Navigating the Translation App Landscape

Do you already use a translation app on your phone? Have you explored them recently on Google Play or the App Store? The options are mind-boggling, geared to a wide range of uses.

Curiously, learning about translation and language apps resembles learning a new language.

The good news is that machine translation now relies on artificial intelligence (AI) and uses neural translation (interpreting whole sentences instead of single words) for better results. And one app can help you tackle multiple translation challenges.

Three Leading Contenders

Google Translate was launched over 14 years ago and dominates among digital translation services. It supports over 100 languages and claims to have over 500 million daily users.

Google Translate is integrated into numerous other functions for interpreting text, speech, and images (for example, using your camera to read a sign). It’s free and available to both Android and iOS users.

Microsoft Translator is also free to Android and iOS users. It supports over 70 languages, although its full range of services is not available for every language. (Incidentally, the same is true for Google Translate.)

iTranslate Translator is a popular and highly rated collection of translation apps, particularly among iOS users. The basic version is free and includes translations in over 100 languages.

To access advanced features like voice-to-voice conversations and visual translation of objects, signs, menus, and more, you’ll need to subscribe to a Pro account.

How to Choose?

There are dozens of other contenders beyond these popular options. Some apps focus narrowly on a particular translation need. For example, Waygo is a visual translator designed to help English speakers interpret signs and menus in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

Other apps are multi-featured, attempting to serve all your translation needs in one download. When deciding what works best for you, consider how you plan to use the app. Major functions include:

  • Text translation – Can you convert documents, web pages, messages, and other text?
  • Speech translation – Does the app listen to spoken words and provide audible translations?
  • Visual translation – Can it translate signs, menus, and objects using your camera lens?
  • Language support – Can you use all of an app’s features in your preferred language(s)?

Additionally, consider these factors:

  • Intuitive design – Is it easy to learn and use the app?
  • Offline translation – Will the app work without wifi or cell service?
  • Keyboard – Does it include a built-in keyboard translator that integrates with text and chat services?
  • Shortcuts – Can you save frequently-used phrases?

Which translation apps have helped you communicate with international clients? Share your thoughts with other CIPS designees on Facebook in the Official Group: NAR CIPS Designees.

Professional Language Services

Machine translation has come a long way. However, it still routinely misinterprets words, especially industry-specific terminology.

The real estate industry has a rich and unique vocabulary. Further complicating matters, standard terms like mortgage and title can mean very different things from one market to another. Some languages have no interchangeable words for specific terms, while others have several variations.

Whether you’re marketing your services to the world on your website or preparing instructional materials for international clients, global agents need to ensure that any translated material is accurate and conveys the intended message.

If you aren’t multi-lingual, you’ll need to find someone who is—someone who also understands the language of real estate. Or, you might benefit from professional language services that offer translation, interpretation, and localization expertise.

Here are four examples:

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Did You Know?

iPhones Have a New Native Translation App

Apple’s iOS 14, which launched in September 2020, includes a built-in Translate app designed for short written sentences and speech translation. It works offline and currently supports 11 languages:

  • English
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • French
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Arabic
  • Portuguese
  • Russian

Did You Know?

Zoom Supports Simultaneous Translation?

Do you want to host a virtual meeting that includes clients or colleagues who speak different languages? Zoom makes it easier with a simultaneous  translation feature.

Participants click on the globe (in the lower navigation) to select their preferred language. Unfortunately, you’ll still need to line up your own interpreters. Learn more at


About Global Perspectives

Global Perspectives in Real Estate is a resource for global professionals, aimed at helping them globalize their local markets. Produced bi-monthly, this newsletter serves as a how-to guide and is full of useful and actionable tips. A free subscription is given to all Certified International Property Specialists (CIPS) designees.

Learn more about earning the CIPS designation