Flummoxed by your food menu? Need to decipher that train timetable pronto? Lost and need to read that road sign? Want to know what’s really in that snack you’ve just bought from the convenience store? Looking for a specific shop? Or just really want to know what that cool neon sign in Shinjuku says? Whatever it is, Google Translate app’s Word Lens tool is the tool for you!
Now supporting Japanese, the app tool allows users to point their mobile phone cameras at simple Japanese text such as menus, road-signs and labels to view an instant translation on-screen.
One major advantage is that the app does not require any connectivity - such as data or internet connection - in order to use, allowing users to utilize their phones as a portable dictionary without incurring any roaming charges or connection fees.
The debut of Japanese functionality for the Word Lens tool will be a massive boon for Japan’s 20 million plus foreign visitors as they navigate their way around the temples, parks and backstreets of the land of cherry blossom, geisha and sushi. “With Word Lens now available in Japanese, you’ll never have to worry about taking a wrong turn on a busy Shibuya street or ordering something you wouldn't normally eat,” declared Google in a blog post on the day of the announcement.
The tool also works the other way around, so that if users jot down English text and hover the phone camera over it then they can instantly translate it into Japanese. This will prove useful for tourists and visitors to communicate with local Japanese people such as shopkeepers, waiting staff, bus drivers and other friendly locals who may not understand English.
For more complex texts, the previous method of using the app - by first manually taking a photograph and then running it through Google Translate - is still recommended, as Google Word Lens works best when translating single words or short phrases.
The app makes short work of Japan’s complicated writing system, which uses three non-Roman scripts including the intricate kanji, derived from Chinese characters, of which nearly 2,000 are regularly used in daily life!
To see an example of how the Word Lens tool works with Japanese, watch Japanese rock band OKAMOTO’S “Lagoon”.
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