Looking for the best voice translator device? Here’s my full Pocketalk Plus Review and why you should get one ASAP.
For a lot of us when we move abroad, one of the biggest things we have to overcome is the language barrier. I should know, I can speak English and Spanish, but when I moved to Germany, learning the language was a whole new ballgame.
Although learning a new language in its native land tends to be a lot easier because you’re fully immersed in it, it can be super intimidating.
Sometimes you need a little helping hand to get through important conversations like going to the bank or scheduling doctor’s appointments. That’s where I used my Pocketalk Plus.
Now, this isn’t a replacement for learning the language of your new expat country, or at least learning a few phrases if you’re visiting, but you can’t know every word and phrase straight out the gates.
I use this alongside learning German in other ways, and I also use it to help practice my pronunciation which is sort of overlooked with a lot of language learning apps.
So, what do I think of the Pocketalk Plus? Here’s my review of the best voice translator device out there.
This post is sponsored by Pocketalk. As always, all opinions are my own.
What Is a Pocketalk Plus?
If you’re not aware of what the Pocketalk Plus is, it’s a small handheld translator that connects via WiFi, mobile data or you can use a virtual SIM and extend your data online without using your phone, anywhere in the world.
Essentially, you choose your native and target languages, speak into it and it’ll say the translation out loud.
It’s a great tool for getting around, especially in situations that the more tourist-focused language learning apps don’t prepare you for; like having to deal with utility companies or banking or even trying to find something specific in a grocery store. I’ve used this tool a lot.
That being said, it’s not without its flaws. As you might expect it doesn’t deal with slang very well. I tried out some German slang on it – ‘Geilomat” is slang for cool but it also directly translates as horny and you can guess which option Pocketalk went with…
Using the Pocketalk Plus for Personal Use
The setup for the Pocketalk Plus is super easy and intuitive. Just turn it on, connect to the Wi-Fi or put in your SIM card, select your native language and accept the user agreement. That’s it. Definitely easier than the setup of some of the translation apps I’ve tried in the past.
In fact, with the Pocketalk Plus, it comes with a complimentary two-year cellular data plan that provides coverage in over 130 countries and regions which is pretty amazing!
Compared to the Pocketalk, the Plus model has a 40% larger touchscreen, so it’s easy to read even if you’re in low light or out on a sunny day, which is definitely a plus.
To get started, select your desired language from the drop-down list, hold down the button and speak into the microphone. You’ll see your words come up in real time and then the written translation on screen as well as it being spoken back to you.
The cool thing is that there’s a hands-free option too, but it doesn’t speak back to you. It does still give you the written translation, so you can practice your pronunciation. If you’re in a quieter place like a bank or an office, the microphone and speaker are pretty good.
However, if you’re in a busy place like a park or a bar, you might have to hold the microphone up to your mouth to avoid background noise. The Pocketalk Plus does have two speakers and noise-canceling microphones to keep communication as crisp as can be!
Using the Pocketalk Plus for Work
From a practical standpoint, using Pocketalk is the same regardless of the context you’re using it in, but it has some distinct applications in the workplace and schools that are really useful!
So, for instance, I work with some engineers from Jordan and there can be a language barrier here when things get technical. Pocketalk allows us to talk about some really technical stuff without any real issues. This way I can listen in on the discussion without interrupting the flow of the conversation.
There can be a bit of a time lag with the Pocketalk reading the translation back out to you, but all in all, compared to other translation methods, the Pocketalk is the ideal way to break the language barrier.
Using the Pocketalk Plus for School
Okay, so there are a lot of problems with the way languages are taught in most schools, but one of the main ones is the fact that even in beginner classes, teachers often don’t mix in explanations in your native language.
This is particularly common in A1 classes; which is the internationally recognized base level that everyone starting to learn a new language is at.
I’ve been in language classes where even in the first class, the teachers won’t translate the instructions for tasks. I get that this is to immediately immerse you in the language, but if you don’t even have the basics, it can feel like a huge uphill battle.
If you can take in your Pocketalk, you can at least understand some of the instructions to get you on your way or at least you get some much-needed context!
3 Reasons Why the Pocketalk is the Best Voice Translator Device
1. Battery life
For such a small little tool, having 330 mins continuous translation time and 192 hours of standby time is pretty impressive. If you’re taking it on holiday it’s plenty of time without having to constantly recharge it. You could definitely continually use it for a day trip without much worry about it dying.
When I’m out and about using it, it’s more than enough time for me, although I’m normally not a million miles from a power outlet if I do need to give it a bit of extra juice.
When it comes to translation devices, accuracy is key. We all know how bad Google Translate used to be back in the day, and no one wants to go back to those dark ages. Luckily, the Pocketalk Plus is pretty great when it comes to accuracy.
In fact, if you get your phrase or grammar slightly wrong, it’ll correct it for you so that the native speaker can understand. This even works for tonal languages like Mandarin (I’ve tried), which is pretty amazing.
