There were third-party iOS apps for live conversation translation, and the Google Assistant launched its own feature for the iPhone last year. Still, iOS 14 now has a standard translator for real-time multilingual conversations. So you can finally chat with people who use a different language without missing anything or installing complicated apps on your device.
Siri could always translate languages for you on your iPhone, but you always had to ask them to translate something and it wasn’t smooth enough for an actual live conversation. That’s why Apple developed “Translate”
Translate uses the Neural Engine to translate between 11 different languages in any combination. You can get translations for words and phrases that you type or that you speak. The main thing, however, is the conversation mode, which allows translations to be performed on the device. This means that you can use it completely offline. This is a necessary feature when traveling with spotty service.
Choosing your two languages
First, open the translator app. In portrait mode, you can choose the two languages you want to translate into at the top. There are 11 languages available for online translation (12 if you count the two English dialects) and the same amount to download for offline use.
- Chinese (mainland China)
- American English)
- English UK)
- French France)
- German Germany)
- Italian (Italy)
- Portuguese (Brazil)
- Spanish (Spain)
To download a language for offline use, tap in the field Available offline languages Section and it will download instantly. If you’ve downloaded one, it will be used by default for private translations without having to turn off your iPhone’s internet connection. To delete a downloaded language, simply swipe left or left briefly with the long swipe and click on “Delete”.
If this option is enabled by default, there is an “Automatic Detection” option at the bottom of the language selection menu. So make sure this option is checked. It’s what it takes for a smoother conversation as it shows what language is speaking without you having to do it manually each time.
Translate words and phrases by typing
In portrait mode, you can tap the Enter Text box, then type with the keyboard. In keyboard mode, the language you type automatically is not recognized. It is therefore imperative that you select the dialect that you enter via the keyboard. Best of all, you don’t have to download any other language keyboards – they’re ready for all supported languages.
Unfortunately, you can’t paste content, you can only type it, and we hope this will change in future updates.
After typing on the keyboard, tap Go. The written translation is displayed immediately. The translation won’t be vocalized, but you can tap the play button to hear it.
If you want to know more about each word in the translated text, tap the book icon to open the dictionary on the first word. You can then tap on each word in the translation to learn more about what it means in different scenarios. Alternatively, you can tap on a word in the blue translated text to open the dictionary for that word directly.
To optimize what you’ve written, you don’t have to click Enter Text again. You can tap what you’ve entered and edit it. That way, if you just need a minor adjustment, you don’t have to start over.
Translate words and phrases by voice
You can also use the microphone button to speak to Translate instead of typing. In speech mode, the automatically spoken language is recognized – either your mother tongue or the target language – as long as you have not switched off the “Automatic recognition” switch from above.
This way, it’s a lot easier than typing out words, phrases, and sentences. Plus, the translation is pronounced aloud in the opposite language without hitting the play button (as long as your iPhone is not in silent mode). And just like entering words and phrases to translate, you can tap the black text to edit it as the voice recording doesn’t always have everything you want in it.
Translate conversations in real time
While you can use the microphone button in portrait orientation to translate conversations, there is a conversation mode that puts more emphasis on the important details. Simply rotate your iPhone to landscape to open it.
Each language has its own side of the display to make it easier to distinguish, especially when you are both looking at the screen side by side. This way you can concentrate better on your perspective languages. Tap the microphone to speak. It recognizes which of the two languages it is, transcribes it on one side of that language and converts it to the other language on the other side.
As with translating voices in portrait mode, the translated text will play automatically as long as your iPhone is not in silent mode. Tap the play button to hear it again.
You can also access the attention mode using the expand button. This makes the translated text easier to read and is even more effective at attracting the attention of someone you want to have a face-to-face conversation with (as opposed to side-by-side viewing of the screen together).
Translating could take more work to make the conversation mode more helpful. For example, Google Assistant on iOS keeps the actual conversation going without having to tap a microphone button between exchanges. It would be nice to see Apple implement this kind of seamless back-and-forth. So you can just set up conversation mode and never touch the screen again unless you need to hear something repeat.
View your history and prefer or delete translations
Back in portrait orientation, you will see that there is a “Favorites” tab. Select that and you’ll see all of your “recent” activities. Tap one to expand it and get the play button to play audio. You can also tap the star on the expanded map to save it to your favorites.
On the minimized map, you can long swipe left to delete a translation, or swipe left briefly and click “Delete”. With this short swipe to the left you also get the “Favorite” button. So you have two options for doing this. Actually three options, since you can also press the star button on a card on the “Translate” tab.
Favorites appear above your recent history, each under a separate section for language pairs. You can tap the star in the expanded map or swipe briefly on the minimized map and tap “Unfavorite” to remove it.
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