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The Ultimate Guide to Google Translate Function in Google Sheets

Using the Google translate function in Google Sheets can be incredibly helpful for translating text right within your spreadsheets. The Google Translate function allows you to take data and formulas in one language and instantly convert them to another, opening up opportunities for collaboration and analysis.

In today’s guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know to get started with the Google translate function in Google Sheets. Whether you simply need to translate the odd word or phrase here and there or handle large batches of translated text, this guide has you covered.

We’ll start with a quick overview of the basics of – what it is, why it’s useful in Google Sheets, and how you can enable it. From there, we provide step-by-step instructions, examples, and tips for translating single words or cells, columns of text, entire sheets, and more using the Google Translate function in Google Sheets.

After reading today’s guide, you’ll be well-versed on all there is to know about harnessing translation power right in Google Sheets for your multilingual data and projects through Google Translate. Let’s get started.

Google Translate Function In Google Sheets: What is it?

The Google Sheets translate function is a tool that allows you to instantly translate text from one language to another directly within a Google Sheet document.

Specifically, it leverages the translation capabilities of Google Translate to take a phrase, sentence, or even paragraph that has been entered or imported into a sheet and convert it to a separate supported language.

The function works by accepting the original text as an input, requiring the source and target languages to be specified, and then outputting the translated text automatically to the desired location in the Sheet.

Over 100 different languages are supported for translation through Google Sheets. This makes breaking down language barriers and enabling more effective collaboration simple and accessible for teams and individuals working across multiple countries and cultures.

Google Sheets Translate Formula: Understanding the Basics

The Google Sheets translate formula makes it super straightforward to translate text right within your spreadsheets. The formula follows this simple structure:

Let’s break down what each part means:

  • Cell_or_Text – This is where you put either the text you want to translate in quotes (“hello”) or specify a cell that contains the text (A1).
  • Original_Language – You can put the language your text is currently in here (e.g. “English”). This part is optional.
  • Output_Language – Put the language name you want your text translated to here (e.g. “Spanish”). Also optional.

So all you really need is the text to translate and the language you want it changed to. Everything else is extra.

Some examples:

=GOOGLETRANSLATE(A1, ,”Spanish”) – Translates text in cell A1 to Spanish

=GOOGLETRANSLATE(“Hello world”,”English”,”French”) – Translates the text “Hello world” from English to French.

See – no need to be a formula expert to translate in Sheets. 

The Advantages and Limitations of Translation in Sheets

The Google Translate function embedded right in Google Sheets allows for both enhanced collaboration and communication challenges. So, understanding its strengths and weaknesses is key to utilising it effectively. Read on as we highlight some pros and cons of this function in Google Sheets. 

The Power of 100+ Languages Unlocked

The biggest appeal of the Translate function is granting instant access to over a hundred languages – far more than any individual could hope to learn. This allows Sheets containing specialized vocabulary and data to be shared and understood globally. Something as simple as column headers can be puzzling without translation, limiting a sheet’s usefulness.

Cost-Free Convenience…with a Catch

The free availability of Translate is also a major plus. But as with all machine translation, accuracy issues occur. Grammar and meanings can be misinterpreted, especially for longer, more complex phrases. So, while Translate provides convenience, human review is still vital for precision.

Seamless Integration into Workflows

As Translate lives directly within Sheets, it enables fluid transitions into multiple languages. Formula results, charts, cell comments and more can all shift languages as needed. This allows analysis and collaboration workflows to incorporate translation without disruption.

Translate Text In Google Sheets

Now that we’ve covered the basics of the Google Translate function, it’s time to see it in action within Google Sheets.

To make the entire process seamless, we have put together a sample sheet housing common phrases needed while travelling. 

Here is what it looks like: 

Our objective with this sample guide is to use the Google translate function in Google Sheets to translate these travel phrases from English to French. 

While this might look intimidating, especially if you haven’t done it before, It’s actually easy, and we will show you how to go about it. 

Here are the step-by-step instructions to translate:

Step 1: Choose  A Blank Cell

The first thing we want to do is choose an empty cell in our spreadsheet. This is where we want the text to be translated to. For our guide, we already have a column in our sample sheet for the translated text. So, what we need to do is choose a cell underneath that column. 

