We’re lucky to have decent dish translations on menus in London’s Chinese restaurants. But for hungry travellers who love Chinese food, there’s always the intrigue of a menu written only in Chinese characters. You have three choices: hope that the waitress speaks English, pray that number 15 won’t trigger off your nut allergy, or use nifty new smartphone translation app Waygo,
Waygo is a Chinese menu translator that uses your phone’s inbuilt camera. ‘Shoot’ the Chinese characters in question, then watch as their English pronunciation (pinyin) and literal translation appear below the Chinese characters on your screen. Best of all, the app works offline – handy if you’re in remote places such as Guangzhou, or even Ealing.
In our tests Waygo got it right for popular dishes such as ma po tofu. However, the direct translation of the characters may sound poetic, but won’t tell you what you’re eating – ‘Dragon at field’ is a cod dish, for example. Waygo is able to read traditional characters (which you find on menus in the UK) and simplified characters (which you find in mainland China), but cannot recognise calligraphy, stylised fonts or handwriting – unless it’s very neat.
The free trial version allows you to do up to 10 translations a day – while US$6.99 will give you a lifetime of unlimited translations. So far, Waygo is only compatible with iPhone 4+, iPad 2+, running on iOS 6.0+. Christine Yeo
Android users can sign up for updates on their beta list on waygoapp.com