For many of us, Siri is our go-to when we need to know the answer to a quick question or want to set a timer. But did you know that Siri can also act as your personal translator? With Siri translation, you can quickly and easily translate phrases into multiple languages without ever having to leave your conversation.
Using Siri Translate, you can speak your words and phrases and see them translated into languages that include English, Mandarin, Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Korean, Arabic, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.
Translation has been possible using Apple devices for several years, but recent iOS updates have introduced – then subsequently beefed up – the Translate app.
In this guide, we show you how to:
- Convert phrases into another language using Siri Translate.
- Learn more about translated words with the dictionary.
- Use conversation mode to translate lengthy exchanges on the fly.
- View translations in full screen.
- Save translated phrases as favorites.
- Use the camera to translate images and text.
- Translate text in other apps.
- Download language packs so you can translate without an internet connection.
How to use the Siri Translate app
Introduced in iOS 14, the Translate app is a nifty little tool that allows you to hold conversations, translate images and selected text, and save language packs to your device for offline usage.
If the Translate app isn’t already on your iPhone, download it from the App Store.
When the Translate app is installed, Siri will automatically use it to process your translation requests.
To start a translation, you need to activate Siri:
- Press and hold the Side/Home button until Siri appears.
- Say “Hey Siri”.
Read more about how to set up and use Siri on your iPhone.
Simply say what you want to be translated. Your iPhone will convert your words into the language specified in your request. For example, say:
Hey Siri, translate ‘what is your name’ into Spanish.
Siri will speak the translation in the language you defined and display a text notification on your iPhone screen.
Tap the play icon next to the translation to hear it spoken out loud again by Siri. This is useful if you want to learn how to pronounce a phrase or play it directly to the person you’re speaking with.
To do even more, tap on the notification to open your translated phrase in the Translate app.
The Translate app screen
The top half of the app screen shows your current language settings, the dictated phrase, and its translation. Tap on the down-arrows to select new languages manually.
A play button on the right is for listening to the phrase again, with full screen and save favorite buttons on the left – more on those later.
In the bottom part of the screen, tap on the microphone to dictate a new phrase, or tap ’Enter text’ to type the phrase in manually using the iPhone keyboard.
Tap the settings button to choose if you want translations to be read out and the language of spoken words to be detected automatically.
Learn more about translated words with the Dictionary
Tap on a word, and a dictionary will pop up, providing additional definitions and sample usage of the word you selected.
How to use Conversation mode
Conversation mode displays a thread of your phrases and their translations across a given conversation. This can help track what’s already been said in a lengthy exchange.
Before using conversation mode, tap on the Conversation tab at the bottom of the screen. Then, tap on the three dots to the right of the microphone button to see the available settings.
The settings are:
Play Translations: Siri will read out translations when they are displayed.
Auto Translate: Neither person has to interact with the screen to get their part of the conversation translated.
Detect Language: Siri will automatically detect the language being spoken and translate it appropriately.
We recommend selecting all three options for the best experience when translating.
To begin a conversation, simply speak to each other; Siri will determine who is talking in which language and display the thread on the screen.
By default, your conversation is shown in Side by Side mode, but by tapping on the button to the left of the microphone, it can be changed to Face to Face. This is an excellent option if you’re holding a conversation with someone in front of you, like at a hotel reception desk.
How to view a translation in full screen
Tap on the translated text for even more options.
The two arrows pointing away from each other open your text in full-screen mode, with larger text on a darker background.
This feature is helpful for showing a translated message to someone else, such as a taxi driver, when you could use it to ask to be taken to an address.
Tap the white play icon on the right to hear Siri read the text aloud, and the speech bubble icon on the left to return to conversation mode.
How to save favorite phrases
You can save translated phrases as Favorites, which is handy if you’re likely to say the same expression repeatedly.
To save a favorite, tap on the star icon below the translation.
View your favorites by tapping the Favorites tab at the bottom of the app screen.
A list of your most recent translations is also shown underneath saved favorites. If you want to keep any of them, swipe left on the phrase and tap on the star icon to add them to your favorites list permanently.
To delete a favorite, swipe left and tap Delete.
How to use the camera to translate images and text
Camera is handy for translating written text, such as signs, paperwork, and restaurant menus.
- Tap on the Camera tab at the bottom of the app screen.
- Make sure you’ve selected the languages you want to translate the text from and to.
- Point your camera at the text, making sure it’s in focus.
- Tap on the round shutter button to take a photo of the text.
Translate will convert all text in the image to the language you chose. Use the icons on the left and right of the shutter-release button to save the image to the Photos app, or share it.
How to translate text in other apps
You can select any text to translate in apps such as Mail, Messages, Safari, and supported third-party apps. When you enter text on your iPhone, you can even replace what you wrote with a translation on the fly.
Select the text you want to translate, then tap Translate. If you don’t see a translate option in the dialogue, swipe left or tap the right arrow until it appears.
A notification will pop up displaying the translated text.
Below the text translation, you can choose to do any of the following:
- Replace with Translation: Replace your original text with the translated version – this is only available when entering text.
- Copy Translation: Copy the translation to paste it elsewhere.
- Change Language: Switch to a different language for the translation.
- Add to Favorites: Add the translation to your favorites.
- Open in Translate: Opens the translation in the Translate app.
- Listen to Original Text: Tap more, then tap the gray Play button to listen to the original text.
- Listen to Translated Text: Tap the blue Play button to listen to the translated text.
How to use Siri Translate offline with downloaded languages
For those occasions when you want to use Siri Translate and have no internet connection, there’s the on-device mode. This feature allows you to download language packs and access translation features when an internet connection isn’t available.
To download a language for offline use:
- Tap on one of the down arrows next to the ‘to’ and ‘from’ languages at the top of the screen.
- Scroll down to the bottom of the list and tap on Manage Languages.
- You’ll be presented with a list of languages you can download; tap the download icon next to the language you wish to save on your iPhone.
When a language is downloaded, translations are processed on your device, and no information is sent to Apple servers.
Siri is a truly impressive tool that can make our lives a whole lot easier. The next time you’re in need of a quick translation, don’t hesitate to ask Siri for help.
Setting up Siri Translate (iOS 13 and below)
Initially, translate only works with Siri’s default language preferences set to English (United States).
Thankfully, subsequent updates have enabled translation for many more localized languages, such as English (United Kingdom). So if you find Siri translate doesn’t work with your default settings and want to try it out, you’ll need to set the language to English (United States).
- Open Settings on your device.
- Navigate to Siri & Search.
- Under Language, select English (United States).
How to use Siri Translate in IOS 13 and below
- Activate Siri by holding down the side/home button or saying “Hey Siri”.
- Speak the phrase you want to translate, preceded by “how do I say” or “translate” followed by the language you want it translated to.
Hey Siri, how do I say ‘where is the nearest hotel’ in German?
Hey Siri, translate ‘I would like to book a table for two at your restaurant please’ into French.
Siri will respond by reading out the translation and displaying the text on the screen. To play the audio again, press the play button at the bottom right of the translation.
You can also follow up on your initial translation request by asking for the same phrase in another language.
For example, while the results screen is still displayed, say:
Siri will then update the audio and refresh the written phrase.
Despite a few limitations, translation using Siri is accurate and well-implemented. As long as Apple continues to add additional languages and include reverse translation in the future, it can only grow in usefulness.