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Imagine being able to understand Italian, French, or Thai… without knowing any of these languages. Sounds crazy, right? Well, I have three words for you: handheld language translator.
A handheld language translator device is exactly how it sounds. It’s a pocket-sized device that you can bring with you on your travels, a handy tool that lets you communicate with locals even if you don’t know the language.
Wondering how this device will make your travels better? Read on.
How handheld language translator devices work
Most of the devices that you will see online have two buttons. These buttons are perfect for conversing with locals or foreigners you’ll encounter on your trips.
It works like this: Some devices require that you set the languages first, but others don’t and simply detect the language. You hold one button as you speak into the device with your language. The device will then translate what you said. And then the other person will speak into the device while pushing the other button.
However, some devices, especially the smaller ones, have only one button and can automatically detect the language and translate accordingly.
Some handheld translators also have cameras that can capture and translate the text in the images. No more getting lost in translation when reading restaurant menus or street signs!
Depending on which device you buy, you’ll need WiFi, a hotspot, or mobile data to use it. Some come with SIM cards or eSIM, some don’t. Some also have additional features that are useful when traveling, like currency converters and weather forecasts.
Why use a handheld language translator device
You might be wondering, why use a separate device when you have your ever-reliable smartphone that can download translator apps? Here are a few reasons why.
Because a handheld language translator is pocket-sized, it’s portable and easy to carry around than say, a language learning book or travel phrasebook.
Unlike smartphones, a translator device’s sole purpose is well, to translate. So you won’t have to go through multiple clicks and comb through apps just to get what you need.
Most devices have translation speeds of less than one second, so you can have real-time conversations with locals and other foreigners. More opportunities to make friends and learn about new cultures!
There’s no doubt that most translator apps like Google Translate have come a long way in terms of accuracy and coverage. But while these apps do well with text translations, they often mess up spoken translations because of mediocre voice recognition capabilities.
Handheld translator devices specialize in translating speech so these devices have better voice recognition function. Some can even recognize accents.
Some of these devices are also powered by AI. This means the more you use them, the more they produce more accurate results.
Aid for language learning
You’ll likely need a handheld language translator if you’re someone who frequently travels to different countries. Unless you’re a hyperpolyglot, it’s tough to learn so many languages.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of your translator device for learning new languages. In your downtime, you can use your device to practice your listening and speaking skills. That’s also getting your money’s worth!
Now that you know how these devices work and why you need them for your travels, let’s get down to business. Here are 10 handheld language translator devices that we recommend you use on your next trip.
Best handheld language translator devices
Pocketalk is the most recommended handheld language translator for good reason. This portable translator device not only gives up-to-date and accurate translations but also fast translations!
On average, the classic Pocketalk unit gives translations in 0.6 seconds. This produces real-time conversations with almost no pauses. Of course, this varies depending on your environment (i.e. connection speed, crowded and loud areas) but it’s generally fast.
This two-way handheld translator can translate up to 82 languages including dialects, jargon, and slang, and even swear words. Text is also displayed on the screen as you speak. It also has noise-canceling microphones that pick up every word you speak even in busy, loud areas.
This device comes with a SIM card that works in 133 countries. There’s a built-in two-year data plan when you buy so you can start using it anywhere a cellular signal is available.
- Supports 82 languages, including dialects, jargon, and slang terms
- Speedy two-way translation
- Built-in two-year data plan
- Pocket-sized, compact design
- Powerful speakers and noise-canceling dual microphones
In 2020, Pocketalk released a new model of its well-loved handheld voice translator. Pocketalk Model S has all the features of the Pocketalk Classic, with some bells and whistles.
The best upgrade to this handheld language translator is its camera and image translation. With its eight-megapixel camera, you can easily read road signs, menus, and even handwritten text. The large touchscreen displays the translated text on top of the image along with an optional audio translation.
Pocketalk Model S also has wider mobile bands so you can expect improved connectivity. You can also set PIN locks and timed automatic history deletion to protect your device and conversations.
Aside from translations, this device can also convert currency, length, weight, and temperature. It’s very handy and recommended for travelers… if you don’t mind the $120 price difference between the Pocketalk Classic and this newer model, that is.
