Is there a Chinese to English universal translator?

Hi Nomadistas, I’m considering Shanghai this Summer. I an American from California. I speak English, French, Swiss German, and Italian. I work for myself and will be writing a novel, unrelated to China. How is it going to be language wise to live and get around? Is there a universal translator app for my Android phone/TMobile?

I was in China last November and used one of the Youdao apps for iOS, they have equivalents for Android but I don’t remember which one it was.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough most of the time and it worked offline

1 Like

Thank you for the pointer to Youdao

Google Translate has you covered here, including translation, speech synthesis, and Chinese voice recognition (all available offline). They recently added a WordLens-style feature where, using your camera, you can see English in place of the Chinese text.

You’re also welcome to try out my Hanping apps (all of which work offline) which I’ve been developing over the past 8 years, including an OCR app called Hanping Camera: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.embermitre.hanping.app.reader.pro as well as dictionary apps.

One big problem you will face in mainland China is limited access to most of the popular websites and web services. Everything Google-related is blocked. You really need to sort yourself out with a good VPN (or even two so you have one as a backup) before you get there. You should Google around (before you get there!) to see which VPNs are the best at the moment for use in China. You’ll want one you can use on your laptop and smartphone at the same time. Without a working VPN you won’t be able to download apps (free or paid) from the Google Play Store. Amazon Appstore might work without a VPN (not sure).

When you use translation tools for chinese, just be cognizant that you need to be extremely literal in your english.

Google will not work for anything without a VPN - sure it will act like it will load, but it will not.

Knowing all of those languages fluently should have you covered as just knowing English, French, and German, and Italian should allow you to easily communicate with 80% of the expats.

Better use translate.baidu.com instead of Google Translate.
Baidu’s translation from English to Chinese is better.