Seven smart Google Translate tricks

Language barriers are dropping everywhere, thanks to smart software and fast transfer speeds. Google Translate offers a simple set of tools to convert text and speech from one language to another, and there are some great ways to make your life easier as a result.

Rob Lightner
Rob Lightner is a tech and gaming writer based in Seattle. He has reviewed games, gadgets, and technical manuals, written copy for space travel gear, and composed horoscopes for cats.
Rob Lightner
2 min read

Despite our best intentions, we never seem to add that one language to our repertoire. Tech is making it easier to get beyond language restrictions, though, and Google Translate is a great example of how to make life easier for travelers, publishers, and more. Here are seven great Google Translate tricks that are easy to deploy.

Add Google Translate to your site. It's easy to add a translation widget to your Web site that will automatically convert your wisdom (or kitten photo captions) into any of more than 50 languages. Just point your browser here, twiddle with the settings if you like, then copy and paste the code in the window into your site's source code.

Translate pages using your bookmark bar. At the bottom of the Tools and Resources page is a long list of language links. Drag any of them to your bookmark bar, then click it to automatically translate any page you visit into your preferred language. 

Add translate widget to your webpage.
Add translate widget to your Web page.

Semi-real-time translation (Android only). The Google Translate Android app offers Conversation Mode, an alpha feature that lets users speak to each other through the device in something fairly close to real time. The voice capture is surprisingly good, and while there's a lag, it's hardly a deal-breaker. 

Foreign site search. Head over to Google Language Tools and type in a phrase like "Amsterdam bike rentals" or "Brazilian fashion trends" and you should get results from appropriate foreign language sites automatically translated into your language of choice. 

Google Translate for Android: Conversation Mode.
Google Translate for Android: Conversation Mode.

Translate files. Google Docs has great integration with Google Translate, but if you have a Word document you don't want to upload to Docs, you still have translation options. The Translator Toolkit has a big red "UPLOAD" button in the top left; just click it, select your file, choose translation options, and you're good to go. (Note that file size is limited to 1MB.) 

Translate Reader items quickly. If you're a habitual Reader user with at least a few foreign-language items, this is a great time-saver. Just click the gear in the top right of Reader to bring up your settings, then select the "Send To" tab. Scroll down, click "Create a custom link," then paste these values into the fields: 

  • Name: Translate this item 
  • URL: http://translate.google.com/translate?u=${url} 
  • Icon URL: http://translate.google.com/favicon.ico 

This will open the item in a new tab and automatically translate it into your favored language.

Translate Google Reader items.
Translate Google Reader items.

Beatbox. This has made the rounds a few times, but it's still awesome. Using Translate, type in some consonant-heavy nonsense syllables, preferably in a repetitive pattern like "chk chk brf brf," then select translation to German, then click the speaker icon, which should say "Beatbox" when you mouse over it. (Note that if you go over Google's character limit, the option will disappear.) Now drop a rhyme and get some heads nodding.