Google Translate: how to use it to translate any language

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Catherine Le Nevez

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Google Translate is probably the best known translation program out there, and with good reason. The tool includes a wide range of features and is constantly being improved, with Google always adding new options. Whether you're just getting started with Google Translate or you're a power user, this comprehensive list of tips and tricks will help you get the most out of the service.

What languages ​​are supported by Google Translate

As of November 2021, Google Translate supports 109 languages, including French, Spanish, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Icelandic, Malay, Nepali and Thai, to name a few. Although Google Translate can translate using multiple forms of text and media, these features are not supported by all languages. For example, voice input is limited to only 45 languages ​​from the list.

How to access Google Translate

The best way to try Google Translate (|) is via your mobile device, as it offers most of the features. However, there are some options that are only available in your browser.

Google Translate is also available in some web browsers as an extension. You can get it in (directly from Google) and, as well as in, although it's a bit more limited.

How to translate text with Google Translate

Being able to translate text easily is a key feature of Google Translate. Whether you are using your web browser on your PC or mobile device, the steps are quite similar.

On the desktop, go to the or you can just type something along the lines of "Translate to French" in the search bar to bring up a Google search box for you.

On mobile devices, open the app or use your browser to bring up the Google Translate window.

  • On the left side of the screen, manually select the language of origin or the language you wish to translate from.
  • It's your choice if you want to leave the default "Detect Language" and just paste or type the text. Google Translate will find out which language it is, but if you want to make sure it's correct, select the language yourself.
  • On the right side of the screen, select the target language , which is the language you are translating into.
  • Paste or type your text in the first box.
  • The translation should immediately appear in the box below.
  • Copy the translation by pressing the button below, then paste it anywhere, for example in a conversation you are having or in a Word document.

How to translate handwriting with Google Translate

On your mobile you can manually type the text you want to translate. Follow the instructions below:

  • Tap the pen icon under the target language.
  • A new window will appear below with the “Write here” prompt.
  • Use your finger to write in the source language (in this case, Spanish).
  • The translation should appear below in real time as you type the text.
  • Once the translation is complete, you can tap the speaker icon under the target language and have the sentences spoken.

This makes it extremely easy to ask questions when interacting with someone who doesn't speak your language. It could be a co-worker or someone you met on your travels abroad.

How to translate a speech in Google Translate

You may not know this, but it is possible that the translations are based only on your voice. Continuing from the example above, you could decipher what a foreigner you met on your travels says simply by asking him to speak near your phone. It's possible to use your voice as an input for a translation even if you're using Google Translate on your desktop, but the mobile alternative is much more useful.

  • Tap the Speaker button on the right.
  • Start speaking as clearly as possible in the source language. If nothing appears, press the "Speak Now" button in the center. The app will turn your speech into text.
  • Once the translation is displayed, clean up any errors that may have infiltrated.

You also have the option of transcribing on your mobile. Please note that Translate does not yet have the ability to transcribe into ANY language.

  • In the mobile Translator app, tap the Transcribe icon below the text box.
  • Select the speaker's language at the top left.
  • At the top right, select the translation language.
  • If you already have an audio recording ready, start playing it. The phone should automatically start translating the conversation. The results will be displayed immediately

How to translate images with Google Translate

You can also use images in Google Translate, with any text they might contain translated in seconds. This is another option that is only available on mobile devices. Again, it's a pretty valuable tool when you're traveling overseas and maybe you're trying to decipher text from a menu.

  • Open the Google Translate mobile app and tap the camera icon below the text box.
  • Take a picture or import one from your gallery.
  • If you selected the first option, the next step is to point the device at the text. The translation will appear superimposed on the original text.
  • The results are not always 100% accurate, meaning that some texts may escape translation. In this case, we recommend that you try pointing the camera at the lettering from a different angle.

How to translate documents in Google Translate

Google Translate can also translate documents for you. You can do this on your PC but not on your mobile.

