How to see live captions and subtitles of your conversations in Skype

Get step-by-step instructions on how to view real-time captions and subtitles of your Skype calls in your native language or in a different language.

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Image: Microsoft

You're speaking to someone through a Skype video or an audio call, and you want to see live text of the conversation in real time—that's doable. Skype offers an option to display live captions and subtitles. With this helpful assist, you can view speech-to-text subtitles of your conversation as it progresses. To clarify, the feature doesn't show you the text of the things that you say—it displays live text of the other person's end of the conversation.

You can open a side panel to see a history of all the captions for the call. The live captions support both one-on-one and group calls. And the technology is capable of translating your words, so you can see the conversation in English (British English or American English), French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, or Russian.

Microsoft launched the live captions and subtitles in Skype in December 2018 to celebrate the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities; as such, the purpose of the feature is to help people who are deaf or have other hearing disabilities or limitations, though anyone can use the feature to enhance a Skype conversation.

This capability can also be helpful during calls where the audio isn't always comprehensible; however, the speech does need to be clear enough for the technology to understand it and convert it into text. As with any AI technology, don't expect 100% accuracy, but at least you should be able to pick up the gist of what the other person is saying through the live captions.

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The live captions and subtitles are available in Skype version 8 or higher for Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, and Linux. The visuals vary slightly depending on your operating system, but the process works the same across the board.

From any supported version of Skype, place an audio or video call. During the call, click the + button or tap the ellipsis icon. Select the option or flip the switch to Turn Subtitles On (Figure A).

Figure A

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As you speak, you should see a live transcription of what the other person is saying (Figure B).

Figure B

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Enabling live captions on your device displays text only of the other person's speech and only on your screen. If the person on the other end of the call wants to see your comments as live text, he or she needs to enable the subtitles as well (Figure C).

Figure C

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You can open a side panel to view a history of the captions for your conversation. To do this, tap or hover over the screen if the icons have disappeared. Tap or click the arrow above the live transcription. The side panel should appear with your caption history. To turn off the side panel, tap or click the X at the top of the panel (Figure D).

Figure D

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To turn off the live captions, click the + button or tap the ellipsis icon. Turn off the option or switch to Turn Subtitles On (Figure E).

Figure E

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You can enable live captions by default for all your Skype calls—this might be useful if you suffer from hearing problems and need this option on all the time. To do this, tap or click your profile picture. Select Settings. At the Settings screen, select Calling. At the Calling Settings screen, tap or click the option for Call Subtitles. At the Call Subtitles screen, turn on the switch to Show Subtitles For All Voice And Video Calls (Figure F).

Figure F

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You can change the language for the captions. At the Call Subtitles screen under Settings, click or tap the setting for Subtitle Language. Change the language to Italian, French, Spanish, or one of the others (Figure G).

Figure G

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The next time you enable subtitles during a call, the words will appear in the language you chose (Figure H).

Figure H

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By Lance Whitney

Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books—one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.