How to translate text and speech on iPhone

Apple’s latest iPhone operating system iOS 14 is here now and it brings a really useful translation feature that will make it easier to communicate with people who speak different languages as well as read text that isn’t in English.

The new Apple Translate app arrived with iOS 14. As the name suggest, this is a translation program that allows users to converse with people in 11 different languages, even offline.

In contrast to many other translators, Apple’s Translate app can process spoken texts as well as typed ones: in landscape format you can see a view in which the application automatically recognises your spoken language and translates what was said into the desired target language.

So how does it work? We take a look at how to use Apple Translate in iOS 14.

Translate App Features

Which languages are supported

At launch, Apple offers the ability to download 11 languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

With some of these languages you can download the library so that you can perform translations offline – which will be helpful if you are on holiday (translation: vacation if you are speaking American English) and don’t have a data connection. More on downloading languages to use offline below.

How to find the new Apple Translate app

You may not even know that the new Translate app is installed on your iPhone. Here’s how to locate it:

You will need to be running iOS 14. We explain how to get iOS 14 here. We also run through what you need to know about iOS 14 here.

  1. Drag down from the top of your iPhone (start from a little way down the screen) and you will open a screen that features a search bar.
  2. Start typing in Translate. Before you finish typing the Translate app icon will appear (alongside any other Translate apps, such as Google Transate if you have them installed).

The Apple app is a black square with a globe.

Apple Translate App

How to use the Translate app

Now that you have found Apple’s Translate app, here’s how to use it:

You can use the Translate app in portrait of landsape mode. The options available are slightly different depending on which mode you are in.

  • In the portrait mode, the display is split into different sections, with the upper section showing the current languages you’re translating between, then the phrase and its translation, and a bottom section where you can tap to enter more text or access the microphone button so you can record a phrase to translate.Portrait view
  • The landscape mode focuses on the microphone as the means to input text and has an attention mode that you might prefer to use if you are conversing with someone.Landscape view

Here’s how to translate using Apple’s Translate app

The first time you use the app you will need to approve or reject a few settings, such as whether you want to Improve Siri & Dictation (you don’t have to do this).

  1. The app will open in your first language (you can switch from US English to UK English – just tap in the first tab and switch to the version that is right for you).
  2. Now choose the second language, e.g. German.
  3. Now you can enter the text you wish to translate. Either hold the iPhone in portrait mode and type in the text you want to translate in your language, or you can use the mic – skip to step 7 if that’s what you want to do.
  4. After typing (or cutting and pasting) your text tap Go.Translate typed text
  5. You will see your phrase and the equivalent phrase in the other language.
  6. If you want to type in another phrase then tap where it says Enter text and you can type in your next phrase.Enter next translation
  7. Alternatively you can use the mic icon to enter the phrase you wish to translate. You should see the mic icon, but if you don’t then switch to landscape mode and you will see it. Tap the mic icon and it will listen to what you say, transcribe it, and will read the phrase back to you in the other language so you can either repeat what you heard or play that to the other person.How to use Mic to translate
  8. If you want to repeate the phrase again tap on the play symbol.
  9. If you want to show the other person the phrase you can tap on the expand icon in the bottom left – this will mean the translation takes up the whole screen with a blue background (known as Attention Mode).Show the translation
  10. Just tap on the speach bubble icon in the bottom left again to return to the input screen.

Tip: If you want to show the phrase to the other person switch the iPhone into Landscape mode and tap on the two arrows on the bottom right. This will open Attention Mode. There is a play button here that you can tap to play the phrase to them.

How to correct the Translate app if it get’s what you said wrong

Apple’s getting better at interpreting what you say correctly as Siri has improved over the years, but it still gets things wrong from time to time. What if it get’s what you want it to transcribe wrong?

  • To correct the phrase just tap on the transcription of the phrase and you will be able to correct it.

This is an easy way to slighlty alter a phrase if the person doesn’t seem to understand the translation.

How to use Apple Translate via Siri

You can also translate phrases via Siri without even opening the Translate app.

Ask Siri to translate

If you want to translate a phrase using Siri trigger Siri on your iPhone here’s what to do:

  1. Press and hold the home button, or the side button, or if you have set up Hey Siri just say “Hey Siri”.
  2. You will see an animation indicating that Siri is listening.
  3. Ask Siri “Please translate this phrase for me”.
  4. Siri will reply “sure, translate into which language” and it will show you the languages to choose from.Choose language
  5. Select the language you wish to use.
  6. Now Siri will ask what phrase you wish to translate. Speak the phrase.
  7. Siri will then provide you with the text for the phrase as well as speak the phrase in that language.Siri Translation
  8. If you want to listen again tap on the play button.
  9. To translate more phrases you can tap on the box where the phrase appears and the Apple Translate app will open.

Alternatively just say: “Hey Siri translate: ‘How much does this cost’ into German” and it should do so (as long as the language is supported).

How to see the phrases I have translated

If you want to go back to a phrase you recently translated you can do so by tapping on Favourites (bottom right of the Translate app screen).

Here you will find your Recents, which are the phrases you most recently asked the app to translate.

How to ‘Favourite’ a phrase

If there are certain phrases you want to be able to use again and again you can Favourite them. Locate the phrase in your recent phrases (as above, just tap on Favourite).

When you tap on the phrase it will enlarge. You will see a star appear on the left. Tap on the star to Favourite it.

Favourite a phrase

Now whenever you open Favourites you will see these phrases at the top of the list.

How to use Conversation mode in Apple Translate

It’s great that you can just use Siri, but using the Apple Translate app itself has a lot of benefits. One of the most useful features is the Conversation mode.

In Conversation mode you and the other person can hold a conversation in your own languages, with the iPhone acting like a translator.

For this to work the iPhone needs to know that it should detect the language being used (or it will only translate what it hears from English, or the default language).

  1. Open the Translation app.
  2. Tap on the default language button.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the list and make sure that Automatic Detection is on. When this is on the Translate app will automatically detect which of the two languages is being spoken.Automatically detect language
  4. When the first person is ready to speak they tap the mic and speak.
  5. The iPhone will provide the translation in the other language.
  6. Now tap the microphone icon again and the second person speaks in their language. The iPhone should recognise their language and will translate it back into English.

You can see the whole thread of your phrases and their translations across your conversation. This means you can scroll back to see what you’ve already said without needing to do the translation again.

How to use Apple Translate offline

Sometimes you’ll want to use the Translate in an area where there may not be a Wi-Fi or cellular connection.

For those occasions there’s the on-device mode, which allows you to download language packs so that all the work is done on the iPhone and not on a network.

Obviously, you’ll need to download the language packs before you leave the network-covered area, but once it’s done, you’re free to roam with all the words you need in your iPhone.

  1. To download the language pack tap on the target language. e.g. German.
  2. Scroll down past All Languages to the Available Offline Languages.Download languages
  3. Find the language you wish to download and tap on the arrow to download it.
  4. If you later wish to delete the language pack (to save space) then swipe from right to left on it and choose Delete.

We also have a round up of the best translation apps for iPhone here.

You may also be interested in How to translate web pages on the iPhone, iPad and Mac.

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