international business

4 Translation Apps to Ease International Business Communication

Traveling can be one of the great perks of the international business world. Visiting different countries, engaging with new cultures, networking globally, these are huge assets to a career. Unfortunately, those same benefits also can cause the most anxiety.

A CWT Solutions Group survey found that among 6,000 business travelers, there were 33 different factors that could cause travel-related stress, including lost luggage, inconvenient flight times, and, yes, language barriers. But by planning ahead and utilizing a few tools, you can turn this travel headache into an opportunity.

Overcoming Language Barriers

English is generally viewed as the international business language, but that doesn’t mean you can coast on the expectation that everyone speaks it.

Learning a few phrases in the local language shows respect for your associates and their culture and can serve as a great icebreaker. As the world becomes more globalized, however, many companies may expect you to have skills in more than one language (or at least the tenacity to find language support in foreign markets).

A significant language deficit will likely require a translator to ensure you’re making your points clearly and understanding the other side of the conversation. Unfortunately, not all of us can afford to hire an in-person translator. Luckily, technology’s got our backs.

I managed to navigate through Japan using a combination of translation apps, sound effects, and gestures. The true challenge is understanding when the other person responds. I have found some success by asking people to enter their responses directly into the app and then translating it back into English.

As comical as that might sound, my approach has helped me form some great friendships while taking in amazing sights in countries where I didn’t speak the native tongue. Without solid translation apps, my travels would have been severely limited.

Here are my top four translation app recommendations:

1. Google Translate

I have mainly used the Google Translate app, which has a particularly useful function that reads out words in the language of your choosing. I have botched so many words in a number of different languages, so having an app that takes care of pronunciation for me has been a lifesaver.

2. Word Lens

Word Lens was purchased by Google and integrated into Google Translate, so you know this service is good. The app takes your photos of written text, including street signs, menus, and handwriting, and translates them into English. Most conveniently, you don’t need a network connection for the app to work.

3. iStone Travel Translation

iStone Travel Translation is one of the most comprehensive translation apps available. It provides access to more than 300 commonly used phrases in Chinese, Japanese, French, Arabic, and several other languages. You also can add phrases as you encounter them. Like Word Lens, it doesn’t require a Wi-Fi or data connection.

4. Voice Translator PRO

This app enables you to have real-time conversations and uses artificial intelligence to conduct voice-to-voice translations. It works with a wide range of languages, including Spanish, German, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and many others. The intuitive interface makes it easy to use, allowing for fast, accurate conversations.

Why International Business Travel Is Worth the Headache

international business

Prepping for business travel can feel like a job in and of itself, but the extra effort pays off. According to a Fairfield Inn & Suites survey, 80 percent of business travelers believe their time on the road has positively affected their work performance as a whole.

I’ve found that one of the biggest benefits of working with foreign partners is that you are able to improve your soft skills, including:

  • Communication | When you do business with people who hold different worldviews, you not only learn how to better explain your ideas and point of view, but you also listen to others’ thoughts and ideas (with the help of your translation app, of course).
  • Cultural competency | Our digital world is increasingly connected, but that doesn’t erase the rich cultural differences around us. It’s still important to acknowledge and appreciate them. There’s something to be said for the self-awareness that comes with cultural immersion.
  • Creativity | New experiences are practically a breeding ground for your most innovative ideas. When you fill your senses with entirely new places, flavors, and architecture, even if it’s just for a short while, you’ll come back home with a new perspective on your personal and professional life.
  • Problem-solving | At home, you probably have your everyday routine fairly streamlined, meaning you don’t get to flex your problem-solving muscles as often. Traveling is full of surprises, good and bad, which means you need to be on your toes, ready for anything life will throw your way.

The results are in: Stretching yourself through language-learning, unfamiliar negotiation procedures, and cultural immersion improves your ability to engage people in any scenario. Ultimately, international business travel equips you with the abilities and network to succeed in an increasingly globalized workforce.



Tony Tie is a numbers-obsessed marketer, life hacker, and public speaker who has helped various Fortune 500 companies grow their online presence. Located in Toronto, he is currently the senior search marketer at Expedia Canada, the leading travel booking platform for flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and local activities.

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