Google Translate is a free tool developed by Google that translates texts, documents and sometimes websites from one language to another in just a few seconds. Google Translate is available in 109 languages as of April 2021 and processes a total of more than 100 billion words daily.
According to Google, its Google Translate translator processes more than 100 billion words daily, the equivalent of a stack of 128,000 Bibles.
This figure shows the interest of Internet users in Google’s online translation tool. That’s certainly why Google has been working for years to improve its translation service to offer more features to its users.
However, the vast majority of Google Translate’s features are unknown and users of this translator are limited to text translation.
Moreover, Google’s translation tool is not totally perfect and its use is not suitable for all situations.
In this article, we will discover the different features of Google Translate and how to use them in your daily life.
We will then go over the advantages and disadvantages of this tool as well as the different situations where its use is not adapted.
Finally, we will learn how to install the Google Translate API on your site in order to translate the contents of your site correctly.
Chapter 1: What is Google Translate and what are its features?
Google Translate is one of the most popular and widely used tools in the world every day. In this chapter, we will learn about this tool and its different functions.
1.1) Google Translate: What is it?
Google Translate is today the Internet resource par excellence for obtaining short and fast translations from foreign languages.
The service was launched in April 2006 and now has over 500 million daily users worldwide. Contrary to what you may think, Google Translate does not translate languages directly between each other.
It usually translates the source into English and then into the target language. Since most documents are available in English online, this makes the process much easier.
Among the most common languages of this tool are of course English, French, Russian, etc.
Although Google Translate can translate using many forms of text and media, not all languages are supported by these features. For example, voice input is limited to 45 languages on the list.
Google Translate is available in some web browsers as an extension. You can access it in Chrome and Firefox, as well as Opera, although its scope is a bit more limited.
However, the best way to take advantage of this tool is to use it from your mobile device. Indeed, Google Translate is available as an application on Android and iOS systems.
Most of the features are accessible via these applications and using the tool from a browser remains limited to a few options.
Here we present you all the possibilities offered by the application and the number of languages supported according to the features:
- Text translation: Enter text in 108 languages;
- Offline translation: Enter text without connection (59 languages);
- Instant camera translation: The camera automatically translates text in real time (94 languages);
- Photos: Image capture and upload for translation in 90 languages;
- Conversation: Two-way conversation in real time (70 languages);
- Handwriting: Draw text and characters by hand on the screen and have them translated into 96 languages;
- Address Book: Save translated texts;
- Tap to translate: Tap to select text in any application and the translation appears;
- Google Translate API: Translate content on your site.
1.2. how exactly does Google Translate work?
Initially focused on statistical machine translation, Google Translate translates the requested text first into English as we just mentioned, as an intermediate language, and then into the destination language.
In fact, it cross-references the sentence with millions of documents from official transcripts such as those of the United Nations and the European Parliament.
In other words, when you type in a word or phrase, the tool scans the entire Internet database and finds documents that have been translated by humans.
It then detects the most commonly used version of each phrase in those documents. Since it was looking for matching words or phrases, it was effective for short sentences.
But things tended to get complicated for the tool as soon as it tried to put in a longer text with complex grammar.
In fact, when context and sentence structure came into play, Google Translate was not able to process and build meaningful translations.
However, the web giant refrained from hiring experts to compile comprehensive grammars in each native language.
Despite conventional wisdom, Google believed that language is constantly evolving and any such initiative would quickly become obsolete.
Google Translate’s translations were then inescapably imperfect, but still revealed the general intent of a text if not providing the smooth, seamless translation expected of a human expert.
In November 2016, Google announced the transition to a neural machine translation premise.
Simply put, this is a complicated learning system that allows the machine to compare countless texts from broad sources simultaneously.
This ensures that the full context is taken into account rather than sentences being translated in isolation. This approach ensures greater accuracy by taking into account the entire context rather than just individual sentences.
For example, by comparing Japanese to English and Korean to English translations, Google Translate is able to infer and establish the relationship between Japanese and Korean. This allows it to actually do the translations between these two languages.
This is a big step forward in the understanding of semantics by computers, a process that is still plagued by some imperfections.