For this example, we will choose cell B2

Step 2: Enter Google Translate Formula

Done choosing the empty cell in your spreadsheet. Great. It’s now time to input the Google Translate formula. To do that, navigate to the formula bar and type in the following formula: 

This formula translates the phrase in A1, which is in English, into French. 

Step 3: Press Enter

With the Google Translate formula inputted, as we showed you above, all you need to finish the translation is to press the Enter button on your keyboard. Once you press the button, the translation result should be generated almost instantly. 

Here is what the translation result looks like in our sample sheet. 

Step 4: Translate Other Rows

From the screenshot above, you can see that we only translated the first phrase from English to French. So, we need to repeat the process for the other cells. But instead of repeating the process from scratch, we can use Google Sheets auto-fill feature to auto populate the result for the other cells. 

To use this, click on the cell and drag down the blue dot at the bottom right part of the cell to cover all the desired cells.

The video below shows how Google Sheets auto-feature works. 

Looking at everything we have covered so far, we are sure you’ll agree that translating text in Google Sheets using the Google Translate function is straightforward.

But we are not done yet. We are just scratching the surface of what you can do with the Google Translate function in Google Sheets. The next example we will cover will take things up a notch.  

Using Auto as a Language Argument to Translate in Google Sheets

Previously, we translated individual cells by manually specifying the source and output languages, like “English” and “French.” However, in some cases, you may not know the language used within the spreadsheet. This is where the “Auto” feature comes in handy.

Leverage Auto Detect Across an Entire Sheet

Let’s look at a scenario where automatic language detection would be beneficial. Imagine we have a Google Sheet housing some phrases that we don’t know what language they are written in, but we want to translate those into English. 

Here is what that looks like: 

Our goal here is to translate these phrases into English. Since we might not know the language the phrase is written in, we can leverage the “Auto” language translation feature, which is able to detect the language the phrase is written in. 

Here are the steps:

Step 1: Choose An Empty Cell

Let’s begin by choosing an empty cell in our spreadsheet. This is where we want the translated phrase to be. For this example, we will use cell B2 in our sample sheet. 

Step 2: Enter The Auto Language Translation formula

Now that you have selected the cell where you want the translated phrase to be, let’s quickly apply the auto-language translation formula. 

To do that, navigate to the formula bar and type in the following formula: 

Step 3: Press Enter

With the auto language translation formula typed in like we described in the previous step. All you need to do is hit the Enter button on your keyboard. Google Sheets should automatically generate the result of the translated phrase in the chosen cell.

Here, take a look at what we have in our spreadsheet after executing this step:

Step 4: Auto-translate for Other Cells

So far, we have only managed to translate the phrase in cell A1. Now, we need to do the same for the other cells. But instead of doing it manually, which is a waste of time, we can use the Google Sheets auto-translate feature, which makes the entire process a breeze. 

The video below shows how that works: 

Leveraging the auto argument feature provides a formula-based approach for situations when you might have mixed languages across rows. The Auto argument handles the language detection, so you don’t have to.

Pro Tip: Set Both Languages to “Auto” for Computer Default

When translating a large spreadsheet with mixed languages, manually detecting the text language in each cell would be tedious. Fortunately, Google Translate provides a handy shortcut.

By setting both the source_language and target_language arguments to “Auto”, the formula will automatically detect the text language and convert it to match your computer’s default language setting.

For example:


This would take the text in A3, detect its language, and convert it to match whichever language you have set as default on your computer – whether English, Spanish, French, etc.

Using “Auto” for both arguments can be a huge time saver with large mixed language sheets, especially when collaborating across multiple regions. The formula handles detection and conversion, so every user sees formulas and values in their own default language. Give it a try next time you need quick batches translated.

How Can I Find the Language Codes?

So far, in our examples, we have used language names like “English” or “Spanish” when translating text within Google Sheets. 

However, officially, each language has an assigned code that must be used. For example, English is “en” while Spanish is “es”.

Trying to memorize all 100+ language codes would take a lot of work. Luckily, there’s a handy shortcut to detect codes automatically.

Identify Codes Instantly with Detect Language

Imagine we have the following multilingual short phrases:

A1: This pasta is delicious!

