Typing multilingual messages to friends and family overseas has just got much easier on iOS, thanks to a Gboard update that adds real-time translation to Google’s free keyboard app. Built-in Google Translate – which instantly translates your words as you type – has finally been added to Gboard for iOS (Gboard – the Google Keyboard), two years after it arrived in the app’s Android version (Gboard – the Google Keyboard).

If you’ve never used it, or you hadn’t realised it was available on Android, here’s a quick primer. Launch the keyboard then tap the multi-coloured G icon followed by the Google Translate icon (ringed in our screenshot below left), then OK. Google automatically detects which language you’re using, but you can select a source language from the top-left drop-down menu if you prefer.

Now use the top-right drop-down menu to choose a target language from a list of 103 (and counting) – everything from Afrikaans to Zulu, via Yiddish, Welsh and even Esperanto. Your choice is saved at the top for easier access next time. Then start typing. You can even paste text from your clipboard for instant conversion.

As well as the real-time translation feature, Gboard can help you compose messages in another language. Choose any source language to get a special keyboard layout – for example one containing German characters such as 6, as well as auto-correct and predictive text in that language.

Gboard’s real-time translation does gobble up mobile data, so it’s a good idea to download languages for using offline while you’re travelling. You’ll need to do this via the main Google Translate app (Android Google Translate; iOS Google Translate). Find a language in the list then tap the arrow to download it, ideally over Wi-Fi (language files are around 50MB apiece). Find out more about offline translation at Languages to use offline (click Android or ‘iPhone & iPad’).

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