While travelling we always try to make an effort to learn some of the local language - you'd be amazed how far just hello, goodbye, please and thank you will get you! It's polite, it breaks the ice and people are far more inclined to help you if they realise you're not another arrogant tourist who just repeats English phrases slowly and loudly. In Japan and Albania, people were delighted and surprised that we had bothered to learn a couple of phrases (although they found our accents hilarious). Communication is one of the most important ways to really get into the place you're visiting, and it has led to some really lovely interactive moments on our travels.
Before we set off for our recent Spanish road trip, Pocketalk got in touch asking if we would like to try out their Pocketalk S voice translator. We were intrigued - while we can muddle through in conversational French and German, neither of us took Spanish at school, and despite taking a quick 4 week course online in the run up to our trip, our vocab was definitely lacking! As we were planning on being in the country for a few weeks, we were definitely going to need more than "dos copas de vino por favor!"
We immediately liked the Pocketalk S. It's small and sleek like a little mobile phone and easily fits in a pocket or bumbag, but the touch screen is nice and big which makes it easy to read the translated text. It includes a SIM card for 2 years of cellular data coverage in more than 130 countries and regions, so as long as you have phone signal (eg not underground/on the subway) then the Pocketalk will work!
What really impressed us about the translator is that it covers a whopping 82 different languages - in Spain we were able to use it to translate Castillian Spanish (the language used most in Spain), Catalan and even Basque!
The Pocketalk S translator is speedy! The two way speakers mean that you can have a conversation, both speaking in your own respective languages, and Pocketalk will translate in real time. The microphones are great at cancelling background noise, helpful if you're in a busy city or noisy restaurant.
Top tip: just make sure that if you're in a quiet space like a church that you have the volume turned down - I accidentally tapped the option to have the translation read out loud to me when trying to read the information board for a chapel and the Pocketalk started reciting the Gospel to me very loudly!
Our favourite thing about the Pocketalk S is the camera - you can take a photo of a sign, menu, or even handwritten text, and the gadget will translate it for you, with clear text on the screen that you can scroll through. This was really handy because it means you can quickly translate whole blocks of text rather than googling individual words.
The camera function was such a game changer on our trip for translating information boards in museums and churches, which were often only in Spanish, and for reading the menu in Catalan Spain when everything suddenly changed compared to the vocab we'd just learned in Andalucia. It will be so useful for future trips in countries that use a different alphabet to us like Greece, Thailand and Ukraine! We wish wish wish we'd had this for reading signage in Japan...
Disclosure: we were invited to test out the Pocketalk S translator and create content both here and on our Instagram as part of a paid campaign, but as always, all opinions are our own and this is an honest review.