The repeated processing of these calculations allows Google to detect recurring patterns between words from different languages, which constantly improves its chances of being accurate. As a result, the result is refined to be closer to the idea of the original text.
Although this machine translation tool still needs to make progress, it has been in use for several years and its practicality is undeniable. However, note that the use of this tool also has its drawbacks.
Chapter 2: What are the advantages and disadvantages of Google Translate?
Google’s translation tool has several advantages over other translation methods.
At the same time, its use is not without its drawbacks. This chapter is dedicated to the advantages of Google Translate as well as its disadvantages.
2.1. What are the advantages of Google Translate?
The use of Google Translate is very beneficial for many reasons among which we have:
Free: For those who do not have great means, the free of charge of Google Translate is what attracts them. The tool is free and compared to other free translation tools, it is often superior.
Speed: Google Translate results are almost instantaneous. When you type in your content, the tool translates and the results are provided in a flash.
It’s incredibly fast, so you can have your document translated in no time, no matter how long the text is. A professional translator, on the other hand, can only translate about 2,500 words in an average work day.
Convenient: Thanks to advances in mobile technology, Google Translate can be accessed almost anywhere with a smartphone.
There’s no need for a translator and no need to discuss the job or lengthy contract terms. Just type or paste the text and get an immediate translation.
2.2. What are the drawbacks of Google Translate?
2.2.1. The tool is not ideal for confidential documents
Google Translate may save a lot of time and costs, but when it comes to important, confidential or creative documents, it’s not the best way.
A free translation platform like Google Translate cannot ensure the security and confidentiality of your documents.
Depending on your needs, it is best to work with a translation agency that offers a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to protect the translated content.
2.2.2. Google Translate does not provide an accurate translation
After a decade of development, Google Translate now supports multiple languages, but it is far from perfect.
The accuracy and perfection of Google Translate is still being developed through machine learning and human volunteers.
As mentioned earlier, the tool does not always take into account certain texts and word nuances, which leads to translation errors.
For some documents, it is better to use translation agencies, as they have ISO certification and quality assurance practices to ensure the reliability of their work.
2.2.3 It is difficult to find translation errors in the tool
We have just seen that Google Translate does not guarantee that your content has been accurately translated. Unfortunately, you won’t get a review to see the parts where the translation is incorrect.
In this case, you will need some manual work or a minimal command of the target language to be able to use the translation provided by this tool.
2.3) When should I use Google Translate?
Google Translate is perfect for quick translations that do not need to be perfect.
If you want to translate a text to see what it says in your own language, Google Translate will translate well enough and you can reconstruct the general meaning of the text.
Basically, Google Translate works in a pinch and can provide anyone with a fairly rough translation.
However, a “good approximation” is not of course a perfect translation. It will always be difficult for Google Translate and other translators to be as perfect as a human translator, especially for important tasks like website translation.
Google Translate can be useful for content creators who want to do quick translations to browse the Internet for ideas or content to draw from
However, this is not the case for businesses, especially those who care about their online presence and access to an international market
It’s true that machine learning allows services like Google Translate to become increasingly accurate, making translation services faster and easier.
It just can’t compete with the efficiency and accuracy of real human translation.
Chapter 3: How can you use Google Translate?
Thanks to its features, Google’s translator can be used in many different ways. We will find out how to use these features to properly use Google Translate.
3.1. Using Google Translate for text translation
The main use of this tool is to translate typed text. To do this, it displays the text translation window by default.
The ability to easily translate text is an essential feature of Google Translate. No matter if you are using your web browser on your PC or mobile device, the steps are quite similar.
The tool is quite convenient to use and it displays the text translation window by default. The main language of the translation is displayed in the upper left corner and the language you are translating into is displayed on the right.
In many cases, the tool will automatically try to identify recently used languages. When this is not the case, you can simply choose your translation languages from a list of all languages supported by the tool.
To start translating, tap on the text box and the tool will present you with a virtual keyboard where you can enter the text or phrase you want to translate.
The tool translates as you type. On a computer, you can start writing your text after clicking in the input box.
It can make suggestions for other sentences if it thinks there is a mistake in what you have entered. You will only have to select a suggestion when that is what you are looking for.
In the input area and the translated text area, you will find speaker icons. By pressing them, your device will be able to read aloud the text entered for translation on the one hand and the translated text on the other.
