Google Translate Adds Phrasebook To Save Your Most Common Phrases

Google Translate now saves items to PhrasebookGoogle continues to be one of the most innovative companies in the world, developing everything from wearable technology to self-driving cars. And while they’re incredibly busy inventing the future, the Internet search giant also continue to upgrade some of their existing products and services, bringing useful new features to the tools we already use.

Take, for example, Google Translate, the fantastic service that gives us the ability to translate text from more than 50 languages. The web-based version is indispensable for reading foreign websites, while the mobile app is great for translating while on the go. Both versions offer the ability to speak the phrases out loud, which can be a handy feature for those of us who happen to be linguistically challenged. The service can be very helpful for anyone looking to learn a new language too, providing help with pronunciation, spelling and more.

Recently Google Translate was updated with a new feature called Phrasebook, which actually lets you save your most commonly used sentences for quick access in the future. To add something to your Phrasebook simply type in the text you want to use and when the phrase appears in its translated form a small star will appear on the screen. Clicking or tapping on that star will then add it to the Phrasebook for quick referral later on. It doesn’t get any simpler than that, but Google has conveniently provided us with step-by-step instructions none the less.

Frequent users of the Google Translate service will no doubt appreciate this addition, particularly if they are using the mobile app while traveling. It can definitely save a lot of time if you find yourself regularly asking the same questions. In the age of cloud services and account syncing, I would have liked to have seen my personal Phrasebook saved across multiple devices, but perhaps that is something we’ll get in a future update. It would be great to type in important sentences on my laptop and have them automatically appear on my smartphone as well.

Travelers will love Google Translate as it obviously applies nicely to what we do. But the addition of the Phrasebook will no doubt come in handy too, saving time and effort while visiting a foreign land.

[Photo Credit: Google]

Where are all the travel guide apps for Android?

travel guide apps for AndroidNearly two years ago, I bought my first smartphone: the T-Mobile Android MyTouch*. I’m only occasionally jealous of my iPhone-carrying friends, as I find few travel guide apps for Android. Even after a move to Istanbul, I still use and rely upon it daily; Android‘s interface is fast and easy-to-use, and seamless use of Google applications like Gmail and Google Maps is part of the reason I bought it in the first place. Living in a foreign country means English-language books and magazines are expensive and hard-to-find, and like many travelers, I don’t want to carry bulky books around when I’m on the road. This leaves a perfect opportunity for mobile developers to provide real travel guide content and not just travel-booking apps, especially apps produced by reliable media sources with professional editorial. These days, every guidebook and travel magazine publisher is coming out with apps for the iPhone and now iPad, supplying users with content and directions on the go, but there are hardly any for Android.

So what’s available for mobile travelers from the top travel book and print sources? Better hope you’re running Apple OS…Guidebooks:

  • Fodor’s: Happy 75th Birthday Mr. Fodor, but we wish you had more than just five city guides for purchase (in London, New York, Paris, Rome, and San Francisco) and only for Apple.
  • Frommer’s: iPhone guides are available for ten major cities in the US, Europe and Asia, but nada for Android.
  • Lonely Planet: iPhone users are spoiled for choice: dozens of city guides, language phrasebooks, audio walking tours, and eBooks optimized for the iPad. Android users in 32 countries including the US are in luck: there’s a free Trippy app to organize itinerary items, as well as 25 “augmented reality” Compass city guides and 14 phrasebooks. NOTE: This article originally mentioned that the Compass guides were unavailable in the Android Market store, but they should work for most US users. I happen to be in a country where paid apps are not available and not shown in the Market.
  • LUXE City Guides: 20 cheeky city guides work for a variety of mobile phones, including iPhone and Blackberry, but none are compatible with my Android. Bonus: the apps come with free regular updates and maps that the paper guides don’t have.
  • Rick Steves: If you are headed to Europe, you can get audio guides for many big attractions and historic walks for iPhone, plus maps for the iPad. You can also download the audio files free for your computer, and props to Rick for mentioning that Android apps are at least in development.
  • Rough Guides: Here’s a new one: the Rough Guides app works for many phones but NOT the iPhone OR Android! It’s not as slick as some of the other guides (it’s a Java app) and you will use data to use it on the road, but it provides lots of info for many cities in Europe. You can also find a Rough Guides photo app on iTunes to view pictures from around the world with Google Maps and captions from Rough Guides.
  • Time Out: City travelers and residents might want to look at the apps from Time Out for 5 European cities and Buenos Aires, with Manchester and New York on the way. More cities are available for free on iTunes, search for Time Out on iTunes to see what’s available. iPhone only.
  • Wallpaper* City Guides: 10 of the design mag’s 80 city guides are for sale for iPhone for Europe, Tokyo, New York and Los Angeles.

Print media:

  • Conde Nast Traveler: It makes sense for magazines to embrace the iPad, and CNT has free Apple apps specifically for Italy, cruises, and their annual Gold List of hotels and resorts. Blackberry users can download an etiquette guide, but Android users are snubbed.
  • National Geographic: As befitting any explorer, Nat Geo has a world atlas, national parks maps, and games featuring their amazing photography, all for iPhone. A special interactive edition of National Geographic Traveler is for sale on the iPad; you can also read it on your computer. Androids can download a quiz game and various wallpapers; and all mobile users can access a mobile-friendly version of their website at natgeomobile.com.
  • Outside: Adventure travelers can purchase and read full issues on the iPad, but no subscription option yet.
  • Travel + Leisure: The other big travel glossy also has an iPad app for special issues. Four issues have been released so far with one available now on iTunes (romantic getaways) but future editions will follow to be read on the app. Just in time for spring break and summer, they’ve also released a Travel + Leisure Family app with advice and articles specifically geared towards travel and families. The apps are both free but you’ll need an iPad – these are designed for tablets, not phones. You can also read full issues of T+L and their foodie cousin Food & Wine on Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Color ereader; you can save per issue if you subscribe to the e-reader version.
  • USA Today Travel: Most major newspapers have mobile readers for all types of phones, but USA Today is the only one with their own travel-specific app. AutoPilot combines an array of cool travel booking capabilities and information with articles and blog post from the newspaper. Only iPhone users can enjoy free.

