I remember seeing universal translators on TV and in the science fiction stories I read in my youth. I didn't think it would ever happen, but science fiction is becoming fact.
If you travel or are in regular need of translation, let me suggest you take a look at SayHi Translate, on sale for US 0.99 in the app store. It runs on an iPhone, iPod touch or an iPad.
Here's how it works. Tell the app your primary language, (English in my case) and set it for a language you want your words translated to. The app supports French (Canadian and France), German, Italian, Danish, Dutch, Polish, Russian, Japanese, Korean and several more.
If you don't want to talk, you can use the keyboard and get the text translated as text. The app provides a large on-screen button so you can engage in conversation back and forth with someone. Response is fast, but the app requires an Internet connection as your translation will be done on a remote server. It was reasonably quick on a 3G connection.
My German is pretty good and I was impressed with the quality of the translation. It stumbled on a couple of proper names, but that is not surprising. I tried it with a fluent Spanish speaker and the app did well too. I can't vouch for the other languages offered, but reviews of the app from users are very positive.
There are some other translators out there. Some are paid apps, some are free, but charge more if you want speech recognition. Others charge for additional languages. At this sale price of $0.99 the app is an impulse purchase if you have a need for its talents.
SayHi Translate doesn't speak Klingon, but it does bring back some Star Trek memories.