- Fast translations for up to 82 languages
- Built-in two-year data plan but can also be used via WiFi
- Camera and image translation
- Added security with PIN lock and history deletion
- Added conversion feature
Sleek is the first word that comes to mind with this handheld language translator. Winner of the iF Design Award 2019, CheetakTALK’s CM Translator is small, lightweight, and classy.
Despite its size, you’ll find that the CM Translator has impressive features. It supports 42 languages and is powered by a Microsoft Cloud-based AI service for fast, accurate two-way translations. This allows for almost seamless back-and-forth translations with foreigners and quicker learning for language learners.
Unlike the Pocketalk translator devices, CM Translator only has a single button, a microphone, a speaker, and no built-in screen.
While this may be a downside for some, it lends the device simplicity and a much better battery life of up to 24 hours of use or 180 days of standby. Perfect for a full day of exploring without the need to recharge!
- Real-time and accurate two-way voice translations for 42 languages
- Can connect via WiFi or mobile data
- Superior battery life
- Sleek and minimalist design that comes in white and UV black variant
- Companion mobile app
While a simple translator device is enough on most occasions, for the frequent traveler, having a multipurpose device is a dream. Langogo Genesis is one such device – it’s not just an instant voice translator but also a mobile hotspot!
Langogo provides fast two-way translations for over 100 languages at the push of a button. Powered by 24 translation engines and self-learning algorithms, it automatically recognizes the inter-translation language and translates it automatically without the need for A/B buttons or extra apps.
But even better, Langogo Genesis has an eSIM that lets it act as a mobile hotspot router. It can connect up to five devices simultaneously to the Internet so it can be used when traveling with friends or family.
Moreover, it has an audio recorder function that can record voice for up to 16 hours and transcribe it into text. It also doubles as a voice assistant, delivering useful tourist information like weather forecasts, exchange rates, nearby attractions, and more.
- One-button accurate translation for over 100 languages
- eSIM technology that can be used as a mobile hotspot for up to 5 devices
- Lots of extra features
- Two-year data plan
- Good battery life with a standby time of around a week
Capable of translating 82 languages in real-time, BUOTH’s Smart Voice Translator is one of the best handheld translator devices in the market.
This translator features two buttons that let you real-time translated conversations. Its 2.4-inch touchscreen shows translated text. BUOTH also claims 0.3 seconds response time and 97% accuracy rate and the Amazon reviews do show positive reviews for these.
BUOTH Smart Voice Translator has high-definition recording and noise reduction microphones so you can use it even in the middle of a busy street when traveling. It also has a playback function so if others don’t hear it clearly, you can play it again. Pretty nifty, yes?
- Fast and accurate two-way translations for 82 languages
- Touchscreen and playback function
- 12-month warranty guarantee
- Works on WiFi and doesn’t require a subscription
- 1,200mAh battery that can withstand 8 hours of use and 7 days standby time
Perfect for travelers who love striking a conversation with locals, MORTENTR’s handheld translator device boasts ultra-high accuracy for even complicated sentences.
Response time may be slow at first for longer sentences but the more you use it, the faster and more accurate the translations will be.
Like most of the devices on this list, MORTENTR features a touchscreen that displays easy-to-read text translations. You can click the screen to replay the audio. And speaking of audio, this translator device has a powerful speaker that produces loud and clear audio.
This device operates on WiFi or hotspot and doesn’t require a SIM card. Battery life is also stellar at 1,200mAh.
- Speedy, highly accurate translations for 70 languages
- Crisp, clear sound, and noise-canceling microphone
- No need for SIM card and data subscription
- Standby time of 7 days, working time of 10 hours, and high-speed charging
- 12-month warranty guarantee
What’s better than an accurate handheld language translator? A translator that recognizes accents.
Not only does JoneR Voice Language Translator support 55 languages, but it can also recognize 75 regional accents. In less than a second, your speech will automatically be translated into both voice and text. With four noise-canceling microphones, you can be sure that this device will work perfectly in any environment.
This translator also comes with a 13-megapixel camera, letting you translate text in images in up to 15 languages. And since it sports a 3.1-inch touchscreen, you can see the displayed text more clearly.
