Learning a foreign language is one of the best things you can do for yourself. After a crash course in Spanish or French, you can communicate with millions of other people. You learn the nuances of their culture. You develop your cognitive prowess and stave off mental illness.
But even if you spoke 17 languages, you might still show up in Latvia or New Delhi and have no idea what people are saying. Our world is home to more than 2,000 major tongues, and if you like to travel, you'll inevitably encounter one you've never studied.
Luckily, digital translators have become more useful and accurate than ever. Some are designed for your desktop, others for your phone. Some focus on text, others on speech. There are many companies developing this kind of software, but here are five of the most useful technologies out there. Whatever your translation needs, these apps are designed to handle a variety of situations muy rápidamente.
Bing Translator vs. Google Translate
Naturally, the two biggest computer companies in the world have been fighting tête-à-tête for the most effective translation service. Most people swear by Google Translator or Bing Translator, although a lot of people use both. If you've ever studied a foreign language, you won't be surprised to learn that some languages translate more easily than others – and sometimes not the languages you expect. (Once it's been filtered through a computer, Spanish sounds surprisingly clunky in English, for example, but German often translates smoothly).
Unlike the rest of the software on our list, these two services are very effective for very long texts. There is a word limit, but if you're patient, you could copy and paste an entire Russian technical manual, or translate all of Montaigne's essays.
For years, Skype has been the go-to interface for international communication. Backpackers video-call their parents, immigrants talk with their families back home, and basic services are all free. But Skype has broken new ground with its multi-language translation feature, which can take real-time conversation and (almost) instantly translate it into another language.
The translator can also be configured for hard-of-hearing users. Skype most recently added such difficult-to-learn languages as Arabic and Russian to their linguistic bevy. This is most useful for contacting friends in other countries or holding multilingual one-on-one meetings.