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Any way to translate Chinese characters on iphone

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I'd like to be able to read the Chinese characters posted on white boards in Chinese restaurants. I'm Chinese but can't read the characters so as long as I can figure out the pinyin I would know the dishes. Anyone know of any mobile apps that say lets me draw the character and look it up?

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  1. Google translate. The android version has an option to input character by writing it, or by a picture of the text, not sure about the iOS version.

    1. Are you talking about printed sheets or handwritten? I've been using Pleco for iPhone, and it's been great both for on the spot translation and as a learning tool. Basic model requires you to type things in, one $15 ad on gives you recognition of printed characters, a different $15 add on gives you analysis if handwriting. You can also type in the characters based on the radicals for free.

      They're geared more towards non-native speakers like me, but for this purpose I'm enjoying two books on the topic, Swallowing Clouds and The Eaters Guide to Chinese Characters

      1. Pleco's OCR is great for printed or extremely well formed characters but generally handwritten is hopeless. The two books that hyperbowler suggests are excellent, but you will have to do a lot of homework. I have been at it for 30 years and have big troubles with white/black boards. Google translate is excellent if you can cut and paste or you use the iOS character entry capability to try to get a character entered, but you have to learn the correct sequence for entering strokes, something every 7 yr old Chinese kid knows...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Thomas Nash

          Eek. That's a bummer about the handwriting recognition. I was about to spend the $15 for that add-on for an upcoming trip.