If you spend any amount of time eating Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley – as maybe you should, since you do, after all, live in Los Angeles – and are not fluent in the language, you may struggle a bit when some or all of the restaurant's menu is only in Chinese. In which case, there is a terrific app for that: specifically designed to “translate any Chinese menu or sign,” Waygo is available for the iPhone (the Android version is coming soon), with the trial version of the application allowing up to 10 free translations per day. Or, you can upgrade and get an unlimited number of translations for $6.99. Given how much fun you probably will have with this, it'll probably be worth the seven bucks.
The app itself is pretty easy to use: Just fit the menu item you'd like translated into the bar on the screen, hold your phone still for a second and ta da: Waygo will translate the line into English, with its pinyin pronunciation to boot. There's even a button that lets you to turn on your phone's light in case you're in a dark place.
We tested Waygo on a few menus and found that while it's not always completely foolproof – a few translations here and there were not quite accurate, and fonts that are stylized or in italics aren't always captured and read by the program – it usually does work well enough to give you a general idea of what a particular dish might be. At the very least, when you're sitting at the table staring at a menu you can't decipher, no doubt you'll appreciate all the help you can get.
And Waygo goes way beyond restaurant menus: The developers suggest that you also use it to translate the Chinese character you're about to get tattooed on your shoulder. You know, just to make sure it really says Wisdom or whatever profound thing you want it to say. We, on the other hand, suggest that rather than doing that, go to Chengdu Taste instead and, while waiting some two hours for a table, have Waygo translate everything on the menu and on the specials board. Now, that's happiness.