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If you love Asian travel, but don’t have the linguistic skills to make yourself understood in Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Malay and the other popular Asian languages, here’s the killer app for the iPhone and Android! And what’s more, it’s free!

Thank you Mister Google!

Google Translate for the iPhone and Android is one of those brilliant apps you just can’t believe is free. Because it does so much!

For example, we’re travelling in China soon. I speak a little Mandarin, but there are lots of situations where I can’t make myself understood. So I was going to buy some translation software to take with us. But not any more.

Google Translate app is amazing at listening to, reading and translating Chinese
Google Translate app is amazing at listening to, reading and translating Chinese

All I have to do is set Google Translate to “English to Chinese”, enter the phrase I want to use, and it will translate the phrase into Chinese characters … the grammar and sentence structure is not perfect, but it’s understandable. But wait, there’s steak knives too!

At the push of an icon I can make my iPhone speak the Mandarin phrase out loud, just in case I’m talking to someone who can’t read Hanyu. Or perhaps if I’m on the phone trying to make a booking. I can also use the spoken phrases to improve my Mandarin language skills.

Not only that, but I can also display the characters in large format on the screen in landscape mode, so people don’t have to squint to see the tiny writing! Just like having flashcards in your pocket!

You need an internet connection to get a new phrase translated by the Google servers. But once the phrase is in your iPhone, you can use it even when you have no phone service at all! The translated phrases are stored on your phone.

So stop looking for killer travel apps … you’ve found the one you need the most! You can download this free app in the iStore at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/google-translate/id414706506?mt=8&ls=1 or on Google Play at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.apps.translate.

It copes with 15 input languages and more than 50 output languages (although not all can be spoken out loud). It also offers a voice input feature which I can’t wait to try in China … “what’s he saying? Mr Google will know!”

What do you think? Is there a better killer app for travellers than Google Translate? Let us know in the comments below.