Skip to Content

No English Menu? No Problem With This Easy Travel Hack

This post may have affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you!) if you choose to purchase through them. Here's our Disclosure & Privacy Policy for more info.

Share The Article

Last Updated


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.

st-Germain-cafe-de-flore

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.

Traveler Alert: Don’t Forget Travel Insurance For Your Next Trip!

↓ Join Our Community ↓

The Travel Off Path Community FB group has all the latest reopening news, conversations, and Q&A’s happening daily! 

Travel-off-Path-group-1-1
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR LATEST POSTS

Enter your email address to subscribe to Travel Off Path’s latest breaking travel news, straight to your inbox

This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com


Previous
Top 7 Reasons To Visit Joshua Tree National Park This Fall
Galata Tower In Istanbul, Turkey
Next
The Top 5 Countries Where You're Most Likely To Get Scammed

billy

Monday 29th of August 2022

I wonder what kind of data privacy issues would be involved with this type of software especially from Google.

Eli

Saturday 27th of August 2022

Or.... you just LEARN the language of the country you're going to? Knowing some basic sentences or just a few words are much appreciated by locals. I get annoyed when I don't understand what people are talking about, how are you supposed to learn about the culture if you can't even communicate with locals?

Dude

Thursday 1st of September 2022

@Language KInggggg,

Well said. Eli do learn to read Thai, Hindi, Laos, Chinese, Japanese, Cambodian scripture before visiting these countries though. Why, because he is much better than you, than me, than everyone. And so is Christian.

Language KInggggg

Sunday 28th of August 2022

@Eli, Knowing some "basic sentences" is not going to let you read an entire food menu especially if it is in a different script like Thai, Hindi, Laos, Chinese, Cambodian etc... Not worth all the hassle to learn every food item unless you are going to be there for a long time. Very unrealistic comment.

Christian

Sunday 28th of August 2022

@Eli, I couldn’t have said it better.