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What is a Pocket Translator?

By Bethany Keene
Updated Jan 26, 2024
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A pocket translator is an electronic device that allows the user to translate words or sentences between two or more languages. Most are designed to look like a miniature laptop, with a small keyboard on one side and a display screen on the other; others are roughly the size and design of a calculator or smartphone, with a small keyboard on the lower half of the device and a screen on top. Pocket translators vary in capabilities, but all are at least capable of translating single words between languages. They are designed to be small and easy to transport in a purse, pocket, or bag while on the go.

The most basic of pocket translators can simply translate a word from one language into another; many of these also provide key phrases in a chosen language. Though these may be effective for basic needs, they may be fairly difficult to use when trying to converse in a foreign language. This is because sentence structure, tense, grammar, and other language issues vary widely in different languages, and it is often not possible to translate something word for word and have it retain its original meaning.

To do this, a pocket translator will allow the user to type the word or words into the device, and it will provide the translation on the screen. Some pocket translators allow users to type words phonetically, which can be helpful in a foreign language where spelling is unfamiliar, or which uses a different alphabet. In addition, some types of pocket translators will speak the words or phrases aloud, to make it even simpler.

A more expensive pocket translator will likely be able to translate sentences and larger phrases, based on the grammatical rules of the language. This type of pocket translator makes it easier to converse with someone in a foreign language, rather than simply translate words or ask where the restroom is. A pocket translator may only feature one additional language, such as Spanish in addition to English, or it may feature a number of different languages all in one device.

A pocket translator may include other features as well. These may be games, to help the user learn more words in a foreign language, in addition to currency or metric converters, world clocks, a calculator, or a dictionary feature. Pocket translators may be purchased online, which gives the added benefit of reading reviews from other users. These reviews often state how well the translator works based on real-world experience with it.

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