You’re on a mission in a foreign land and need to translate a sign, menu, or even a conversation between you and a mysterious stranger. No problem. Your handy iPhone can act as a go-between with help from the right app. Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, Translator with Speech, SayHi Translate, and even Siri can handle translations between English and a wide variety of other languages. Let’s check them out.
The home screen for the free Google Translate app, which supports more than 100 languages, displays the source and target languages at the top. Just tap the name of each language if you wish to change either of them. You can then type, draw, or speak the words you want translated. You can also use a special Conversation mode to translate a real-time conversation between you and the other person.
If you typed or drew your words, tap the arrow next to the translation. Then tap the speaker icon to hear it read aloud. If you spoke the words, the translation automatically is read aloud. Just speak into the device, and Google Translate will translate it into your target language.
Google Translate Conversation Mode
To translate a real-time conversation, select your languages and tap the Conversation icon. Speak a sentence or phrase in your language. Wait for the translation. Then tap the icon for the other language so the other person can speak. Wait for the translation into your language. Continue this process for the rest of the conversation.
Google Translate Camera Mode
To translate a sign, menu, or other piece of text with Google Translate, aim your camera at the item, and the translation conveniently appears on the screen. You can give a star to a translation to save it, a handy option if you think you'll need to refer to it again. You can also download more than 50 different languages for offline translation. Just tap one of the languages at the top and then tap the Download icon for the language you wish to use offline.
Microsoft Translator is an effective tool, especially if you’re trying to carry on a conversation with someone else. At the app’s home screen, tap the microphone icon to speak, set your source and target languages, and speak a word, phrase, or more. Your words appear on the screen along with the translation. The app will automatically read the translation out loud. Here, you can also change the source and target languages.
If you type in a word or phrase, your text will appear on the screen along with your translation. Tap the speaker icon to hear the translation. You can also translate text written in a foreign language by aiming your camera at the object. Snap a picture, and the app displays the translation on the screen.
Microsoft Translator's Messaging Feature
The Microsoft Translator app comes with a cool messaging feature for conversing with other people who use the app. By sharing a code with other users, you can initiate a messaging session in Microsoft Translator. The app will automatically translate both sides of the conversation, allowing those who don’t speak the same language to understand one another.
Microsoft Translator's Translation Guide
You can download an array of languages to translate text and images offline. A handy phrase book provides common phrases and their translations for categories like travel, lodging, dining, health, and emergency. You can easily view a recent history of all translations and pin certain translations to access them more easily. The app handles text translations of more than 60 languages and speech translations of 11 languages.
Translator with Speech
The free Translator with Speech app can translate a variety of languages via text, camera, or voice. Choose your source and target languages. Speak your text or type it and then submit it to allow the app to translate it. The app then displays your text with the translation and reads the translation out loud. You can also translate text by taking a picture with your camera. The app may ask you to highlight the text on the item for which it then displays a translation.
You can carry on a conversation with someone simply by flipping the source and target languages back and forth. The free version requires you to make in-app purchases to get voice recognition for all languages and use the app ad-free. For $0.99, a Pro version includes the voice recognition and dispenses with the ads.
The free SayHi Translate app handles text and voice translation, so it's an ideal choice for conducting a conversation. Fire up SayHi and choose your source and target languages. Type or speak, and the translation appears and is read aloud. Kudos to this app for the way it handles a back-and-forth conversation. You can first display a message to the other person in a specific language to explain that you’re going to use the app to carry on a conversation. Then tap the icon for your language and speak. The translation displays and is read by the app. Tap the icon for the other language. Your conversation companion then speaks in his or her language, and you hear the translation in your own language.
If you're running iOS 11 or higher, you can use Apple's digital voice assistant Siri for translation help. Activate Siri by either pressing the Home button or the side button depending on your device or by tapping on Siri's virtual shoulder by saying: "Hey Siri." Now say the word or phrase you want Siri to translate followed by the target language. For example, say "How do you say 'restaurant' in Russian?" Siri displays your question, your spoken word or phrase, and then the translation. The voice assistant also pronounces the translation so you know how to say it yourself. You can tap the Play button next to the translation to hear it again and again.
If for some reason, Siri misunderstood your question, tap any area in the question itself. You can then correct the error and tap Done to resubmit your question.
Translate a Phrase
You can ask Siri to translate phrases. Try "How do you say 'where is the nearest art museum' in Russian?" In response, Siri displays your phrase and the translation and pronounces the translated phrase.
Alternate Translation Commands
You can alter your query by saying something like "Translate 'I would like to order the borscht’ in Russian."
Better Translation Commands
Siri may get perplexed trying to parse your query if you include a phrase within an overall question. How does Siri know where your phrase ends? In this case, you may get better results by splitting your query into two sentences. Say "Hey Siri, translate into Portuguese." Siri then asks what you’d like translated. Speak your phrase, such as "Please take me to the airport," and Siri provides the translation.
After you ask Siri to translate a phrase into a particular language, Siri continues in that tongue. So you don't have to continually specify the language. Say "Hey Siri, how do you say 'Please bring me some water' in Portuguese." Siri responds. You can then say things like "Say 'May I have a new fork?'" or "Say 'I’d like to see your wine list please,'" and Siri continues to respond with translations in the same language.
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