Here’s a workflow I’ve been using a lot recently: translating foreign language menus on my iPhone.

If you’re in Japan, Korea or China, Waygo is the app you’re looking for. Using Waygo, you can translate in real time these languages into English, and it does an amazing job. Its free for limited translations and a small in-app purchase unlocks unlimited translations. Its worth it.

If not, I’ve been using Google Translate. Here are the steps you follow:

  1. Snap a photo of the menu.
  2. Edit the photo if necessary (for example to change the orientation from landscape to portrait to facilitate scanning from left to right).
  3. Open Google Translate, and tap on the camera icon.
  4. Change the language pair at the top of the screen.
  5. Import the image by tapping on the image icon at the bottom of the screen and navigating to the photo which contains the menu in your Camera Roll.
  6. Google will perform OCR on the image. You simply highlight the lines or words in the image you want to translate.


Pro Tips

I tend to translate the headings first. That way, there might be a whole section of the menu I can skip (for example, because I don’t drink milk or eat pork).

Likewise, highlighting and translating key words that appear frequently, you may be able to skip translating big chunks of text (for example, tea, meat, pork, iced, coffee and so on), as you will often find words are repeated in the menu.

You can zoom in on parts of the photo using the normal pinching and expand movements with your fingers. This makes it easier to highlight just the text you want to translate.