“The limits of my language are the limits of my world”, said Ludwig Wittgenstein. And back in the early 20th century, he was right. As technology moves on, however, there’s an iPhone app that’s perfect for the holiday season and ready to tear down the language barrier: Worlddictionary.
Using the iPhone’s camera and optical character recognition technology, Worlddictionary recognises words in 20 different languages and converts them into English.
To read a sentence, simply point the camera’s viewfinder at the word and move along the sentence – the app translates on-the-fly. You can also capture pictures, and then select various words in the picture to translate.
It all works in real-time, although language data is stored on a server – so high-cost data roaming bills might prove to be an issue.
The developers have clearly thought about this, however, and have added functionality to translate existing pictures from your iPhone’s library. Not sure of word? Snap it, save it, take it to a WiFi connection and translate it there.
The app automatically records your searches, so you’ll be able to look-back over the various translations you’ve made. This works great for learning a new language – sort of like interactive, useful flashcards.
After you’ve captured a word, you can search via Google, Wikipedia or YouTube for a better understanding of its meaning – perfect for odd turns-of-phrase used in the wider world.
In practice, the results are varied. For translating a menu or short phrases, the app could be a lifesaver – especially if you’re allergic to certain foods.
For long works of prose, you’ll probably lose a lot of the meaning as a maximum of two words at a time are processed. And for pictogram languages (such as Chinese), the translation of each individual character means that words longer than syllable are gibberish – a composition of their literal parts.
It fares much better on Latin-based languages, where syntax is more similar to English. We tested it on a GCSE French exam and – without any prior knowledge – we did pretty well.
For £2.99, it’s certainly worth the purchase to reduce the risk of eating dog in foreign lands.
Available from the app store