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How to get the most out of the Google Translate App

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Google Translate is a powerful tool that lets you communicate with people in different languages almost instantaneously. It’s not quite as easy to use as Star Trek’s “universal translator devices”, but until that day comes we’ve put together some Google Translate tips for you to make the most out of it.

So first of all, make sure you download the app. I know, duh! 🙂 Here is the version for Android and here is the one for iOS. Done? Then here come the tips.

Use it offline

One of the most important things is knowing how to use the app offline. After all, while traveling you might not always have internet access, and that’s when you need to be able to communicate the most.

Using the Google Translate App offline is very easy, but for it to work, you need some online preparations. All you have to do is download a Language Pack:

  • Tap on the settings menu (the three lines in the upper left)
  • Select “Offline translation” in the menu. From there, you will be given a list of languages to download.
  • Download any languages you think you might need and you’ll be able to use the Google Translate app offline.

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Translate text from an image

You’ve got 3 options:

  1. Instant camera translation: use the camera only to point to an image and translate the containing image in real time.
    Starting from July 10, 2019 Google Translate’s camera can automatically detect languages so you can point your camera at a flyer or sign and get results in your native tongue even if you don’t know what language you’re reading.
  2. Scan: take a photo and upload it. The app will then scan it, recognize any text on it and give a more accurate translation.
  3. Static image translation: upload any photo from your device, and after the app has scanned it use your finger to select the text you want translated.

Use it in conversation mode

Want to talk to somebody, but don’t have a common language you can use? In conversation mode you’ll see a microphone symbol next to each language and you can take it in turns to speak and watch the app translate your speech and talk aloud to your companion in their own language. You can also tap the Auto microphone option in the middle to have Google Translate listen and pick out the relevant language.

Use it as a dictionary

If you enter a single word, it will also provide a dictionary definition, so you’ll always have a digital glossary with you.

Build your very own phrasebook

When you’re travelling, you’ll find that you tend to use the same phrases over and over. That’s why the app lets you save common phrases to your phrasebook. You can tap the star at the top right of every word or phrase translation in order to store it in your favorites and build up your own custom phrasebook. 

Use the Tap to Translate feature

You need to turn this feature on before you can use it. Open the Google Translate app and tap the three horizontal lines at the top left to open the menu, then tap Settings > Tap to Translate and toggle Enable on.
With the Tap to Translate feature, you can select and copy text in any app that allows it, to have Google translate that text. Simply highlight the relevant text and tap copy, then tap the Google Translate icon when it pops up on the screen. You should see the translation appear overlaid on the app near instantly.

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Use the Handwriting option

If you tap the pen icon, a panel will pop up where you can try handwriting whatever you want to be translated. Be warned, though, this doesn’t work well for every language and much will depend on how neat and legible your script is. Nevertheless, it can come in quite handy when translating a text with uses non-Latin characters.

Even if there’s no substitution for being fluent, this App is great to have around while traveling helping you to have a fantastic experience.


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