This is especially useful when you want to know how a word can be pronounced or when you want to have the pronunciation of your translation.
On cell phones, the text-to-speech option may not be available, so you will need to install the Google TTS application.
Once the application is installed, make sure that Google’s text-to-speech engine is selected in order to make it work.
Here is the procedure to follow on Android.
First, go to Settings, then select System or Other Settings.
Then choose the Language and Input option.
In this section, make sure Google’s text-to-speech feature is selected.
At the bottom of the text entry area in the Google Translate app, you’ll find three options that will allow you to switch to :
- The camera to translate instantly or taking pictures to upload;
- Open a conversation mode;
- Or activate the voice function to speak a word or text you want to translate.
To handwrite a text you want to translate, just click the pen icon on the right to bring up the handwriting area.
3.how do I share translations with Google Translate?
Every time the application returns a translation, two icons appear under the translated text. You can either copy it to your clipboard to use it elsewhere or share it directly.
To do this, tap the three dots to display the sharing options
Not only can you share it directly to other applications, you can also share it through your Bluetooth.
3.3. how to translate offline?
Speaking of offline mode, did you know that you can use Translate completely offline on your mobile device?
While Google Translate used to require an Internet connection and worked properly when used online, nowadays it is possible to translate 59 languages from this tool without having an Internet connection.
Remember that you will need to download the corresponding language packs first. To use this mode, here’s how to proceed.
Open the translation application on your cell phone. Tap on the menu in the upper right corner of the screen. Select the “Downloaded languages” option.
Select the languages you want to translate even offline by pressing the download button next to each language.
That’s it. Now you can translate even if you don’t have an active connection.
3.4. Translate images using Google Translate?
Images can also be used in Google Translate for translation. Indeed, the tool translates the text contained in the image in a few seconds. However, this option is only usable on mobiles.
Again, it is a valuable feature when you find an infographic or image online that you want to translate into your language.
The same is true if you have a paper book in your hands and want to translate a page.
Launch the Google Translate mobile application and press the camera icon below the text box. This way you can take a picture directly or upload an image from your device’s memory.
When you choose the first option, the next step is to point the device at the text. The translation will appear on top of the original text.
Note that the translation is not always 100% accurate, in the sense that some texts may escape translation. Therefore, it is best to try to view the text from a different angle.
3.5. How to translate speech in Google Translate?
You may not have known it yet, but the Google translator can rely on your voice alone.
From the example above, you could decipher what a trainer is saying in a podcast or even in a conversation with a stranger
It’s possible to use your voice as input for a translation, even if you’re using Google Translate on your desktop computer, but the mobile alternative is much more useful. Press the Speaker button on the left.
Start speaking as clearly as possible in the source language. If nothing appears, press the “Speak Now” button in the middle.
The application will convert your speech into text. When the translation appears, correct any errors that may have crept into the text.
On mobile, you can also choose to transcribe, which means uploading an audio and having it translated into text. Just be aware that Translate does not yet offer the ability to transcribe in all languages.
To use this feature, tap the Transcribe icon located under the text box in the Translate mobile app.
At the top left, choose a language of your interlocutor or the one of your audio. On the opposite side, you will set the destination language in the other corner.
If an audio recording is already ready, start playing it. Normally, your phone will automatically start translating the words of the conversation and the results will be displayed immediately.
3.6. How do I translate documents in Google Translate?
Google Translate also offers to translate documents for you. This feature is available on both mobile applications and on a desktop computer.
Open the translation tool on your computer. At the top of the page, click on the “Documents” button, next to “Text”.
The program can translate files of any type, whether it is a text document, an Excel file or a presentation. Press “Browse your computer” to upload your file.
Find the file and upload it. Set the source and output languages, then start the translation by clicking “Translate”.
The translation will be displayed in the same tab. This feature is very useful when you are doing research and your only sources are in a foreign language that you are not familiar with.
3.7. Advanced options of Google Translate
3.7.1. Interpreter Mode
This mode helps you translate conversations instantly. It is accessible on mobile devices (Android and iOS) and can produce relatively accurate results with correct pronunciation.
The principle of the Interpreter mode is to allow users to have instant conversations with people who speak different languages.
