How Google Translate works offline

During a trip to Germany or an English-speaking country, most can manage, but everyone sometimes comes to a country where they do not speak the language. Instead of messing around with dictionaries, it's better to use the new Google Translate app. It even works offline. Few people know how powerful Google Translate is without an internet connection.

Tip 01: 59 language packs

A few years ago, Google developed the PBMT: the sentence-based machine translation. This technique allowed Google to translate sentences word for word, which was far from perfect. Then came neural machine translation (NMT), which translated whole sentences in one go within the given context, yielding a much better result. Today, this technology works directly on mobile devices, meaning you can use Google's translation service even without an active internet connection. All you have to do is download a pre-available language. These are language packs of only 35 to 45 MB per language, so that even low-end smartphones with little storage capacity can address them. The Google Translate app can convert 103 languages, 59 of which do not require an internet connection. When you open the offline translator for the first time, only your language of use (Dutch) and English are activated. For example, if you also want to translate French offline, you can load this language pack from this window. Tap the currently available language and choose the additional package you want to add from the list of languages.

Tip 02: Read or pronounce

As you type, Google Translate will produce the translation. In addition, a blue arrow appears to have the translated text spoken by a female voice. To do this, you must give Google Translate permission to use the microphone of your device. So you are not ashamed because you pronounce a word incorrectly. The waiter on the terrace in France understands exactly what you mean by "un Verre d'eau pétillante". In the main window you can swap the two chosen languages. The two arrows at the top serve this purpose.

60% more accurate

How accurate is Google Translate? Google had the performance of its tool assessed by native speakers who, during the tests, gave a value judgment on a scale of 0 to 6. For most major languages, Google Translate scored an average score of 5.43 out of 6. For example, we are talking about English to Spanish. Chinese-English received a 4.3. Google insists the new tool is 60% more accurate than the old Google Translate. Just a little while and we'll be done with the hilariously bad translations that we make fun of on Twitter under the hashtag #badtranslations.

Tip 03: Visual translations

A few years ago, Google bought the company Quest Visual and thus acquired the augmented reality translator Word Lens. This technology is now included in Google Translate, so you can point the smartphone at the board written in a foreign language. You will then receive a live overlay in your own language. To do this, tap the camera icon at the bottom of the translation text field. The app will use the language preferences of the chosen main interface. So make sure you choose the right language before tapping the camera button. Then a scan animation starts and then you drag your finger to highlight the text. Then tap the blue button to the right of the translated text. This will exit camera mode and return you to the home screen with your translated text.

In the integrated phrasebook, you can save common translations for later

Tip 04: Tap to Translate

When you receive a series of messages or emails in a foreign language, it is difficult to constantly switch to the Translate app. That's why Google has the function Tap to Translate introduced – which, by the way, is only available on Android. This functionality makes it possible to translate text in other apps using the Google Translate app. You enable this feature via the translation settings, where you choose the default languages. if Tap to Translate is enabled, you just need to copy the text so that a translation bubble appears in the top right corner of the screen. By the way, you can New translation tap to enter another phrase without leaving the popup.

Tip 05: Phrasebook

To get a faster translation of common phrases, the translation app works with an integrated phrasebook where you save important translations for quick access later. Google Translate keeps the list of recent sentences below the main text box. To add a phrase to the phrasebook, tap the star icon. This guide is accessible through the navigation menu. Over time this guide will become very long, but luckily there is a search function. When you tap an item in the guide, the phrase will automatically appear in Translate's interface.


If you want to see alternative translations for a specific word, click on the blue arrow and Google will present a list of different options. Google also indicates which part of speech it is: a noun, a verb, an adverb and so on.

Tip 06: Speak, listen

Google Translate now also translates everything it should. If you don't like to type, you can talk directly to the smartphone. To do this, you must first tap the microphone icon. This feature works best when you keep talking smoothly and don't stop mid-sentence. It is even possible to play pre-recorded audio or video close to the microphone for direct translation. By default, Google blocks bad language, but if you still want to translate a vulgar word, turn on Voice input the option Block foul language from.

In the new conversation mode, you place the smartphone as an interpreter between you and the foreign language

Tip 07: Conversation mode

Translating a few sentences is useful, but having a real conversation is another matter. Still, the new Google Translate helps with the new conversation mode to have a conversation. To do this, place the smartphone between you and the non-native speaker. You then enter conversation mode by tapping the microphone icon at the bottom of the main text box. It starts with a handy pop-up with instructions explaining the situation to the other person, in his or her language. That way it will understand what you are planning. This conversation mode goes back and forth between the two languages. You speak and the app translates, then the other speaks and the app translates for you. By default, Google Translate listens to one language at a time, but there's a button in the middle that lets the app listen to both languages. That makes for a more natural conversation experience, provided you avoid talking at the same time.

Tip 08: Handwriting

For those who didn't know yet: in the Google Translate app it is even possible to recognize handwriting and convert it into another language. This is not just a gadget or a feature to decipher illegible letters. The button Handwriting are used to translate words from another alphabet. Suppose you want to decipher a Chinese text. You can then copy each character so that Google shows suggestions of what it might mean. Not only do you have to write clearly, but you also have to know in advance which language it concerns. Otherwise you will not be able to address the correct translation module.

Tip 09: Translation history

The app stores the translation history in the mobile device. At the bottom of the start screen you will find the previous translations. When you want to open a previous translation, just tap it. To delete such a translation, swipe it left or right. If you like your privacy and want to clear the entire translation history, tap the menu in the top left corner to get to the Institutions comes. There you choose the assignment Translation history to clear.

full screen

To make the mobile translator more visible, you can display the result in full screen. To do this, tap the blue arrow behind the translation and use the full-screen icon there.

Tip 10: Text Recognition

A particularly convenient way to translate printed text without having to retype it is via your smartphone's camera. Below the input box, tap the camera icon. Then you take a photo of the page or the menu. Make sure the text is right in the screen and tap the red button to take a photo. Google analyzes the text and indicates by means of a box where the app has recognized text. To have part of the text translated, mark the desired paragraph with your finger. If you want to translate the entire text, use the blue button with the arrow.

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