JoneR Translator works via WiFI, hotspot, or SIM card. It also has an eSIM data plan for 121 countries that can also be used as a mobile hotspot for up to five devices.
- High accuracy and fast response time for 55 languages and 75 accents
- Camera with good resolution for image translations
- Large battery capacity
- Offline access for English-Japanese and Japanese-Chinese
- Equipped with Google Maps, Google Search, and currency converter functions
Another model from BUOTH, this real-time translation device supports two-way conversations in 106 languages. Here, real-time means 0.2 seconds! I don’t know about you but to me, that means conversing with locals with virtually no pauses!
In addition to the standard translation function, this newer model sports a five-megapixel and OCR (character recognition) camera that supports 44 languages for photo and document translations.
This handheld language translator also features high-definition recording and a noise reduction microphone. If you don’t mind the price difference between this and the previously listed BUOTH Smart Voice Translator, this should be a great upgrade.
- High-speed and high-accuracy voice translations for 106 languages
- Image translations for 44 languages
- Audio recording function with transcription and translation
- 1200mAh battery with 8 hours continuous use and standby time of 7 days
At 97-99% accuracy, Birgus’ handheld language translator boasts the highest accuracy rate. Pauses are minimal as it translates speech in less than one second.
And with a coverage of 106 languages, it’s one of the most versatile translator devices in the market.
Birgus Language Translator integrates cutting-edge Neural Machine Translation and AI assistance to enhance AI translations and assistant capabilities, offering you a travel experience void of language barriers.
In addition to its voice translation function, it also supports photo translation with OCR and audio recording translation.
And it supports offline access for eight languages. If this is important for you, check this list of offline translator devices that work without WiFi.
- Supports 106 languages, 8 of which are available offline
- High accuracy and fast response time
- Photo translation
- Recording translation
- Compact design
It might not seem much but this small device packs a punch.
With a slim and minimalist design, Syuan Language Translator is an awesome portable device that supports accurate translations for 52 languages. It requires a mobile app and some users find the pairing part confusing at first. But once you get around it, you’ll find it easy to use.
This handheld language translator device has two buttons for real-time conversation translations. It helps that its microphone has noise reduction capabilities so your speech can be recognized even in noisy environments. Its speaker also produces crystal clear sound.
- Supports 52 languages
- Slim design, easy to carry
- High-fidelity speaker and microphone with noise reduction feature
- High accuracy and fast response time
- Fast charging
What to look for in a handheld language translator device
You’ve probably made a shortlist based on the features and reviews of the above devices. But just in case you need more help choosing the right translator for you, here are some factors you need to consider.
This list includes devices that support 42 to over 100 languages. 42 is already a lot but if you think you will be needing more than that, go for the ones that support more languages.
Also, make sure that the language you more frequently encounter (i.e. Japanese, if you frequently travel to Japan) is included in the device’s coverage.
Most of the devices listed here claim over 90% accuracy rate.
If you want to further trim down your list, you can look at how many translation engines (i.e. Google, Microsoft, Baidu, etc.) the device use. Some devices use just one engine while others integrate multiple engines. The more translation engines used, the higher the accuracy will be.
Having AI assistance is also a plus. This means the device learns and gets smarter the more that you use it.
Connectivity and access
Do you need a device that supports a SIM card? An eSIM that can be used anywhere in the world? Or a device that connects via WiFi or hotspot only? Do you need offline access?
If you can be certain that you will have access to WiFi or a hotspot all the time, you probably won’t need a SIM card or mobile data.
Using a SIM card also means you’ll need a data plan so that’s added cost for you. But some translator devices can act as a mobile hotspot which can be useful for travel.
Not all devices have offline access and some that do only support a few languages. Here’s a list of translator devices that work offline. Carefully weigh your options based on your needs.
You wouldn’t want your translator’s battery running out while you’re in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. Opt for a handheld language translator device that can last at least six hours of operating time.
There you have it! I hope this list of best handheld language translator devices inspired you to break the language barriers and brave new adventures on foreign lands… even if you don’t speak the local language!
Happy trip planning and happy shopping!