As the Pocketalk Plus works off either WiFi or mobile data it’s all about where you are and what your provider is, but I use it all around Berlin and it works fine. However, Berlin is a pretty connected city and so is Germany in general.
The Pocketalk Plus comes with its own data package which is super handy, as it’s not as speedy on WiFi, so I end up using the data package even when I’m at home.
Obviously, if you’re heading out to the middle of nowhere in the mountains where signal is non-existent – this might not work for you.
Pocketalk Features Included in the Pocketalk Plus
So, in addition to giving you real-time written and verbal translations at the touch of a button, there are plenty of other great features included in the Pocketalk Plus.
With their practice pronunciation feature, you can have a go at running through the conversations that you’re likely to have before you actually have them. We all do that right?
I’ve definitely stood in line for train tickets or to order food and rehearsed the phrases in my head. This is like that except it gives you the pronunciation in a non-robotic way. That’s something that a lot of language-learning apps overlook.
Converting currency, length, width, and temperature
Not directly language translation related, but there are loads of different converters built into the Pocketalk Plus which is super handy.
It gives you an up-to-date exchange rate so you can check prices on the go. It’s awesome when you’re at a market and you’re not sure what the conversion between pounds and kilograms are, or if you’re heading outside and don’t know what 5 celsius actually means…
Not sure what someone’s said to you? Hit reverse translation and it’ll read and write it back to you in your native language without having to mess around with all your basic settings. It makes conversational speaking with native speakers a lot easier and a lot smoother.
Translate to another language
Again, this is a time saver which means you don’t have to reset all your key settings. It’s also super useful if you speak multiple languages like I do, or if you’re in a multilingual group. Another place it’s really useful is if you’re in a country that has a few national languages, so you can swap and change without much fuss.
Send translation as an email
The written function of the Pocketalk Plus means that you can immediately get translated transcriptions that you can send to colleagues or friends. This is such a lifesaver and saves you from having to go through multiple steps that risk mistranslation each time.
The Pocketalk App
So in addition to the handheld Pocketalk Classic, there’s also a Pocketalk app. Compared to the handheld itself, it’s not super quick or intuitive, but if you only want to carry one device, the app works well to accurately translate to and from different languages.
It also has an image-to-text feature in it which is so handy when you’re on the go.
If you like the gamification of language learning apps, Pocketalk has medals that you can collect the more you use it. Sometimes it’s for using new features or languages, or for how much you use the device itself. It’s a cool feature that incentivizes you to use it more.
This is something that the previous Classic model of Pocketalk didn’t have, and I’m so happy that they’ve released a model with a camera, so you can translate menus and road signs.
Especially if you’re in a country with a whole different alphabet like China, Greece, Japan, etc. it’s pretty much impossible to guess what it’s supposed to say, so guessing at pronunciation into your Pocketalk was a bit of a nightmare.
Now that’s a thing of the past, and honestly one of my favorite features of the Pocketalk Plus. That being said, it’s great for far-away things like signs or large text, but because you have to press pretty hard on the button to capture the image, it can blur the picture, so that’s not ideal.
So, if you need to translate small text like legal documents, it can be difficult to capture an image without it coming out shaky.
Why is This Better Than a Translation App?
Okay, so with all the translation apps that are available right there on your phone, why bother with an extra device? Well honestly, phones can be super unreliable when it comes to connectivity, especially when it comes to mobile data speeds outside the US. The Pocketalk Plus runs on WiFi or an active SIM, which you can buy and top up online, as a virtual SIM.
This means that you don’t have to worry about all those hefty roaming charges that start to stack up while you’re away, or about getting multiple international packages.
Pros and Cons of the Pocketalk Plus
So, here are some of the features and benefits of the Pocketalk Plus, and how I use it on a daily basis here as a US expat in Germany.
Here are some final pros and cons to help you see if the PocketTalk Plus is going to work for you:
- Corrects you so you make sense to the native speaker
- Uses context for tonal languages, if you’re struggling to nail pronunciation
- Pronunciation practice function
- Can read and translate signs
- Has to be close to your mouth in busy places, although this has improved
- Not super great for slang
- The camera isn’t great up close
- There’s a bit of a lag with translations that can be awkward
- The WiFi connection isn’t great, so you end up using the LTE data even at home
Get Yourself a Pocketalk
These apps are great for asking for hotel reservations and naming colors, but helping me to get paperwork for my tax returns? Not so much.
It’s definitely a much-needed crutch to help you adapt to living abroad while you’re still trying to learn the language, and I use it a lot for work with multilingual teams, where we’re using jargon that language learning classes and apps don’t usually cover.
For the camera function alone, I would consider upgrading to the Pocketalk Plus Voice translator over the Pocketalk Classic.
If you’re looking for a reliable and easy-to-use portable translator that works in pretty much any urban area, then I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a Pocketalk Plus for yourself!