Você fala português? Translation apps at the Olympic Games Rio 2016

The Olympic Games Rio 2016 are fast approaching, the warm weather has caught up with the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, and summer is officially here! Despite the urge to stroll down to the sea for a swim or to take the next flight to Rio, here at Intrawelt we are still hard at work! But we have been wondering how smoothly the Olympic Games 2016 will run in terms of the language barrier in Brazil?

The Olympic Games 2016 have featured heavily in the press with one article stating that “only a small fraction of its 200 million people have a basic proficiency [in English]” and that “fluency is also rare for other languages”; so, with an estimated 480,000 tourists expected at the Olympic Games 2016, how will everyone communicate?

In our 25 years experience at Intrawelt we have learned many ways to overcome language barriers and facilitate international communication. We’ve compiled our top 3 strategies for cross-cultural communication:

  1. Do your research – although hundreds of thousands of people are attending the Olympic Games this summer, only a small percentage will have visited Brazil before. We suggest researching behaviours and attitudes of the host country as this can save time, surprises and much embarrassment!
  1. Be creative – one example of communication we found was drawing what you are trying to communicate, or perhaps write it down. We often understand more when we have a visual aid, as comprehension can be difficult assisted solely by oral communication due to accents or pronunciation. Be creative and resourceful with your surroundings!
  1. Be patient and empathetic – this is perhaps one of the most important aspects when trying to overcome a language barrier. Making an effort to understand or to be understood is always reassuring to the other participant in any communication. So, however frustrating cross-cultural communication may become, at the Olympic Games or elsewhere, relax and have fun!

In addition to our tips, travellers have been advised to take a translation app to the Olympic Games. By translation apps, in this context, we mean ones available on your phone, either for a small price or free. We’ve done some research and found 3 translation apps that cover most aspects of communication a traveller may need:



 Google Translate (Available on iPhone and Android)


Average rating*: 4/5

An all-rounder, Google Translate offers the user a variety of 103 languages whilst the app is online and just over half of these whilst the app is offline; making it incredibly useful to have in most situations. After some improvements throughout the years, the app offers features such as instant camera translation, speech translation and handwriting translation.

  No. of languages available
Text translation (online) 103
Text translation (offline) 52
Instant camera translation 29
Camera mode 37
Speech translation 32
Other features: handwriting translation



iTranslate Pro (Available on iPhone, Android, and Windows)


Average rating*: 4.3/5

There is a free version of this app, but to reap all the excellent benefits it has on offer it is best to go straight in with the Pro version, which includes offline translation, website translation, verb conjugations for consolidation of learning, and much more. Although £14.99 may seem a bit steep for an app, it is a onetime purchase, can be used in a variety of situations, and could potentially save you a lot of time and frustration.

  No. of languages available
Text translation (online) 90
Text translation (offline) 9
Instant camera translation
Camera mode
Speech translation 44
Other features: website translation (iPhone only), verb conjugations, dialect recognition, transliteration



Microsoft Translator (Available on iPhone, Android, and Windows)


Average rating*: 4/5

Although Microsoft Translator may not appear to have as many features as other translation apps, its simple interface means it is great for basic use. The best feature of this app is perhaps the fact you can download all the languages it works with for use offline, allowing you to have a compact dictionary at your fingertips.

  No. of languages available
Text translation (online) 52
Text translation (offline) 52
Instant camera translation
Camera mode 22
Speech translation 18



Whilst downloading translations apps to your phone can be useful for travel or for enriching your basic knowledge of a language, there is nothing more effective than an actual translation agency, an interpreter, a friend or a local that can help you, or ‘simply’ learning the language yourself!


Sources: Prengaman, Peter, ‘Tourists to brazil Olympics should bring translation Apps’, The Associated Press, 19 July 2016;  itunes.apple.com; play.google.com; itranslate.com; microsoft.com

*  Average rating calculated based on rating from each app store.



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