Living in Spain as a British Expat I am always keen to look at applications that make my limited use of the Spanish language better, so I was excited to take a look at Jibbigo which promised:

Your world just got smaller thanks to a speech-to-speech translation app for your iPhone.

Hmm what is the point of having a application launch on an iPhone with the message that this is the first time you have launched the application and suggesting you watch the introductory video which ……….. doesn’t work on the iPhone!

As first impressions go that was terrible. I mean really bad!!! Now I know that it is a major weakness of the iPhone the lack of flash BUT they know that so why make the first experience of the application such a negative one?

Loading it up for a second time I was faced with three language pairings to select from:

English (International) – Español
Español – English
English (US) – Español

Now not having been able to view the video I was unsure which to choose. As a fully fledged proper English speaker from the United Kingdom, I wanted English. Technically I only recognise that as the English option anyway!!! I have always felt that English (US) should be called American, and I have no idea whatsoever what English (International) means? To me it has always been and always will be English.

But that wasn’t my dilemma! The issue was the direction as I was going to be speaking in English and wanted a translation into Español I wanted the Español – English option, but wasn’t sure if that meant I would be expected to speak in Español and it would be translated to English.

I selected that option anyway and …….. I got a screen that had the Español flag at the top saying Hola, and a American flag at the bottom saying Hello, so:

  1. It was requiring me to speak in Español with that selection, but
  2. It was saying that English was actually English (US)

Hmm not good, and as it seemed to be assuming that the world evolved around the English (US) setting I thought I would adopt an American approach of three strikes and you are out.

So I thought I would change the settings, which it seems requires the application to be closed down and restarted.

After much internal debate and with fingers crossed I selected the English (International) – Español option, and wouldn’t you know it I got the Union Jack flag at the top of the screen, and the Español flag at the bottom.

I thought I would give it a quick test, so pressed the red record button and said “knife”. After a bit of whirling the top box came up with the phrase “The Bus” and the Español translation of “El autobús” which was fine, but I can’t cut my steak with an el autobús!!

So on the three strikes and you are out rule I gave up!

24 hours later, and having reflected that I had kindly been given the opportunity to review the application I thought I would try again. As I was hungry I said “dinner”, which somehow ended up as “where”, which was translated to “dónde”. Again accurate translation, but not of the word that I asked for.

I am genuinely sorry BUT this application, for me, was a total waste of time.

The website does carry this ‘warning’:

Version 1.0 contains a bug that affects the audio output on some iPhone/iPod models. Please update Jibbigo via the App store or via iTunes to version 1.01 (released on November 3rd, 2009). If you used the workaround, remember to set your date back to normal.

I thought it prudent to check which version I had – 1.0.1 so that wasn’t the issue.

I also saw on the Support page that:

Q. What if I’m having trouble getting Jibbigo to recognize my voice?
A. Jibbigo has an optional adaptation mode that adapts to your voice and noise environments. The switch is on the backpage.

But as I had tried with this setting both on and off it wasn’t that either.

For the record I did contact the developers about the issues above. As far as the video goes it is a issue with the 3G iPhone as I suspected but that doesn’t deflect from the initial impression it leaves.

As for the application not recognizing any of the words I was advised to try saying phrases not words, and bizarrely that worked! I know weird or what ….. say a phrase and it works, say one word and you get some random word replacing it.

Having got it working though it was fun, but slow! The translations were 100% accurate every time, but they took an eternity to come up. I doubt that anything can be done about that and the technology is pretty amazing, but as far as been able to use the application in a busy food market (where I tried it out) it was just too slow. I can see how it has value as a learning aid but as a day to day assistant I found it far to slow for practical use.

At $24.99 the application isn’t cheap, but it is very clever.

As I say it is a shame, but a review is a review and this is my experience of the application and I wouldn’t be doing anybody any favours by not been 100% truthful.

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