To use the interpreter mode, you are required to go through Google Assistant. But in case you don’t feel like it, you should know that the application allows you to start a conversation and have your words translated in real time.
In Google Translate, set the source language and the language you want to have the translation in. Tap the Conversation button.
A new tab will open, splitting the screen in two.
Press the microphone of the first language (French in this case) and start talking. The translation into the target language is displayed below.
When it is time for the other participant to speak, press the second language microphone to get the translation in the first language.
There is also an automatic mode that can identify the languages spoken without you having to set them.
3.7.2. Use Google Translate in any application on your device
Have you ever needed translation while using an application and didn’t want to leave the application?
That’s the beauty of Google Translate, there’s no need to switch to the Translate app every time you want to translate a few words.
The app includes an option that allows you to easily translate from any other app on your phone.
Here’s how to activate it:
From the Translate app menu, tap the menu in the upper right corner
Select Settings and choose the “Press to translate” option at the top and check the option.
The option will run in the background by default, but it is possible to choose to have a floating icon on the screen.
To start the translation, open an application, such as WhatsApp. Find the text you want to translate and copy it. You will notice a Google Translate icon hovering at the top of the screen, click on it to see the translation.
Similarly, you can write a reply in your own language and copy and paste the translation into the conversation.
This feature also works offline, so you don’t need an Internet connection to use it.
3.7.3. Use it as a dictionary
Google Translate can also act as a dictionary on your phone or computer. This way of quickly finding the definition of certain words or phrases is amazing, isn’t it?
To quickly access definitions right on your device, here’s how to do it. In the Translate app or browser, click on the source language and choose the “Detect Language” option.
Choose French as the target language for the definitions. Type a word and see its definition below.
3.8. Additional Google Translate options
3.8.1. Switch to full screen
Sometimes users want to display translated texts in full screen mode to make them much larger and easier to read.
This can be achieved on Google translate applications, but not on PC.
Once the translated text is in the Translate application, find the area where the translated text is displayed and tap the three dots on the right. Tap on the Full Screen option. The translated text will now cover the entire screen.
3.8.2. Blocking offensive words
You may not want to translate with offensive words for various reasons.
Open the Translate application on your phone. Tap the hamburger menu in the upper left corner. Select Settings. Select the “Voice Input” tab at the bottom.
Enable the “Block offensive words” option if it is not enabled by default.
Now the Translate application will block offensive words when they appear in translations.
3.8.3. Manage your translation history
With Google Translate, you can easily delete your translation history. Just go to Settings and press the “Clear History” button at the bottom.
On a computer, the process is a little different. Locate the History button at the bottom of the screen, then press it. Your previous translations will appear on the right side of the screen.
Click on “Clear All History” to delete all your searches. Alternatively, it is possible to delete individual translations by clicking on the three dots next to the item and selecting the “Delete from History” option.
Chapter 4: Translating your website content with Google Translate API
It would be nice to offer visitors to your site who live in countries where a language other than yours is spoken. In this chapter, we discover the Google API dedicated to the translation of your contents.
4.1. What is the place of translation in SEO?
To answer this question, let’s start by understanding content translation for SEO and localization. Localization is the process of translating your content in a way that respects the culture of the target language.
In a literal, word-for-word translation, the content can lose a lot of meaning
For example, translating a saying or idiom that works very well in the source language may not only lose its meaning, but also be offensive in the culture of the target language audience. So it could do more harm than good.
The specific goal of SEO content translation is to get the translated content to rank high in search engine results.
As for the main purpose of localizing your website, it is to introduce your company, content and products to another culture via the Internet and be discovered by people in other countries.
However, without translation or SEO localization, all of this is useless since it is what makes you visible on the Internet. When you localize your website, all words, including the applied SEO keywords, are translated into the other language.
For our purposes, we will use the Google Translate API to translate your website content into the languages of your choice.
4.2. Getting started with the Google Translate API
Google touts its API as fast and dynamic, adaptable to a variety of content needs.
The firm is not exclusively targeting experienced coders. It also targets a wide range of users, including those with “limited machine learning expertise.”
The principle is simple, just upload the language pairs to be translated and AutoML Translation will take care of training a customized model” for you.
