A talking translator is a program that translates words and phrases from one language to another language and delivers the translation to the user as audio information. Most often, a talking translator is the major feature of a handheld device, although some are available as software for a personal digital assistant (PDA), or a desktop or portable computer. Typically, the translator provides a phonetic version of the word or phrase in text along with the audio pronunciation. Talking translators may work through text-to-speech conversion, or may use voice recognition to translate spoken input.
Talking translators are very useful for learning languages. They can also facilitate communication for a person who is traveling or interacting with someone who speaks a different language. VoxTec's Phraselator product can translate words and phrases among hundreds of languages. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded VoxTec a two-year development grant in January 2001. Since then, the devices have been used to enable United States troops to communicate with natives in foreign countries, including Afghanistan and Iraq.