Menu translator app?

Yesterday I was reading about an app that lets you take a picture of something written in a foreign language, then will translate the wording into English. Does anyone know the name of it? It sounds like it would be very useful when presented with a French menu. Thanks!

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

Do you know the name of the app? If it's an iPhone app, I might be able to test it for you.

Posted by Brenda
Jasper
91 posts

No, don't know the name; that's what I'm asking for. Yesterday I somehow got to a R.S. article that had it as one of several suggestions he made, but I didn't follow up on it immediately and now I can't find it. Surely someone else has knowledge of something similar.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

I searched the iPhone App Store for 'photo translator' and got several results. I tried the first free one called - wait for it - 'Photo Translator Free' - LOL! Anyway, I took a photo of a paragraph of a dual-language book of French stories that I have on hand and let the app have a go at it. The resulting English translation was remarkably close to the translation in the book, though not quite as slick in a sophisticated literary way. I think it would work enough on a menu that you would be able to tell if you were ordering beef, pork, or lamb with a sauce you would like, vs. ordering horsemeat or some kind of awful offal. LOL!! The free app I tried gives you 5 free 'Credits' per day, then you can buy more. Or there are several other apps, some free, others for $0.99 up to $4.99 or so. Very cool!

Posted by Brenda
Jasper
91 posts

Thanks. I'd taken a quick look in iTunes but didn't spend a lot of time on it. It sounds as though the one you found will do just fine.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

Test it out ahead of time. The app choked when I tried to photograph and ask it to translate a whole page. I then took a photo and cropped it first before asking the app to translate it and that worked better.

Posted by Alexander
Manhattan, KS
277 posts

As a language teacher, I'm the first to tell you that these translators do a very poor job. When a student uses an online translator I can spot it within seconds. However, if you're just looking for something specific to ensure that you're not eating a part of an animal you find less that appealing, it might work for you. On the other end of the spectrum, I remember asking my student to bring in a recipe for a food day in class. This one kid decided to bring in "les doigts de femme." He meant to say ladyfingers as in the cookie, but his recipe specifically called for women's fingers! HA!

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

No doubt that apps can be handy in a lot of situations, but there's really no substitute for actually learning foreign key words/phrases for simple things that come up in travel all the time, like reading a menu or a train schedule. Food terms are pretty easy to learn - even using one of Rick's small language books. On the other hand, having a quick exchange with someone would be really awkward if someone had to stop all the time to translate with their app. I'm not saying apps are not useful, but only as a complement not a substitute...

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

But the OP's entire question was about wanting to take a picture of a menu and get a little translation assistance. I can't imagine stopping an actual conversation to consult an app, though there may be people who do it, but in the context of this OP's question, the app would have to take a video and be able to translate via lip-reading!

Posted by Brenda
Jasper
91 posts

Thanks for all the input. I do indeed know a few key words and phrases of French and generally get along very well with my limited vocabulary, phrasebook and French courtesy. I envision seeing a lovely little street side or country cafe with an outside menu written entirely in French, and before entering the establishment I would like to be able to take a picture of the menu and have it translated roughly into English so that I have at least some assurance that I don't end up eating lamb's kidneys or calf brains. Not that there's anything wrong with that! As a child growing up on a farm, I ate plenty of animal parts including brains, kidneys, liver, tongue, gizzards, blood sausage and head cheese (you don't want to know). But I'm older now, and much more discerning in what I choose to chew on and swallow. So I thank everyone for their suggestions and will give the photo translator app a try. Even if it's not perfect, it may save the day when it comes to choosing a mystery meal. Brenda

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

Hi Brenda, just to let you know Rick's (very small) French Dictionary/ Phrasebook will do the same thing - and it's pretty much fail safe (he has an extensive section on meals). I don't know why apps try to reinvent the wheel, but with less accuracy. I'm a fishatarian and learned to read French menus for a trip to Quebec - it really wasn't hard. Do what works best for you..and have a great trip!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8761 posts

I can't see how an app like that would be much use with handwritten menu boards which are quite prevalent. It might do satisfactorily on printed ones.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2612 posts

One reason the apps work a little more efficiently is you do not have to carry an extra translator book for the few times you might need it. Also, a translator app like jibbigo works by typing in a phrase, etc. or saying it, and you do not have to look up each word individually. Also goes from English to French. (not a substitute for learning a language, but we can't all learn a ton of new languages... last year I went to 9 countries)

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

As small as the pocket dictionaries are, I find in actual practice that I don't feel like carrying them around and thumbing through to try to find what I'm looking for. It's a pain to search the tiny type for a particular word or phrase. Much easier to be able to use my iPhone whenever possible to do an on-demand, specific search or word translation. My experience is the translator apps are adequately accurate to help me function and make decisions.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

Several rash thoughts: ask point guess draw a picture taste somebody else's
order stuff you don't know what is

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

I agree with Ed. I'm not a Luddite by any means, but when traveling, I'd rather interact with people rather than gadgets. Learning to ask what something is in another language can be used in every restaurant..and I'm willing to wager that you'll learn more vocabulary that way over the long run, especially if you get in a a habit of starting such conversations. Gadgets tend to keep you from interacting with others much more than promoting such interactions because they make some interactions obsolete (although I think that's why some folks use them..to each his own, I'm just offering my perspective)

Posted by Lee
Dallas
898 posts

I think the Bing app for the Windows phone is what you read about. Maybe Microsoft will make it available to other phones in the future. We find the Collins French-English iPhone app very useful in restaurants. We know all the basic food terms, but almost always there's something on the menu we don't know. Agneau Navarin for example--we knew it was lamb but what's the dish? With the app we found that it's a stew made with turnips, carrots, and potatoes. Using the app we can quickly decipher a French menu and make an intelligent choice of food.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

The Collins French-English dictionary is the best. But oooh, the app is expensive! Maybe RS will turn his phrase books into apps sometime in the future. Or at least make them available as searchable ebooks or PDFs that can be used on a mobile device. I'm all for interacting and am quick to strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone - so I'm not one of those people alluded to above who hides behind a device. But technology has its place and does serve useful purposes when used appropriately. It's another tool, only a tool.