Microsoft just updated its Translator app for iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire devices to support new optimised language packs that are (allegedly) up to 23 per cent better at helping you figure out how to say "where is the bathroom" on your next vacation. They also eat up around half as much space on your phone when you download them -- a wise move, since you don't want to be stuck without the ability to ask for directions if you're lost on your travels.
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One of the cleverest plot devices used by Gene Roddenberry in Star Trek was the Universal Translator. It solved the problem of how multi-lingual humans could communicate with alien species. Now, an Australian plumber has teamed with IBM to bring the device to reality. (Well, for Earth-bound speakers, at least.)
Chrome/Windows/Mac/Linux: If you've ever had a phrase on the tip of your tongue, you probably took to Google to search for the right wording. Writefull does this work for you. It's a free, helps improve your writing, compares phrases, shows you how they're worded depending on the context and suggests synonyms.
Thanks to fancy new upgrades like neural network learning, translation apps like Google Translate and Microsoft Translator are better than ever. They can translate almost anything you want. But you shouldn't lean on them when you travel. In fact, I think you should use them as little as possible -- if at all.
Android: Language translation apps are nothing new (which is one of the coolest sentences I've written), but Microsoft's new Translator app offers some neat features. In addition to translating between 48 languages via text or voice, you can even use an Android Wear watch to translate from your wrist.
Skype's real-time translator software is pretty awesome, and it has some new tricks. It can now translate to and from French and German, from spoken word to spoken word.
Windows: Last year, Microsoft announced an app that would allow you to have real-time conversations with people who spoke different languages, built on Skype. While the service was only available to a small group of testers, it's now open to everyone.
The most effective way to learn a foreign language is to immerse yourself as much as possible in it. Readlang is a web app and Chrome extension that helps you learn by translating websites, and creating flashcards and word lists for you.
iOS/Android: Last year, Google bought Word Lens, the amazing app that translates signs in real time, and made it free for everyone. Now the company has gone one better and rolled the feature into Google Translate.