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.
WIZCOM QUICKLINK SUPERPEN
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 20foreign 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 needplenty of time and patience to set the pen up. 888/777-0552; www.wizcomtech.com; $199123LANGUAGE LINGO 10 TALK
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 fromSpanish to French to German a cinch). Not only does it pronounce words clearly but it spells themphonetically, transliterating from Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and other non-Western scripts. Justdon't count on using the included headphones: the wires are only two inches long, so you'd have tohave a head the size of a tennis ball to wear them. 877/546-4677; www.123language.com; $159.95ECTACO UNIVERSAL TRANSLATOR UT-103
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-recognitiontechnology. Attach the earpiece and speak any of 3,000 English phrases into the microphone to have ittranslated into Spanish, French, or German. You'll get a text interpretation and also hearpronunciation—via somewhat muffled audio from the mediocre speakers. One inch thick and just underfour ounces, it literally fits in the palm of your hand. The machine comes with 14 easy-to-browsecategories, including hotels, restaurants, shopping, and sightseeing. (Single-language devices—inEnglish, Russian, and more—are also available.) 800/710-7920; www.ectaco.com; $249.95Download 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 portabletranslation. Installed the same way you'd load a game or spreadsheet program, Small Talk is anelectronic phrase book that offers English, Spanish, French, Italian, and German in nine pre-loadedtopics, including emergencies, business, and entertainment. Its bank of 500 phrases and likelyresponses saves you time, thanks to a log of your previous requests. 201/261-7944; www.landware.com; $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 newmodels 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 alsotranslate e-mails or Web pages from your desktop PC. It's powered by IBM's machine translationtechnology, famous for catching contextual or grammatical quirks. 888/746-7426; www.ibm.com; $48