Nov. 8, 2007 -- When I first heard that Lingo's handheld talking translator would convert thousands of common phrases into 20 different languages -- 19 if you don't count English -- I was ecstatic.
But that jubilation was quickly smashed.
I loved the idea of being lost in some far-off marketplace and using this talking translator to get the help I needed. Then I tested the Voyager 3 Talking Translator.
I found it clunky, counterintuitive and generally unhelpful.
The menu and enter buttons were awkwardly placed. The device was not as compact as many other -- more-powerful -- portable electronics that I use daily. And the voice -- let's just say that I had trouble understanding the English let alone some of the foreign languages.
My co-workers hated it just as much as I did.
"That voice makes me want to throw that at something," one said.
"It's like Steven Hawking teaching me a foreign language," said another.
Others complained that it sounded like "my grandmother" or like a Speak and Spell.
The general concept is a great one. The device translates common phrases such as "I'd like to check in, please" and "Where can I buy a train ticket?"
But its size, ease and execution leave much to be desired, especially for the $249.95 price tag.
The only redeeming factor is that it has a large display screen that shows the phrase in both English and the langue of your choice. It also does pack a decent amount of languages, ranging from German, French, Spanish and Italian to Arabic, Turkish, Romanian and Korean.
But that large screen and keyboard mean that this portable translator isn't so portable.
"You can put it in your pocket, but I'm not sure if you can carry anything else then," one of my co-workers said when first shown the device.
Another summed it up best when she said, "That thing is ginormous."