Voice Travel Mate is marketed as the ultimate phrasebook replacement. If you own a smartphone, chances are you take it with you when you travel. If my phone plan does not cover international travel, it still connects to wifi points, and gives me a very portable way to check email, research fun things to do in the area, and keep in touch with loved ones. So it makes sense to load a phrasebook onto a device I’ll already have in my possession.
The Voice Travel Mate app has some unique benefits. It’s a spoken language dictionary, downloaded to your phone, so you don’t need an internet connection or data stream in order to use this it. While on a recent trip to Mexico, we had wifi service in our hotel, but nowhere else. Our concierge, the front desk clerk, and the restaurant staff all spoke English, so the hotel was the one place where we didn’t need a wifi-reliant language app. Of course, in many travel destinations, whipping out an expensive piece of electronics and waving it around may make you feel unsafe. In these cases, Voice Travel could still come in handy as a coaching or reference device in private, or for emergencies.
Downloading the app and your home language is free. Each target language is downloaded separately, so the app is not bloated with gig-sucking information you’re not going to use. Intuitive topical organization makes it easy to find what you want to say. I was impressed with the range of topics, and how easy it was to find information–asking for a restaurant, to finding a bank and opening an account, to describing medical symptoms. Bookmarking phrases as favorites gives you instant access, and you can record your own voice files as well.
As the makers continue to develop the app, I suggest offering languages that are country or region-specific. While checking out the Spanish-language section, I held my phone up to my husband, who grew up in Central America. He didn’t catch it. I played it again. He said, “This thing has a weird accent.” It might be helpful to offer one Spanish target language with an accent from Spain, and another for travelers headed to Central or South America. This would also allow tailoring standard phrasing or slang to a region.
Disclosure: A free language download was provided to the reviewer with the expectation that they would write a fair and honest review of the app.