No English Menu? No Problem With This Easy Travel Hack


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Have you ever sat down to enjoy a nice dinner on vacation, only to find you couldn’t read the menu? While restaurants in tourist hotspots might have an English menu if you are lucky, don’t count on it. And while you could chance it, what if you get something you don’t want? You’ll end up spending money on something you don’t even like, which is not how you should spend your vacation. Luckily, a very easy and simple travel hack will allow you to read any menu. Travelers have been using this trick for years, but many are still unaware of its existence.

Young woman eating at a cafe in france

Take, for instance, the young woman below who took a vacation to Turkey. During her visit, she went to a restaurant with no English menu, and the staff didn’t speak much English either. This prompted her to download Google Translate to communicate with the staff. Translate has been used by travelers for many years and is an extremely helpful tool to have in a foreign country. However, there is a specific feature that often goes unnoticed, as it did by the woman below. When opening the app, there is a ‘camera’ button that you can press.

After pressing the camera button, travelers can point their phone toward a menu or anything else with text in a foreign language, like street signs, notices, or even nutritional labels at the grocery store.

Within a few seconds, Google Translate will overlay the foreign text with English (or the user’s language of choice). The feature is extremely useful when visiting a foreign country and often goes unnoticed, as it did by the woman in the video.

Couple looking at outdoor menu that is not in english

Google Translate Tips And Tricks

Offline Use

One thing travelers often run into while in a foreign country is a lack of cell phone data or Wi-Fi. While many tourist areas have free Wi-Fi available in various shops and restaurants, you can’t always count on it. Luckily, Google Translate allows users to download languages to their devices so that they don’t need an internet connection for the translations to work. Downloading a language doesn’t use much space, so feel free to download as many as you think you’ll need. For example, downloading French for offline use only uses 74MB of storage space.

screenshot for how to navigate to offline languages in google translate

After downloading for offline use, Translate’s functionality is more limited. However, users can still use their camera to translate text in real-time, and they will still be able to type in their native language to translate into another. When offline, Google Translate cannot convert speech, and conversation mode is unavailable.


Conversation Mode

This feature is convenient when trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak your language. However, one of its main drawbacks is that the feature will not work without an internet connection. Travelers who are not connected to Wi-Fi or do not have an international data plan will not be able to take advantage of Conversation Mode. For those lucky enough to have a connection while they travel, this feature allows for a near-seamless conversation between two people who do not speak each other’s language.

screenshot for how to use the conversation mode in google translate

Once users have selected the languages they want to translate between; they just need to hit the Conversation button and then the Auto button. After this, both people can speak their native language. Google Translate will automatically detect each language before translating it into the other selected language. The app will listen to both languages the whole time and translate immediately after detection.

Charming restaurant Le Consulat on the Montmartre hill. Paris, France

Travel Prepared

Google Translate is an invaluable tool for traveling to a country that doesn’t speak your native language. Downloading languages before heading off is a great way to ensure you aren’t caught unprepared when trying to communicate or read a menu. Along with Google Translate, many other apps will ensure your travel goes smoothly, including Google Maps, TripIt, and more.

This article originally appeared on Travel Off Path. For the latest breaking news that will affect your next trip, please visit:

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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories

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