Two of our favorite magazines, Budget Travel and Afar, have no mobile apps yet but great online communities to tap into their extensive knowledge.

All in all, other than Lonely Planet’s Compass guides, a pretty weak showing for Android travelers. While iPhone has been around longer as a mobile platform that Android, they’ve lost the market share of users to the little green robot. As Android is available on a variety of phone manufacturers and providers, expect that number to continue to grow, along with the variety and depth of content for mobile and tablet users. Will the developers ever catch up or will travelers have to choose?

*Android has not endorsed this or paid me anything to write about them. But to show I’m not biased – Apple, feel free to send me a sample phone and I’ll test out the apps!

Photo courtesy Flickr user closari. Special thanks to Sean O’Neill, who blogs on Budget Travel and the new BBC Travel blog.

Five types of words and phrases to learn in a foreign language

When traveling to many foreign countries, especially if you’ll be sticking to major cities, there’s no need to be completely fluent in the local language. But knowing a few key words and phrases can make your experience not only easier, but richer as well. While many people in the tourist industry speak English, they’ll still greatly appreciate your efforts in speaking their native tongue. Phrases like hello and goodbye are no-brainers, but a few other, less obvious phrases will be invaluable as well.

The Bare Minimum

Hello/Goodbye
Please/Thank you
Yes/No

There’s no excuse for not learning at least these words and phrases. Being able to say hello, goodbye, please, thank you, yes and no won’t get you far in a conversation, but the people you speak with may appreciate your minimal effort.


The Basics

Numbers 1-10 and the general rules for converting to tens, twenties, hundreds, thousands, and so on
Where is?
How much?
What time is it?
I would like. . .
The bill please.
Hotel, restaurant, train station, taxi, toilet, airport, bus
Police, hospital, help
In crowded bars and on the street, knowing your numbers, and being able to ask how much something is, what time it is, for a certain number of something, where something is (and the words for the things you might inquire the location of), or for the bill, will get you what you need with little fuss. You won’t be able to hold a conversation, but you’ll be able to get directions and order food or drinks easily. In many countries, restaurant servers won’t bring your bill until you ask so knowing how to do so will save you time waiting around for the check.
It’s also wise to know a few words for emergencies. You hope you won’t need to know how to ask for help or call for the police, but if you do, you’ll be glad to be able to communicate when it’s most important for your safety and well-being.

Food Phrases
Beer/wine
Water/coffee
Meat, cheese, bread
Plate

You can always sound out the pronunciation of your desired item from the menu, or just point to it at the bar, but you may not end up with what you want. Memorizing the translations for a few basic foods will help point you in the right culinary direction. The words and phrases you’ll use most often may change from country to country but it’s always wise to learn the words for water, beer, wine, coffee, bread, cheese, meat, and plate.

If you have any food allergies, you should also learn how to say “I cannot have. . .” in that language. Many people prefer to just write the phrase down and hand it to the server each time they order a meal.

Avoiding Embarrassment
I’m sorry, I don’t speak. . .
Do you speak English?
Every traveler tries not to stand out as a tourist. But sometimes the strategy of looking like a local can backfire – like when someone approaches you in Barcelona and starts speaking rapid-fire Spanish and all you can do is stare blankly back at him. Instead of staying mute or responding in English, this is the time to pull out the phrase “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Spanish” of whatever the local language is. Likewise, before launching into an English interrogation, you can politely inquire of another “Do you speak English?” in his or her native tongue.

Conversation Starters
What is your name? /My name is. . .
Where are you from? /I am from. . .
This is my husband/wife/child.
You’ll never be able to have an in-depth discussion with a person who doesn’t speak your language. But you can at least engage them with a few rudimentary phrases. Being able to ask people their names and then giving yours, sharing where you are from, or being able to inquire about family, can help them see you as a person like them, rather than a foreigner.
Though many of us would like to speak the local language anywhere we go, it’s often not a realistic option. Knowing these keys words and phrases won’t make you fluent, but they will help you get more out of your journey. If you can’t memorize them all, just make yourself a handy “cheat sheet” that you can pull out when needed.

Language barrier be gone: guide makes it a point…to point

Chances are, you’ve been there–that awkward moment in another country when you don’t speak the local language, and the person across from you doesn’t speak English. Try as you might with a smile and game of charades, you’re at an impasse. Game over.

Or else, maybe you tried one last attempt: drawing it. That’s the premise behind Me No Speak.

The mini-guide takes the words most likely to come out of a traveler’s mouth, and puts them in illustration and writing–both English and the local language (Chinese, Japanese, or Thai). That way, the only thing you have to do is point.

Without pronunciation keys, and the urge to wade through rounds of trial and error in speaking the language, you cut to the chase. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t try learning or practicing a language, but this guide is more for emergencies–the first thing that comes to mind is ordering at a restaurant or finding the nearest toilet. But it’s been said to be useful for everything from reporting a stolen camera to police to getting a leaky shower fixed in a hotel bathroom.

The passport-sized guides are divided into color-coded sections: general help, food, transportation, accommodation, shopping, and health & safety. They’re largely sold on the Me No Speak website ($9.95), but also at a few retailers such as Flight 001.

Word is, they’re working on iPhone applications as well, starting with their China guide. Other guides that are coming down the pike are for Korea and Turkey.