How to Use Google Translate for Text, Images, and Real-time Conversations

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What to Know

  • For text: Select a language > Tap to enter text > begin typing > Enter.
  • For spoken word: Select a language > tap the mic > begin speaking at the beep. Tap the Speaker icon to hear the translation.
  • For conversations: Select a language > tap Conversation > begin speaking. Watch the screen for the translation.

This article explains how to use Google's Translate tool, which can handle text, images, speech, and even real-time conversations.

How to Translate Text With Google Translate

Translating text is the easiest and most well-supported function of Google Translate. Here's how to translate any text you come across.

  1. Select the name of the source language you want to translate from in the
    top-left of the screen. In this example, we're using English.

  2. Then select the name of the destination language you want to translate to in the screen's top-right. In this example, we're using Spanish.

  3. Select the field that says Tap to enter text and either type or copy and paste (press and hold) the text you want to translate into this field.

    You can also use the predictive text function to help write what you want to translate quicker.

    Screenshots showing how to use Google Translate.
  4. The Google Translate app will continually translate what you're writing in the field underneath. At any time during this translation process, you can tap the Speaker icon to hear what it sounds like in your chosen translation language.

  5. When you're finished typing you can use the right arrow or Enter key to return to the previous screen, then if you want to copy the translation, tap the three-dot menu icon and select Share.

    Screenshots of the speaker icon and the more menu on Google Translate.

How to Translate Images

Translating a foreign language from an image or picture using your camera or previous images is super handy when you're out and about. In our example, we'll use a food menu.

  1. Select the source language and the translation language at the top of the screen. In this example, we are using Chinese to English.

  2. Select the Camera icon.

    Screenshots of how to use the camera with Google Translate.
  3. Align what you want to translate in your camera window and select Instant.

    If you want to translate an image you already have, select the Import button and then locate and select the image on your device. Then skip to Step 4.

  4. Google will translate the image on your device. It may take a moment for the translation to complete, but once it does, you'll be able to select individual words in the image to highlight their translation.

    Some languages offer live translation, but others require a saved image. To scan and save a selection for translation, select the Scan button.

    Screenshots of a photo translation in Google Translate.

How to Translate Words and Speech

Translating what you say into a different language is one of the most useful features of Google Translate when traveling or just trying to learn a new language. Here's how to do it.

  1. Select the source language and the translate to language at the top of the screen.

  2. Tap the microphone icon and when prompted with a beep, begin speaking. Google will automatically translate your voice into text form.

  3. Select the Speaker icon to hear the translation spoken back to you.

    Screenshots showing how to dictate and listen to translations in Google Translate.
  4. If you want to dictate what you say into a different language instead, select the Transcribe icon. Then begin speaking as before, and what you say will be translated into your destination language on screen.

    Transcribing is different than dictating. When you're dictating, you're just using your voice instead of a keyboard or stylus to input data to be translated. When you're transcribing, you're creating a written output of your voice. Transcribing is especially useful if you need to send a message or write an email.

  5. Tap the microphone and then begin speaking as before..

  6. What you say will be translated into your destination language on screen. When you're finished speaking, tap the microphone again to end the transcription.

    Screenshots showing how to transcribe a transcription in Google Translate.

How to Translate Real-Time Conversations

You can also use Google Translate to facilitate a live conversation between you and someone who speaks a language you don't understand.

  1. Select the source and destination languages at the top of the screen.

  2. Select the Conversation icon. 

  3. You can manually select the speaker's language at any one time to force the app to use that as the source or select the Auto button to allow the app to determine who is speaking at any one time.

    Screenshots showing how to translate a conversation in Google Translate.
  4. Begin speaking. The translation of what you're saying will appear on screen, as will a translation for any replies from the person you are speaking to. This lets you both see what's being said in real-time.

How Many Languages Does Google Translate Support?

Google Translate can translate about 103 different languages for text translation. Although not all of them are as natural as each other, and 59 are supported offline, it covers much of the world and its most populous languages.

New languages can often be added, so you can check out the complete list of languages supported on the Google site.

Real-time speech conversations support 43 distinct languages, while camera image translation is available in up to 88 languages. You might think handwriting is more challenging, but it supports 95 different languages.

How to Get Google Translate

To make the most of Google Translate, you'll need to download and install the app on your compatible Android or iOS device. Before beginning any of the instructions below, make sure the app is open and functioning.

Download for:

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