Translating Technology
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Translating Technology

At a loss for words overseas?Ditch that dog-eared phrase book. These sleek devices use speech-recognition software and optical scanners to translate foreign languages in a flash.

Best for Business travelers, readers of
foreign-language documents, spies

James Bond would want this gadget: a six-inch,
three-ounce electronic highlighter that scans and translates full sentences of printed text into 20
foreign languages. The QuickLink may not be the fastest
way to communicate, but it's perfect for translating material from a guidebook, menu, or hotel bill
(and transferring it to your computer, PDA, or text-enabled cell phone). Be forewarned: you'll need
plenty of time and patience to set the pen up. 888/777-0552;; $199


Best for Frequent travelers with
some language mastery

This device can translate 60,000 words
into 10 different languages, each at the touch of a button (separate language keys make going from
Spanish to French to German a cinch). Not only does it pronounce words clearly but it spells them
phonetically, transliterating from Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and other non-Western scripts. Just
don't count on using the included headphones: the wires are only two inches long, so you'd have to
have a head the size of a tennis ball to wear them. 877/546-4677;; $159.95


Best for Casual travelers who need
only basic phrases to get by

Tired of text-only handhelds with tiny keys?You'll love the Ectaco's revolutionary speech-recognition
technology. Attach the earpiece and speak any of 3,000 English phrases into the microphone to have it
translated into Spanish, French, or German. You'll get a text interpretation and also hear
pronunciation—via somewhat muffled audio from the mediocre speakers. One inch thick and just under
four ounces, it literally fits in the palm of your hand. The machine comes with 14 easy-to-browse
categories, including hotels, restaurants, shopping, and sightseeing. (Single-language devices—in
English, Russian, and more—are also available.) 800/710-7920;; $249.95

Download This: Innovative New Software

Landware Small Talk
Best for Budget-minded Palm owners looking for simple phrase translations
If you already own a Palm-based PDA, this is the biggest bargain in portable
translation. Installed the same way you'd load a game or spreadsheet program, Small Talk is an
electronic phrase book that offers English, Spanish, French, Italian, and German in nine pre-loaded
topics, including emergencies, business, and entertainment. Its bank of 500 phrases and likely
responses saves you time, thanks to a log of your previous requests. 201/261-7944;; $19.95.

IBM ViaVoice Translator
Best for Technophiles who want to
translate everything

IBM's program for the Compaq iPAQ
handheld uses the speakers on new
models to clearly articulate words and phrases. Choose among 50 pre-loaded sentences in English,
Spanish, French, Italian, and German, or write your own with the PDA's stylus. The program can also
translate e-mails or Web pages from your desktop PC. It's powered by IBM's machine translation
technology, famous for catching contextual or grammatical quirks. 888/746-7426;; $48

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