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Anyone who is a Star Trek fan will know of Captain Kirk and his universal translator, able to translate any language it comes across. While we are not quite there yet in terms of technology, some smartphone apps are doing a startlingly good job of translation. You only need to look as far as the Google Translate app Talk Your Way Into Anything With Google Translate [iPhone] Talk Your Way Into Anything With Google Translate [iPhone] I'm a self-confessed monolingual individual, and as someone who appreciates other cultures and people, I'm a bit ashamed to say it. Knowing multiple languages seems to be the thing these days, and I'm trying to... Read More to see how far things have progressed. I want to boldly claim that Google Translate has been beaten by an even better app, one that is quite possibly the closest thing we have to the Universal Translator right now.

SayHi Translate is an iPhone app you should have if you find yourself regularly needing to converse in a language you have little knowledge of. It has definitely saved my skin on more than one occasion, and it subsequently has a permanent home on my iPhone.

A Pocket Translator

How it works is very simple indeed, and that is precisely why I like SayHi – because it is so simple. No instruction manual is required, no steep learning curve to overcome. Just tap the button, speak your phrase, and watch and listen as it is automatically translated on the screen and read out to you.

When you start it up, you will be taken to the main screen which looks like this :

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Mine is set up with English and German, because English is my native language, and I live in Germany. You can change either language to whatever you need, with your native language on one side and the language you want to translate to on the other side. Just tap on the down arrows next to the languages at the top, and you will get a drop-down list where you can choose from 40 languages and dialects.

If you are looking for more exotic languages, you will have to upgrade to SayHi Premium ($2.99 for three months or $4.99 for six months). Paying for Premium also provides: Afrikaans, Albanian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Belarusian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Bengali, Cebuano, Croatian, Esperanto, Estonian, Farsi, Filipino, Galician, Georgian, Gujarati, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hmong, Icelandic, Irish, Javanese, Kannada, Latin, Lao, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Maltese, Marathi, Serbian, Slovakian, Swahili, Telugu, Ukranian, Urdu, Welsh, and Yiddish.

Can you see now why I am calling this the nearest thing to the Universal Translator?

With my English to German set-up, I just need to tap on the English button to have my English phrase translated into German, and vice versa. When you tap the button, the screen will tell you to speak. Try to speak slowly and clearly into your phone’s microphone. When you have completed your phrase, simply press the red Done button at the bottom. If you prefer, you can go into the settings and have the app detect when you have finished, so you don’t have to tap Done.

Within seconds, my phrase appears on the screen, with the German underneath it. As it appears on the screen, the translated phrase is also read out by the app, so you and the person you are communicating with can hear it.

Having A Conversation

At this point it may be time for your conversational partner to speak into SayHi, for example a German person who understands no English. Now that he has heard in German that I am a writer, he has a question (in German) that he would like to ask me. So he taps the Deutsch button at the bottom of the screen, and speaks into the phone’s microphone and the same thing happens in reverse. His phrase comes up on the screen, with the English translation underneath, and it is read back to me instantly, so I know right away what he said.

And like a game of ping-pong, you just keep going. You contribute your side of the conversation in your own language, and the other person does their side in their language. All the while, SayHi translates and reads everything out. It is a wonderful app. Suddenly, I am having philosophical debates with my German father-in-law, and debating whether 42 really is the meaning of life.

It’s worth noting a few other features. When you have a phrase on the screen, you can tap on it to bring up some other options:

The star allows you to create a list of favourite phrases (accessible from the star icon at the very top of the screen). The arrow is the usual iOS sharing options (email, iMessage, Twitter, Facebook, etc), the arrow pointing right enables you to play the phrase back again if you need to hear it again, and the trash-can deletes the phrase from the screen.

At the very top of the screen, you will see a volume button. Try and keep that at a reasonable level, otherwise the app won’t hear you, and you won’t hear the phrases being read back to you.

SayHi is currently priced at a very reasonable $1.99, which is a great price considering what this app can do.

Download: SayHi Translate ($1.99)

Let us know what you think of SayHi.  Is it worthy of being called the “Universal Translator”?

  1. Gordon Mitchell
    February 6, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    Hi, I have been trying to verify (by chat with Apple) if the SayHi Translate app actually speaks back in Bulgarian. I bought the expensive Ectaco translator with the Bulgarian add on, but what a waste of money that was! Can anyone please let me know if this app will translate from English to Bulgarian out loud? Many thanks...

    • Mark O'Neill
      February 7, 2016 at 7:43 pm

      Hi Gordon, I have just checked it out, and it will only translate to and from Bulgarian in text, not audio. And you need to pay for a subscription to get Bulgarian. But of course that may change in the future.

      You should contact the developer and tell them to develop an audio version. If enough people are interested, then they may decide it's worth doing. Good luck!

  2. dragonmouth
    November 17, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Is the translation idiomatic or is it literal? If literal, it could prove to be embarassing. The example of translation you have provided is simplistic and does not atest to the capability of the software. How does it handle the translation of complex, abstract ideas?

    Do both parties to the conversation need this software or will SayHi send a translation to a phone without it? Will SayHi work with other translation software or, like most Fruitco products, does it refuse to talk to a non-Apple product?

  3. Dennis
    November 16, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    My feelings entirely Steve!
    I am heartily sick of being offered items that pander to the Apple Monopoly. It's as though its the only and ultimate way to go with anything. There have been many items i would have purchased, until I see the comments. "plug in your Ipad or Iphone" rather than plug in your tablet or smartphone. Apple is NOT the industry standard and i object to those who try and make it so.
    It is overpriced and over rated and made in sweat shops for a fraction of its price and sold for huge profits. Software companies that support just an Apple object are contributing to this false standard, So I automatically boycott their products. So anony, there's your answer

    • Lazza
      November 17, 2013 at 3:14 pm

      Precisely. I totally agree with your words!

  4. Steve McWilliam
    November 16, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Abut time they produced an Android version.

  5. Ken
    November 16, 2013 at 8:41 am

    What about accuracy? Both of the simple translated sentences in the screenshots above contain grammatical errors, though none that would prevent the person reading or listening to the text from understanding the gist of the message. I just tried it out and found that Google Translate makes the same mistake in the first example sentence, but avoid the error in the second.

    Still, the app might be good enough for vacation-related needs.

  6. dennis
    November 16, 2013 at 5:58 am

    As its another apple piece of crap i wont be contributing it either. Android or nothing!

    • anony
      November 16, 2013 at 10:56 am

      Why?

  7. Louis W
    November 16, 2013 at 4:16 am

    What about accuracy, how does that compare to google translate? That's what truly important in a translator.

  8. Don Gateley
    November 15, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    I'll buy it but I sure as hell wouldn't subscribe to it.

    Oops. Never mind. It requires iOS 6.1 or above and being jailbroken and heavily tweaked at 5.1.1 I sorta screwed that option. I hope I didn't get charged for the failed installation attempt.

    • Mark O
      November 16, 2013 at 12:32 am

      Well, sorry Don but the iTunes installation page does say that you need 6.1 or above! I didn't think it was possible to have an iPhone on 5.1.1 anymore, considering we are now on iOS7!

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