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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 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 :
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”?