So far I’ve been getting along pretty well in Sweden. Learning my way around Stockholm, figuring out how to do things, picking up some Swedish words and phrases… The one thing I can’t come close to doing yet is reading large blocks of text. Most of the time, this isn’t really a problem. Context gives you a lot and some Swedish words are somewhat similar to words in other languages that I actually do know (especially if you sound them out).
What kills me is official documents that I actually need to understand, not just get the gist of. Like the documents that came with my phone or from my bank. Some of these I can hand to someone at work to translate for me (if I am very nice about it). That doesn’t work with sensitive documents or when I’m not there.
I got my new ATM card tonight along with a raft of rather important instructions that were all in Swedish. I tried downloading some iOS apps that claimed to OCR and translate. Those were useless.
I ended up with the following process instead:
- Connect iPhone to my computer over USB
- Take shots of the text as straight-on as possible, with flash
- import to the desktop using image capture
- import to Photoshop
- rotate (if necessary)
- convert to black-and-white
- change to 144 DPI *
- import images to Acrobat as a single document
- OCR document with Swedish hinting
- copy/paste into google translate
- read (finally)
This is an insanely painful process and not worth it for less than the most critical things. It will get easier when I get my scanner (currently on a boat), which will cut out steps 1-5, but that is still sucky.
If someone could get this working with 70% accuracy in a single iOS app, I would gladly pay $75 for it. I would work on this in my copious free time, but it would probably be more productive for me to learn to read Swedish.