The Google Translate Guide for Easy Communication in Any Language

Google Translate Guide Featured

Google Translate is probably the most well-known translation program out there – and with good reason. The tool encompasses 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 are a seasoned user, this comprehensive list of tips and tricks will help you get the most out of the service.

As of November 2021, Google Translate supports 109 languages, including French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Icelandic, Malay, Nepali, and Thai, just to name a few. While Google Translate can translate using multiple forms of text and media, these features aren’t supported by all languages. For instance, voice input is limited to only 45 languages from the list.

How to Get Access to Google Translate

The best way to experience Google Translate (Android | iOS) is through your mobile device, as it brings the most features. Nevertheless, 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 Chrome (directly from Google) and Firefox, as well as in Opera, although it’s a bit more limited in scope.

How to Translate Text with Google Translate

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

On desktop, navigate to the Google Translate page or you can simply write something along the lines of “Translate in French” in the search bar to have a Google Search box show up for you.

Google Translate Guide Open Translate In Browser

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

  1. On the left side of the screen, manually select the source language or the language you wish to translate from.
  2. It’s your choice whether you want to leave the default “Detect language” on and simply paste or type in your text. Google Translate will figure out which language this is, but if you want to make sure it gets it right, select the language yourself.
  3. On the right side of the screen, select the target language, i.e. the language you are translating to.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Set Languages
  1. Paste or type your text in the first box.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Start Typing Results Copy
  1. The translation should immediately appear in the box below.
  2. Copy the translation by pressing the button underneath, then paste it anywhere – for instance, into a conversation you’re having or in a Word document.

How to Translate Handwriting with Google Translate

On mobile you can manually write the text you want translated. Follow the instructions below:

  1. Tap on the Pen icon underneath the target language.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Write Text
  1. A new window with the prompt “Write here” will appear underneath.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Write Here
  1. Use your finger to write in the source language (in this case, English).
Google Translate Guide Mobile Translation In Real Time Manual Input
  1. The translation should appear below in real time as you write the text.
  2. Once the translation is complete, you can tap the Speaker icon underneath the target language and have the phrases spoken.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Voice Pronounciation

This makes it super easy to ask questions when engaging with someone who doesn’t speak your language. It could be a colleague at work or someone you met during your travels abroad.

How to Translate Speech in Google Translate

You might not know this, but it’s possible to have translations rely on your voice only. Continuing from the example above, you could decipher what a foreigner you’ve met during your travels is saying simply by asking them to talk near your phone. It’s possible to use your voice as input for a translation even if you’re using Google Translate on your desktop, but the mobile alternative is much more useful.

  1. Tap the Speaker button on the right.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Speaker Icon
  1. Start talking as clearly as possible in the source language. If nothing appears, press the “Speak now” button in the middle. The app will transform your speech into text.
  2. Once the translation appears, edit out any mistakes that may have slipped in.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Speak Now

On mobile, you also have the option to transcribe. Just note that Translate doesn’t yet have the option to transcribe in ANY language.

  1. In the mobile Translate app, tap on the Transcribe icon underneath the text box.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Transcribe
  1. Select the speaker’s language in the top left.
  2. In the top right, select the translation language.
  3. If you already have an audio recording ready, start playing it. Your phone should automatically start to translate the conversation. The results will show up immediately.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Live Transcribtion

How to Translate Images with Google Translate

You can also use images in Google Translate, with any text they might contain translated within seconds. This is another option only available on mobile. Once again, it’s quite a valuable tool when you’re traveling abroad and perhaps looking to decipher text from a menu.

  1. Open the mobile Google Translate app and tap on the camera icon underneath the text box.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Camera
  1. Take a picture or Import one from your gallery.
  2. If you’ve selected the first option, the next step is to aim the device at the text. The translation will appear superimposed on the original text.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Aim At Text
  1. The results are not always 100 percent accurate, in the sense that some text might escape translation. In this case, we recommend that you try to aim your camera at the writing from a different angle.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Partial Translation

How to Translate Documents in Google Translate

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

  1. Go to the Google Translate page on your desktop.
  2. Click on the “Documents” button at the top next to “Text.”
Google Translate Guide Desktop Upload Files Pc
  1. The program can translate .doc, .docx, .odf, .pdf, .ppt, .pptx, .ps, .rtf, .txt, .xls, and .xlsx. Press the “Browse your computer” button to upload your file.
  2. Find the file and upload it.
  3. Set the source language and target language, then click the “Translate” button.
Google Translate Guide Desktop Translate File
  1. The translation will show up in the same tab. It’s a pretty useful feature when you’re doing research, such as when your only sources are in a foreign language you don’t know well.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Desktop File Translation Result

Google Translate Advanced Options

Interpreter Mode

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

The idea behind Interpreter Mode is to allow users to have conversations with people who speak different languages in real time. If you’d like to activate the feature, we have an in-depth tutorial to show you how.

