How to translate words with Google Sheets (yes, Google Sheets)

A little-known feature of Google Sheets, automatic translation greatly facilitates the passage of lists of words or phrases from one language to another. Just write a simple function. One more step to prove that this servant is capable of doing anything.

This is the kind of handy trick for quickly translating lists without much effort. If you have a list of words or phrases written in a spreadsheet, on Google Docs the translation to another language can be automated. All you have to do is write a simple function, specifying the departure and arrival languages ​​- or asking for their automatic recognition.

Translate in Google Sheets

Imagine for example a list of French words that you want to translate into English. Once the first column has been written, all you have to do is go to the cell to the right of the one where the first term appears and write the instruction = GOOGLETRANSLATE (xx; language1; language2), with “xx” designating the cell code (for example C2) and language1 and language2 the departure and destination languages.

The function will go to Google’s translation tool and display the English equivalent of the French word you put in cell B2 – if that’s where it is. Of course, for this to work, you need to be connected to the Internet. In addition, the departure and arrival languages ​​must be designated by their code: “fr” for French, “en” for English, “es” for Spanish, “de” for German, and so on.

Google Docs Translation
An example of use.

Automate translation

This automatic translation aid is not strictly speaking new, but it is not necessarily known to everyone. Its existence has, however, been brought back to the forefront thanks to to a published message on Twitter on March 30. This shows an animation of the service and indicates the codes of several compatible languages.

It is also possible to request an automatic detection of the language, with the code “auto”. Once the instruction is written and functional, all you have to do is grab the edge of the cell (where there is a small blue square) that contains it and drag the command to the bottom so that it is translated. all other terms in the first list.

Automatic language detection is planned

The quality of the translation obviously depends on Google Translate, which does the job for common words and simple sentences, but can be struggling as soon as the level increases. For more demanding translations, we prefer DeepL, but the tool is not interfaced with Google Docs. In addition, DeepL supports far fewer languages ​​than Google Translate.

In terms of use, this function – one among many others offered by Google – remains however limited: one can imagine its interest to create lists of words to revise its language courses, for example, or to prepare some if the we are a teacher But that’s about all. For holidays abroad, much more ergonomic applications exist and also work without the Internet.

Article originally published on April 06, 2019 and updated on September 12, 2021

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