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It’s fine to use websites for language translations, but chances are you mostly need to translate while on the go. The best way to do that is with Google Translate, so we’re going to show you everything the mobile app can do. We’ll focus on Android, but all of these features (aside from Tap to Translate) work on iOS too.
Whether it’s downloading languages for offline use, translating live using your camera, or having a vocal conversation, you’ll be a translating pro in no time.
1. Store Languages Offline
One of the first ways you should improve Google maps is to download all the languages you need to your phone. If you’re going to use Google Translate while traveling, you won’t always have a stable internet connection. Downloading languages ensures you can translate wherever you are.
To do so, tap the menu icon and choose Offline translation. This brings up a list of all available languages. Note that not every language that Google Translate supports is available for download.
To download a language, tap it on the list. You’ll see how much space it will take up on your phone, along with how much storage you have available. Languages tend to take up around 40 to 50MB each.
The top of the Offline translation screen lists your downloaded languages. Tap the trash can to remove one from your phone.
Language packs occasionally need updating. If so, you’ll see a notification on the main screen of Google Translate, from which you can update with a tap.
2. Type to Translate
The original feature of Google Translate is the ability to type something and have it translated to another language of your choosing. Do this from the main screen of Google Translate.
To the left is the language you type in. If you need to change this, tap it to select an alternative language from the list. Choose Detect Language to have Translate decide automatically.
To the right is the language you want your text to translate to. Again, tap this to select a language from the list. Use the arrows in the middle to flip the languages.
When you’re ready, tap into the text field and begin typing.
3. Write to Translate
You can also write on the screen, let Google Translate detect what you’ve written, and then translate it into another language.
Tap Handwriting to use this feature. Simply start writing in the Write here box.
It’s pretty good at detecting even the worst of handwriting. As you write, the sentence translate above. If it detects the wrong word, select the right one from above the writing box.
4. Speak to Translate
Written translation is great, but what happens when you actually need to talk to someone? Don’t worry: Google Translate has you covered there too.
A neat feature lets you chat back and forth with someone. Translate will detect the speech through your phone’s microphone, and then display the translation on the screen.
To begin, tap Conversation. If you want, you can tap the wave icon to bring up a card that explains what you’re doing to the other person. Otherwise, in the bottom corners of the screen, set the language that you and the other person speak.
Each person can tap the microphone icon for their respective language when they want to talk. The translation will appear in real-time above. Alternatively, cut out the back and forth by using the Auto function—though ensure you don’t talk over each other else the system might get confused.
Tap the speaker icon to hear a translation spoken aloud.
5. Instant Camera Translation
Another really cool feature is translation of real-world text using your camera. To begin, set the two languages at the top and tap Camera.
Point your camera at the text you want to translate and it’ll do it within the picture. Bear in mind the system isn’t perfect. It works best when detecting simple fonts, like those you might find on a sign or menu.
Tap the flash icon if you need more light, or the pause icon to freeze the image. Hit the camera icon to save the image to your phone, or the gallery icon to choose an existing photo you want to translate.
6. Save Common Phrases
If there are phrases you need to translate often, save yourself time by storing them in the Phrasebook.
Whenever you translate something, it’s recorded in a list on the main screen of Google Translate. Tap the star icon to save it to your Phrasebook.
To access your saved translations, tap the menu icon and then tap Phrasebook. Here you can use the search icon to find a specific translation and tap the star icon to remove something from the list.
7. Tap to Translate
You may also need to translate text that you come across on your phone. Don’t worry—you’re covered for that too.
In Google Translate, tap the menu icon > Settings > Tap to Translate. Slide Enable on. Now when you copy text from any app, a Google Translate icon will float on the screen. Tap this to get an instant translation.
You can also translate within Chrome. Highlight some text and tap Translate from the context menu.
Finally, if you receive text messages in foreign language, you can translate these all from Google Translate itself. Tap the menu icon and then tap SMS translation. This will bring up a list of all your SMS messages. Tap one to have it translated.
Plan Your Foreign Travel Trips Like a Pro
Now you’re a master at using Google Translate. With it, you can translate text easily and even have a conversation with someone in a different tongue thanks to the wonder of technology.
If you’re translating for the purpose of travel, don’t forget that your phone can also help plan your trip. Check out our list of essential planning apps for easier itineraries, along with discovering how Google Trips can help you have an amazing vacation.