With the latest generation of augmented-reality apps, you can use your smartphone camera to get more information and translations of text on objects, including signs and menus, on the go.
These can be a boon for lone parachute reporters, but even polyglots or those who use fixers while working abroad sometimes need help parsing a word or two.
Here are five smartphone apps to keep you from getting lost in translation on the road.
Google Goggles [iPhone, Android. Free.] This augmented reality app from the search colossus uses your phone's camera to provide text and image translations plus information on landmarks and works of art. One major caveat: you need a data connection to use it, so know your roaming fees.
CamDictionary [Android, free or $4.99.] This is a straightforward point-and-shoot app that translates one word at a time. It can translate via the camera -- so you don't have to snap and save a picture. If you're using it to decipher something a little longer (like a newspaper headline) you have to go word by word, but it does work. It supports dozens of languages, including Arabic and simplified Chinese.
Word Lens [iPhone, price varies.] This app translates English, French and Spanish with the phone cam; language packs are sold separately at $9.99 each. An added bonus: you can also type in words, and it supports the iPhone 3Gs, iPod Touch and the iPad.
Babelshot [iPhone, $4.99.] Billed as a "photo translator," this app will help you sort out German, Japanese, Italian and Spanish with your iPhone 4. This one can also work on larger blocks of text, translating newspaper articles, for example.