Interpreter Apps: How to Smash Language Barriers With Technology

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People have been devising ways around language barriers for as long as those barriers have existed.  Interpreter apps are the latest example of interpreting technology. These apps come with a seductive promise: no more struggling with phrasebooks, no more awkward games of charades. Your trusty smartphone, always in your pocket, can act as your interpreter.

Of course, in the real world, the performance of these apps can vary. Choosing the right interpreting technology for your situation is crucial. Here’s how to find the best option for your needs.

The best interpreter apps and voice translator apps

Automated interpreter apps combine voice recognition and machine translation. With these apps, you can speak a sentence in one language, and have your phone repeat it in another language.  Magical, right?

Well, some of the time.  As mentioned above, these apps work by combining two advanced technologies, voice recognition and machine translation. Each is amazing in its own right.  However, neither technology is perfect.  Have you ever struggled to communicate with Siri or Alexa? Or dictated a text message and come up with absolute gibberish?

Still, the best interpreter apps and voice translator apps do make it possible for travellers or casual users to be understood, most of the time. And that’s something to celebrate. Here are four of the highest-rated options:

Google Translate

Google Translate offers speech-to-speech translation in 41 languages.   Offline support is available for 35 of them, which is important if you’ll be travelling somewhere remote or you’re trying to conserve data.  Check available languages here.

Google Translate is available as on iOS app, a web app or an Android app.

Microsoft Translator

Microsoft Translator offers live speech-to-speech translation for 60 languages.  The catch?  Although Microsoft Translator offers offline access for some of its features, speech-to-speech translation is not one of them.

Microsoft Translator is available for iOS, Android, and Windows.  See available languages and download it here. 

TripLingo

With a focus on corporate travellers, TripLingo offers speech-to-speech translation in 19 languages. The app also features a suite of tools to help you learn the language and understand the local business culture in your destination.

Finally, you can access a live human translator for an additional fee, in case you’re in a situation where “close enough” simply won’t do.

TripLingo is available for iOS and Android. 

Naver Papago

Papago was developed by a Korean company and specialises in Asian languages. As a result, while it only translates between 13 different languages, it may be a bit more accurate than Google Translate or Microsoft Translator for languages like Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

Available for iOS and Android.

For more translation apps, see Essential Language Apps You Need for Travelling.

What is the most accurate translation app for speech translation?

How accurate are translation apps? And which is the most accurate? The answer depends on the language pair you’re trying to translate.  In general, the best interpreter apps use Neural Machine Translation (NMT) technology. Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, and Naver Papago all use NMT.

There’s no doubt that NMT and other advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence have improved the accuracy of machine translation. However, despite these advances, there’s still room for improvement.

When getting it right really matters, the most accurate translation app is one that connects you to a trained human interpreter.

Interpreting Technology for Business, Medical and Interpreting

Real, human interpreters may be the most accurate and reliable option, but the ease of using an app that relies on machine translation is seductive.

The truth is that businesses, medical institutions and other organisations often struggle with finding qualified interpreters on short notice. Fortunately, technology is available to connect your organisation with qualified human interpreters on demand.

Telephone Interpreting

With telephone interpreting, trained interpreters are never more than a phone call away.  With telephone interpreting, access to interpreters isn’t limited by geography.  These days, the best telephone interpreting services will get you connected quickly, with a mobile app for easy access.

Video Remote Interpreting (VRI)

Telephone interpreting has one major disadvantage: at least 55% of communication is nonverbal. Video remote interpreting (VRI) provides this missing piece by allowing interpreters and speakers to see each other. Some nuances may be difficult to capture in a video conference, but it’s still the next best thing to having everyone in the same room. As smartphones and tablets are now ubiquitous, VRI  is much easier for organisations to offer than it once was.

VRI is also often the best remote interpreting option for sign language users, many of whom can write in English but are more comfortable communicating via signing.

Both telephone interpreting and VRI allow organisations to offer access to interpreters more quickly, with a wider selection of languages and in a more cost-effective manner.

Security Considerations for Interpreter Apps

Privacy is a concern with anything that involves the Internet these days, and for good reason. Telephone and video remote interpreting is no exception. Medical, legal and business conversations can potentially involve personal or proprietary information.  Meanwhile, if there’s a breach your organisation could be liable for damages.

That’s all the more reason to leave the free translation apps for travellers and other casual users!

When choosing an interpreting app for your organisation, there are two primary security considerations :

  • Type of channel encryption:  Most apps use either a 128-bit or a 256-bit key to encrypt and decrypt data. 256-bit encryption provides more protection.
  • NDAs and security clearances for interpreters:  As a matter of professional ethics, all interpreters are obliged to keep the conversations they interpret confidential unless the law requires otherwise. However, as an extra precaution, they may also be asked to sign an NDA. Certain types of interpreting may also require the interpreters involved to have a certain level of security clearance, as well.

Easy Interpreting For Businesses and Organisations

Do you need more accurate or specialised interpreting help than you can get from an automated translation app? Are you tired of struggling to get an interpreter when you need one?

K International offers easy access to qualified interpreters in over 250 languages, including British Sign Language. Schedule an in-person appointment or use our convenient telephone interpreting service to get help right away.

Ready to learn more? Contact us to discuss your interpreting needs today!