But I understand that not everyone is willing to wing it like that. Some topics aren’t as easily explained with hand gestures (how do you mime something like “hotel” or "I'm allergic to peanuts."). While I’m a strong proponent of getting a local SIM when you travel, and thereby gaining access to Google Translate wherever you are, that too is not always possible.
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For an alternative to carrying several dictionaries in various languages, the Brookstone Passport is an excellent choice and provides more than 8,000 useful phrases. The device cross translates 12 international languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, Dutch, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese and Swedish. Measuring 5.4 x 4.8 x 4 inches, the portable translator has eight conversational categories to choose from and it “speaks” aloud and displays the phrase on the screen. Another handy feature is that it allows you to save up to 50 favorite phrases. It also comes with a built-in personal phone book to help stay organized and an auto-shut off button with password access.  https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/google-translate/id414706506?mt=8
TransPerfect was founded in 1992 as a two-person operation. Today, the company employees over 3,500 people full-time and has a network of over 5,000 certified linguists and subject-area specialists. Their offices have expanded from a single dorm room to 90 offices across the world, making TransPerfect the world’s largest privately held language services provider. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/technology/personaltech/17smart.html
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The palm-sized ECTACO Partner 900 is ideal for those interested in learning Spanish. It instantly converts voice text by repeating it aloud or speaking it in Spanish or English, and also has a roster of other features to help you learn the language. Take a photo of text (such as a restaurant menu) and it instantly converts it to English (an Internet connection is required for this part of the program). There’s also a talking picture dictionary and phrasebook, as well as a full language-learning program with linguistic crosswords and pronunciation assistance. The translator measures 6 x 3.5 x 0.7 inches and weighs 9.8 ounces.
I do wish it did more. The company is very pro one-way translation. Their arguments are valid, but I still think it’d be useful for the other person to be understood as well. It’d be easy enough to say, and have ili translate “press the button and say small sentences,” or something similar, to get the person understand how to use it and to keep it simple. This isn’t as huge of a complaint as it might seem, though, since like I said above, it’s remarkable what one can accomplish with hand gestures. So many travel interactions require simple, easily-understood responses, that getting yourself understood is way more than 50% of any interaction.
It was actually making the video that brought me around on the ili. How well it worked, understanding what I said and quickly translating it, all without the help of the Internet, that was pretty neat. Right now, I can see this coming in handy for a lot of people. In the near future, though, I’m positive Trek’s Universal Translator, or the Babel fish, or C-3P0, will all definitely be possible soon.
It was actually making the video that brought me around on the ili. How well it worked, understanding what I said and quickly translating it, all without the help of the Internet, that was pretty neat. Right now, I can see this coming in handy for a lot of people. In the near future, though, I’m positive Trek’s Universal Translator, or the Babel fish, or C-3P0, will all definitely be possible soon.
It's important to keep in mind there’s no such thing as “real time translation” yet, despite what Google says. We’re still not quite there for the Star Trek-style Universal Translator that just speaks in your language while someone else is speaking. Right now it’s sentence (pause) by sentence (pause), give or take a few sentences. No translator is meant to tell your life story. Mostly it’s for asking for the bathroom. The ili does that, and a lot more. It's positioned as travel-centric, but I threw a lot of random phrases its way and it did pretty well. Maybe it can't translate random medical conditions, but just about anything a traveler would need should be covered.

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