Scan, translate and communicate with the world in 2023

There are around 7,000 languages spoken on our planet. That’s a lot by any standard – and it’s not often you’ll meet someone who speaks more than just a few. But new translation technology means that anyone can communicate in just about any language.


      OK, translation software isn’t as accurate as a trained, native-speaking human translator, but it’s certainly now good enough to get you by… and some of it does that very well. There are software solutions that translate the text you enter, software that translates the spoken word and even software that allows you to scan, translate and communicate. So, how does software that can scan and translate work and how do you use it?

      How does software scan and translate?

      Machine translation, as opposed to human translation, has been around for a few decades now. It has come a long way but invariably requires you to either type or speak to input your source material, which is then translated into your target language. The other option for inputting your source material is to upload a digital file created in a recognised format.

      But, what happens if the text you want to translate isn’t in a recognised format such as .doc, .txt, .html or .rtf? What if it’s part of an image file, perhaps a .jpg, .png, .bmp or an image-based .pdf?

      Software that scans text and translates it when it’s formatted as an image file is now widely available and it’s pretty simple to use.

      In the past, images containing text had to be scanned in the usual way. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software was then used to recognise letters and convert them into readable, translatable text. This process was prone to considerable errors. Smudges and marks on the original file might be recognised by OCR as letters, making the output text nonsense. Run nonsense through your machine translation software and, you guessed it, the output translation was guaranteed to be nonsense too.

      Thankfully, software is far more advanced these days and the scanning, OCR and translation can be carried out by one software tool. Not only are the resulting translations more accurate, it’s also a much easier and quicker process. There are even mobile apps that can scan and translate. However, in this post, we’re going to stick to examples of software for PC, Mac and online translations.

      Machine translate your text using the latest, secure technology.

      Scan and translate for PC with Microsoft Translate

      Good old Microsoft… As you’d expect, it has a solution that enables you to scan and translate your text. Microsoft Translate is available as either a smartphone app or for use with Windows 10. It can translate straight text, speech, whole web pages and images at the click of a button.

      To translate text in an image file using Microsoft Translate:

      • Click the ‘Translate’ tab inside the app.
      • Select ‘Image’.
      • Select the language of the text within the photo and your required target language.
      • Click ‘Open’ and upload an image file (.gif, .jpg or .png).
      • The translation is automatically generated and appears on the right.

      Price: Free for personal use; various prices for business use with a free trial included.

      Scan and translate for Mac

      Never to be outdone by Microsoft, Apple also has scan and translate solutions. One of the easiest ways to extract text from an image and translate it on a Mac is to use the Live Text tool. Live Text is the most recent feature in iOS 15, macOS Monterey and iPadOS 15. There are also workarounds that enable you to use Live Text with older Mac operating systems, which you can read about here.

      To translate text in an image file using Live Text:

      • Select the text.
      • ‘Control-Click’ the text and choose ‘Translate’.
      • Select your target language (if you don’t select a target language, your Mac will translate it to your preferred language).

      You can even click the ‘Play’ icon to listen to the translation or click ‘Copy Translation’ to add it to your clipboard.

      Scan and translate online

      If you’d rather use online software to scan and translate and communicate with speakers of other languages, there are plenty of options to choose from, such as ImageTranslate.

      Online scan and translate solutions use machine translation software, such as Google Translate, to translate text detected using inbuilt OCR tools. For the user, the process is seamless and straightforward.

      The take-away

      Machine translations of any sort aren’t as accurate as translations carried out by flesh-and-bone human beings. Even the most advanced Artificial Intelligence isn’t yet able to cope with the nuances that are commonly found even in different dialects of the same language.

      If you need your translations to be pinpoint accurate, take our advice and opt for a human translator. This is particularly the case for business needs where there is no room for misunderstandings.

      And finally… Don’t forget data security issues

      As mentioned, software that can scan and translate text from images uses machine translation. Many third-party machine translation solutions, such as Google Translate, offer very limited data security.

      The options we’ve covered in this post are quick and easy ways to scan, translate and use content quickly within the same software platform. However, it’s still possible to use standard OCR software to extract the text from an image file and then use a secure machine translation solution to translate. If confidentiality is important to you or your business, make sure you use a secure translation tool like Semantix solution for machine translation.

      If you need help choosing a translation solution that’s right for your business, our language experts are always happy to help.