Instant language translator devices have been gaining in popularity in the past few years. And really, what’s not to like about them? Imagine having a small device in your hand that can translate your words on the spot. For travelers who find learning a new language difficult, online versions of these devices are almost a necessary purchase. Of course, we need to know how well they work.
Doesn’t Every Translator Device Have an Online Mode?
The short answer is — no, they do not.
But let’s get into it in more detail. Nearly every handheld translator has built-in languages — that much is true. Take Muama Enence or ili, for example. Both of them have built-in languages that they can translate into in a matter of seconds. Ili, in particular, is offline-only, a feature they prominently advertise to this day. Enence is also an offline translator; however, we can connect it to our phones for a more accurate translation.
Naturally, the obvious question arises: which one should I get? The offline or the online translator? And how does an online instant translator even work? Let’s dig a little deeper and find out.
Defining the Term
An online real-time translation device pretty much does what its name suggests. It takes what you or your interlocutor say in real time and translates it right there. It does so with the combined help of built-in languages and an Internet connection.
Both online and offline translators work using the same system. Usually, we have two buttons (if it’s a two-way translator) and a small display screen.
First, we need to pick both the language we will be speaking and the target language. Then, when we speak, we hold one of the designated buttons.
Once we utter a phrase or a sentence, the translation device will convert it into the target language. Our interlocutor then presses the other button while speaking in their language, i.e., the target language we chose. The device will provide us with the translation.
Does the Internet Contribute to Translation and How?
The Internet actually helps the gadget in many ways. Let’s say, for example, that we have a translator device, and we’re in Thailand. If it’s in offline mode, it will most likely offer basic words and sentences in Thai.
Now, we should stress that that’s fine; a pocket translator SHOULD have common phrases in the target language. However, once we get online, we get access to an unlimited source of information regarding that same language. Our translation becomes crisper, quicker, and more natural than before. In addition, we can update the software of our device regularly.
Is There a Downside to All of This?
The biggest downside to an online instant translator is that it only works with an Internet connection. If we are in a cafe or a restaurant, we can usually get decent Wi-Fi. In those conditions, we can use a two-way translation device to talk to waiters, bartenders, or other customers easily. The same goes for shopping malls, historical landmarks, and other sights. Nowadays, nearly any public building that’s available to tourists has Wi-Fi.
However, once we’re on the street, we’re at the mercy of hotspots. Some countries have a lot of hotspots on the streets, but others don’t. So, in that case, we will still have a translator that provides us with the basic words and phrases, but we no longer have the crisp, fluid translation that the Internet can offer.
Some products, though, like Travis the Translator, work with internet SIM cards that are usually sold separately. Once we pop the card in, we can use the Internet anywhere around the globe, or rather, in any country that supports that particular SIM card. However, these cards are expensive, and they aren’t a permanent solution.
So, Should We Give Up on Online Translators?
There is definitely an argument to be made about choosing offline translators over online ones, but either way, we won’t be wrong.
Offline translators have been getting better in 2019, and people all around the world are buying them. Some are getting so good that actual interpreters and translators are concerned. They claim that people might stop learning new languages completely because of translation devices.
In our opinion, both online and offline translators have their pros and cons. Offline translators, for example, are a bit more limiting. Sure, they can have 40+ languages installed, like Muama Enence. But Enence has a Wi-Fi option. If our translator comes without an Internet connection, it can’t get any updates. Language grows and evolves every single day, and a translation device should keep up with it.
But online translators tend to rely on their Internet connection too much. In addition, they can be a lot more expensive than offline translators. And if we only need the translator for everyday tasks, like shopping and ordering drinks, we don’t need a device that costs several hundreds of dollars. A simple offline translator would do the job just as well.
Naturally, they both have some of the same positive traits. For example, all translation devices are small. They can fit in our shirt pockets, and some can even fit in a wallet. Moreover, they are lightweight but durable. So even if we were to drop them onto the sidewalk, they wouldn’t get busted up.
What About Online Translation Apps?
If we have smartphones, it might appear easier and cheaper to install a translation app than to buy a whole new gadget. And on the face of it, it is a good idea. We already use our smartphone on a daily basis, so a translation app will come in handy when we’re out and about. In addition, we already have the Internet on our phones. All we really need is to buy an Internet SIM card in the country we’re visiting and use it there. Of course, we will also be using the Wi-Fi of the places we visit.
But despite all of the above, we still recommend translation devices over apps. A translation app will drain the battery quickly, and we do need our phone for more than just translating, especially if it’s a smartphone. Most tourists take photos and videos with their phones or conduct Skype and Viber calls. If we constantly use our phone for translation, the battery will go below 10% in a matter of a few hours.
A Few Final Words
Instant online translators are a useful tool for the modern tourist. They might have a few flaws, but they work when and where it counts. And even without an Internet connection, they will save travelers a lot of trouble communicating with the locals. We wholeheartedly recommend getting one for that next international trip or that exotic beach holiday abroad.