Cross-cultural communications are now much simpler with electronic language devices helping to bridge the language barrier for international business people and travellers. These devices are also assisting students of foreign languages by providing them with a range of tools to facilitate their learning.
These devices are also referred to as electronic language translators and dictionaries, or simply as e-translators. While all electronic language devices offer the basic functions of translation and a dictionary, some offer much more. Because of this, they can range from less than $100 dollars to over $700. So, before you buy, take a quick look at the different features available to help determine what you want and need in an electronic language device.
Do you require a bilingual or multilingual device? If you intend on only using your e-translator for regular business trips to Tokyo, then a simple bilingual English-Japanese device is all you will need. On the other hand, if you want a unit to assist you as you travel across Europe, a multilingual device is more suited to your needs. However, keep in mind that the greater the number of languages a device is equipped to work with, the pricier it is likely to be.
Talking Versus Non-Talking Dictionaries
Non-talking dictionaries provide fast bi-directional (and in the case of multilingual devices, multi-directional) word translation as well as extensive databases of useful expressions and colloquialisms. In addition to these functions, talking electronic dictionaries also provide an audio pronunciation of the text, which serves as an added benefit to those wanting to develop their oral language skills.
Vocabulary and Spelling Checker
The larger the vocabulary capability of an electronic language device, the more useful it is likely to be, particularly if you will be using it for dealing with technical language like medical, legal and business terminology. If the device you like only provides basic general vocabulary capabilities, find out whether it has the capacity for specialist dictionary add-ons.
Since many foreign languages are not phonetic, you are bound to misspell many words that you type into your translator. For this reason, having a spell-checking function is essential.
Speech Recognition and Text Scanning Capabilities
Devices with speech recognition technology make speech-to-speech translation possible, saving you time and helping you to speak to the locals in their native tongue. Having a built-in scanner can also save you the time of typing in text, by allowing you to scan words and passages of text for translation, which is great for helping you to find the meaning of anything from bus timetables to newspaper articles while in a foreign land.
Before buying, also check to see if the device offers any other functions you may need while abroad such as world clocks or calculators for currency and measurement conversion.