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Magazines > Information Today > July/August 2022

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Information Today
Vol. 39 No. 6 — July/August 2022
Four Ways Google Helps You Translate Foreign Languages

by Sophia Guevara

Have you ever come across an article published in a different language whose information you needed to be able to read? With Google Translate, the Google Translate Chrome browser extension, or the translation tools available in Google Docs and Gmail, it’s easy to unlock that content.


Google Translate offers two tabs that allow you to translate either typed-in text or an uploaded document. Enter the text or locate the document you need on the left-hand side of the webpage, and then allow the site to detect the language. You can select what language you want the translation to be in. On the right-hand side of the page, you will get your translation. If you’re uploading a document, you can use a variety of formats, including .docx, .pdf, .pptx, .rtf, .txt, or .xslx. For those who serve the public from their research desk, this tool might help you improve service to those who read in a language other than English. For those who conduct research, this tool might help you identify new keywords with which to continue your project.


If you use the Chrome browser, there is an extension available for Google Translate. This free extension has millions of users. Once you add it, you can choose to pin it for quick access. After you select it, a small window will pop up. You can choose to translate the page you’re on into a variety of languages. You may find this option easier to use than opening up the Google Translate website and copying and pasting text to get the translation you need, especially if you’re translating a lot of text.  


If you use Google Docs, you can also access the translation tool there. If you open a document, you can click on Tools, then Translate Document. This creates a translated copy; you choose the language you want it translated into. You can decide to change the document copy’s title at this stage. I recently had to translate a PDF, and when I uploaded it via Google Docs, the translation tool worked well.


Another place offering a translation tool from Google is in messages within Gmail. If you use Gmail, there is a way to translate emails you receive. For those of you who are familiar with email options such as Microsoft Outlook, you may be used to something similar called Translator, which is an add-in for Outlook. With the Gmail version, you can find the translation option by clicking on the three dots to the right of the email you want to translate and selecting the option Translate Message from the drop-down menu. Google will detect the language, and once that happens, you’ll see an option bar that appears below the email’s sender information to select the language you want to translate the email into.


How do you think these options from Google could influence your research and service practices? Might they cause you to explore resources that you had once thought were off-limits to you because of the language barrier? In my own case, I was impressed that I could continue researching the topic I was interested in without being limited by language. In the past, I had used Google Translate for other things, but I hadn’t really thought of it as an important tool in research. I hope that readers of this article will find as much value in Google’s translation options as I have.


Google Translate

Sophia GuevaraSophia Guevara received both her M.L.I.S. and master of public administration degrees from Wayne State University. She has also been published in Computers in Libraries, Online Searcher, and Information Outlook. Send your comments about this article to or tweet us (@ITINewsBreaks).