Language can play a huge factor in shaping the experience you have on your travels. If you can’t speak the primary language it can become a barrier for simple things such as getting directions, ordering food, and more complex things such as having conversations. This was the experience I had traveling to Beijing where almost all the people I came across did not speak much English. I had trouble ordering my lunch (good old pointing didn’t work) and finding eye drops. I decided to check the Internet today to see how technology has evolved to help us conquer these language barriers. It turns out my timing was good.
In November 2012, Microsoft’s Chief Research officer demonstrated technology that translates English to Chinese Mandarin in real-time. Watch the youtube video (start at the 7:30 mark).
You can get more information here
There is another technology in the form of a smart phone application for iphone and Android that has some early potential. I was first introduced to it by a friend who demonstrated the app called “Word Lens”. The application allows you to point your smartphone’s camera at a written Spanish word and instantly convert it to English on your phones display. Very Cool. Unfortunately Chinese is not yet available, but language such as French, Italian, and Spanish are. For more information on Word Len’s I’ve include a link to the application on the Apple store click here. There is a video below with a live demo.