How many times have you been in a foreign country--or even your local Chinatown--and wished you had an expert translator on hand? Travel dictionaries take too long to flip through; by the time you've figured out how to order those sweet-and-crispy fried plantains (what Cubans call platanos maduros and Puerto Ricans call amarillos), the waiter has drifted off to the next table.
Enter the next best thing to a brilliantly multilingual best friend: Franklin Electronic Publishers' Speaking Global Translator, a handheld gadget that packs in more than 450,000 words and 12,000 phrases in 12 languages: Mandarin, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
Sure, it doesn't look as sexy as an iPod Nano. But it speaks 115,000 words in recorded human--not bot!--voices. Chinese, Japanese and Korean results are displayed both with Asian characters and phonetically using the Roman alphabet.
Armed with the pocket-size Translator, launched at the Consumer Electronics Show and selling at SkyMall for $229.99, a traveler could pretty much type in what she wants to ask someone and instantly know how it's spelled and pronounced. Even faster, especially for tongue-twisting query results, she could just point to the device's screen or have it orally ask for directions to the Kunsthistorisches Museum (that's art history museum in German; you'll want to visit Vienna's Albertina as well).
If the local Wiener's answer sounds like jibber jabber, just change the preferred language on your Speaking Global Translator and have your kind helper type it in. You'll get your English-language directions pronto!
The Translator also has a feature that lets you record custom words and phrases you learn (read: local words like "amarillos," which literally means "yellows"). It also can correct spelling, play MP3s and games, tell you what time it is and calculate your waiter's tip.