Rita El Khoury / Android Authority
Since moving to Paris, I have loved traveling around Europe and getting lost in another culture and language. I speak French, so some Latin languages like Spanish and Italian are relatively easier to parse. Trying to communicate face to face in another language is often a fun experience, but all that joy gets thrown out the window when I have to call someone in advance to book or schedule something.
People are less patient on phone calls – myself included – and it’s incredibly difficult to tell someone to wait while I figure out how to use Google Translate and handle the call at the same time. I’ve tried Google’s Pixel Live Caption for phone calls, but it only helps me understand what the other person is saying. This does not translate my words to them.
Samsung Live Translate for phone calls works offline and regardless of the phone the other person is using, even a landline.
Enter Samsung’s new live translation feature on the Samsung Galaxy S24 series. This new Galaxy AI option works directly in the phone app and handles translations on the fly for me and the person I’m speaking to. This works regardless of what phone the other person is using, even if it’s a landline, and doesn’t require a network connection. Everything happens locally over the phone.
But is this correct? Can you chat on Galaxy S24 with Live Translate enabled? How well does it handle different languages and local slang? I spent some time making calls in French and English and then tried to book dinner at a Spanish restaurant in Barcelona; here are my findings.
Have you ever tried using translation during a phone call?
Live translation on Galaxy S24: Languages, options, settings
Live Translate for phone calls is not enabled by default. You need to open the Phone app, go to Settings > Live Translation to activate it. Once turned on, it will appear during phone calls.
But since you are here, you should check all other settings. You will be able to choose your language, choose one of two voices, change the speaking speed and mute your own voice so that the other person only hears the translation and not your original message. The same settings are there for your callee.
It’s weird to choose default languages in advance, but you can always change them by contact or call.
I found it odd to have to choose the other’s language so early; after all, I could talk to people from different countries and in different languages. But Samsung has thought about it carefully. You can assign different language combinations for specific contacts, you can also change the language on the fly during the call.
Samsung supports 12 languages with a few different local variations for live translation of phone calls:
- English (US, UK, India)
- Spanish (Spain, Mexico, United States)
I also recommend that you press the More advanced intelligence features and remember to activate the Process data only on the device setting. This affects all features of Samsung’s Galaxy AI and will ensure your data stays local if you care about your privacy.
I tested live translation for phone calls with the setting on and off and with data/Wi-Fi on and off, all with the same results. So Samsung seems to be sticking to its guns here and keeping this specific local AI feature. Others, like the S24’s generative photo editing, don’t even work when you choose local-only processing.
For me, the choice is rather simple. I don’t need to frequently make phone calls to people in other languages, so I enable server-side processing most of the time. When I need to make a call, I switch to local processing only to add a little more security. This doesn’t seem necessary because Samsung handles this locally by default, but the placebo effect is real.
How well does the Galaxy S24 translate live phone calls?
In general, very good. This is a pretty impressive AI feature implemented where we need it.
You’ll have to trigger it manually, which takes away the “intelligence” part of the artificial intelligence, but I guess Samsung didn’t want people to be surprised by an unexpected translation in the middle of a call. Press the Call assistance button, then choose Live translation to launch it, and it won’t actually fire until you start speaking.
This new screen will allow you to change languages on the fly or stop the translation if you’re done with it. Obviously, you can return to the main call screen to change the audio output, raise the keypad, or mute yourself.
The translation is almost perfect if you speak clearly. In my testing, English (US) provided virtually perfect translations into French. He managed contractions like “I have to,” “It’s not,” and “I’m going to.” It worked when I spoke faster and slower. It’s a bit expected. Nowadays, every language-dependent feature, and especially any AI feature based on large language models, has the largest training dataset in American English.
Live translation works great for English, but struggles with slang in other languages.
Other languages may not be so lucky, although I expected more from real AI translation. Things went well when I spoke official French (screenshots above), although it’s worth noting that he chose to translate my callee’s “vous” into French “vous” more formal.
When I started adding some very, very well-known slang words into Verlan, the translation engine didn’t know what to do with it (screenshots below). “Meuf” became “moov”, “venère” was taken literally to mean “worship” and “chelou” remained as is. They’re not the most underground words either. Here, everyone knows them, and “meuf” is already part of the Petit Larousse dictionary. I expect any half-intelligence, artificial or real, who speaks French to know that it means “woman.”
The valid counterpoint to this is that if you’re speaking to someone in a completely different language, chances are you don’t know them very well. So you’ll probably appreciate more formal forms of a pronoun and speak in more formal language. I wouldn’t use Verlan to book a restaurant in another country for example.
Enough testing, does it work with strangers?
People are less patient with phone calls, as I mentioned earlier. Some will hear an AI voice and remove themselves from the call. A Spanish restaurant hung up on me when I started translating and the intro message played to let them know the call is translated.
Unfortunately, neither Samsung nor I can do anything about this. Google already has the same problem with Assistant call filtering on Pixels. If the other person doesn’t want to talk to a machine, they won’t talk to a machine.
It doesn’t help that the translation doesn’t start until you’ve finished speaking. You must therefore speak, wait for the translation, wait for the other to speak, then listen to their translation.
You can’t force strangers to talk to a machine, but if they’re patient and willing, it’s a fantastic use of technology.
But if everyone is patient enough and waits, the back and forth goes pretty much smoothly and it’s very rewarding to be able to talk without any language barriers. A great use of technology. Another Spanish restaurant laughed at the live translation and was a little impressed by it. They took my reservation without problem.
Having control over speaking speed and knowing whether or not you hear the original sentences is also helpful. I keep coming back to the fact that this is an AI feature designed for real people and real use cases. I love it when complex technology simplifies real-world situations and this is one of them.
In a future version, however, I would like to see Samsung offer faster translation. Live translation should be “live” by definition, not delayed, so it should start after I’ve spoken five or six words, instead of waiting until I’ve finished several sentences before starting. This might help more people accept it.