  • Go to the Google Translate page on your desktop.
  • Click the "Documents" button at the top next to "Text"
  • The program can translate .doc, .docx, .odf, .pdf, .ppt, .pptx, .ps, .rtf, .txt, .xls and .xlsx. Press the "Browse your computer" button to upload the file.
  • Find the file and upload it.
  • Set the source language and target language, then click the "Translate" button
  • The translation will be displayed in the same tab. This is quite useful when doing research, for example when your only sources are in a foreign language that you don't know well.

Advanced Google Translate options

Interpreter mode

Interpreter mode allows you to translate conversations in real time. It is available on mobile devices (both Android and iOS) and can produce relatively accurate results with correct pronunciation.

The idea behind the Interpreter mode is to allow users to converse with people who speak different languages ​​in real time.

Have a conversation

To use the Interpreter mode, you need to use the Google Assistant, but if you don't feel like doing it, know that the Translate app allows you to start a conversation and translate your lines in real time.

  • In Google Translate, set the source and target language.
  • Tap the Conversation button.
  • A new tab will open dividing the screen in two.
  • Tap the microphone of the first language (in this case English) and start speaking. The translation in the target language will appear below
  • When it's time for the other participant to speak, tap the second language microphone to get the translation into the first language.

There is also an Auto mode which can identify spoken languages ​​automatically.

Use Google Translate in any app on your device

If you are using the Android app, there is no need to switch to the Translator app every time you are trying to translate some words. The app includes an option that allows you to easily translate from any other app on your phone. Here's how to activate it.

  • In the Translator app, tap the hamburger menu in the top left corner.
  • Select Settings.
  • Tap the “Tap to Translate” option at the top.
  • The option will run in the background by default, but you can choose to have a floating icon on the screen.
  • To start the translation process, open an app, such as WhatsApp.
  • Find the text you want to translate and copy it.
  • You will notice that a Google Translate icon is suspended at the top of the display. Tap it to see the translation. It's that easy.
  • You can write a reply in your language and copy / paste the translation into the conversation.

The feature also works offline, so you don't have to have an internet connection to use it.

Use Translate in offline mode

Speaking of offline mode, did you know that you can use Translate completely offline on your mobile device? You will need to do a few things in advance.

  • Open the Google Translate app on your device.
  • Tap the hamburger menu in the top left corner of the display.
  • Select the option "Offline Translation".
  • Select the languages ​​you want to translate into even when offline by tapping the download button next to them

That's all. You can now translate even when you don't have a working internet connection.

Use it as a dictionary

Google Translate can also act as a dictionary on your phone or desktop. Here's how to quickly access definitions right on your device.

  • In the Translator app or browser, tap the source language and select the "Detect language" option
  • Choose Spanish as the target language for definitions.
  • Type in a word and see its definition below.

Google Translate additional options

Switch to full screen

You may want to have your translations in full screen mode, which will make them significantly larger and easier to read. Note that you can only do this in the Translator mobile app.

  • After translating some text in the Translator app, find the box where the translated text appears and tap the three dots on the right.
  • Tap the Full Screen option.
  • The translated text will now cover the entire screen.

Block offensive words

If you're in the habit of handing the phone to your kids and want to make sure they're not trying to translate offensive words, you may want to enable this setting.

  • Open the Translator app on your phone.
  • Tap the hamburger menu in the top left corner.
  • Select Settings.
  • Select the "Voice Input" tab at the bottom.
  • Activate the option “Block offensive words” if it is not activated by default.

Your Translator app will now block offensive words as they appear in translations.

Manage your translation history

The Google Translate app allows you to easily delete the translation history. All you have to do is go to Settings, then hit the “Clear History” button that appears at the bottom.

On the desktop, the process is a little different. Find the History button at the bottom of the display, then tap it. Your previous translations will be shown on the right side of the display.

Click "Clear All History" to remove all your searches. Alternatively, you can remove individual queries by clicking on the three dots next to the item and selecting the "Remove from history" option.

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