The Partner ES400T English-Spanish Bi-way Talking Dictionary by Ectaco is one of the more serious translators I’ve seen. It has a dictionary of 520,000 words! It also features slang and idioms, and a recording feature for new words, if that’s not enough.
Travelers will be interested in the phrasebook with common short sentences related to greeting people, buying tickets, making reservations, etc. Other features you may like are world time, metric conversion, currency conversion, schedule, games, and a place to save telephone numbers. There is an earphone jack so you don’t have to disturb everyone on your bus or plane, as the words are rattled off. The dictionary comes on a disc as well, so you can reference words there too. You can also link the Partner to a pc with a pc cable (not included) and download info from your computer.
The main problem I had with this translator was with the speech function. I bought it especially for the talking feature so I’d know how to pronounce the words, and this was a big problem for me. The biggest kink in the software is that when the machine is set to English, the English word is on top and if you hit the ‘say’ button, it says the English word instead of the translation! You have to scroll down to the word you want it to say before pressing the button. If there are several translations (which happens frequently), you’ll need to scroll down to each one and keep pressing ‘say’. This seems like a really poor design to me, and with the phrases it was even worse; you can’t scroll down, so if you use ‘speak,’ it always says the phrase in English. It also had a very mechanical sound to the voice.
Then I thought: maybe it’s more for Spanish speaking people to learn English rather than the other way around. My suspicions were confirmed when I noticed the TOEFL and grammar sections with English irregular verbs. Also, from the idiom section with phrases like ‘slip of the tongue,’ ‘spill the beans,’ and ‘under the weather,’ defined in Spanish. You can even take practice TOEFL tests on this machine.
I think this translator would be great for someone Spanish-speaking who is trying to learn English. It would also work for someone with decent Spanish who wants a serious dictionary in electronic format with only occasional audio clues. It’s not the best for a beginner. Travelers without much Spanish knowledge would probably do better with a phrasebook and learning simple pronunciation rules which is the much more affordable option. If you really like electronics, you could check out Ectaco’s more high-end translators to find something to fit your needs. I’ll be sticking with the no-tech version for now.
details: www.ectaco.com The partner ES400T is $149.