Two-Way Translator Devices for Travel

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At some point in any adventure, you’ll have to communicate with a local — be it telling a taxi driver directions, asking for recommendations, or (in the worst case) explaining symptoms to a doctor. The best way to prepare? Picking up one of the best pocket translators.

At a Glance: The Best Pocket Translators

Pocket translators are compact devices that quickly translate between two languages in real time (although they usually work with several languages). This means you can speak into the device and it’ll quickly say the phrase in the intended language. Because pocket translators are designed specifically for translation, these devices are much faster and more advanced than your normal smartphone translator app. For example, if you’re fluent in two languages, then you’ll know that Google Translate often makes strange choices or errors (especially if you’re using slang, working with accents, or trying to speak casually).

With the best pocket translators, you get fluid, natural communication in both directions – no matter the speaker’s voice. If you’re looking for a more rewarding, safer travel experience, check out the best pocket translators below.

The Best Pocket Translators to Buy Online

Whether you’re traveling or just learning a new language at home, the best pocket translators below make for an easy and effective communication tool for two-way translation and conversation. We created this list by testing pocket translators in a few scenarios, using both voice-text and text-text translations. We also compared our experiences with other expert and customer reviews before recommending the below translators. All are available through trusted retailers with an average customer rating of at least 3.7/5 stars.

Editor’s Pick

Pocketalk is one of the biggest names in pocket translators, and their S model is the best pocket translator we’ve tested. Here are the specs on the Pocketalk S’ languages, pulled from their site: “61 voice bilaterally, 21 voice-to-text bilaterally, and up to 37 more obscure languages voice-to-text unilaterally. The camera will recognize and translate 55 languages.” In short, most of the languages loaded on the Pocketalk S work for voice-to-speaker translation both ways, which is a huge plus, while the rest might require some reading from one or more participants. In our testing, the built-in LTE data connectivity was fast and the interface was a breeze. Plus, the Pocketalk S is smaller than an iPhone, making it very easy to carry around.

Runner-Up

Another highly recommended pocket translator device is the Vasco V4. The smartphone-like device boasts a very straightforward interface, making it easy to let strangers figure out if needed. It comes with 108 languages (76 work with voice), so you’re likely covered for any conversation. This one also uses a built-in SIM for data connectivity that you’ll never have to pay for. It comes very close to the Pocketalk S, but the deciding feature for us was the Pocketalk’s slightly smaller size; our pockets tend to fill up quickly while traveling.

Earbud Translator

Earbud translators are another style of pocket translator. They’re typically smaller (about the size of AirPods) and work great for discrete audio translation at any time. However, you forgo photo and text translation capabilities. If you want to go the earbud route, pick up these Timekettle M3s. You can share them with someone and have a fast, organic-feeling conversation without the device in the middle. 40 Languages come loaded up in the app, and a 25-hour battery life with the charging case (7.5 hours of continuous use) gives the M3s more juice than the above options.

Pocket Translator Shopping Guide

Because they’re a relatively new invention, discerning the good pocket translators from the bad can be tough. Below are a few features that we kept in mind while shopping for the best pocket translators.

Languages: Obviously, the more languages the better, so we’ve chosen translators with dozens of languages (up to 104 at the most advanced). However, you want to make sure that a pocket translator is proficient in all the languages it supports. For example, some translators might support fewer languages than others, but they might also offer faster, more accurate translations. If you don’t plan on using too many languages, just look out for a high-quality translator that can nail your intended language.

Connectivity: Most pocket translators feature built-in data connections for translating without any other device or WiFi connection. Some also work by connecting to your smartphone and using your phone’s data or WiFi connection. The former (translators with built-in data) take the edge, as you can use them anywhere, anytime without a WiFi or smartphone connection.

Battery Life: Keeping devices charged is always tricky while traveling, and, sadly it’s also more of a disaster when your device runs out of juice (say, when you’re miles from the hotel and totally lost). Battery life with pocket translators varies quite a bit (even between high-end models) so be aware of this while shopping.

Data: As mentioned, most of the best pocket translators use built-in data connections to function. Luckily, all of our data-connected picks include a free two-year data plan. Still, you’ll want to check two things in regards to data: coverage and cost to pay for data after your free two years are up.

How We Chose the Best Pocket Translators

While testing pocket translators, we spent plenty of time playing around with dozens of languages. But we also used them in real English-Spanish and English-French conversations, and while traveling for a few days in Portugal, having a couple of conversations and using camera features for text translations. After testing, we combed through feedback from customers and other expert reviews to land on the above options.

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