation features.

Inexpensive: Budget-friendly translators cost between $80 and $150. Half of them are standalone devices with screens, whereas the rest require pairing with an app. Devices in this range handle less than 10 languages proficiently or work only decently with 40 to 70 languages.

Mid-range: Mid-range translators cost between $150 and $250. The majority of these devices pride themselves in their standalone functionality and can handle up to 106 languages as well as dialects and accents. There are some models that also feature photo translation, though they’re at the higher end of the bracket.

Expensive: For maximum translation capabilities, expect to spend between $250 and $360. These models have speech and language translations with much higher levels of accuracy. They often come with noise-cancelling technology, high-frequency microphones, and better quality cameras.

EXPERT TIP

Even though your language translation device has a standby mode, you can maximize your battery life by turning it off when it’s not in use.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Bring the charger with you. If you’re out for the day, it doesn’t hurt to bring the device’s charger along. In the event you’re stranded or lost, you can charge anywhere and won’t experience interruption or difficulty in communication.
  • Buy one if you’re an ELL or ESL. As you develop your English skills, a language translation device can assist you as your vocabulary grows.
  • Hold it closer to your face in loud places. Even if your language translation device has noise-cancelling technology, it’s a good idea to hold the microphone closer to your face as you speak into it in noisy environments like metro stations.

Other products we considered

We were impressed by the accuracy of Zuchini Smart Voice Translator Device. With support for over 42 languages, you can travel anywhere and communicate with anyone. Traveling involves day trips in popular local areas, and this device offers eight to 12 hours of continuous use time. This intuitive translator also features noise reduction technology, so it filters out ambient sounds to ensure a 98% rate of accuracy. It doesn’t require a SIM card or pairing, so it’s easy to hop on a WiFi network to use.

We like Mortentr Language Translator Device Two-Way Instant Voice Translator, especially with its easy-to-use touchscreen. Equipped with a large microphone with integrated camera, you can enjoy speech and photo translation in 106 and 44 languages, respectively. This model is convenient for leisure and business travelers alike, as it only weighs a mere eight ounces. Its fast response time is less than 0.2 seconds, so there won’t be any delay or interruption as you enjoy your journey. Best of all, it has a long working time of eight continuous hours.

Avoid keeping keys in the same pocket as your translator, as they can scratch the screen easily. They can push against the device and accidentally press buttons, causing the device to turn on and drain the battery.

FAQ

Q. My language translation device requires use with an app, but I don’t have an international plan with my phone. What do I do?
A.
You don’t need an international plan to use the WiFi on your phone, which is what these devices require to work with an app. Some device apps require a data plan, so refer to the user manual for requirements. Another thing to keep in mind when using a paired translator is that its battery may far outlive that of your phone. To make sure your translation doesn’t come to an abrupt halt, bring a power bank with you to juice up your phone.
 

Q. I’m in an area where multiple languages are spoken. Can my language translation device automatically detect it?
A.
No, you need to change the language settings each time. For the most part, devices or their apps allow for seamless transition between foreign languages to account for this. If you want to be fully prepared in multilingual areas, research which languages and dialects are spoken so you know which languages to expect on the fly.

 

Q. Why is there more than one type of English listed on my language translation device?
A.
Just like other languages, English is spoken with different dialects, accents, and phrases. American English and British English are usually included, and some devices also cover Canadian English. Native English speakers may not notice major differences, but foreign speakers and English Language Learners (ELL) detect it, which is why these settings are especially helpful to them. Not all devices are prepared for differences in English slang and figures of speech, so awkward literal translations are part and parcel of using the device in these situations.

The team that worked on this review
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Sian
    Sian
    Writer
  • Steph
    Steph
    Web Producer

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