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SayHi Translate

 SayHi Translate

published by Chand Bellur
Mar 28, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. PST

Everyone should own this app! For a mere 99 cents, SayHi Translate lets you translate speech in 40 languages. You simply speak into your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, and it speaks the translation. This is science fiction cool! It works exceptionally well.

The app had no problems translating spoken English into a variety of languages. It even translated the one Mandarin phrase I know (“ne hao ma”) into English. This is surprising, considering the subtle nuances of Mandarin and the fact that I don’t speak it well. I also tried it with my rudimentary Spanish (“como esta usted?”) — SayHi translated this flawlessly.

The ultimate test — how well does it translate complicated English into a variety of foreign languages. For this, I decided to use an excerpt from a scientific journal:

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“Amyloid is a title conferred upon a special type of linear protein aggregate that exhibits a common set of structural features and dye binding capabilities.”

SayHi attempts a complicated translation

Close, but no cigar. SayHi Translate’s speech recognition thought that “Amyloid” was “Emma Lloyd” and “dye” was “died”. It’s quite easy to edit the conversation and replay it with the corrected translation. I’m impressed with how much was recognized correctly. I’ve found that Nuance speech recognition (the technology that SayHi Translate employs) is the best. Even if you don’t need to translate, SayHi translate is a great way to do dictation. You can tap on the displayed text, then copy it and paste it into another document.

This app translates (to and from) the following languages, mostly with speech recognition: English (USA), English (UK), English (Australia), Spanish (Spain), Spanish (USA), Spanish (Mexico), French (France), French (Canada), German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin (China), Mandarin (Taiwan), Cantonese, Korean, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Portuguese (Portugal), Portuguese (Brazil), Polish, Russian, Arabic (UAE), Arabic (Saudi), Arabic (Egypt), Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Slovak, Turkish, Czech, Hebrew (no voice), Malay (no voice), Romanian (no voice), Vietnamese (no voice), Basque, Catalan, Hindi (no speech), Thai (no speech). No speech means that speech recognition does not work. Users will have to type in text to be translated. No voice indicates that SayHi Translate will only produce a text translation, however, it will recognize speech in that language.

SayHi Translate also offers more languages and dialects, but this comes at a cost. A monthly fee of $2.99 is required to unlock premium features. Users can also opt for 6 months of premium features for $4.99, which is a much better deal. The premium product offers 45 additional languages: Afrikaans, Albanian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Belarusian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Bengali, Cebuano, Croatian, Esperanto, Estonian, Farsi, Filipino, Galician, Georgian, Gujarati, Haitian Creole, Hausa, Hmong, Icelandic, Igbo, Irish, Javanese, Kannada, Latin, Lao, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Maltese, Marathi, Mongolian, Punjab, Serbian, Slovakian, Somali, Swahili, Telugu, Ukrainian, Urdu, Welsh, Yiddish, Yoruba, Zulu. It also offers 25 additional dialects: Arabic – Bahrain, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Palestine, Qatar; English – Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa; Spanish – Argentina, Bolivia, Columbia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela.

It’s somewhat amusing that one can speak in U.S. English and have it “translated” into UK or Australian English. When I say “what is in the trunk of the car?”, however, it does not use “boot” as the UK translation. It simply speaks it with a different accent. It doesn’t translate the subtle differences between U.S., UK, and Australian English. I don’t think this is a huge flaw. The purpose is to recognize different accents.

SayHi Translate is exceptionally easy to use. By default, for U.S. users, it is set up to translate between U.S. English and Spanish. If these aren’t your desired languages, you can switch them at the top of the screen. To begin translating, simply tap the speech button of your language, then speak. When you are done speaking, tap done. You can also change the settings to automatically detect the end of speech.

Your spoken words are translated and spoken in the other language shown at the bottom of the screen. The original and translated text are logged on the screen. You can tap on each part of the logged conversation to replay, add to favorites, share, or delete.

Speech recognition may not always be an option. It might not work well in a noisy environment. SayHi Translate allows keyboard input to produce a spoken and text translation.

Internet connectivity is necessary for SayHi Translate to work properly. Without a connection, you can only translate text. It will neither recognize speech nor speak a typed translation. Either wi-fi or your iPhone or iPad’s data plan will work.

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From the settings menu, you can clear the conversation log, set the app to detect the end of speech, or activate recording sounds. Detecting the end of speech works well, but is probably not a good idea in a noisy location. Activating recording sounds turns on audible prompts to indicate when SayHi Translate is taking speech input and when it has finished.

SayHi Translate settings

Settings specific to a language are accessed from the language buttons at the top of the screen. From here, you can change the speed and gender of the selected language. I found that slowing the voice speed creates some distortion. The middle setting, which has no distortion, seems a bit too fast.

SayHi Translate language settings

SayHi Translate features global options at the top of the screen. You can share selected parts of the logged conversation by tapping the share button on the top menu. This feature allows you to select parts of the conversation to copy or share via email or sms. The favorites option allows you to quickly replay any phrases you have saved. The speaker icon enables you to adjust the volume and toggle AirPlay.

I tried SayHi with AirPlay on my iPad and it didn’t work at first. I had to turn AirPlay on from the main iPad control (double tap home to display recently used apps and swipe right until you see it). Then it forced screen mirroring on, and would only work in that mode. Despite this odd behavior, SayHi’s AirPlay support works well enough to beam the audio and video to my Apple TV.

One feature on my wish list for a future version — translate text from a photo. This would be very useful when travelling. If you see a sign that you don’t understand, simply snap a photo of it, and SayHi would recognize the text and translate it.

SayHi Translate is simply amazing. Despite a few minor flaws, the app works well and is useful for travellers or those who live in multicultural societies. At the low price of 99 cents, everyone should have this app. SayHi Translate is an exceptional value and has exceeded my expectations.

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