It takes more than a normal dictionary to translate sign language. While most people who rely on American Sign Language (ASL) arrange for an interpreter during classes or important events (like graduation speeches), it is impractical to have someone around 24/7. If you frequently come into contact with ASL speakers, or are a primarily ASL speaker who comes into contact with non-ASL speakers on a regular basis, you may be looking for a less expensive means of translating sign language. Here’s a look at the best American sign language translator apps.
ProDeaf Translator by ProDeaf Tecnologias Assistivas: 4+ stars for Android
ProDeaf Translator for Android products uses an avatar to display the signs you’re looking for. This app works with not only English and ASL, but also Portuguese and Brazilian sign language. The avatar supplies signs for each piece of the sentence. Additionally, you can change the speed it appears at and turn it to see the hands from different angles. While new versions are being made, more words are being added. The biggest turn off seems to be that, at present, many words are fingerspelled until the vocabulary can become more expansive. Despite that, it seems to be a must-have for people learning or relearning sign language.
Mimix Sign Language Translator by Mind Rockets Inc: 4 stars for Android
Mimix Sign Language Translator for Android also uses an avatar to display signs. Like ProDeaf Translator, you can vocalize your spoken English to the app, rather than having to type in each sentence (although most newer smartphones allow you to speak into any typing block). You can also save each clip of a sentence and share it. However, this app has less than 6000 words included in its internal dictionary—which means a lot of fingerspelling.
ASL Translator by Software Studios LLC: 4+ stars for Apple; 4 stars for Android
The ASL translator app is available for both Apple and Android users. Although it gets better ratings in the Apple store, it’s also only been rated by a quarter of the people. In any case, ASL Translator is $4.99 in both stores and essentially works the same on both types of devices.
The app works in 2 parts: text to sign and a dictionary (of sorts). If you’re trying to turn an English sentence into an ASL sentence, the app can translate up to 50 words at once. You type in what you want to say, and ASL Translator provides you with a series of videos and pictures of the correct signs. However, the app states that it “generates sentences in ‘English word order’” and “improves the translation [of ‘signed exact English’] with our Smart Translation Algorithm.” More than 30,000 words and 1,400 idioms are programed into the app.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t record the signing side of things and vocalize it for hearing people. Instead, it provides you with a dictionary of terms and mouth movements for lip readers. It does require internet access for the text to sign program, but the makers claim this provides for a seamless connection of signed words by real people.
If you’re going to be using the translator a lot or are looking to use a translator as a means of learning sign language, dropping $5 for the ASL Translator is probably your best bet!