Translation Fun With iOS Shortcuts

Yes, maybe I have little too much free time on my hands.

Translation Fun With iOS Shortcuts

We moved to Jakarta for my wife's work about 10 days ago. I'm learning Indonesian slowly ("sedikit sedikit" as a local might say) on Duolingo. When it comes to being a bule trying to communicate here, I've learned a few things:

  • Many Indonesians know some English. But most don't know much English. Not a surprise. Thankfully everyone here is extremely friendly and patient as I try to communicate with them.
  • Cloud translation apps are fairly good at English-to-Indonesian translation, but not perfect. Again not a surprise.
  • As big as WhatsApp was in Switzerland, it's so very much bigger here. WhatsApp is SMS, group chat, and voice calling for the whole country.

Since I often end up communicating with locals via a combination of their English and my poor Indonesian, I decided to use Shortcuts in iOS to help me.

I've made a shortcut that translates my English text to Indonesian and then sends both my English text and the translated text where I want it to go. Then a local can use whatever English they know coupled with a machine translation to Indonesian to hopefully understand my bule self.

The steps:

  1. I write some English text in the excellent Drafts iOS application.
  2. I run a Drafts action called Translation With Original Text on my draft. (You need to be on a device with Drafts installed for that action link to work.)
  3. That action sends my English text to a shortcut that is also called Translation With Original Text. You need to be on an iOS device for that shortcut link to work.)
  4. The Translation With Original Text shortcut does several things:
  • The English text is run through Microsoft Translator in the cloud.
  • The shortcut creates a new block of text with my English text on top, a line separator, the separator text "Translation:" translated to Indonesian, and the translated Indonesian text on the bottom. It looks like this:

This an example of translated text.

I hope to not need translation help soon!



Ini contoh teks terjemahan.

Saya berharap untuk tidak perlu bantuan terjemahan segera!

  • The shortcut prompts me to send that new block of text to WhatsApp, Mail, iMessage, or the iOS clipboard.

This is coming in pretty handy while I work on my Indonesian. I've designed the shortcut to translate between any two languages easily. So feel free to use it in your own travels!

Main blog post image by Nick Fewings.