Business abroad? Translate with your cell phone
The famous Steve Martin routine goes – the first thing you do when you get into a French cab and realize the driver doesn’t speak English is you adopt a French accent.
“I vould liek to go to ze houtel pleez.”
As many seasoned travelers have no doubt discovered, this rarely works. Thankfully, the Wall Street Journal may have found one answer to the problem:
But interpretation companies are hoping you use another tool: your cellphone. These services aim to give you access to a 24-hour bilingual interpreter; you call the service on your cellphone, explain your dilemma in English, then hand over the phone to whomever you need to speak with — cab driver, waiter, police officer, doctor, or the object of your affection in a bar.
The WSJ tested several of the services to see how well they performed, and the consensus seems to be that they’re work as advertised. There is sometimes a bit of a lag time before you actually get on line with an interpreter, so it’s best to call before you need one if you can plan that far ahead.
It can also get a bit pricey. One dinner order cost about $30 to place, although I think it was purposefully complex.
The bottom line seems to be: it’s a worthwhile service for business.