Translating Japanese games just got a little easier

If you’ve read more of my blogs, you’ll know that I bought my Japanese 3DS last year, to enjoy even more games. As I didn’t know any Japanese this was quite an undertaking for me. But I didn’t let that deter me, while waiting for my device to arrive, the first thing I did was to learn the symbols for the Katakana and Hiragana alphabet. Most games use those two alphabets for the text in games. There are some really good apps out there to use on your mobile or tablet to teach you the symbols. They use association with little images to help memorize the symbols, so it didn’t take me long to learn them. Knowing the symbols helped, as did Google Translate and being able to switch the keyboard on my iPad to Japanese. If I was stuck in a game, I’d input the symbols in Google Translate, and see what it came back with. By no means perfect, Google sometimes gives me back some strange phrases, but most of the time I get the gist.

Last week I downloaded my update for Google Translate, and found that it was an important update indeed! They’ve added inputting a picture and giving back the translation! Now how’s that? It’s still not perfect at all, the translations are sometimes strange. But it saves me to input all the symbols into my iPad. I can now take a picture of the 3DS screen that I want translated, and the scanner finds the Japanese words  the frame. When I touch specific words or phrases, Google gives me the translation. Not just in the screen, but with one click the japanese symbols are in my translator. If Google wasn’t all accurate, I can still adjust them there.

Now I use this for Japanese, but I bet it works even better for let’s say French or Spanish. And you don’t need to make a picture of what you want translated, you can import pictures (that you’ve for instance made from your internet screen. I’m adding some examples from my Magicians Quest, or Tongar Boushi game on 3DS as I’ve written before how I made a basic translation for the menus.(see blog post) I could have saved myself some work! Now if only Google got their translations more spot on, then we’d really be on our way to make a Star Trek like universal translator!

Google translateur, japanese, とんがりボウシ,とんがりボウシ, 3ds, translator, dictionaryGoogle translate, ladies gaming, japanese gaming


  1. Nice find!

    I am currently using a textbook to pick up some Japanese and it’s really fun (although I’d like to have more time, twenty four hour days are kind of short 🙂 ).
    I do it the old fashioned way with a pen and a college block.
    Definitely not easy and I forget a lot of Kanji but a few stuck so far.

    This seems to be a useful tool and the best thing until the discovery of the Babel Fish. 😉

    P.S.: I just got a package with a few games from Japan, among them Ni no kuni (DS), Okaeri Chibi Robo (DS) and Forbidden Magna (3DS).
    I had looked into these games before, but reading your blog gave me the final push to actually order them.
    What a great responsibility you have. 😉

    1. Well, it is useful, though it’s not spot on yet. It takes some fiddling and sometimes it’s not translated well, but most of the time you get the meaning. More quick then pen and notebook!

      For one game that I loved a lot in the past I made an excel spreadsheet with translations for the main menus, but it does take up a lot of time, and slow playing! That was a magician’s Quest, or Tongari Boushi on the 3DS.

      How cool that you bought the games, please keep me posted what you think. Especially Chibi Robo has a special place in my heart, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed, now that I have a Vita, that Ni no Kuni, the Sony version, will be downloadable soon.

      I always say, find me a time turner like Hermione has in Harry Potter, imagine if you could double the time in a day!

  2. Oh man this is nifty! I use Google Translate every now and then for small phrases or words, to make sure I remember things correctly, but this’ll be great as I’m progressing through Ni no Kuni!

  3. Could you try and work out how to model for Berry’s magazine. I read it was Wednesday but woke up thismorning with the correct theme and the new volume had already come out T-T

  4. That is really cool! I recently visited Japan and picked up the Dragon Quest games available for the Super Famicom. This info has made the idea of playing them a lot more accessible!

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