How to use Apple's Translate app to translate a real-time conversation

You can use the app on your iPhone (or iPad) to carry on a back-and-forth conversation with someone speaking a different language.

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You're trying to talk with someone who speaks a foreign language and you could use a good translator program. Apple's mobile Translate app can help, especially with the latest features. Courtesy of iOS/iPadOS 15, the Translate app on your iPhone or iPad can more effectively assist you when carrying on a back-and-forth conversation.

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After choosing each language, you can use Auto Translate to avoid pressing the microphone button over and over. You can also opt to hear the translation after each sentence or phrase. And you can position your iPhone so you and the other person either face the screen from the same angle or face it from different angles. Here's how it works.

First, make sure you're running iOS/iPadOS 15 or higher on your device. Go to Settings and then General and select Software Update. You'll be told that your OS is up to date or prompted to install the latest update.

Now, let's say you want to conduct a conversation with someone using two different languages. Apple's Translate app comes with iOS and iPadOS, though you can also download it from the App Store. Open the app. Tap the language on the left and change it if necessary. Do the same with the language on the right (Figure A).

Figure A

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Tap the icon for Conversation and then tap the three-dot circle. Here, you can enable or disable three settings. Play Translations speaks the translation for each side of the conversation so you hear the translated words. Auto Translate automatically translates each person's speech without you having to tap the microphone icon each time. And Detect Language automatically determines which language is being spoken (Figure B).

Figure B

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Next, decide how each of you wants to see the conversation and translation. Tap the square icon with the two black boxes. With Side By Side mode, you each look at the screen from the same view or angle. With Face To Face mode, you both look at the screen from opposite angles. Choose which of the two options works better based on how you and the other person are positioned (Figure C).

Figure C

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Hold or place your device in a comfortable spot and then tap the microphone icon to start talking. If you enabled the Auto Translate and Detect Language options, then one person should be able to speak and wait for the translation. Then the other person can speak. Keep in mind that no translation app is 100% perfect, so there will likely be mistakes and inaccuracies, but the app should be able to handle the gist of the conversation (Figure D).

Figure D

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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.