Planing trip to China in some remote areas. I think it would be useful to have some pictures in my phone with most useful words like "eat","bus","hotel" in Chinese logograms. If somebody has done this kind of collection, please share it with me.

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    I have a collection of mp3 files like that, except they are sound files. In Arabic though... Also Swahili (which I have never used)
    – Gayot Fow
    Apr 23, 2015 at 19:51

2 Answers 2


Come on folks, it's 2015: there are better ways to do things now, and here's one.

Go to the App/Play Store and install the Google Translate app, which can translate English to Chinese and back. With this installed, you can:

  • Type - Touch the field to type in text to be translated. You will see the translation appear as you type.
  • Camera - Tap the Camera button to take a picture of text to be translated. Google Translate will attempt to scan the text and then translate it.
  • Speech - Tap the Microphone button to speak a phrase that you want translated.
  • Handwriting - Tap the Squiggle button to draw characters with your finger. This is useful for non-Latin characters.

List above courtesy wikiHow, because it's CC-licensed and I'm a lazy git. And you will need a data connection for most of these features, but prepaid Chinese SIM cards are cheap and easy to pick up, and you can download an offline language pack to get the basics even without one.

(Disclaimer: I work for Google, although not on translation, and the camera stuff was originally launched as Word Lens by acquisition Quest Visual.)

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    I used this for Japanese on my latest trip and it worked very well when communicating with people who didn't speak English. The only downside we found was that if wouldn't work offline, even when having downloaded the offline packages. For Chinese, I usually use another app called Pleco (basic version free, remember to download the handwriting package) which cannot translate entire sentences, but is very useful when looking up characters by drawing them or just making dictionary searches.
    – drat
    Apr 24, 2015 at 1:41
  • In addition to this, you can download Mandarin translation offline so that you don't need an internet connection. I was using this method just two weeks ago while I was in China. Apr 24, 2015 at 4:00
  • I think the answer would benefit from a slightly more explicit description of what features are available offline. While you mention Chinese SIM cards (and the practicability of using one depends on how "remote" the areas the OP refers to are), being entitled to access the network is only one half of the problem. I don't even have an internet connection on my daily trip to work simply because I'm underground, so knowing what the offline mode can do is essential. Sep 10, 2015 at 15:47

I haven't yet been to China, but I am studying Mandarin. And based on my experience with the language, I don't think you'll be able to make a list that will help you recognize directional signs. Just to look at an example for the word "toilet" (which I'm sure is something you'd want to be able to find), there are many ways of describing it, 3 of which are very common:

  • 厕所 (cèsuǒ), which could also be written in traditional characters as 廁所.
  • 卫生间 (wèishēngjiān), which could also be written in traditional characters as 衛生間.
  • 盥洗室 (guànxǐshì), traditional characters are the same.

But what you could do is make a list of things that you might want directions to, with English and Chinese names side-by-side, so that you could have it ready to show people. I would recommend including things like:

  • general descriptions of things anyone might look for on a trip (restaurant, toilet, market, bus station, subway station, etc.);
  • hotels where you will be staying;
  • points of interest you will be visiting;
  • street names that are important to your itinerary.

I did this for a trip to the Middle East, where I was unsure of my Arabic and Hebrew pronunciations, and it worked very well.

  • There is a handy little book with useful photos, called 'point it'. I have a 1993 edition but I have seen it in shops more recently. Travel bookshops might have them.
    – Willeke
    Apr 23, 2015 at 15:57

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