5 Translation Apps for iPad

The iPad is an ideal travel companion.
How many times have you been to places where you wished you understood the person who is talking to you in a foreign language or a written sign on the street?

How much easier would it be for you to be able to read the menu and order your meal at a restaurant in a different language and in a foreign country?

Many years ago I traveled to China for business and had to stay for about a month in what the Chinese people consider a small town ( around 2 million inhabitants ).

I brought with me a few travel guides which helped me tremendously to find places to eat, do some sightseeing, etc.

One time I was trying a new restaurant with a colleague and ordered a meat dish. I was shocked when the meat arrived to the table 5 minutes later… raw. With gestures and signs I managed to send the meat back to the kitchen to be cooked further but it came back 2 minutes later, still raw. I kept sending the meat back several times but it would still come back rawish.

Frustrated with not being able to communicate properly, I stood up, grabbed my dish and walked straight into the kitchen. The Chinese people in the kitchen were shocked to see me there. Again using sign language, got a pan on the stove and ended cooking the meat to my taste. I still smile at that memory and although my Chinese language skills haven’t improved much since then, I realize that nowadays the story could be way different.

Applicable to:
iPad versions: iPad, iPad 2, The new iPad
iOS versions: iOS 5, iOS 6 and up

Today I’m going to be discussing dictionaries and translation tools for the iPad. Hopefully this will help you a lot on your next trip.

Need to refresh how to download and install apps?
Check out this post: How to download and install iPad apps

Google Translate


This app has a proper layout for the iPad. You need Internet access to perform translations. You can translate words and phrases in more than 60 languages. The app allows you to enter text or to speak the word or phrase and it will translate for you. Only a reduced number of languages (17) is available for  voice translation and according to some reviews, voice translation is not as accurate as people would expect.


The app keeps a history of the translation requests and allows you to “start” or bookmark your favorite translations which can be accessed later even without Internet connectivity.



The idea behind this app is to allow two people speaking different languages to be able to carry a conversation. The screen is divided in two. Person A (Maria) can start the recording, say something in Spanish and the hit the “Translate” button. The app will translate and speak back in English to person B (Tom). Tom in turn can also speak back and hit “Translate” or can enter the text with the keyboard if he sees the recorded text did not match what he said. Be aware though of possible literal translations that will not be as accurate as expected and could lead to misunderstandings.


The free app has ads that appear before the translation screen.



This app allows you to translate from up to 50 languages. It has voice integration which allows you to hear the words or phrases being translated. The free version sustains itself through ads on the app. There are paid upgrades for no ads version and voice recognition which allow you to speak and have the app translate.


Word Reference


This is a great app. Unfortunately it’s currently formatted for the iPhone and iPod touch. I haven’t found yet a version for the iPad. The app needs Internet access to perform translations. Many different languages are available. When you search for a word, you get the possible meanings translated as well as, possible conjugations and the possibility to listen to the pronunciation of the word you are looking for in the translated language.

SpeakText FREE


Speak Text has three modes. Key in, Documents and Web Pages.


Key in allows you to enter words or phrases to translate and can also read those phrases in the original or translated language. Web Pages allows you to navigate any page and select a portion of (or whole) page to be translated.

Documents allow you to translate a portion or the whole document and also to read the translated sentences.

The app allows you to select from different languages, speaking rates, pauses, font sizes, etc.

The free version seems to be limited on the amount of sentences of a document that can be translated.

There are plenty more translation apps out there. What is your favorite one and why?

Let me know by posting a comment using the form below.