World travel is all about adventure, discovery and placing yourself outside of your usual comfort zone. It's about embroiling yourself in a foreign culture, with its different languages, traditions and seemingly revolting foodstuffs.
However, sometimes after a hard day's looking at the sights, queuing with a bunch of other tourists and getting lost on the indecipherable public transport network, you just want to order some food without the usual linguistic gymnastics that inevitably comes with the language barrier. If that is the case: there's an app for that. Or at least, there will be soon.
International Hotels Group recently announced it is currently developing a translation app for the soon to be released Apple Watch. They claim it will provide instantaneous translation from English to 13 different languages - essentially creating tech similar to A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy's Babel Fish. Here is the hilarious explanation of that little gem from the original television series:
To operate the app, you merely speak the English phrase into the watch, which is then translated and presented as phonetic text in the foreign language of your choice. The app will also include common phrases such as "where is the bathroom", "I'd like a beer" and "What do you mean the continental breakfast doesn't feature bacon or eggs? You don't really expect me to start my day with a tiny piece of puffy bread, do you?".
Future editions of the mobile app will also reportedly include a voice-to-voice translation, which means you won't even have to make verbal contact with the dialectically-challenged foreign fellow. The IHG Translator app will also release on iPhone, with its free version including 'learning' and 'culture' sections with various lessons on etiquette and language. However, this version will not be available on the Apple Watch.
The initial app, which launches with the Apple Watch on April 24th, will feature 13 languages at launch: Spanish, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Thai.
Of course, there is no denying the utility of an app like this - if it actually works as described - but I can't help but feel this does take away a bit of the thrill of travelling. If there's one thing I've noticed, is that people generally appreciate it when you at least try to converse with them in their native language, even if you do butcher it in the process. If nothing else, it's a nice piece of interaction with someone of another culture. However, I'm not sure how much that French waiter is going to appreciate having an iPhone thrust in his face every time an English-speaker wants to order a filet mignon.
What do you think?