French to English Converter

French to English handheld converters

Many people turn to portable French to English converter devices as translation tools while traveling or simply to use as a backup while studying. These devices provide translation of key words and phrases. Most are the size of a cell phone. Some are pen-like devices that scan the French text and translate it into English for you. Other portable French to English converters include software to download onto a PDA or other handheld device for instant access.

French to English Converters Come of Age

Many translation software packages and websites provide rudimentary translations of words and phrases. These are useful for students and business people who can access a laptop or sit at a desktop computer and type in the text they need translated. Unfortunately, travelers quickly find that they need something faster and more portable. It's times like these when you need translation on the go that portable French to English converters are so convenient.

Types of Translators or Converters

Portable translation devices generally fall into the following categories:

  • Handheld dictionaries and translators. Many of these have software that repeats the words aloud. This may help with pronunciation. Some boast dictionaries of up to 200,000 words in French, perhaps more than an old-fashioned print dictionary. They're often slim and small enough to slip into a briefcase or purse.
  • Software to download onto handheld devices. For those who prefer an all-encompassing device or who don't want to be bogged down traveling with multiple electronics, downloading software onto an existing handheld device, such as a TREO or Blackberry makes perfect sense. Software may be easier to read on the small screen or more easily accessed than web translation software. Some free translation software is available, but you tend to get what you pay for, so it may be worthwhile to actually purchase a software package if having a translation program on your handheld device appeals to you.
  • Translating pens or wands. These newer devices use optical scanners to scan French text and convert it into English. They may also have voice software that repeats the words and phrases aloud to help users learn proper pronunciation. Translating pens and wands come in handy for business people who may need to read documents only available in French. A researcher, for example, may need to scan a scientific study for information, and many studies aren't translated out of their original language. If the researcher understands rudimentary French, he or she may use the pen to highlight unfamiliar words or phrases to comprehend the entire document.

Pros and Cons of Converters

Just like other translation programs, there are advantages and disadvantages to using such devices to translate French into English.

Advantages of Using Converters

Many travelers and students prefer using electronic converters to print dictionaries. Electronic converters often feature voice programs that repeat French words aloud, helping users learn new words and listen to the correct pronunciation. For auditory learners, that's a real plus.

Another advantage of using converter software and handheld devices is their multi-function capacity. Many of these devices double as currency converters, language translators, and even portable guidebooks. Print dictionaries alone cannot do all of these things.

A third advantage of electronic converters are the frequency with which they can be updated. Many software packages provide access to free updates, thus providing the very latest translations. Users of old-fashioned print resources must go out and buy updates as needed.

Lastly, most of the portable devices are lightweight and small. They are easily slipped into a purse, briefcase or backpack. They weigh only a fraction of a big print dictionary, yet provide access to many more resources.

Disadvantages of Converter Tools

As with all things, there are disadvantages as well as advantages. Translation tools, including online translation tools, are imperfect at best. Many translate word-for-word, which as any student of French will attest, can be laughable or downright incomprehensible. Idioms, slang and other expressions often flummox translation software. Another disadvantage unique to translating pens and wands is the scanner and translation speed, or lack thereof. Although these devices sound very promising, most of them work slowly. It takes some skill to learn just the right touch to accurately scan the original French document, and the software can only translate word for word. Many times when speaking or reading French, each word in the phrase isn't important so much as the entire phrase taken as a whole. Translating word for word may yield utter gibberish. The scanner itself is rather fragile too, so you can't just pop these in and out of your pocket without carefully capping the electronic element. They can be easily damaged to the point where they aren't usable.

Lastly, cost can be a disadvantage. While there are free online resources and a few free downloadable translation devices, handheld devices may cost a hundred dollars or more.

Best Use Translation Devices

When all is said and done, the very best use of any translation tool is to supplement one's growing knowledge of the language. These tools provide a useful function, but can never replace the knowledge that time, study and use of any language give to students.

French to English Converter