Online travel service Lastminute.comis set to launch talking phrase books for mobile phone users.

The phrase books allow travellers to look up phrases on the screen of their mobile phone. The software then speaks the phrase in the local language, overcoming pronunciation problems.

"Instead of you having to flick through the pages of a phrase book to find what you want to say, you simply click your phone menu, select the phrase you need and voila!" said Mark McCulloch, Lastminute.com's head of brand development.

The software, which currently runs on Nokia and Sony Ericsson handsets, costs ?3 per language to download. Currently the developer - coolgorilla.com - offers six languages: French, German, Greek, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Each download contains between 250 and 300 phrases developed in conjunction with Lastminute.com's travel experts.

According to coolgorilla, developing translation software for mobile handsets makes sense, because the mobile phone is one item almost everyone takes on their travels, and because it is easy to play back an audio clip to a local person from a mobile phone.

The company started working with Lastminute.com by developing a series of phrasebooks for iPods. Although the iPod phrasebooks are free to download for Lastminute.com customers, and they include 800 phrases, the lack of a speaker in the iPod makes that software more of a learning tool than a practical option for travellers who need instant help.

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