There have been third-party iOS apps for live conversation translations, and Google Assistant launched its own feature for the iPhone last year. Still, iOS 14 now has a standard translator for multilingual conversations in real time in person. So you can finally chat with people who use another language without missing anything or having to install any complicated apps on your device.
Siri could always translate languages for you on your iPhone, but you always had to ask it to translate something, and it was not smooth enough for a real live conversation. So Apple created “Translate”;, a standard app that simplifies and sharpens Siri’s ability to interpret other dialects back and forth, making it easy to speak in real time without too much hassle.
Translate uses the Neural Engine to translate between 11 different languages in any combination, and you can get translations for words and phrases that you type or speak. But the meat of it is the conversational mode and that it can do translations on the device, which means you can use it completely offline, a necessary feature when traveling with spotty service.
Choose your two languages
First open the Translate app. In portrait orientation, you can select the two languages at the top to translate to and from. There are 11 languages available for online translations (12 if you count the two English dialects), and the same amount is available for download for offline use.
- Chinese (mainland China)
- English us)
- English (UK)
- French (France)
- German (Germany)
- Italian (Italy)
- Portuguese (Brazil)
- Spanish (Spain)
To download a language for offline use, tap it in Available offline languages section, and it is downloaded immediately. Once downloaded, it will always be the default for private translations without having to disable your iPhone’s Internet connection. To delete a downloaded language, just swipe left on it or shorten left and press “Delete”.
And while it is enabled by default, there is an option for “Automatic Detection” at the bottom of the language selection menu, so make sure it is enabled. This is what is needed to have a more fluid conversation as it will tell you which language to speak without having to do it manually each time.
Translate words and phrases by writing
Still in portrait orientation, you can press in the “Enter text” field and then start typing with the keyboard. In keyboard mode, it does not detect the language you type automatically, so be sure to select which dialect you type above the keyboard. Best of all, you do not need to download any keyboards in other languages - they are already ready to go for any supported language.
Sorry, you can not paste content, just write it, and we hope that changes in future updates.
Once you have typed in, press “go” on the keyboard and you will see the written translation immediately. The translation will not be correct, but you can press the play button to hear it.
To learn more about each word in the translated text, tap the book icon to open the dictionary next to the first word. Then you can tap on each word in the translation to read more about what it means in different scenarios. Alternatively, you can tap a word in the blue translated text to open the dictionary for that word.
To adjust what you typed, you do not need to press “Enter text” again – you can type what you typed and you will be able to edit it. That way, you do not have to start over if you just need a minor adjustment.
Translate words and phrases aloud
You can also use the microphone button to talk to Translate instead of typing. With voice mode, it will detect the language spoken automatically – either your native language or the target language – as long as you did not turn off the “Automatic Detection” switch from above.
That way, it’s much easier than printing words, phrases and sentences. In addition, the translation in the opposite language will be said aloud without you having to play (as long as your iPhone is not in silent mode). And just like typing words and phrases to translate, you can tap the black text to edit it because voice capture does not always contain everything you could want.
Translate conversations in real time
While you can use the microphone button in portrait orientation to translate conversations, there is a call mode that puts more focus on important details. Just rotate your iPhone to landscape orientation to open it.
Each language has its own side of the screen to make it easier to distinguish between them, especially if you both see side by side on the screen. This way you can better focus on your perspective languages. Tap the microphone to speak, and it detects which of the two languages it is, transcribes it on that language side and converts it to the other language on the other side.
Like translating voices in portrait orientation, the translated text plays automatically as long as your iPhone is not in silent mode. To hear it again, press the play button.
You can also enter attention mode using the expand button. Doing so makes it easier to read the translated text, and it’s even more effective to get someone’s attention that you’re trying to talk face to face with (as opposed to looking at the screen side by side together).
Translate can still use more work to make the conversation mode more useful. Google Assistant on iOS, for example, keeps the real conversation going without having to press a microphone button between the switches. It would be nice to see Apple implement that kind of seamless back and forth, so you can just set the conversation mode and never touch the screen again unless you need to hear something repeat.
View your history & favorite or delete translations
Back in portrait orientation, you will see that there is a tab “Favorites”. Select it and you will see all your “latest” activity. Press one to expand it and get the audio playback button. You can also tap the star in the extended card to save it to your favorites.
On the minimized card you can swipe left to delete a translation or swipe card left and press “Delete”. And the short swipe to the left also gives you the “Favorite” button, so you have two ways to do it. Three ways, really, because you can also press the star button on a card on the “Translate” tab.
Favorites appear above your recent history, each under its own language pair section. You can tap the star in the expanded card or briefly swipe left on the minimized and tap “Unfavorable” to delete it.
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