You urgently need the toilet but can't ask for directions because you don't speak English?

A new app-based translation service is being launched in New Zealand that will help non-English speaking tourists here to do just that.

Mandarin Pages, an Auckland-based Chinese language newspaper, has signed an agreement with Korea Mobile Society to launch an interpretation app service called ExpertT.

Managing editor David Soh said the app would be similar to Uber or Airbnb, and would offer links to hundreds of translators.


"It will be different to Google translate because there will be a human translator who interprets directly, rather than artificial intelligence which cannot pick up local slang and colloquial language," Soh said.

"It will be a 24/7 service, and there will be translators available at any time, and who will also have local knowledge."

Soh said the company was in the process of recruiting translators, and was planning for a launch in late June.

Cost to use the service will be between US$1($1.34) and $3 a minute, depending on the complexity of the translation required.

"We are starting with Chinese, Korean and English, with the aim to have as many languages as possible in the future," he said.

The app was developed by the Korea Mobile Society, which said the launch of the service in New Zealand was to "test the market".

Ricky Song, the society's chief marketing officer, said an agreement had been signed with China's biggest online travel agency Ctrip for the service to be used by its clients visiting New Zealand.

The Chinese visitors will be given coupons with a cash value to use ExpertT during their holiday here.


"About one million Chinese visitors to New Zealand and Australia come through Ctrip," Song said.

"This is a good number for a test market to see how the app works, and what improvements we can make."

Song said figures obtained by the society showed 60 per cent of China travellers now do not travel by group tours.

"With a rise in independent Chinese traveller numbers, many who do not speak English, we are anticipating a demand for our service."