Language translation apps

Language translation apps in health care settings

Communication between health professionals and patients can be challenging if they have different language backgrounds. In such situations it is best to use an interpreter service, which is available in most areas of New Zealand for hospital and primary care visits. But sometimes getting an interpreter may not be possible and increasingly people are using language translation apps.  

We have not been able to review all the available language translation apps that may be helpful in the healthcare setting, but here are a few for consideration. 

New Zealand app

Listen Please app: This a translation app for use in hospitals, to help patients and health professionals communicate with each other. The app is aimed at people who can't speak at all (eg, if they have a breathing tube in their airway), but can communicate in some other way, or for people who can't speak English but can speak Mandarin/ Cantonese Chinese, Korean, Samoan or Tongan. Read more about Listen Please app.

Other apps

A study evaluating iPad-compatible language translation apps to determine their suitability for enabling everyday conversations in health care settings found the following apps to be most suitable:1

  • Talk to Me
  • CALD Assist (not available in New Zealand)

The authors noted that apps allowing free input of information to be translated were less suitable as there were no limits to the way they could be used, whereas apps that only enabled translation of pre-set phrases were more suitable. Read more


  1. Panayiotou A, Wiliams S, Zucchi E, et al. Language translation apps in health care settings: expert opinion. JMIR, 2019
Last reviewed: 11 Jul 2019