Translating Documents

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 20, 2014)

One tool that Google has had available for some time is Translate. You can visit the website ( and translate short snippets of text between any two languages you choose. Now Google has brought the technology to entire documents, meaning that you can create a document and then translate it to a different language. Follow these steps:

  1. Create your original document as you normally would.
  2. Open that document.
  3. Choose Tools | Translate Document. Docs displays the Translate Document dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Translate Document dialog box.

  5. Enter a new title for the translated document. (The proposed, default title is the same title as your original document with the phrase "Translated copy of" used as a prefix.)
  6. Use the Translate Into drop-down list to choose a language you want to use.
  7. Click Translate.

At this point Docs creates a new document (using the title you specified in step 4) that contains the translated copy of the document. Docs doesn't mess with the original document; the one you opened in step 2. It creates a brand new document based on that one. Depending on the length of the original document, translation can take a while to complete—so be patient.

As of this writing, the Translate Document tool supports 46 languages, ranging from Afrikaans to Vietnamese. It is important to remember that the translation is done by machine, which means that the translated document will need some "polishing" after Docs is done. Thus, the tool provides a good starting point for the translation, but it should be relied upon to create a document that a native speaker of the target language would consider good.

You can see this by translating from one language to another and then back again. For instance, I started with a short document that included this sentence, in English: "It is quite a rush to be yourself one moment, then a baseball pitcher in a big game the next, followed by a short stint as an ill-fated European courtesan in medieval France." (That sentence looks really strange out of context, but believe me—it makes sense in the fiction prose from which it was taken.)

I then translated the document into Spanish and the same sentence ended up as this: "Es toda una carrera para ser uno mismo en un momento, y luego un lanzador de beisbol en un gran juego al siguiente, seguido de un breve periodo como cortesana europea malogrado en la Francia medieval." I don't know Spanish, so I have no idea if the translation makes sense. However, when I translated the Spanish document back into English, that sentence ended up as this: "It's a career for yourself in a moment, and then a baseball pitcher in a big game to the next, followed by a brief stint as European court unfortunate in medieval France." Something was obviously lost in the translation.

The bottom line: Make sure whatever you translate is checked by someone who is fluent in both the original language and the target language.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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