The Vietnamese language, or tiếng Việt, is one of the most used languages on the Internet, but it’s also one of the hardest to learn. The native language of Vietnam — with its six tones and a plethora of strange vowel sounds — has long drawn interest from linguists and international fans of phở and bánh mì.
Many expats who plan to stay for years take language courses that usually take 44 weeks to complete. But for travelers who don’t have the time to learn Vietnamese, there is a myriad of language translation apps available on iPhones and Androids.
Thanks to the power of modern technology and the innovative minds behind these apps, language differences no longer deter people from connecting with others and enjoying their journeys in a foreign land.
So, if you’re taking a winter break in sunny Vietnam or wishing to join the Tết festivities in mid-January, we recommend downloading any of these five language mobile apps to navigate through the tricky tiếng Việt and make good memories in Vietnam.
Google Translate is considerably the king of machine translations — it’s easy to use and gives almost flawless translations between English and over 100 other languages. The app has, for years, helped break down language barriers and connect communities worldwide.
The app can translate texts, documents, voice conversations, photos, and video imagery with a simple tweak on the phone keyboard. The app added the Vietnamese language to its instant camera feature in 2019.
A leader in real-time language translation, iTranslate enables everyone — from travelers to students, business professionals, and medical staff – to translate text or whole websites, start voice-to-voice conversations, or look up words, their meanings, and verb conjugations in over 100 languages. The app has over 200 million downloads.
However, there are only limited features that allow the Vietnamese language. Only text translation, offline translation, and website translation are available at the moment. The offline mode allows one to use iTranslate without paying expensive roaming charges.
Papago is probably the fiercest competitor Google Translate has in Asia. The app, developed by one of South Korea’s largest Internet companies, has established its position by focusing on Asian languages and perfecting translations. The app currently offers translation between 15 languages, one of which is Vietnamese. It is designed with distinct colors and a clear structure to differentiate each translation feature: real-time voice translation, text, conversation, and image translation.
Papago’s most significant advantage is its ability to do Korean translations that are much more accurate than any other translation app. Where it lacks, though, is long-form translation. Because the app is mainly used for everyday conversation and short words, translation for lengthy sentences or longer content isn’t supported.
ABBYY TextGrabber is one of the most recognized language apps due to its comprehensive and well-designed features. The app can read texts of any color from any background, via a photo, or in real-time. You can have real-time translation directly on the camera screen without taking photos into 100+ languages online (full-text translation) and 1tenlanguages offline (word-by-word translation, Vietnamese not included). With TextGrabber, you can digitize and translate books, manuals, ads, a computer or TV screen, or virtually any text you need to understand in another language.
Named one of the best translator apps by GadgetStripe, SayHi is a free app that does translation wonders of over 100 languages. It’s primarily made for having bilingual conversations in real time. The app is fairly easy to use – just say something in your voice and hear it played back to you in another language! It can also quickly switch languages with just one tap and can be customized according to user preference. For example, you can pick a male or female voice to translate.
However, the Conversation feature is not yet available in Vietnamese, according to the SayHi website. The app supports automatic speech recognition and text-to-speech for Vietnamese.