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. ...


Converting Text Case

Ever notice that if someone types in all CAPS, it appears they are shouting? If your worksheets include lots of text, you ...

Discover More

Sorting ZIP Codes

Sorting ZIP Codes can be painless, provided all the codes are formatted the same. Here's how to do the sorting if you ...

Discover More

Reversing a String

Need to reverse all the characters in a string? You can do so by using the function described in this tip.

Discover More
More DriveTips

Adding Fonts to Docs

If Docs only provided one or two fonts for displaying document text, it wouldn't be taken seriously as a word processor. ...

Discover More

Converting a Word Document to Docs Format

Many documents start out in Microsoft Word, but you may need to move them to Docs so you can share and collaborate with ...

Discover More

Viewing a Revision History for a Document

Need to know how a document has evolved over time? Docs has your document's history available at all times. How you ...

Discover More

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 4 + 8?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)