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How to Use the Google Translate App When You Travel

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

It's no secret that I love Google products. I got the Google Pixel Watch the day it came out, I own the newest Google Pixel 7, my house is run by Nest hubs, Nest thermostat, Chromecast, and I own a Chromebook. Suffice it to say, I love Google.

They make life easier in so many ways from practical applications to usability. You've probably read my how-to on booking your flights with Google Flights, but now I'd like to share with you how I can speak any language in the world with the help of Google's mighty tool - The Google Translate App.

Stock photo of four phones with the words 'hola' in different languages

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Practical Uses for Google Translate App

On the Web:

  • Translate website details

  • Translate online restaurant menus

  • Draft emails in a foreign language to a foreign country (for making reservations!)

  • Document translations (for understanding important things - tickets, meeting places, fine print stuff)

  • Practice phrases before you travel

On the Mobile App:

  • Translate street signs

  • Translate restaurant menus

  • Speak with a foreigner and overcome language barriers:

    • In taxis

    • At train stations

    • In a restaurant

    • In casual conversation

    • When asking directions

    • When approached in a foreign language

How to Use Google Translate:

On the Web:

  • Type 'Google Translate' into your search bar

  • Input your text in English or copy/paste text from a foreign website. Google will detect the language and translate it, or you have to manually choose the language you want to translate it to/from.

Screenshot of Google Translate functionality
Screenshot of Google Translate functionality

I find myself using this feature very often for making reservations with restaurants or wineries before I travel. I noticed that when I send emails in English I didn't often get a reply. So, I started writing up my request on the Google Translate page and I would paste it into an email.

A few cool features on the web version include:

  • Playback - listen to what you wrote in each language - just click the speaker button

  • Use the copy button to grab the text quickly for pasting elsewhere

  • Upload images, documents, or translate entire websites.

A screenshot of text requesting a dinner reservation in two languages

If you have a document to translate, you can click the documents button. This is fantastic for signing important paperwork. I used this feature heavily when we were buying an apartment in Spain. With the back and forth of legal contracts, I needed to make sure I knew what I was signing.

Screenshot of Google Translate functionality
Screenshot of Google Translate functionality

You may also want to use the document translation feature for translating details of a tour or tickets you receive.

The uses for the web version are numerous for planning your trip to Europe or anywhere overseas where they don't speak English. You'll find that translating website details and email exchanges with restaurants, ticket offices, etc will be very useful. You may even want to print out some key phrases to remember!

On the Mobile Google Translate App:

Google Translate is a life-saver for reading menus or translating signs. Simply enable your camera to take real time 'photos' of foreign words.

It's as easy as hovering your camera over a menu or street sign and it picks up the text and displays it right on screen.

Screenshot of Google Translate functionality
Screenshot of Google Translate functionality

Speak with a foreigner by tapping the microphone. Talk in your native tongue and it will spit out what you said both in text form and also in speech.

This feature is crazy useful. I was speaking with my husband's Spanish uncle who was rattling on in his foreign language while I struggled to keep up and converse. After asking him to slow down, I brought out my phone and signaled for him to speak into it.

Screenshot of Google Translate functionality
Screenshot of Google Translate functionality

He quickly learned as he spoke into my phone that it was spitting out the English translation for me to understand. In turn, I spoke into the phone and it translated it to Spanish for him to understand.

A little awkward, but we managed to get on well and had some good laughs while we were at it. This is definitely a handy tool for your next overseas adventure.

Tell a cab driver where to take you without butchering the language and translate the written name of your hotel while you are at it.

Figure out if that sign said no parking allowed or if it said 'one way only'. Determine what the sale sign says in the shopping mall - does it say buy two get one half off or does it say buy one get one free?

These are all examples that I've used Google Translate for while traveling abroad. I hope that as simple as these instructions are, that I've been able to illustrate the great uses for such a robust program.

Finally, a tech tip:

If you have any struggles, be sure you are either on WiFi or a data plan, or download the offline translation file for the language you will be using before you leave for your trip.

Enjoy your travels!



Hi, I'm Maria!

Globetrotting since 1995, I'm not a digital nomad or a social influencer.

I'm a traveler. I'm a storyteller.

And I'm here to inspire you to

Travel More.

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​Never AI-Generated. Only real stories from my travels.


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