4 Google Translate Features to Use When Travel is a Thing Again

4 Google Translate Features to Use When Travel is a Thing Again
Image: iStock

We’re all familiar with Google Translate to some degree. It’s a feature Google has allowed us to use for a few years to translate websites or make our friends think we’re bilingual. But did you know you can use your camera to translate text?

There’s a bunch of sweet things you can do with Google’s Translate smarts, but here are our favourite four. (For our walk through, we’re using the Google Pixel 6 Pro, which is running Android 12).

How do I use Google Translate?

You can translate words or phrases using the Google Translate app or a browser, like Chrome or Safari. It’s pretty easy to use, you likely already have (a number of times), but we have to build suspense and it’s worth remembering just how epic this feature actually is. So grab your Android device.

  • On your Android phone or tablet, open the Translate app
  • Choose a language to translate (for us, it defaults to ‘from English to Spanish’) by tapping the language you wish to change
  • Scroll to the language you wish to translate from, tap it to choose, and then do the same with the ‘to’ language
  • Type the word or phrase you want to translate
  • The translation will appear, but if it doesn’t, simply tap ‘Translate’.

Google Translate

To copy the translated text, tap on the icon next to the Listen icon (the rectangle shape with another rectangle behind it on the Pixel 6). You can then paste that text in any app you like.

To hear your translation aloud, tap the Listen icon (looks like volume/speaker). Given it’s the Google Assistant reading aloud, the pronunciation won’t be perfect, but it’s a good place to start if you want to relay a message to someone who speaks that language. (Or use it to make your friends think puedes hablar otro idioma).

How to translate speech with Google?

This feature will be perfect when international travel is a thing again.

In the Google Translate app, the idea is for two parties to have a conversation, mediated somewhat by the app. You talk, then what you’re saying is translated automatically to your chosen language. The assistant reads the text out. Then, the person you’re having a conversation with taps their speaker (you can see in our screenshot, it’s the icon below español) and responds, with their phrase read aloud by the Google Assistant.

Google Translate

Google also provides a screen to show the person you’re hoping to chat to what the hell it is you’re actually doing. You can access this screen by tapping the hand icon.

Google Translate

Can I translate images?

Yes, you can use your phone’s camera to translate text in the Translate app. For example, you can use your camera to translate signs or handwritten notes.

You can do this by importing a photo, capturing the entire image live or by scanning bits of text.

Importing a photo

  • Take a photo in the Camera app
sit here

  • In the Google Translate app, tap the Camera icon
  • Select ‘Import’ and choose your image
  • Your device will scan the image for text and will highlight what it considers text
sit here sticker
  • Use your finger to highlight the parts of the text you want to translate OR tap ‘Select all’ to select all
  • Up the top you will see the text in the language you have chosen as your main language and the translated text will appear below
  • Tapping the arrow icon next to the translated text will bring up full screen of the translation where you can copy and listen to the text as if you had typed it.

Capturing an image

  • In the Google Translate app, tap the Camera icon
  • Select ‘Instant’
  • Point your camera at the text and it will (attempt to) translate before your eyes
handwriting GT app
  • Hit ‘Pause translation’ to see the text that has been translated
handwriting GT app
  • You can edit the text if Google hasn’t read it correctly (yeah, it really doesn’t like my handwriting)
handwriting GT app

Scanning an image

  • In the Google Translate app, tap the Camera icon
  • Select ‘Scan’ and point the camera at the text
  • Capture an image as you would in your Camera app
  • Your device will scan for text and will highlight what it considers text
scanning 1
  • Use your finger to highlight the parts of the text you want to translate OR tap ‘Select all’ to select all
  • Up the top you will see the text in the language you have chosen as your main language and the translated text will appear below
  • Tapping the arrow icon next to the translated text will bring up full screen of the translation where you can copy and listen to the text as if you had typed it.
Google Translate

Can I chat in another language?

Now we leave the Google Translate app and head to messages. This is perfect for communicating with someone when you both aren’t fluent in the other persons’ native tongue. I guess the best example is speaking to family that live in another country.

  • Start a message or open an existing conversation
  • Select the Google Translate icon above the keyboard, but below the text box
  • Choose the ‘to’ and ‘from’ languages
  • Start typing your message in the translation box
Google Translate
  • Your message will be sent to that person in your chosen language
  • When they reply in their chosen language, you will receive it back in yours (ie English in our case)

And there you have it. Four sweet things you can do with Google Translate.