How to Use Google Translate

By Aaron Parson

Google Translate's website and app both offer basic translations, and each has a few extra tricks up its sleeve.

Things You'll Need

  • Google account

Google Translate might not replace a human translator, missing nuance and occasionally providing some bizarre results, but if you only need a general idea of a sentence's meaning, the automatic translator works well. Both the Google Translate website and mobile app provide the same basic service, though each has a few unique tricks to offer.

Basic Translation

In either the Google Translate mobile app or on the website, enter a word or sentence to translate. Pick a source language on the left side of the page and a target language on the right.

Tip

  • Click or tap one of the speaker icons to hear the translated line in either the original or target language, respectively.
  • The center icon showing two arrows reverses the translation.

Website Translation

Translate an entire website.

The Web version of Google Translate can also translate entire websites. Set the languages, paste the website address, click Translate and then click the resulting link.

Tip

  • The Google Translate app doesn't have the website-translation feature, but the mobile version of Google Translate does. As soon as you tap Translate, the translated page opens.
  • Google Chrome, both for computer and for mobile, offers to translate foreign language websites when you visit them.

Warning

Tricks and Extras

Translate Handwriting

Handwriting translation on the website.

Pick a source language in the app, tap the squiggly line icon and draw using your fingertip to insert a word or character: a big help for translating languages with characters you don't know how to type. The website offers the same feature. With the language set to Detect Language, click the pencil icon to open a space to draw using your mouse. Select the intended word or character to insert it for translation.

Save Translations

You can star a translation on mobile.

Tap or click the star icon on a translation to save it. In the mobile app, you'll find saved translations on the Starred tab. On the website, open the Phrasebook -- click the icon of a book with a star -- to see your saved items.

Tip

With the Phrasebook open on the website, click the spreadsheet icon to export your saved translations to Google Sheets.

Translate a Photo or Speech (App Only)

Highlighting text taken with the camera.

Pick a source language in the app and then tap the camera icon or the microphone icon to translate from a photo or using your voice, respectively. To use the photo method, aim your camera at text, tap Scan and then highlight the text you want translated using your finger.

Translate a Document (Desktop Website Only)

Translate a document.

Click Translate a Document, choose a file on your computer and click Translate to upload the file and translate it to the selected language. Google Translate supports text files and Word's DOC and DOCX files, but not OpenOffice's ODT files.

Tip

To translate a document already in Google Docs, open the Tools menu in Docs and click Translate Document.