Have a Conversation

To use Interpreter Mode, you have to go through Google Assistant, but if you don’t feel like doing that, know that you the Translate app enables you to start a conversation and have your lines translated in real time.

  1. In Google Translate, set the source and target language.
  2. Tap the Conversation button.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Start A Convo
  1. A new tab will open that divides the screen in two.
  2. Tap the first language mic (English in this case) and start talking. The translation in the target language will appear below.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Speak In English
  1. When it’s time for the other participant to talk, tap the second language mic to get the translation in the first language.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Speak In Spanish

There is also an Auto mode which can identify the languages that are spoken automatically.

Use Google Translate in Any App on Your Device

If you’re using the Android app, there’s no need to switch to the Translate app every time you’re looking to translate a few 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.

  1. In the Translate app, tap on the hamburger menu in the top-left corner.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Hamburger Menu
  1. Select Settings.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Settings
  1. Tap on the “Tap to Translate” option at the top.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Tap To Translate
  1. The option will run in the background by default, but you can opt to have a floating icon on the screen.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Enable Option
  1. To start the translation process, open an app, such as WhatsApp.
  2. Find text you wish to translate and copy it.
  3. You’ll notice that a Google Translate icon is hovering at the top of the display. Tap on it to see the translation. It’s that easy.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Tap On Floating Icon
  1. You can write a reply in your own language and copy/paste the translation back into the conversation.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Translation Box

The feature works offline, too, so you’re not bound to an Internet connection to be able to use it.

Use Translate in Offline Mode

Speaking of offline mode, did you know you can use Translate completely offline on your mobile device? You’ll have to do a few things beforehand.

  1. Open the Google Translate app on your device.
  2. Tap on the hamburger menu in the top-left corner of the display.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Hamburger Menu
Google Translate Guide Mobile Offline Translations
  1. Select the “Offline translation” option.
  2. Select which languages you wish to translate to even when offline by tapping the download button next to them.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Download Language

That’s it. Now you can translate even when you don’t have a working Internet connection.

Use It as a Dictionary

Google Translate can double as a dictionary on your phone or desktop. Here’s how to quickly access definitions directly on your device.

  1. In the Translate app or browser, tap on the source language and select the “Detect language” option.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Dictionary Form
  1. Choose English as the target language for the definitions.
  2. Type in a word and see its definition underneath.

Additional Google Translate Options

Switch to Fullscreen

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

  1. After translating some text in the Translate app, find the box where the translated text shows up and tap on the three dots on the right.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Three Dots Target Language
  1. Tap on the Fullscreen option.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Full Screen Mode
  1. The translated text will now cover the entire screen.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Text In Full Screen

Block Offensive Words

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

  1. Open the Translate app on your phone.
  2. Tap on the hamburger menu in the upper-left corner.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Hamburger Menu
  1. Select Settings.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Settings
  1. Select the “Speech input” tab at the bottom.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Speech Input
  1. Toggle on the “Block offensive words” option if it’s not on by default.
Google Translate Guide Mobile Block Offensive Words

Now your Translate app will be blocking offensive words as they appear in translations.

Manage Your Translation History

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

Google Translate Guide Mobile Clear History

On desktop, the process differs a little bit. Find the History button at the bottom of the display, then tap on it. Your previous translations will show up on the right side of the display.

Google Translate Guide Desktop Remove History

Click on “Clear All History” to remove all your searches. Alternatively, it’s possible to remove individual queries by clicking on the three dots next to the item and selecting the “Remove from history” option.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are there any worthy alternatives to Google Translate?

Google Translate is among the top choices when it comes to translating. However, Apple introduced its own competitive service called Apple Translate, which is definitely worth looking into. Find out more in our comparison post between Google Translate and Apple Translate.

2. How can I easily translate web pages without having to copy/paste everything into Google Translate?

It’s possible to do so quite easily if you’re willing to use Chrome. You can easily translate web pages in Chrome for desktop as well as mobile. Our guide will teach you how.

3. What if the resulting translation is not accurate?

You can help make it better. On the desktop, press on the “Pencil” button to suggest an edit. Google may use your contribution to improve translation quality. This option is not yet available on mobile.

Now that you’ve learned how to use Google Translate to its fullest, perhaps you’d like to learn more about Google’s other services. For instance, you may be interested in checking out our review of Google One: Google’s subscription-based cloud storage service. Alternatively, you can learn all about using Google Assistant when your phone is locked.

Alexandra Arici
Alexandra Arici

Alexandra is passionate about mobile tech and can be often found fiddling with a smartphone from some obscure company. She kick-started her career in tech journalism in 2013, after working a few years as a middle-school teacher. Constantly driven by curiosity, Alexandra likes to know how things work and to share that knowledge with everyone.

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