So, what exactly is a translator reading pen?
Well, usually it’s a device that scans different text and provides a translation. This is, at least, how the majority of translation pens work, and you would think that this would be a pretty good concept that could be executed fairly well.
However, when it comes to Franklin’s i-Pen Speaking Translator Pen, the opposite seems to be true. This is evidence that when a good concept comes along, Franklin will find a way to dumb it down, making it unusable by all but a very specific niche of clientele. Perhaps this works well for the company, and all of their profits come from casual travelers, rather than from in-depth language scholars (as scholars are rarely afraid to have books instead of gadgets, it seems likely that Franklin is playing to their audience). Whatever the cause, Franklin puts out a great deal of products that are all very similar to one another, with a couple of key differences here and there to delineate the products and keep people coming back.
When you order the Franklin i-Pen Speaking Translator Pen, you get the pen, an accompanying phrasebook, and a USB connector. The USB connector is a nice touch, and it indicates to potential customers that Franklin really is evolving as a company, albeit very slowly.
Unlike other Franklin (and, to be honest, most other companies that make electronic translators) devices, which most typically require coin batteries and sometimes drain them too quickly for the user’s convenience, the Franklin i-Pen Speaking Translator Pen can be charged when plugged into a computer or the USB connection is plugged into a power adapter. Note that the device does not come with a power adapter, just the USB cable. The Franklin i-Pen Speaking Translator Pen serves one purpose: to speak aloud phrases that appear in the phrasebook in Chinese, Korean, or Japanese. You press the text in the book, and the phrase is spoken out loud. While this is a nice thought, given that each of these languages has its own alphabet, which is completely different from English, this means that the product boils down to a glorified phrasebook. The question then becomes: who would want to pay so much for a glorified phrasebook?
Who is the Franklin i-Pen Speaking Translator Pen designed to serve?
The answer? No one, really.
This particular device comes with a rather hefty price tag (from $119 to $150), given what it offers. Yes, talking electronic translators are very popular right now, but what true benefit does a short-term traveler actually get from having this product over another with a much lower cost and more phrases?
Since this product is essentially a phrasebook that you poke with a pen to hear sounds, why is this really any better than paying a tenth of the price and merely getting a paper phrasebook? Pointing to a phrase and showing it to the person behind the counter at your hotel may be a little awkward, but so is playing a sound for them through an electronic gadget after pressing it to a phrasebook. The Franklin i-Pen Speaking Reading Pen really just adds another step to awkward communication and has the audacity to charge for it.
Students won’t even have a use for this device, as they will surpass the knowledge contained in the device within a year of study. The phrasebook may be useful for teaching students new words, but for a fraction of the price, a student could get a language dictionary, or, if willing to pay just a little more, could acquire an electronic pen like theQuicktionary reading pen that will actually scan words and display their meanings on a screen. That device would be useful to students, whose primary concern is learning the meanings of words that they don’t yet know. While phrasebooks are always a handy tool, at over 100 dollars, the price for this one is definitely wrong.
The device itself is not incredibly attractive. It looks like a cross between a children’s thermometer and a home pregnancy test. The pale blue and white plastic on the device does not make it look like any kind of serious instrument of translation. To be honest, the Franklin i-Pen Speaking Translation Pen looks like a toy, a childish approximation of what a translating pen would look like. Franklin is usually good about creating products with sleek silver and black colors, products that look like they are owned by businessmen and serious travelers, but for some reason, they didn’t carry this over to the Franklin i-Pen Speaking Translator Pen, which looks like it is owned by a four year-old.
The only time that this product could be useful is for the vision-impaired individuals who were unable to use other translators due to the small letter size or poor contrast on the screens of many other devices. The Franklin i-Pen Speaking Translator Pen phrasebook is certainly easy to read. This last-resort mentality hardly seems fair to the customers, however, who should not be afraid to demand more than the Franklin i-Pen Speaking Translator Pen can offer.