Speak to the world with Google Translate

Wouldn’t it be great to have your own personal translator wherever you go? Well, you do! Google Translate is free. It allows you to translate words and phrases, and even upload whole documents for translation.

TranslateAs with any tool like this, you’ll want to validate translations with another source, but you will most likely be able to use the fruits of your labor in Translate to adequately communicate to non-English speakers.

The basics

The easiest way to translate is to type in on the left the word or phrase you’d like interpreted. If you know the language you can select it, otherwise you can ask Translate to detect the language for you. For example, if you typed “donde estan mis llaves,” the app would detect that this was Spanish and return the English translation, “Where are my keys?” Likewise, if you wanted to know how to say “Where are my keys?”, you would type this in and ask for the Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, or … Well, you get the idea.

Documents and web pages

To upload a document, click “translate a document” under the phrase field on the left side of the Translate page. Browse for the document. Then, choose the from and to languages to translate it.


Another feature of Google translate is the ability to translate web pages in the browser. While this is also useful when traveling to foreign countries, it’s a great way to learn a language! If you’re fairly familiar with the content of a web page, put it through the translator into the foreign language and try to guess the words. Go to Settings and Advanced Settings in Chrome. Then look for the Language section. Move the slider to the right to turn this feature on, or the left to turn it off.

The phrasebook

Store phrases in your phrasebook by clicking the star under the translation. Then at the top right of the page, you’ll see a white star in a gray circle. This hides or reveals your saved phrases, called your phrasebook.

Translate allows you to choose a default translation language to make it easy to always use the same one. This is especially useful when you’re traveling. This app is also available from the Google Play Store for your mobile devices. It even has an iOS version for iPad and iPhone users.

Be careful!

Things to keep in mind: Each language has its own slang and idioms. Before producing a formal business report in another language, have it proofread by a native, or at least a fluent speaker of that language. Just as in your native language, you might not want to risk using a tone that isn’t suited to the communication you want to convey. As well, some translations might be quite literal. For example, if you wanted to say, “The police officer booked him,” the Spanish translation would come back as if you had said, “The police officer reserved it.” The good news is the translations are updated by contributors regularly.