A2: La playa está muy bonita

A3: Ce gâteau au chocolat a l’air délicieux

In order to translate these accurately, we need the correct language codes instead of names.

Read on as we detail the steps to detect the correct language codes in Google Sheets accurately. 

Step 1: Choose A Blank Cell

First things first, let’s choose a blank cell in our spreadsheet. This is where we want the language-detected code generated. For this example, we will use cell B2. 

Step 2: Enter the Language Detect Formula

After selecting the cell where you want the language detect code to show, head over to the formula bar and type in the following formula: 

Essentially, this formula scans the text in cell A2 and returns “en” for English. 

Step 3: Press Enter

After entering the formula like we showed you above, go ahead and press the Enter button on your keyboard. This action authorises Google Sheets to generate the language code in the selected cell. 

Here is a glimpse of what ours looks like: 

Step 4: Generate Language Code for Other Cells

From the screenshot above, you can see that we successfully generated the language code for the cell A2. 

Now, let’s generate the language code for the other cells. But instead of repeating the process for the other cells, let’s use the Google Sheets auto-fill feature as we did for the other examples we have covered so far. 

Suppose you’re struggling to get the language code to perform a seamless language translation in Google Sheets. In that case, we are sure the language code detection formula we showed you above will make the entire process seamless. 

How to Translate in Google Sheets with Add-ons

Up to this point, we’ve used the built-in Translate function and syntax to convert text between languages. However, Google Sheets also supports add-ons that can enhance translation capabilities. One such useful add-on is Translate My Sheet.

One-Click Translation Power

But before we can use the Translate My Sheet add-on, we first need to install it:

Step 1: Extensions > Add-ons

To download the Translate My Sheet add-on, navigate to the Extensions menu. You’ll be presented with a bunch of options. From those options, choose the one that says Add-ons, then select Get add-ons. 

This action should launch the add-on store. It should look something like this: 

Step 2: Search for the Translate My Sheet Add-on

Once the Add-on store launches, head to the search bar and search for the Translate My Sheet Add-on. Once you find the add-on, follow the instructions to have it installed. 

Once the add-on is successfully installed, you should get a prompt like this: 

Having installed the add-on, let’s show you how you can translate texts in your spreadsheet to select languages. 

Step 3: Extension > Translate My Sheet > Start New Translation

To translate your spreadsheet using the Translate My Sheet add-on, you need to navigate to the Extensions menu. From the options presented, select the option for Translate My Sheet, then choose Start New Translation. 

Step 4: Tweak Translation Settings 

Our previous step will launch the Translate My Sheet Window to the extreme right of your spreadsheet. Basically, what you want to do here is tweak the translation settings by selecting the language you want to translate to. 

For this guide, we will leave the option for Auto detect and select French as the language we want to translate to. Once that option is locked in, click the translate button. 

Once you tap on Translate, your sheet should be instantly translated into your preferred language. 

Now, that’s how easy it is to use add-ons to translate text to your preferred language in Google Sheets. 

Final Thoughts 

After going through numerous examples of translating text in Google Sheets – from single cells to entire sheets – the power of the built-in Translate function is clear. Its seamless integration and automatic language detection provide immense convenience.

Add-ons, like the Translate My Sheet add-on, take translation capabilities even further with comprehensive menus and one-click translation for entire spreadsheet batches. Between formulas and extensions, translating foreign languages into familiar tongues no longer requires leaving your workflow.

However, it’s important to remember that machines still have limitations in grasping linguistic nuances. For the most accurate understanding of critical data, manual human translation may still be advised when precision matters above all else.

But in many cases, the Google Sheets Translate function and supplementary add-ons remove enough of the language barrier for enhanced global collaboration and communication right in familiar spreadsheet environments.

So, in summary:

  • Built-in Translate delivers simple formulas for quick translations
  • Add-ons provide enhanced power across full datasets
  • Accuracy can falter with complex wording
  • Still useful for gisting and collaboration

Give the Translate function a try the next time you need to bridge linguistic divides hindering your team’s productivity within Sheets. Those collaborating across geographic borders are sure to find it a game changer – opening insights previously trapped behind language walls.