There are a lot of great voice-to-text translation apps out, including Google Translate, Microsoft / Skype Translate, and various smaller names like Speechlogger and iTranslate Voice.

I work in an office where I'm the only non-Chinese speaker. I am surrounded by Chinese language conversations all day, many of which apparently have to do with me or my projects.

I would like to be able to have an app running on my laptop or phone which constantly attempts to translate any conversations it picks up from the cubicles adjacent to mine.

The problems I've been having are:

  • Most of these are either siloed within an app like Skype and/or only try to translate in short bursts
  • While the conversations are very loud and clear to me, apps like Google Translate apparently only work if you speak directly into the mic from less than a foot away

In an ideal world this Babel-fish-like translator is what I'd want, but this one doesn't do Chinese and it hasn't been shipped yet anyway.

Preferably it should be for Windows (desktop) or iOS, though Linux would be fine too. While I was hoping for "free" let's say no price limit for the purposes of this question.

  • The problem is identifying and separating the conversation streams. Translation is partially solved, but identifying different speakers without position data and considering that people move and interrupt each other, not counting infinite types of background noise, is very hard. A good development team could make a proof of concept in 2 years for about $3M, but honestly I’d start with English and a Roman language, not an inflection-based one like Chinese. Also a hardware solution with an array of microphones would be most expedient. Commented Dec 27, 2019 at 7:25

1 Answer 1


If you have Android 11 and better ( or iOS 13.7 + ) try xrai app, I do not know Chinese, but with Indo-European languages the interpretation quality and speed is decent, and the delay is tolerable.

Cherry on the top: it tries to translate the start of the sentence the best it can, but can self-correct as soon as it gets more context. It can switch from one of selected languages to another automatically. It also works with AR glasses.

Remember to obtain consent of people you are translating with the app, and take time to read the user agreement carefully.

  • Thank you. I don't have Android, but it may help someone. Fortunately, 7 years later you can now get the earpiece version in any language cheaply :)
    – Hack-R
    Commented Dec 23, 2023 at 23:55
  • looks like several hundreds at the least. I have seen people using dedicated translators since 90th, but today, I imagine a decent paid app with Bluetooth headphones will do same
    – Serge
    Commented Dec 25, 2023 at 19:33
  • They say in-ear translation work best for related languages, but if language grammar is significantly different, earpieces straggle. Advantage of app such as xrai or a device with a screen that they can re-write translation when context becomes more clear.
    – Serge
    Commented Dec 25, 2023 at 20:34
  • That said I am sure there are areas where ear pieces is the best solution, for instance on the go or those which also double as hearing aid
    – Serge
    Commented Dec 25, 2023 at 20:39
  • $6 for the cheap ones, $41 for the expensive ones: aliexpress.us/w/…
    – Hack-R
    Commented Jan 10 at 20:54

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