For people who travel the world, interact with different cultures and learn new languages then the translator device is a bit of a controversial item.
On the one hand, it allows you to speak to people you may not have otherwise been able to speak to.
But on the other hand, it takes away the magic of language learning, and could it even disincentivise people from learning languages all together.
Let’s take a look at what our team think of these translator devices and work out whether you should get one.
What Is A Translator Device?
For those of you who aren’t sure what we’re talking about when we keep saying translator device:
Basically a translator device is a device where you speak or type into it in one language and it gives you the translation in the language of your choice.
Historically most of these devices functioned using typed input but as they are becoming more sophisticated, it’s more common to find machines where you simply need to speak in your language and the machine will repeat the message in the target language.
Our Initial Thoughts On Translator Devices
As a language learning website who cherishes the beauty of foreign languages and learning them, the new translator devices make us nervous.
Will they stop people from learning foreign languages? Is the language learning community in danger?
These are some of the things that have been worrying us when looking at these new translator devices that are becoming increasingly popular and economical at the same time.
So let’s start our dissection of these devices by looking at the cons.
Cons Of Translator Devices
They’re Not Perfect
Although the translation technology on these machines is impressive, it’s not perfect yet.
It is true that the technology has come an incredibly long way, and translation devices now conjugate verbs rather than translating a sentence word by word, however they can still make mistakes.
If you try translating something on google translate, for the most part you’ll find this quite successful however you’ll notice that sometimes there are silly errors where the machine hasn’t still fully understood the context.
Translator devices are the same.
To get over this issue, try to use sentences that are relatively simple rather than complex ideas.
Also try to avoid just saying one word into a translator device especially if the translation of that word is ambiguous. The machines need context to optimise success and for that you have to give them sentences.
People Will Stop Making The Effort To Learn Languages
This is probably the biggest con to these translation devices.
Many people are worried that if we can just speak into a box that does the work for us that we are going to stop bother learning foreign languages, but I just don’t think that’s true.
At the moment you have people in the world who make an effort to learn languages and those who will just speak English in a foreign country.
This isn’t going to change. All that will happen is that the people who just speak English will now have a way to communicate. Those people were never going to learn, so the outcome of a translation device doesn’t affect them.
The people who love learning languages aren’t just going to stop because a device is available. They will keep learning because they love the process.
Although a translation device will allow people to communicate without a shared language, nothing compares to having an actual conversation with someone in the same language.
You can’t build a relationship or friendships on a device. You need to real thing.
So language learning will still continue, things are just going to become easier for those who maybe aren’t as into it as the language learning community is.
Pros Of Translator Devices
You Can’t Learn Every Language
No matter how much you love language learning, you have to be honest with yourself, you just can’t learn every language.
Yes you can learn enough of a language to get by when you visit a new country, but you’re not going to be able to learn enough to communicate complicated ideas every time you go abroad.
And with a translator device you can still do this! You can still learn how to order things and ask for directions, but then you can use the translator device to have more in depth conversations.
The translator device can cover you in the languages you don’t know, allowing you to travel to further places without having to worry about communication.
With a translator device you don’t have to worry about using your laptop to do translation, which is big, bulky and takes up space.
Instead you can stick a translator device in your bag or pocket. The devices are small meaning they don’t take up that much space and they don’t weigh too much either.
This makes them the perfect addition to a travel backpack, as you want to maximise space.
You don’t even have to keep them in a bag if you want to explore without one. Many of the devices are so small now that there would fit into your pocket without any problems!
They’re Becoming Cheaper
A thing that put people off purchasing translation devices when they first came out was the price tag.
To have technology that can translate on the spot, people expect this to cost a lot but it actually doesn’t.
Although there are still the more expensive models that can cost around $200 (and are top of the range on the market too), they are lots of other more affordable models around the $40 mark.
Many people were put off by the price, but now you can buy these devices at a cheaper price making them more attainable for ordinary people.
Our verdict is that although it is better to learn a foreign language a translator device isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And there are some good points that you can get out of these devices.
It’s important to remember that a portable translation device doesn’t mean people are going to stop actively learning languages. The only thing that will change for now is that it becomes easier for people to communicate when there is no shared language.
By all means invest in one of these devices to make your travel life easier, but just remember that nothing is better than actually learning the language, especially for building relationships, and the locals will appreciate it a lot more as well.
Which One Should I Get?
There are lots of translation devices currently on the market but which one you get depends on your needs.
Here are some of the things you will want to consider when choosing the right translator device for you:
- Languages available
To check out our run down of the translation devices available take a look at our article here.