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With today’s technology, it’s so easy to get something translated quickly through your phone’s internet browser. But did you know there’s actually a Google Translate app you can download? It’s so much easier to use, especially if you’re in a situation where you need translations quickly and frequently. Plus, through the app, you can easily communicate with someone who speaks another language. Check out the following tips and tricks that will teach you exactly how to use Google Translate.


Everything there is to know about the Google Translate app


How Google Translate works

Google Translate is an incredibly useful app that can translate between over 100 different languages. In the most basic terms, the app takes text from one language (usually your native language) and translates it to another language of your choosing. The app is available for both Android and iOS. 

Download for Android

Download for iOS

If you travel to a country where people mainly speak a different language, this is a fantastic tool to have. No more lugging around heavy multilingual dictionaries! You can download certain language dictionaries to use on your phone, even if you don’t have internet access. This app even has a feature that allows you to have a real-time conversation with someone who doesn’t speak your language.

The Google Translate app is super intuitive and easy to use. On the home page, you just need to choose which language you want to translate from and to. Then, just tap in the box to bring up your virtual keyboard and type in what you need to translate. The app auto-translates and makes suggestions as you type. If you type in a single word, the app will bring up definitions, synonyms, and examples of the word in a sentence. 

english to spanish text of how are you doing today?

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You can also set the “translate from” language to auto-detect as you type. This feature could be useful if you want to translate from different languages. 

You can easily swap the two languages by tapping the two arrows in between the languages at the top. Then, there’s a speaker icon next to each language. If you tap this icon, the app will speak the written text. This is super useful if you need help with a difficult pronunciation.  

The Transcribe icon in the picture above can be tapped if you want to speak into the microphone and translate that way instead of typing text into the box. This comes in handy if you have a lengthy message you want translated. 


Can I use Google Translate offline?

The short answer: Yes.

To expand a little, you will need to plan ahead if you want to use Google Translate offline. In order to use translation features offline, you need to download language packs while you have an internet connection. Not all languages have a downloadable language pack; only 59 languages are available offline. 

Check out: Google Assistant guide: Make the most of your virtual assistant

To download a language pack, tap the three horizontal lines at the top of the screen. From there, click on Offline translation. Once you’re on that screen, you can select the download button next to any of the languages you want to download. 

offline translation downloadable languages

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Language packs now come with neural machine translation (NMT), which makes translations more accurate. This helpful feature used to only be available with online translations, but thankfully it was brought to offline translations too!

If at any point you decide you don’t want a language pack on your phone anymore, you can tap the trash can icon to delete it. Each language pack ranges from 35-45MB, so they don’t take up much space. But if you’re not using a language pack anymore, deleting it is an easy way to free up space on your phone. 


How accurate is Google Translate

The Google Translate app does a really good job of translating between languages accurately. This is especially true if the translations you need are simple sentences, phrases, or questions.

Related: The best translation apps for Android!

Of course, the app does occasionally make mistakes, especially if you’re trying to translate paragraphs or idioms. So if you plan to use the app to help you get around a country in which you don’t speak the official language, go for it. If you need to use the app for more professional, business conversations, it might be best to either get a professional translator or present a disclaimer that the app may translate incorrectly. 


How to use the Google Translate camera

On the home page, you can click the camera button under your typed text to open the camera. This will allow you to either take photos to upload or help you out with real-time translations.

Menus, signs, brochures, and so much more can easily be translated using the Google Translate camera. All you have to do is take a picture of whatever you want translated and Google’s app will translate it instantly. Make sure your languages are set correctly before taking a picture and it’ll auto-translate from the first language into the second language. Once you have your camera pointing where you want it, you can tap Pause translation at the bottom to freeze the picture.

google translation real-time through camera

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If you want to translate another page of the menu or whatever you’re looking at, tap Continue translation to unfreeze the picture and move on. If your camera isn’t reflecting real-time translations, try this quick fix. Tap the Scan icon at the bottom to turn on the instant translation feature in the Google Translate app. In order for real-time translation to work with the Google translate camera, you will need an internet connection. 

Or, if you already have a picture of something you want translated, you can tap the Import icon at the bottom of the app. This will open up your photo gallery app and allow you to upload a photo directly to the Google Translate app to be translated. Usually, uploading a photo can provide more accurate translations. 


Other Google Translate features

We’ve already talked about a ton of features and neat tricks you have access to in the Google Translate app. And yet, there’s still so many other cool features to explore! 

Highlight text to translate it

This feature is officially called Tap to Translate. First, you have to enable Tap to Translate and allow Google certain permissions on your phone. To get to the screen below, tap the three horizontal lines in the top left corner and tap on Settings Tap to Translate

tap to translate feature

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Then, toggle the Enable button on and follow all the steps to allow necessary permissions. Once everything is enabled, you’ll be able to highlight text in any app on your phone and translate it. Simply highlight the text you want to translate, select more options, and then click on Translate. 

An overlay will pop up on the page and translate right then and there, without opening up the Google Translate app separately. 

demonstrating tap to translate feature of google translate app

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Conversation mode: What is it and how do you use it?

Conversation mode allows you to do just what it says in the title: have a conversation with someone. You and the other person have a separate microphone icon under your language to tap when each of you is ready to speak. Or, you can set it to auto and the app will listen for both languages and translate whatever it picks up. 

See also: How to use Interpreter Mode on Google Home to translate conversations

As you can see below, there’s a message that pops up in both your language and the language of the person you’re trying to have a conversation with. This message makes it easy for the person you’re trying to speak with to understand what exactly is going on. 

starting a conversation with someone through google translate app

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This message will pop up the first time you open conversation mode. Or, you can always access it later too. First, tap the Conversation icon on the home page. Then, tap the waving hand icon in the top right corner to access the message. 

Conversation mode is available for 43 different languages. 

Save your most used phrases to your Phrasebook

If you find yourself frequently typing the same words or phrases over and over again, you can save them. Press the star next to the phrase or word you want to save after you’ve typed it in on the home page. 

Then, to access your saved phrases, you’ll need to navigate to your Phrasebook. Tap the three horizontal lines at the top left of your screen. Then, tap the tab labeled Phrasebook. Here, you’ll be able to see, scroll, search, and sort through your saved words and phrases. 

phrasebook of saved favorite translated phrases

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Handwritten text and symbols

On the home screen, next to where you would usually type in your text, there’s a pen symbol. If you click on this pen symbol, it will open up a screen that allows you to write words or symbols on the screen using your finger instead of typing on your virtual keyboard.

As soon as you lift your finger off the screen for a few seconds, it will auto-translate whatever you have there and move on to a blank slide for more writing. You can always go back to see the slides you previously wrote things on as well though, as long as you don’t cancel out of it entirely. 

handwriting feature on google translate app

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This may be more of a showy feature rather than a useful feature, but it’s a feature nonetheless. It may be more useful for languages that require symbols rather than letters. 

Additional settings

There are even more settings you can customize within the Google Translate app. Tap on the three horizontal lines at the top left, click on Settings, and start exploring. 

showing different regions of one language in google translate app

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Selecting Region will take you to the page above. Here, you can select different regions within the language you have selected as your native language. 

If you tap Speed, you can change the speed at which text is read to you. You can set the speed to be normal, slow, or slower. Whichever speed you select for yourself will not affect Conversation mode. 

Lastly, if you select Speech input, you’ll see the page below. Here you can toggle two different settings on and off. If you have it turned on, the Speak output function will automatically speak translated text. You can also turn on the Block offensive words if you want to hide yourself or your children from seeing offensive speech results in translations. 

google translate's app setting of speech input

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And that’s all! Now you know how to use Google Translate like a pro.