Indeed, to translate a blog post from French into English, German and Russian, you can customize a Google AutoML template for English and rely on a standard pre-trained template for the others.
Then simply upload your French HTML file to Google Cloud Storage and send a batch request to the Translation API pointing to your AutoML and pre-trained templates.
Google’s AutoML translation then produces your HTML in three separate language files on Cloud Storage.
When helping in a field that has a specialized lexicon (legal, for example), Google Translate API offers a glossary feature that allows users to define specific terminology.
4.3. Preparing your first translation
We’ll focus on the Google Translate REST API, which is the easiest way to get started.
Google offers two configuration methods, basic and advanced. For the basic configuration, you will need to:
- Create or select your project;
- Enable the Cloud Translation API;
- Create a service account;
- Download your private key in JSON format (you will need the full path to this file for the next step).
You will then access the shell prompt on your system and set the GOOGLE_APPLICATION_CREDENTIALS environment variable to the path of your JSON service account key using the following commands.
This variable applies only to the current shell session. When you open a new session, you will need to reset this variable by replacing [PATH] with the path to the JSON file containing your key.
For Linux or macOS users, use
For Windows, in PowerShell:
Next, install and initialize the SDK for the Google cloud. Depending on your operating system, the Cloud SDK may depend on a version of Python that is not already installed on your system.
Therefore, check the Cloud SDK documentation and make sure that the appropriate version of Python is installed.
4.4 Run your first translation
Make a translation API request with a REST call using the v2 translate method.
Use cURL to make your endpoint request. The command includes JSON with:
- (1) the text to translate (q) ;
- (2) the language to translate (source)
- And (3) the language to be translated (target).
The source and target languages are identified by ISO-639-1 codes. In our example, the source language is French (fr) and the target language is English (en). The format of the query is plain “text”.
The example curl command uses the gcloud auth application-default print-access-token command to obtain an authentication token.
curl -s -X POST -H “Content-Type: application/json” \
-H “Authorization: Bearer”$(gcloud auth application-default print-access-token) \
‘q’: ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’,
The response should look like the following:
“translatedText”: “The fast brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”
By rigorously following these steps, you have just created your first request to the Cloud Translation API.
As for other language pairs, you can count on over 100 language pairs already trained and tested.
Chapter 5: Frequently Asked Questions about Google Translate
This chapter is dedicated to frequently asked questions about Google Translate.
5.1. Are there reliable alternatives to Google Translate?
Google Translate is one of the best choices for translation. However, Apple has introduced its own competitive service called Apple Translate, which is certainly worth looking into.
Deepl is also a serious alternative that is more efficient than Google Translate and Microsoft Translate. For many organizations, this service is simply the best online translator.
Like Google Translate, this translator automatically detects the language of your text and translates it into your preferred language.
It is also possible to translate different types of files with Deepl and unlike Google Translate, you can edit the translated text from the tool. However, it only supports 26 languages.
5.2. How can I easily translate web pages without having to copy and paste everything into Google Translate?
This is possible using Chrome. Indeed, you can easily translate web pages in Chrome, both on computer and on cell phone.
In addition, you can copy the URL of the page to be translated to get a complete translation. To do this, click Website from the three options above the input box.
The tool asks you to enter the URL of the page to be translated, after insertion, do not forget to define the current language of the page and the one in which you want to have the translation.
5.3. What if the translation is not accurate?
In this case, think of repeating the translation with other tools in order to notice the difference. Also, you can help improve the tool when you feel that part of your translation is incorrect.
On the desktop, tap the “Pencil” button to suggest a change. Google can use your input to improve the quality of the translation. This option is not yet available on mobile.
Google Translate is a multilingual machine translation tool created by the web giant. It is available on Android and iOS systems as well as on computers through an extension or on the web version.
This tool has many features that allow you to:
- Translate words or texts in various languages ;
- Translate various document formats from one language to another;
- Translate voices and audios;
- Translate handwritten text;
- Translate conversation in multiple languages;
- Transcribe speeches;
- Search for word definitions;
- Translate the content of your website.
In this guide, we have learned how to use all these features on smartphones and some of them on a desktop computer.
We hope that this tool will make your life easier on a daily basis. Please feel free to share this guide with others.