In a survey of 500 Kiwis, 71 per cent admitted making mistakes on holiday. The research by found 30 per cent of those surveyed had misunderstood directions and ended up getting lost; 20 per cent mispronounced a word in the local language; and 19 per cent misunderstood what they ordered in a restaurant.

Trying to ease the pain of holiday mistakes, have partnered with ili, a portable translation device designed for travellers.

Speak to the device in English, and it will translate what you've said and repeat it back to you in Japanese, Mandarin or Spanish (more languages are planned for future models of the device, although no news yet on dates or what those languages will be).

Crucially for overseas travel, it works offline so you don't need to use your all-important mobile data.


On a recent trip to Japan, Shoba Pillai tried out the ili for size:

"This is a handy little device to translate simple sentences to Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish, with the operative word being simple. When I tried it in Japan, I found it didn't work so well in train stations or airports where there was plenty of ambient noise. Also in situations where words were spoken fast, or when my questions were longer or had more complex words.

"I found it rather loud and for a quiet and considerate culture like the Japanese, it was at times a little too loud. A volume button would be useful to adjust to suit the situation. And personally, I found the voice a tad annoying.

"It took a few goes to get the device to do its thing — sometimes I had to rephrase my question, other times I had to slow my speech down, or improve enunciation. I received a couple of amusing looks from the person I was talking to. Did I say the wrong thing? Was the translation a bit off? Was it too loud? I wasn't sure. But they got the gist of it, so I guess it worked.

Another issue was that it currently only translates one way — from English to Japanese.

So, if the person answered in Japanese, I was none the wiser. Hand gestures or yes/no answers would suit this device.

"However, the translator is quick and the device is small and light enough to carry. And best of all, it doesn't require internet connectivity.

"So with a little practise to simplify one's language, or by using the provided guide of commonly-used questions, a traveller could certainly find this device useful."


Ili Portable Translator RRP US$199 (NZ$295) plus shipping