Software

How to translate documents into different languages with Google Docs

Expanded font support and additional templates make it easier than ever to work with text in various languages in Google Docs.

Illustration of Google Doc in center, with arrows point out toward the word "Words" translated into some of the most widely spoken languages on Earth
Image: Andy Wolber / TechRepublic

There are more than 7,000 distinct languages in the world. If you speak English, your words might be understood by roughly 15% of people around the world, and that includes people for whom English is a secondary language.

In late 2017, Google announced several enhancements to language support in Google Docs like additional font support for non-Latin scripts like Cyrillic and Devanagari as well as the availability of templates in four new languages: European Spanish, Latin American Spanish, French, and Brazilian Portuguese. And recently, the company added templates in Hindi, German, Indonesian, Japanese, Dutch, and Chinese.

Google Docs supports around 70 languages on web, Android, and iOS, Allen Yang, product manager at G Suite said in an email. And any enterprise that seeks to serve people around the world will need tools that support communication in multiple languages. For each supported language, user interfaces need to enable: the use of application capabilities, input methods that capture words efficiently, fonts that display all characters clearly, and spellcheck and autocorrect services that identify potential errors and offer alternatives accurately.

"In November of this year, we announced increased support for non-Latin fonts— this opened up 800+ new font choices for our non-Latin users," Yang said. "On Voice, we support over 40 languages with no training or setup required. After launching the feature, we heard from users that they wanted us to focus on dialects of those 40 languages, so we added support for English (Australia), English (Canada), and English (Ghana), among others."

Google offers several language selection settings. On desktop systems, you can change your preferred language associated with your Google account (Login at myaccount.google.com, then go to Language & Input Tools), as well as within Chrome (Settings > Advanced > Language).

You can also translate a document into another language from within Google Docs (Tools > Translate document). Optionally, you can select text, copy it, then paste it into the Google Translate service on the web (https://translate.google.com) or in a mobile app.

Screenshot of Google Docs' Tools > Translate document command, with prompt to choose language of new document

Within Google Docs on the web, choose Tools > Translate document, then pick the language into which you want to translate your document.

Your thoughts?

How have you used Google's language and translation features? Has the system provided the tools you and your organization need to communicate effectively across languages? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@awolber).

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About Andy Wolber

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Albuquerque, NM with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

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