This means that you’ll want a good offline translator app, preferably a translation app that is free. This is a step-by-step guide on how to use Google Translate offline for iPhones, which means that you can instantly get translations without wifi and Google will pronounce difficult words for you. Keep reading for my most used features from Google Translate, tips for using Google Translate like a pro, and how to install the best translation app you’ll find.
How to Use Google Translate, the best free translation app (Step by Step)
Step 1: Get on wifi and download Google Translate if you don’t already have it.
You can download it for free from the iTunes store or the Android marketplace.
Most important (unless you’re fine with burning through data): The language file can be fairly large AND you need to have space on your phone, so you need to be on wifi…and you might need to delete Bubble Witch Saga. (Sorry.)
Step 2: What is your primary language? What languages will you need for your trip?
Look up what language is spoken on the streets where you’re traveling abroad and/or what language you’ll find signs in. Find your native language and press the little arrow next to it to download your language. (Edit: not all languages are available offline.)
Now, select the language(s) that you’ll need while you’ll be traveling. Although one language might be listed as one of the official languages, I recommend looking up which languages are most spoken in that country.
If you only tap the name of the language, it will only work ONLINE. To have it downloaded for offline use, press the little down arrow to download that language. It will ask you confirm that you want to download it, press download.
Step 3 (optional, but recommended)
Download the keyboard for the other language you’ll need, so if a native speaker wants to start typing in a phrase to be translated into your language…or you just want to translate the menu, but lack the right alphabet, you need to do this.
I use an free keyboard app called SwiftKey that I find quite a bit better/smarter than the default keyboards that come with iPhones. (If you’re on Android, I recommend Swype) It allows you to not need to switch keyboards; you can just type in the language that you need and it will auto-suggest words as you type. It’s very useful if you’re unsure on how to spell things in a foreign language.
How to add another keyboard in another language without downloading other apps:
Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> Add New Keyboard ->> Language(s) You’ll Need
Android: Settings -> Search for Language and input -> Swype -> Hit the Grey Icon -> Languages -> Download languages -> Language(s) You’ll Need
OR [if Samsung] Settings -> Search for Language and input -> Samsung Keyboard -> Hit the Grey Icon -> Select input languages -> Select Language name in language [Nederlands for Dutch]
Tips for Google Translate and Most helpful features of Google Translate
Instant translation offline
Offline pronunciation of all phrases that you look up
My attempts at ask for skim/soy milk in Hungary in Hungarian went so badly that five different people tried to help me–and just left before they finally read my phone screen with the word. The clerk at this shop was so relieved to hand me the milk after she finally understood what I wanted.
Translations to/from both languages
When I’ve dealt with total non-English speakers while traveling and I’ve also not known their language, this has been a lifesaver. When we were in Kosovo, we dealt with a taxi driver who spoke Turkish and Albanian, but not English. We managed to have a conversation by hand-typing responses into Google Translate and passing the phone back and forth. Turns out, he was deeply confused why we were asking to go to a remote mountain village 40 minutes away as tourists don’t really go up there and it was quite a distance away. (It was worth it 100%)
Instant photo translations: My favorite feature
Is the future here? I felt like I was in a sci-fi movie just because I could hold my phone up and instantly read signs in another language. I did this when I was standing on a crowded street on Tokyo (with all the signs) and as I turned, I could understand the signs. (THE FUTURE IS HERE)
Pro tip: Don’t leave on instant translate as it can be jerky and it’s hard to read it if you keep moving your phone around like a klutz. I recommend taking a photo OF the text you’re trying to translate, then you can translate everything word by word by dragging your finger across the text that you want to translate line by line. You can also upload a photo from your phone if it has text!
My go-to phrases that I save usually include:
- Where is the ___?
- Is there milk in this?
- I’m allergic to dairy. This includes milk, butter, sourcream, and yogurt.
- I’m sorry, I don’t speak X
Avoid these Google Translate Features until further improved
For the character writer, you can hand draw a character in another language, however I found it’s very hard to do as a non-native speaker.
In theory, the recorder would allow you to speak in your language before it translates your message to the other language–and then it listens for the other person prior to translating it to your language. I’ve found it isn’t that accurate and more frustrating than useful.
Will Google Translate work offline for non-Roman alphabets?
Similarly, it makes it possible that you can have a native speaker type their response to a question in Google Translate using a keyboard that they’re comfortable typing in. We had to do this in Kosovo and it was a lifesaver!
Follow the keyboard download instructions at the top.