Expanding your app-titude

A monthly look at mobile apps that can make the CPA’s job and life better.
By Greg LaFollette, CPA/CITP, CGMA

This month's apps deal with the communication problems that often arise when clients are doing business in our globalized, Tower of Babel world. Most modern web-based accounting programs handle multiple currencies with great aplomb. But actual payments in foreign currency have been the bane of small businesses since the days of Marco Polo and Luca Pacioli. Fortunately, there's an app for that. While these apps won't turn you into an international banker, they just may be good enough to help you close the deal you're working on.


Imagine a potential overseas supplier has sent you photos of a product. You can see the picture, but can you read and make sense of the labeling? Probably not. Enter Scanner&Translator. It's a point-and-shoot translation device with a very powerful Rosetta Stone-style engine under the hood. Take a picture, and the app "recognizes" the language, translates the text to the language of your choice, and voilà—the magic happens. You see the text printed in both languages, and you can also hear the text read back to you in either language. The product supports more than 90 languages. One nice feature is that the app will keep a history of the translations it has completed. Note that an internet connection is required for translation. The free product has a paid upgrade available, although I was unable to determine if there is any additional functionality in the paid version.


SayHi Translate is to the spoken word as the Scanner&Translator app is to the printed word. Simply specify the source and target languages, and away you go. In my test, I chose English and Portuguese. Two "speaker" buttons appeared at the bottom of my screen—cleverly labeled "English" and "Portuguese." I pressed the one marked "English" and spoke a phrase—"I don't speak Portuguese very well." The app almost immediately spoke the phrase back to me in Portuguese, showing my phrase in English text and the translated phrase immediately below: "Eu não falo português muito bem." Both sides of the conversation appear in alternating colors, making actual live conversation possible. As with Scanner&Translator, an internet connection is required for translation.

  • Website: sayhitranslate.com
  • Cost: $4.99 (premium packages add more languages)
  • Operating System: iOS only


TransferWise is designed to make foreign currency settlement easier. To use TransferWise, start by entering the amount and the recipient of the transfer. You can send to your own account abroad or to another person or business. You then upload money to TransferWise in your local currency. The app provides options to use a debit card or a bank transfer. The platform then converts your money at the midmarket rate. In the background, the system is matching in real time your transferred funds with funds moving in the other direction. The real-time matching allows the transfers to be priced quite competitively, and in virtually every case, well below the bank transfer fees. Finally, the converted money is sent to the target bank account. When the transaction is complete, all parties receive email confirmation, and the transaction is closed. If you or your clients occasionally need to settle international accounts, TransferWise is a solution to consider.

  • Website: transferwise.com
  • Cost: Free (currency transfer price varies)
  • Operating Systems: iOS; Android

Greg LaFollette (greg.lafollette@hq.cpa.com) is a strategic adviser with CPA.com, the commercial subsidiary of the AICPA.


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