Travel Guide

Buy or No? Travel “Translate” Shirt for Finding What You Need

Written by Charlie

While apps and guidebooks can give you language help in new countries, one company tries to go more old-school with translation shirts. Would you buy one?

While most people are not currently traveling internationally, many are waiting for the day when this will happen again. When this happens, there is a shirt product that could help you find the places you need to get to on your travel – is this smart or not?

Travel Shirt to “Translate” What You Need to Find

The ICONSPEAK Travel Products

While most people have a smartphone and will utilize some kind of app while traveling to get where they need to go (maps, translate app, city guides, etc), a company called ICONSPEAK has gone in a different direction.

Their thinking is that putting icons on a shirt or other product can help in situations where your phone may be dead or you forgot to download the information you needed while you are not on data in a foreign country.

This company has been around a few years now but I just learned about it at this Petapixel article.

The premise for the design is to have icons on a comfortable shirt that will let you just point to an icon when you are trying to get directions or information from a native in the country you are visiting. The designs themselves are nice and the shirt looks comfortable.

City/Country Options

They have specific shirts for various cities and a country (Switzerland) as well as general travel shirts also. This kind of helps with some of the thoughts I have on the idea as a whole and I would be more likely to get one of those, if I was to get them.

Good Buy or No?

I am a bit conflicted on a product like this. On one hand, I always like to support companies that come up with travel products and I definitely know there is always a use for things that can break down language barriers.

On the other hand, as an American, I know that we get a bad rap when traveling for just always expecting/assuming that people in the country we are visiting will speak English. I know English is widely taught and spoken but, at the same time, we are visiting their country so it would just be a basic courtesy to try and learn at least a few words in their language.

Also, if the person you are pointing at the shirt for directions from does not understand your language, how are they supposed to tell you where to go? In addition, some of the icons may not be that clear to everyone so what happens then?

Finally, I am not a fan of wearing anything when I travel that tells people I am a tourist. Sometimes, it is unavoidable (the camera or backpack, etc) but I almost always want to try and see the city/country from a local’s perspective. Wearing a shirt with a bunch of icons on it, while it doesn’t scream “tourist”, just isn’t my kind of thing.

However, I would love to have a reader convince me that I am looking at it wrong! I would certainly not call it a “dumb” idea just because I don’t get it but I don’t think it would be for me.

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

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