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How to use Live Translate on the Google Pixel

So long as it's configured properly, the tech can break down language barriers.
By
October 25, 2022
Google Pixel 6 event 2021 live translate
Luka Mlinar / Android Authority

Google’s Live Translate feature technically works on many Android phones, but it is optimized with Pixel devices in mind. While most Android phones have to translate through the cloud, devices with Google’s Tensor chips can do it on-device, which is considerably faster. The feature debuted alongside the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro in 2021, but is also supported in newer handsets like the the Pixel 6a, or the Pixel 7 series.

Find out more about Live Translate below, including what it is and how to use it.

Read more: The best Google products

QUICK ANSWER

If you have a Pixel 6, 6a, or 7-series phone, Live Translate should be on by default and sometimes even work offline. It may or may not be available on some other Android phones, but only ever with an active internet connection. You can toggle Live Translate by going to Settings > System > Live Translate. Be sure to pick languages in the Translate to and Add a language fields. The tech is active in Google Lens, Live Caption, some chat apps, and Google Assistant's Interpreter Mode.


JUMP TO KEY SECTIONS

What is Live Translate, and how does it work?

Live Translate parses chat, calls, media, real-world text, and even in-person conversations without you having to manually copy, type, or record anything. It’s on by default for Pixel owners as of the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, the first phones with Tensor processors. Other Android users can potentially exploit the technology, but they may have to switch it on, and they’ll always require an active internet connection. If you’ve got a Pixel 6, 6a, or 7, you can not only translate faster but sometimes offline, so long as you’ve preselected languages (see below).

How to turn Live Translate on or off

In Android’s Settings app:

  • Tap System, then Live Translate.
  • Toggle Use Live Translate.
  • If you’re turning it on, be sure to tap Translate to, then select a default target language.
  • Tap Add a language to pick source languages the feature will translate from. Android can potentially detect and download new languages automatically, but this of course requires internet access, so you may want to toggle Only download languages on Wi-Fi if bandwidth or data caps might be an issue.

Supported languages vary based on what you’re trying to translate. Currently they include:

  • Chat: English, German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Thai, Chinese (mainland China or Taiwan)
  • Media: English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese
  • Live conversation (Interpreter Mode): English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese

If you’re not seeing Live Translate in Settings, it may be that you need to update Android or that your phone is incompatible. Only the Pixel phones we’ve mentioned are guaranteed to work.

How to use Live Translate

Chat

In compatible messaging apps, you should usually see text translated automatically. If you’ve got a Pixel 6, 6a, or 7, this can even happen offline with saved messages, though you’ll have access to a much larger pool of languages when you’re connected to the internet.

To switch between target and source languages, just tap a message’s language bubble. You can also update your preferences on the fly by opening any conversation in another language, tapping the translate chip, then selecting an option from the dropdown menu.

Camera

Your phone’s camera can apply Live Translate to things like signs and restaurant menus. Do the following:

  • Open the Camera app.
  • Go to Camera > Modes > Lens > Translate.
  • With your camera view pointed in the right direction, tap and hold on text — adjusting selection if necessary — then Translate.

Calls and Media

For videos, podcasts, audio messages, and phone or video calls, translation is possible through Live Caption, which works on many devices with Android 10 or later. You can turn on Live Caption by hitting any volume button and then its icon, which looks like a dialog box.

To switch caption languages, just tap on onscreen text to see options.

Live conversation (Interpreter Mode)

To translate conversations, you’ll be turning to Google Assistant. In fact you may need to change Assistant’s language settings  —not Live Translate’s —  in order to get this work, and compatibility varies based on your device.

With everything in place though, you can often use intuitive voice commands. Here are some examples:

  • “Hey Google, interpret from German to English.”
  • “OK Google, be my Spanish interpreter.”
  • “Hey Google, turn on Interpreter Mode.”
  • “OK Google, Hindi interpreter.”

Whenever you want translation to stop, pair “Hey Google/OK Google” with a word like “stop,” “exit,” or “quit.”


Read more: Google Assistant commands you need to know