How many of us promise to learn a new language before heading on a trip but then never end up learning anything beyond “Hello”? Fortunately, there are many useful iPhone and Android apps that help you translate anything from “What time is it?” in Spanish to “Where is the bathroom?” in Japanese—and some of the best won’t even cost you a dime. If you want to travel virtually anywhere without fear of misreading street signs or being unable to ask for directions, download these free translation apps first.
Google Translate (iOS, Free | Android, Free)
Few apps match up to Google Translate’s ability to translate between 103 languages—among them German, Hindi, Spanish, Afrikaans, Yiddish, and Haitian Creole. The app allows users to translate words by simply drawing out text characters on the device’s touchscreen (available in 32 languages) and also has the capability to translate text by just pointing your camera at the words you want to understand (available in 38 languages). To remember a particularly complex phrase, Google Translate allows you to save translations to your own personal phrasebook.
iTranslate (iOS, Free | Android, Free)
This popular app can translate text in over 100 languages, including Arabic, Dutch, Swedish, and Portuguese. It features useful text-to-speech functionality with the option to switch between dialects (and male or female voices), and it also includes a dictionary with more than 250 predefined phrases alongside synonyms for the words you search.
iTranslate Voice (iOS, Free | Android, Free)
From the same people who created iTranslate, iTranslate Voice uses speech recognition to instantly translate words from over 40 languages, including English, French, Korean, and Thai—all you have to do is speak into your phone.
TripLingo (iOS, Free | Android, Free)
TripLingo will help you sound like a local and clue you in on cultural norms in more than 100 countries around the world. First, you select a destination and download the pack for your desired spot. The app will then provide you with an instant voice translator (available in 42 languages), a 10,000-word offline dictionary, and a “culture crash course” that includes safety guidelines, a tip calculator, and a selection of key slang phrases that will help you blend in wherever you travel.
Waygo (iOS and Android, Free
If you’re an English speaker visiting Asia, you’ll definitely want to download Waygo. When you hover your phone’s camera over menus or signs in Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese, Kanji, and Korean, the app provides instant translations of those words in English. In addition to text translations, Waygo also provides instant voice translations that will help you with correct pronunciation. Best of all, you can be offline to use this app’s translation functions—think of all the delicious dishes it could help you order correctly!
This article originally appeared online in April 2015; it was updated on August 28, 2018, to include current information.