How Google Translate works

Author and references

Preliminary information

If I had never heard of it, Google Translate (o Google translator in in your languagen) is none other than the translator created and managed by "Big G", available in the form of Android and iOS and as a Web service.

As you will discover in the course of this guide, it is possible to use Google Translate in many different ways, depending on your needs: below I will show you the most important ones.


  • Typing - it is possible to instantly translate words or entire sentences, simply by typing them in a text field.
  • Writing - in the app for smartphones and tablets and on a PC (using compatible browsers), it is possible to translate manually written words and phrases (e.g. with a stylus, a tablet or, simply, a mouse).
  • Conversation - the "Conversation" mode, available in the app for smartphones and tablets, allows you to translate to and from two languages ​​simultaneously.
  • Shots - feature of apps for smartphones and tablets, this feature allows you to translate text images into another language.
  • viewing - available in the app for smartphones and tablets, it allows you to instantly translate framed text using the camera of the device in use.
  • Offline - allows you to receive text translations without the presence of a data connection. Again, this is a characteristic feature of the app for smartphones and tablets.

At present, Google Translate is able to translate words and phrases to and from 103 different languages, which I list below: Afrikaans, Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Basque, Bengali, Belarusian, Burmese, Bosnian, Bulgarian , Catalan, Cebuano, Czech, Chichewa, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Korean, Corsican, Creol'haitian, Croatian, Kurdish (kurmanji), Danish, Hebrew, Esperanto, Estonian, Filipino, Finnish, French, Frisian, Scottish Gaelic, Galician, Welsh, Georgian, Japanese, Javanese, Greek, Gujarati, Hausa, Hawaiian, Hindi, Hmong, Igbo, Indonesian, English, Irish, Icelandic, Urban, Kannada, Kazakh, Khmer, Kyrgyz, Lao, Latin, Latvian , Lithuanian, Luxembourgish, Macedonian, Malayalam, Malay, Malagasy, Maltese, Maori, Marathi, Mongolian, Nepalese, Norwegian, Dutch, Pashto, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Samoan, Serbian, Sesotho, Shona, Sindhi , Sinhala, Slovak, Slovenian, Somali, Spanish, Sundanese, Swedish, Swah ili, Tajik, Thai, Tamil, German, Telugu, Turkish, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Urdu, Uzbek, Vietnamese, Xhosa, Yiddish, Yoruba and Zulu.




However, not all specific translation features can be used on all languages ​​supported by the service. For example, instant camera translation takes place in "only" 88 languages, while translation via snapshot / image import is available for 50 languages.

Conversation mode, on the other hand, is available for 32 languages, while translation from freehand text is available for 93 languages. Finally, translation in offline mode (i.e. without internet connection) is available for 59 languages.

For more information about the supported languages ​​and the features available for each of them, I invite you to take a look at the official Google Translate support page.

How Google Translate works on smartphones and tablets

Now that you have all the necessary information on the nature and features included in the service, it's time to get to the heart of this guide and understand, concretely, how Google Translate works on smartphones and tablets.

If you have a terminal available Android, most likely, you will find the app Google translator already pre-installed in the operating system. If not, you can download and install the app for free from the Play Store. If your device was, however, a iPhone or iPad, you can easily get Google Translate from the App Store.

However, how Google Translate works is very simple: once the app is launched, press the button OK, to skip the presentation screen of the same; then, use the drop-down menus located at the top to choose, respectively, the language of origin (left menu) and that of destinazione (right menu) and, when you are done, type the text you want to translate in the central box, identified by the wording Touch to type the text.



The translation from the typed text takes place practically instantly: as you type the words that make up your sentence, you will see the respective translation appear a little further down. If you want to hear the pronunciation of the translated text (or the original one), tap on the icon in the shape of speaker corresponding to them.

As I explained to you in the introductory chapter of this guide, the mobile version of the service allows you to make translations by acquiring the text from a photo already present (or taken at the moment), typing the text by hand, framing it with the camera or dictating it. In addition, the simultaneous translation functionality from (and into) two languages ​​at the same time is available, useful for dealing with bilingual conversations.

To use these features, open the main Google Translate screen, choose the language of origin e the destination one (as I explained to you a little while ago) and, depending on the functionality of your interest, follow the steps that I am going to illustrate below.

