Turn your iPhone into a universal translator

Businessman with smartphone iStockphoto

(MoneyWatch) Do you contend with the difficulties of communicating with international partners who don't speak English? Imagine if you could chat with them via an instant messaging application that automatically handled all the translation.

Sendboo does exactly that. It's an instant-messaging client for the iPhone that automatically translates text between two languages. The app currently supports 30 languages, including Arabic, Catalan, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish and numerous others.

That sounds good in principle, but does it actually work? Quite well, actually. I tested it with both English-to-French and English-to-Russian (my wife is fluent in both) and the machine translations are both adequate and essentially instantaneous -- there's no lag, so the conversation feels as fast and fluid as any IM client. Sendboo supports both messages to single recipients and to contact groups, as well.

That said, Sendboo is currently available only on the iPhone -- no Android app, and not even a browser version for the desktop. There are two versions for the phone: A free one with ads and a $4 paid version.

Thanks to apps like Sendboo, WordLens and Vocre, the iPhone is becoming a powerful universal translator for international travel and communication. If you ever work with non-English speakers, there's no excuse not to have Sendboo installed on your phone.

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