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From Idea to Execution: Mantaphrase's Japanese Heritage (mantaphrase.com)
35 points by wlue on Nov 7, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 11 comments

This is very cute. So simple it's almost a waste of effort (if a phrasebook already exists), but yet it's much better than a phrasebook!

I can imagine this working quite well in Japan, where people are not afraid of technology, but struggle to communicate in foreign languages. I'm not so sure how well this can be accepted in, say, Romania (just an example, I've never been there).

...and shouldn't you swap the first example on the homepage from "Do I have to be hospitalized?" to something slightly more cheerful?

I'm not so sure how well this can be accepted in, say, Romania (just an example, I've never been there).

I spent a few days in Romania. There'd be no 'fear of technology' or anything. TBH in some poorer countries the problem isn't "locals are afraid of your phone" but "locals stole my phone and ran off"

I agree that the exact interaction will depend on the setting and that it will take time to perfect. We're on it and open to suggestions!

Re: "Do I have to be hospitalized?", I believe our original intent was to show practicality, though in retrospect it does seem off. Thanks for the catch!

"Do you have vegetarian options?" or "Does this food have eggs in it?", perhaps. (I know a few foreigners who carry business-card sized printouts with an explanation saying "Hello! The person who handed you this can't speak Japanese. She has an extremely serious medical allergy to eggs or anything containing eggs.")

Awesome suggestions and very simple to implement; look for it soon. I have many relatives who are celiacs (i.e. can't eat wheat) who have had this same problem!

This is awesome. I love how you addressed a problem that seemed "already solved" (ie. there's tonnes of foreign language phrase books in the app store) and designed a better solution for it. I can't wait to try it out on a trip.

btw, does the app also provide an option to read the phrase, so that you can learn it over time?

Patrick here. Pinyin/romaji (+ other phonetic readings) as well as audio for each phrase are in the works. Let me know if you have any other suggestions!

This is a neat idea. I just rented an apartment in Tokyo. My Japanese is not that great, so when going through the lease, the realtor and I sat down with Google Translate* to go through all the legalese. We had the exact same sort of "wtf?" moments that the author describes -- I can deal with regular conversation, but legal terms oftentimes have odd meanings compared to how regular people talk...

(*actually, it was something else, I don't remember the brand, but exactly the same concept as Google Translate)

I'm curious to see how smooth the interaction is with this product. It seems it could be awkward to ask a stranger who doesn't speak your language to look at your iPhone and click buttons to communicate with you.

On the other hand, if they can make it feel "magical", it will be an impressive achievement.

I often got lost in Japan, and ask random strangers to show me where to go on a gps map, or show an address in an email or have them look at instructions etc. It might not work in other countries, but in japan it's very smooth.

Apart form that, I think the presence of the Yes/No buttons is very thoughtful. You don't want a stranger to have to think about the kind of answer you're asking for.

This is amazing. It's exactly what I wanted to build when I was living in Japan, but I never got around to it. Congrats! I'll definitely be taking this with me the next time I go to Japan.

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