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Although e-mail, phone, web conferencing and social networking are making it easier for even the smallest of companies to conduct business with customers or suppliers outside the United States, a growing number of small business owners are venturing overseas to increase their global opportunities.
In addition, while English is the most common language spoken in global business, overseas business travelers often need at least some help with asking questions in other languages, getting directions, deciphering road signs, or dealing with other situations in places where they don't speak the language.
To address these challenges, a variety of mobile apps has been developed to help global travelers communicate and get around. The translations may not be perfect or may not suit every situation, but they're better than relying on hand gestures and luck when you're far from home.
Mobile translation apps take a variety of approaches to help people overcome language differences. Some allow you to search for pre-programmed phrases that allow you to solve common problems such a finding a taxi, a public transit station or a restaurant.
Popular iPhone apps instance, feature common phrases that help you get around. You'll find the appropriate English phrase, and see the translated phrase and pronunciation guide on your screen. You can also press a button to have the phrase spoken aloud.
The Babelshot app offers translations of signs, menus and other printed material in a variety of international languages. Users take a photo of a sign, for instance, and highlight the area they're interested in translating. The app then displays an English translation on your screen.
The Jibbigo app offers automated translations between people speaking different languages who hand a smart phone back and forth. The idea is that one person asks a question in English, for instance, and hands the phone to someone who speaks Spanish. That person hears the question and answers it in Spanish, and hands the phone back to the first person for an automated English translation.
Several apps for BlackBerry handsets allow users to translate text, e-mail and instant messages on their handsets. Users can key in text to see two-way translations on their screen.
While none of these tools can offer the speed and nuance of a professional translator, they're usually powerful enough to help you cover the basics and make your global business trips more successful.
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