  • Translation from text to image - tap the button Camera (below), tap the button Allow / OK (to allow the app to access the camera) and tap the icon Detect, located at the bottom. At this point, frame the text to be translated, take a picture by pressing the button in the shape of hoops and, by dragging your finger on the screen, highlight the text to be translated. If you prefer, you can also make a translation starting from a photo already present in the Android Gallery: in this case, you have to tap the button Import (bottom right) and continue as already explained.
  • Translation from camera framing - press the button Camera (bottom), tap the button Allow / OK (in order to allow the translator to access the camera), then tap the button Snapshot and frames the text to be translated.
  • Hand typing - fai tap sul pulsating Freehand and type, by dragging your finger on the screen, the word (or words) to be translated.
  • Voice dictation - fai tap sul pulsating Voice, tocca il pulsating Allow / OK (to ensure that the translator can access the microphone) and say, after the "beep", the text you want to translate.
  • Simultaneous bilingual translation - fai tap sul pulsating Conversation and say the sentence to communicate to your interlocutor. After a few moments, the translator should "repeat" it in the second selected language. Your interlocutor can do the same thing, in the other language.

If, on the other hand, you are interested in using the offline mode, i.e. the translation of the text without the aid of the Internet, you must download the dictionaries of the source and destination languages ​​that interest you.



To be able to do it, if you are on Android, tap the ☰ button located at the top left, then press on the item Offline translation in the panel that is proposed to you and presses on down arrow placed in correspondence with the dictionaries you wish to download.

Se, invece, stai using iOS, tap the tab Settings located at the bottom right, choose the item Offline translation from the menu that is proposed to you, then tap the button [+] at the top right and, after selecting the language of your interest, press the button Download, to get the related translation file.

At the end of the download, you will be able to translate the text you want using the same steps seen above (the offline mode only works with the typed text translation mode).

Another noteworthy feature of Google Translate for Android (not present on iOS) is the feature Touch to translate: it allows you to translate "on the fly" of the text copied within any app. To activate it, call up the main menu of the app, by touching the ☰ button, tap on the items SettingsTouch to translate and move up ON the lever displayed on the screen.

To instantly translate the text, start any app, select the word or phrase of your interest and, after pressing the item Copy attached to the Android menu, tap the button Google Translate that appears on the screen, to recall the "reduced" version of the app screen containing the translated text.

As needed, you can adjust the pitch and speed of the translator's voice, as well as the dialect to which some specific regions belong, by intervening in the menu of settings Translate: you can access it by pressing the ☰ up button Android, or by going to the card Settings di iOS, located at the bottom right.

How Google Translate works on PC

As already mentioned above, Google Translate is also available in the form of web service, accessible via any PC browser.

Using it is very simple: all you have to do is connect to the main page of the service, choose the languages ​​of origin and destination acting on the drop-down menus located, respectively, at the top left and top right, and type, in the box on the left, the text to be translated. The translated text will be shown, after a few moments, in the box on the right.

To listen to the Pronounce of the translated text (or the original one), you can click on the button in the shape of speaker located in its box. To copy, modify or share the contents of the box containing the translated text, instead, you can use the buttons copy (the two overlapping sheets), modification (the pencil) e Share (the three dots joined), located at the bottom right.

If you need to handwrite the text to be translated, using a pointing device (e.g. pen tablet, touchpad or mouse), click the pencil located in the lower right corner of the left box and "draw" the letters to be translated using the panel that appears on the screen.

On compatible browsers (eg Google Chrome), you can also choose to dictate the text to be translated: you can do this by clicking on the button in the shape of microphone placed in the box on the left and pressing the button Allow, so that the browser can access the microphone of the PC.

Google Translate for computer also allows you to upload entire documents and translate them in a few moments: the supported formats, at the time of writing this guide, are .doc, .docx, .odf, .pdf, .ppt,. pptx, .ps, .rtf, .txt, .xls and .xlsx.

To take advantage of this option, click on the tab Documents located at the top of the Google Translate page, click on the button Search on your computer and, using the panel that appears on the screen, select the file of your interest.

Next, specify the languages of origin and destination, using the left and right drop-down menus and, when ready, click on the button Translate, to view the fully translated document (which will lose its original formatting).

How Google Translate works


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