On an innocent biking holiday along the beautiful Danube River in the countrysides of Germany, a humble bet was made. A bet that, if taken to its conclusion would result in an app that could potentially change the meal-time irritations of foreigners on holiday’s around the globe. This is the story about how the English-to-French menu translation app Le Menu Dit (or, ‘The Menu Says’) by Creekcats LLC came to be.
After a heavy day of biking Phil Price (the app’s creator), his girlfriend and parents stopped off at a charming restaurant for a spot of tea, only to find that none of them knew even a smattering of German and after trying out other translation apps begun to realise all-too-late that they would be faced with having to play a little game that I like to call ‘Menu roulette’. Exasperated, Phil exclaimed “This is awful! I could write a better app myself!”, without missing a beat the mother chimes in, “If you do, I’ll happily invest in it” (lucky Phil). So, upon his return from the picturesque Danube, Phil and two of his friends (Nathan Addy and Yixing Chen) set to work on the development of the app.
Why focus solely on French to English translation? I puzzled over that question myself for sometime as English is the most commonly spoken language on the planet and I think you’d be hard pressed to find many French holiday goers in the British Isles unable to understand a straightforward menu. However, menu’s can be tricky and unless you’ve come across certain ingredients before, some menus, especially adventurous one’s, could be potentially quite baffling.
Refreshingly honest about its shortcomings, Le Menu Dit states, quite openly, that it works best under good light with and easy-to-read font and can sometimes falter with overly rococo text or in dimly lit scenarios (never fear, there is a flashlight option included as a feature). It does say however, that although it sometimes might struggle, it still tries it’s best and something is better than nothing – a good point I suppose.
Probably one of the most attractive features of the app is that it works without internet connection so if you find yourself in a remote town without wifi you can save on those expensive, overseas 3G charges and still order what you fancy. The no-frills interface is relatively easy to use as you just have to hover your camera above the desired font, snap it and let the app do the rest. The app will then break down the menu into boxes with the original English on top and the French translation underneath to avoid confusion and make it easier to identify what you’d like on the menu to the waiter.
The app itself is free and you can use its free trial feature up to 5 times before having to either rent it for £0.79/week (the average stay of the over 5.3 million French tourists travelling to either the UK or US annually) or just bite the bullet and buy it for £2.29
Although I could point out a few flaws here and there with Le Menu Dit, I can see that this is obviously a flagship effort and with a bit more time and research I think that the app could become very useful once more languages are added.
If you’re a travelling Frenchmen or just a little Francophilic and would like to give Le Menu Dit a crack then you can download it free from the AppStore today!