If you’ve ever tried to communicate with someone who only spoke a foreign language, you know that it can be extremely difficult — even with the help of modern translation websites. This project will show you how to turn a $35 mini-computer into a feature-rich language translator that not only supports voice recognition and native speaker playback, but is also capable of translating between thousands of language pairs. The unbelievable part is that it can all be done on the cheap by leveraging inexpensive hardware, free translation APIs, and some open source software.

Even if you’re not interested in building this exact translation tool, there are still many parts of this project that might be interesting to you such as Google’s speech recognition API, Microsoft’s translation API, and text to speech. All of the source code for this project is publicly available on Github, and you’re welcome to use and modify it as you wish. The Universal Translator makes a perfect weekend project because it incorporates a wide range of technology and tools to create something immediately useful. Oh, and it’s a blast to play with.

Pick up all the parts at your local RadioShack, follow the instructions below, and you’ll have your own babel fish in no time.