Home » Babel fish: Understanding foreign languages ​​with a translation device, AI app or cell phone

Babel fish: Understanding foreign languages ​​with a translation device, AI app or cell phone

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Babel fish: Understanding foreign languages ​​with a translation device, AI app or cell phone

There are over 7000 languages ​​worldwide. Although English serves as a lingua franca globally, communication can be challenging in regions where people do not speak the local language. If you use a dictionary, it can sometimes be very cumbersome and slow. When it comes to languages ​​such as Mandarin or Arabic, characters that are unfamiliar to Europeans are an additional hurdle.

How nice it would be to have a device that could act as an interpreter. Some may know this scenario from Star Trek or the famous work by Douglas Adams. Doesn’t exist? But! In this guide we show special gadgets that make translating easier. In addition to smartphones like the Google Pixel 8 (test report) or the new Galaxy S24 series (guide) with AI functions, there are also cheaper translation devices and even headphones from manufacturers like Timekettle that step in as interpreters. This guide explains how this works using several examples.

Language translator: Fluentalk T1 Mini in the test

Among other things, we tested the Fluentalk T1 Mini, which the Timekettle company provided to us. This is a small, handy translation device with a camera. This can translate spoken language via microphone as well as photographed texts. The Timekettle Fluentalk T1 Mini regularly costs around 170 euros on Amazon. There is currently a coupon with a 10 percent discount – which brings the price down to around 153 euros.

The device itself looks like an older smartphone. The small display has a diagonal of around 2.8 inches. The translator is about a finger wide and slightly larger than a Zippo lighter. The T1 Mini offers two types of translations: voice input or texts that you scan using the photo translator on the camera. First you select the languages ​​you want, press the button on the right and then speak. The device then outputs the translation both as text on the display and in kind – with the voice of a native speaker.

The Fluentalk has a built-in SIM card and therefore offers translation over the mobile network worldwide and free of charge in the first year after purchase. After that, the service will probably cost 15 euros per month or around 45 euros per year. Alternatively, the device also works free of charge via WiFi, and you can also activate up to four language packs at the same time for offline use. However, the selection here is somewhat limited and currently only offers Chinese or English as the source language for translation into German.

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Overall, the device works better than we thought. It’s ideal as a mobile translator if you’re traveling abroad and don’t want to use your smartphone. However, the device does not always recognize spoken language accurately. So it is important to speak slowly, clearly and clearly. The device does not translate swear words at all – they are simply left out and only reproduced as asterisks in the text output. The device also has little use for colloquial language and anglicisms.

In addition, the translation always takes a few seconds. If you photograph text, the focus adjusts quite slowly and the image usually remains moderately sharp. The translation is then displayed overlaid and is difficult to read due to the small display. The text translation does not always make sense.

Gadgets for translating

Gadgets for translating

Other translation devices

Similar language translators that we have not yet tested are available from various no-name providers. The cheapest option here is a scanner pen as a language translator starting at 60 euros (select coupon). Some devices seem to be identical, such as the Adelagnes T8 or Birgus T8. However, for some models the reviews on Amazon are very mediocre. A popular real-time language translator is the Pocketalk Plus from 350 euros on Amazon and the Vasco Translator V4 for 399 euros.

Headphones as interpreters: Timekettle M3 in the test

The Timekettle M3 wireless in-ear headphones appear even more futuristic. The earbuds translate spoken language directly into the listener’s ear. The earphones’ charging cradle can be split into two halves and is somewhat unusual. Otherwise, at first glance, there is little to distinguish the Timekettle model from true wireless headphones. The device works in conjunction with an app for Android or iOS.

The Timekettle M3 normally cost around 170 euros including the offline package, without it it’s 140 euros. There is currently a coupon on Amazon with a discount of 10 percent – so the translation earphones cost just under 153 euros with and 126 euros without offline support. The colors available are white and black. The headphones support up to 40 different languages ​​including regional variants. Through the mobile app, Timekettle requires an internet connection for two-way translation. An optional package also offers around 13 languages ​​for offline mode, including English or Chinese to German.

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There are three modes of use to choose from: In listening mode, you wear both earphones and use their microphone to have a conversation partner or an announcement translated from outside. In touch mode, you only use one receiver at a time and the other person uses the other. If one of the people presses the receiver, the translation is activated. You select the desired languages ​​in advance in the app. When one person has finished speaking, the other presses the receiver to answer. The third variant is the loudspeaker mode: Here one person wears the earphones, the other uses the smartphone and loudspeaker to communicate.

The translation works surprisingly well. We tried it with Spanish and Polish to German and vice versa, and in places also with Chinese. Unlike the Fluentalk T1, the voice sounds a bit like a robot and not a native speaker, but the translations aren’t that bad. It is also important here: speak slowly and clearly. There are also quite long delays of several seconds that feel like they stretch into infinity.

The Timekettle M3 are also suitable for listening to music. The sound is pretty good and offers decent bass. The in-ears last around seven hours before they have to be put back into the charging cradle. What is not possible, however, is translating a medium on your smartphone. The translation takes place exclusively via the microphone of the smartphone or headphones.

More headphones as translation devices

In addition to Timekettle, there are a few no-name providers of translation headphones. The reviews on Amazon for inexpensive products are not exactly flattering. The Mymanu Click Earbuds are at least on a par with Timekettle in terms of price and cost around 143 euros.

Smartphone as a translator

Of course, you can also use your smartphone as a translation device. The Google Translate app already offers decent reliability, even when translating spoken language. However, this requires a stable internet connection. It also takes some time for the device to spit out the translation. Clear pronunciation is also essential here, and some translations make no sense at all.

In addition to Google Translate, Deepl is also very popular as a translation app. In our experience, it usually delivers better results, even for longer texts. Both apps are available for both Android and iOS. Microsoft also offers a translation service called Translator. There is also a paid version, Prompt, which also offers offline translation.

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Galaxy AI as an interpreter

Perhaps the most exciting feature of Samsung’s new AI capabilities on the Galaxy S24 series (guide) is the integrated live interpreter option. This even allows simultaneous translation of a telephone call into currently 13 languages. The feature is installed on the device, so it also works without an internet connection. However, you have to download language packs that are between 30 and 400 MB in size.

At the beginning of a translated call, the person being called is informed that a virtual interpreter is involved. There is a strong time delay between speaking and translating, so you have to wait a few seconds after each sentence for the reaction of the interlocutor or the AI. At the same time, you can also use Galaxy AI to translate like Google Translate – even with offline mode.


It’s amazing how much translation devices, but also smartphones with the appropriate app, can do. The appeal of a special translation device like the Fluentalk T1 Mini is that the device can be used abroad independently of the smartphone and without the Internet.

The Timekettle M3 in-ear headphones offer a futuristic way to translate spoken language directly into your ear. This works surprisingly well and is also unobtrusive. This option is good for situations in which you have frequent dialogue. Unfortunately, with all the solutions shown here, the language is not always recognized precisely and there are some delays in translation.

If you don’t want to buy a special device as an interpreter, you can try smartphone apps. The integrated live interpreter in the Galaxy AI offers an exciting outlook on the future, even if there is still a lot of room for improvement in speech recognition.

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