A spoken English-to-Spanish translation app that works

Translation is tricky enough, but an app that turns your spoken English into Spanish in real-time? It sounds like something out of Star Trek, and that's exactly what the Jibbigo app for the iPhone claims to do. We tried it out, and we like what we see.

At a glance: Jibbigo would be perfect for any iPhone owner who likes to travel to Spanish-speaking countries. It does well with vital phrases you'd need, such as asking for directions for specific things. It also does it all while offline, so you really only need service for updates. Its price is probably its greatest barrier to entry, and there are a few things it won't do. Click Continue to find out what.

We fired Jibbigo up on Comrade Charlie's phone, as he's sporting an iPhone 3GS and we're told that'll get you the most bang for your buck with Jibbigo. Namely, the 3GS can handle both English and Spanish at the same time, allowing your phone to act as a go-between during a conversation — arguably one of the most impressive features. With an older generation iPhone, however, you'll have to back out of the app and select whether to go with English-to-Spanish or vice versa.

Our following impressions are therefore with the 3GS. Your mileage may vary using an older iPhone.

Each time you speak to Jibbigo, it'll write what it thinks you said, vocally respond with the opposite Spanish or English, and display both on top of one another so you can check yourself. It's quick, responsive and push-to-talk. You can also play spoken phrases back to yourself to make sure you're getting it right.

As stated, short phrases — such as, "Where is the nearest restaurant?" — are handled well by Jibbigo. Charlie tried to trip it up tossing out, "My cat's tail is long, and the taxi driver won't take him," and the app was confused as to what we were going for. Cursing (sorry, mom!) is handled rather humorously, as Jibbigo just includes a where your naughty words should be, and it's pretty strict about not letting you talk dirty. Bummer, right? You can see an example of that in the gallery above, pictured last.

Rounding out the features are the ability to correct what you said using the iPhone's virtual keyboard and a "thumbs down" button, which is like your Bat Phone to leave feedback for the developers.

Wrapping it up: Jibbigo is undeniably useful. It's easy to use and we found its Spanish to be accurate, for the most part. (Full disclosure: I don't know much myself, but, luckily, between Charlie and my brother we were able to make sure it wasn't wildly wrong.)

The big kicker here is the price: Jibbigo will set you back $25. We'd gladly pay on the iPhone 3GS, though we wonder if some of that ease of use would disappear on older iPhones, if you'd find yourself wrestling with Jibbigo as you go back and forth between English-to-Spanish and the opposite.

In the end? We're impressed. It's a neat app, and it does what it says it'll do in a way that's easily accessible and uncluttered.

Jibbigo, via Macworld