All of us, one time or another, faced the need to translate an unfamiliar word, sentence or even a whole text “on the go”. For example, you want to quickly translate a sign on a shop or a public transport timetable during a business trip. Let’s figure out what special devices and programs can do that more quickly, more conveniently and more effectively.
I don’t think there is any point in looking into all the diverse software and hardware tools of mobile translation as such, so let’s try to highlight the main solutions that can be useful to consumers:
Option #1, the obvious: pocket translator
Pocket translators are a whole class of portable devices which come into mind when the phrase “mobile translation” is mentioned. These devices cost quite a bit of money and despite that, they’re posed as “irreplaceable assistants of any tourist”, but what about practicality? Rather large size (wouldn’t fit into any pocket!), not very convenient menu navigation, small buttons – all of the above doesn’t sell a pocket translator too well. There are, of course, premium class models equipped with the functions of currency and measuring units conversion and even learning software, but all of their advantages won’t help overcome the main drawback – uncomfortable buttons: while you’re typing in a phrase or a piece of text with the help of the mini keyboard, a lot of time would pass by.
Option #2, advanced: portable translator scanner
This options seems to be perfect for tech geeks and fans of various unusual gadgets. A translator scanner is slightly larger than a big memory stick or a USB drive which is pretty convenient. Low price of the device is also a significant advantage. However, it fails on the practicality side. Limited room for application is the biggest drawback. In order to recognize and translate a printed text, you need to scan it with a sensor. It’s much simpler and more convenient to do so, whether at home or in the office, with a computer and a scanner connected to a text recognition program – when you’re traveling, all the unfamiliar signs typically can’t be scanned (signs, timetables, tableau, etc.); also, this device cannot recognize a handwritten text.
Option, #3, accessible: netbook
Netbooks are primarily good because they’re essentially tiny computers. I.e. these devices provide the full range of modern translation tools: dictionary programs and electronic translators, and most importantly, Internet access. Wi-Fi is everywhere in Europe and the US. Couldn’t find the right word in a dictionary? Have a seat at the nearest café and Google it. Netbook’s small size allows for it to be carried even in a handbag and be taken everywhere with you. Drawbacks: having to constantly be worried about charging the battery and a small keyboard. Nevertheless, right now it’s the most popular and practical solution for consumer mobile translation.
Option #4, forward: smartphone
Smartphones and communicators are perhaps the leading portable devices right now, and this includes the advancement of translation tools. Mobile giants are constantly announcing brand new advancements in this field. Don’t think that in order to translate a text unfamiliar to you, you would have to type it up on a touchscreen – concepts of “extra reality” are being developed right now. The Google Goggles system allows to simply set the camera on your Android Phone on the required text and receive all the necessary information from the Internet; if it’s, for example, a name of a shop or a restaurant, you would get the opening times and discount systems. Similar solutions are offered by Apple for its iPhone. Unfortunately, extra reality systems aren’t adapted for Russian, but that’s only a question of time. In a few years, we wouldn’t have to pack “heavy ammunition” for business trips, such as netbooks and pocket translators – it would be enough to set a phone camera on any object in any corner of the earth in order to get detailed information about it in your mother tongue.