Review: Language (Translator)


Well-known member
Jul 5, 2008
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For anyone who engages in a lot of foreign travel, knowledge of a foreign language is a must. And for those of us that don't have extensive knowledge, we use aids such as phrase books. Now we have a variety of programs available on the iPhone to help out as well. Enter - language.

Lanugage attempts to become an all purpose language translation program. This is what attracted me to the program initially - somethign that could translate any phrase into any language. When you start the program for the first time, you are given the option of watching a tutorial video. This is a great idea. If you have 30 seconds to spare, you can watch the video and learn. If not, the option to watch the video appears in the help (information) screen as well, so you can always watch it (or refresh your memory).

The program is set up using the iPhone SMS interface. What you type (to be translated) appears on the left, and the translation appears on the right. Simple as that. The languages (to and from) appear on the top of the screen, and in a user friendly manner, you can switch the translation direction (say, from "English to German" to "German to English" simply by tapping the direction arrow. All existing translations you have typed remain on the screen (in the "direction" that you typed them), but now you are translating the opposite direction.

To choose a different language pair, simply tap the information screen. You can add language pairs, or use the ones that appear by default (German, French, Spanish, Russian, and Japanese...all with English). There are 35 languages that I counted to choose from, including languages like Latvian, Polish, Indonesian, and Chinese. You can pair any language with another, so you are not limited to using English as one of the pairs.

One nice feature of this program is that when you switch back to a language pair that you were using previously, all your previous translations are listed there (unless you cleared them). Thus, you can set up some primary translation (your own common phrases or useful words, for example) and refer to them as needed - you don't need to retype them each time.

Another cool feature is that you can email a translation to someone - either an individual phrase that you typed, or the whole "conversation" consisting of everything you have typed. Truthfully, I don't know how often that would get used, but it is a nice feature to have.

As nice as this program is, I wish it had some features that are lacking. It would be nice to have some preprogrammed "useful phrases" that you can choose to have translated. Maybe choose from a drop down menu or something like that. That way, you don't have to retype "Do you speak English" in every language you need it translated into.

Also, there is no guide or key for pronouncing the words, so you are left to your own devices. This may be okay for some languages, but not for others. Especially Asian character based languages, where the program translates the phrase into the characters in the language. If I am trying to talk to someone in Japan, seeing the characters for "Where it the hotel" doesn't help me at all - I have no idea how to pronounce it, how to read it, or anything. When dealing with pictoral character based languages, it would be nice to be able to choose either the characters or the pronounciation. Of course, having the characters will help when trying to find a subway stop on the map, or something like that.

Some quick notes - if you are trying to translate FROM a foreign language (especially a character based language like Japanese) you need to activate the keyboard in the settings option, otherwise you may not be able to type any special characters. It would be much nicer if you could activate those keyboards from within the program.

Also, if you mispell a word in English, the autocorrect feature will correct it for you. However, if you are translating from a foreign language to English, there is no correction of spelling for foreign words. In fact, if you mispell a word and try to translate it in any direction, it will simply give you that same word back as a translation (it would be nice to get a message "word/phrase not found" or something like that). Presumably if you change the language of your iPhone, it will correct the spelling. I did notice that if you activated a foreign keyboard AND were using that keyboard to type in a word, the foreign dictionary corrected some of the spelling mistakes (although not all).

One last comment, the pricing for this program is all over the chart. I purchased it when it was $4.99. It dropped to $.99, free, went up to $9.99, and has also been priced at $2.99 and $1.99. Currently it is priced at $9.99. If you are interested, given the pricing fluctuations, you might want to wait to see if it will drop (anywhere between $4.99 and free) again. It wouldn't surprise me - it seems they are changing the price every 3 or 4 days. Since it was introduced on Nov 17, it has had 14 price changes!!

Pros: Nice interface, easy to use, good selection of languages

Cons: Lacking some features to make translation and pronounciation easier, price is all over the place, spelling correction is not clear cut

All in all, this is a useful program that offers a wide array of translation option, and has a good interface for translating words and phrases. It does not help with pronouncing them, and it is difficult (at best) to use with character based languages. It is missing some features to make it more "handy", but it does offer some features as well, like emailing and reverse translation. It is difficult to consider the value for the money, since the price has fluctuated all over the place, so I am basing it on the price I paid - $4.99. At that price, I would give it three and a half out of five stars. (Obviously if the price goes up, the value goes down and the star rating would go down. The reverse occurs if the price goes down).

Rating scale:

* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
**** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.

Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benfits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating.

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