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How to Use Google’s Translate App

Are you traveling in a foreign country, and at a disadvantage because you don't understand the language? Never fear, the Google Translate app can translate dozens of languages either through text or voice.

You can type or write foreign language text or speak it into the app, and the words are translated into your native tongue. You can even point your smartphone at a sign or other text written in a foreign language, and the app displays the translation for you. Let's check this out.

Google Translate works on iOS and Android devices; iPhone and iPad users can download it from Apple's App Store, while Android users can snag it from Google Play. Both versions offer roughly the same features. Beyond English, a sampling of the languages supported by the app include French, Italian, German, Spanish, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Arabic, Russian, Hebrew, and Yiddish.

Text to Text/Speech

First, let's say you want to see an Italian translation of an English phrase. Tap the name of the current language on the top left side of the screen and select English as the source language. Then tap the name of the language on the top right side of the screen and select Italian as the target language. Next, tap the field that says: "Tap to enter text" and start typing the English word or phrase you wish to translate.

Google Translate

Alternatively, you can tap on the squiggle symbol and write a phrase in English one character at a time using your finger or a stylus. As you type or write characters on the screen, the app tries to predict what you plan to write in full by displaying possible word and letter combinations. You can continue writing or you can select one of the words if it matches the one you intended to type or write.

In return, Google Translate displays the word or phrase in Italian. You can tap on a right arrow button next to the translation and then tap on a speaker icon next to the phrase in English or Italian to hear it spoken aloud in either language.

Speech to Text

As a third option, you can tap on the microphone icon at the top of the screen and speak your word or phrase into the app. Google Translate then translates and utters your words in Italian.

English and Italian are both supported by the app's two-way instant speech translation. That means the translation is virtually instantaneous. So you can carry on a real-time conversation with an Italian native by speaking in English, hearing the words translated into Italian, and then listening to the other person's response in Italian translated into English.

Google Translate

Translate Images

Another cool feature is the app's ability to translate text in an image via your mobile device's camera.

First, choose the source and target languages. Then tap on the camera icon. For some languages, you'll have to download a language pack; do that and then aim your device's camera at a sign, document, or other piece of text written in the source language. The source language is then translated into the target language, viewable right on the screen of your mobile device.

If you don't have enough room on your device to download a language pack, you can dismiss that option for a more manual translation. Aim your camera at the text you want to translate, like this Russian version of a PCMag story, until you see the words "Align Text." Hold your phone steady until the Align Text message disappears and the text is translated. Press the shutter button on your device. The app will ask you to highlight the text you want to translate with your finger and offer up its best guess.

Google Translate image translation

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