Machine Translation

How to Translate Text From a Photo or Video on Your iPhone

how to translate text with an iphone

An estimated 1 billion people use iPhones worldwide. This encompasses speakers of many different languages and travelers to all corners of the globe.

If you have an iPhone and you’re in a foreign country, you may find yourself wanting to translate a menu, road sign, set of instructions, or something else. But you may not know how to do it with just your iPhone’s camera.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ll tell you how to translate text from a photo or video on your iPhone in the sections below.

What You Need to Get Started

First off, you’ll want to make sure that your iPhone is actually capable of doing what we describe below. The only requirements are that you have at least iOS 15 for photos and at least iOS 16 for videos.

If your iPhone’s operating system meets those requirements, you’re all set. Keep reading to learn more.

If your iPhone doesn’t have a new enough operating system, don’t worry. You can just upgrade it to fix the problem. Simply tap on Settings -> General -> Software Update. Once the download finishes, you’ll be ready to proceed.

Translating Text From a Photo

iphone translation 1

(Image Courtesy of Apple)

Apple has made it super simple to translate text from an image with its newest operating system upgrades. Here are step-by-step instructions for doing it:

  1. Snap a picture of the thing that you want to translate
  2. Press down on the text to select it
  3. Drag the corners of the box to highlight all of the text you need to translate
  4. Tap the right arrow on the menu box that pops up to find the translate option
  5. Tap on translate

That’s it! Once you hit translate it should automatically pop up with the English language version of whatever you’re trying to understand.

Translating Text From a Video

The process for translating text from a video on your iPhone is almost exactly identical to what you’d do if you were translating text from a photo.


The only difference is that you need to pause your video on the frame where the text that you want to translate appears. For example, if your video shows a sign that you want to translate at the 10-second mark, you would need to pause at 10 seconds.


Once you’ve done that, you can follow the instructions from the picture section. Simply highlight the text and choose the Translate option and you’ll be all set.

Translating Text From a Live Image

iphone translation 2

iphone translation 2

(Image Courtesy of Apple)

You can also use this trick without taking a picture or video at all. The only thing you need to do is point your camera at whatever you want to be translated and wait until the live text button appears near the lower right corner of the frame.

How Accurate Are These Translations?

Apple’s iPhone translation app is good enough for basic use. If you want to translate a menu, a sign, or a simple set of instructions, it should be fine.

But if you’re looking to translate something more serious, like immigration papers or documents for work, you’re better off hiring a professional translator who can guarantee 100% accuracy for you.

Google Translate is No Longer Available in China – Here’s Why

google headquarters

google headquarters

It’s official – Google Translate is no longer available in Mainland China. That means if you’re an English speaker who plans on visiting the country soon, you’re going to need to find a new way to engage with the locals.

This article will tell you why Google Translate has been canceled in Mainland China and evaluate what it means moving forward. Let’s get started.

Google’s Tense Relationship with China

Google has had a tense relationship with the Chinese market for some time. In 2010, it discontinued its search engine in China due to the nation’s strict government censorship of online activities.

Other popular Google products, like Maps and Gmail, haven’t been officially banned from the country. But the Chinese government has effectively banned them in practice by making them impossible – or at least highly difficult – to use.

Now, one of Google’s last remaining functional products in Mainland China – Translate – is leaving the country as well.

Why Google Translate is No Longer Available in China

The official reason why Google Translate is leaving Mainland China is its low usage. The company says that its Translate tool isn’t getting enough engagement from users in China, so it doesn’t make sense to maintain and improve it from a developer allocation perspective.

Conspiracy theorists may suggest that there’s something else behind this decision that isn’t being talked about. However, the simplest explanation is often the right one, and that seems to be the case here.

The Chinese internet is dominated by large Chinese companies like Baidu and Tencent. These businesses (and others like them) account for the vast majority of Chinese internet usage in fields like search and translation.

Google’s presence in China is very limited nowadays. The company doesn’t have the same larger-than-life presence in Mainland China that it does in the United States, and so it’s rare for a Chinese citizen to choose Google Translate over a comparable service on a platform they’re already using on a daily basis.

What This Means for Google and China Moving Forward

Google Translate leaving Mainland China is another step towards Google leaving the country entirely. Some of the company’s phones are still made in China, but the company is shifting much of this production to places like Vietnam. That’s about all that the company has going for it in China – for at least the time being.

If a user in China attempts to access Google Translate, then they will be redirected to the company’s Hong Kong Translate tool. However, this is barred from use in Mainland China. So it’s effectively impossible to use Google Translate in China without circumventing the law.

China has clearly shown a preference for using Chinese-made products by companies from China. That means Google and many other tech giants in America may no longer have a role to play in the Chinese market.

The future is never 100% predictable. This could change if, for example, there is a change in the Chinese economy or government. But for now, it’s another step away from tech integration between China and the West.

Experts Warn of the Risks of Machine Translation

A recent article in Slate highlighted some of the largely unspoken risks associated with the rise of machine translation tools. They cite experts who talk about how machine translation can still lead to disastrous situations if used in the wrong contexts.

This article will highlight some of the concerns that experts have, talk about alternatives to machine translation, and think about what comes next for this field.

Let’s get started.

What are the risks of machine translation?

Machine translation tools are more widespread than ever. It’s never been easier to download one onto your phone and use it to order a cup of coffee or buy a book in a foreign country.

At the same time, companies like Meta and Google are investing millions into creating more powerful machine translation tools that can accurately account for the minute differences in languages and cultures.

But experts say that casual use cases like ordering in a restaurant are still all that machine translation tools should be used for. They warn of what could happen if these are relied on in more critical situations, such as with doctors and patients who don’t speak the same language or firefighters and policemen who are interacting with a person or family who doesn’t speak the language.

In these kinds of serious situations, every word matters. Even a slight miscommunication has the potential to lead to a disastrous outcome when machine translations are relied on in official contexts.

There was a 2014 UK-led study that brought some of these concerns to light when machine translation devices were used to communicate with sick children who didn’t speak English.

The results were often fine. But there were serious miscommunications in certain instances. For example, “Your child is fitting” in English was translated to “Your child is dead” in Swahili. This is just a sampling of the kinds of serious communication lapses that can occur with this technology.

When machine translation doesn’t work, what’s the alternative?

The ideal situation is to always use a professional translation service. A native translator can take the context and human intention into account to create a translation that is as accurate as possible.

But of course, hiring a dedicated translator won’t always be feasible. In those situations, it could make sense to employ a translation company that is able to quickly translate key documents and phrases into your target language with 100% accuracy.

Will machine translation ever become good enough for every use case?

Experts say that machine translation tools aren’t good enough for every use case just yet. But that doesn’t mean it will always be this way.

Companies are investing massive amounts of money into creating machine translation tools that are as accurate as possible. It’s certainly possible that one day, they will succeed in creating translation tools that are accurate enough to be used in every situation.

But until that day arrives, if you’ve got a serious situation in which you need a translation, you’ll be risking a lot of if you rely on machine translation.

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