Translator Tools

A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Use the Google Translator Toolkit

There are a few different tools that translators can use to become more productive.

These tools not only increase productivity but also make translation work more convenient, faster, and less error prone.

By using these tools, you’ll be able to do more faster.

And doing translations faster will bring you more money.

One of the best tools for freelance translators is a translation-like toolkit that can help you process your language faster.

There are a ton of different tools you can use for this.

The thing is, most of these tools cost a ton of money. And while they will help you get the job done, the cost can be very prohibitive for a freelance translator just starting out and trying to get into the business.

For example, one of the most popular products on the market, SDL Trados Studio will set you back nearly $1,000.

SDL Trados Translation Tool
SDL Trados Translation Tool

Other translation tools will set you back nearly the same amount.

However, if you’re not willing to commit that kind of cash yet, there are some free language tools that you can try to at least get your hands dirty a little.

While the free tools generally don’t offer as many bells and whistles as do the full paid versions, they are free.

One of the more well-known tools is the Google Translator Toolkit (GTK).

And if you’ve never used it, here’s the unofficial guide on how to make it work for you.

(Plus, I’m not a Google hater, so I’m cool with using their tools if it makes me more productive, which this can.)

First of all, though, here are some things that the toolkit can do:

Google Translator Toolkit

Before we get to the step-by-step guide, though, it’s important to make special note of that list line.

The toolkit is different than Google Translate. GTK is a tool for translators to aid in the translation process by speeding up the work. This happens through the use of translation memories, glossaries, and collaboration tools.

On the other hand, Google Translate is something completely different.

If you haven’t used it, it’s basically an online translation engine. You put in words and get a translation back.

There are no translator tools built into Google Translate (although scam translators will often use the tool for crappy translations).

Step-by-Step Introduction to GTK

All right, so here’s where we’re going to get down to business and talk about how to use GTK.

Step 1: Access the site

The GTK is located at

Go to that site and follow along.

Notice, though, that before you can access the site, you need a Google account. You need a Google account for everything you do with Google, so this shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Step 2: The GTK dashboard

First page you’ll be brought to is the dashboard. It’s laid out pretty straightforward, which is a welcome change to some of the expensive commercial tools you can buy.

Those $500 to $1,000 tools are so complicated sometimes that you’d need a team of 12 IT developers and your own call-center help desk to understand all the functions.

Here’s the GTK dashboard:

GTK Dashboard
GTK Dashboard

You’ve got two main areas: the left hand column and the bar across the top.

Step 3: Upload a document

With the GTK, you can translate the following types of content:

  • Upload a file
  • Input a URL
  • Input text
  • Input a Wikipedia article
  • Your Youtube videos

If you decide to upload a file, you do have a limited choice of the types of files:

GTK Filetypes
GTK Filetypes

So, once you decide what type of file or content you want to upload, hit the “Upload” button. You’ll be taken to a new page asking you to specify the type of content you want translated.

Note: You’ll be a given a choice of target languages. If you don’t see yours listed, type it into the box below the languages and you can then add it to the choices already available.

In addition to choosing the target language, you also have the choice to choose a Translation Memory (TM) to use to help pre-translate segments in the source language file. If you don’t remember what a TM is, you can find the definition at my Translation Terms for New Translators.


Finally, you can also specify a glossary to use on the translation. A glossary would be best used if your content has very specialized terminology or terminology that you want to keep consistent throughout the translation.

For this example, we won’t include a glossary, but if you’re interested in including one, the instructions are fairly straightforward.

Step 4: Work on your translation

OK, so once you upload a document or URL, it’s time to start working on the translation.

For my example, I input the Spanish Wikipedia article on Computational Linguistics. Once the document is uploaded, you can click on that entry in your GTK dashboard and go directly to the translation window, which in my case looks like this:

GTK Translation Window
GTK Translation Window

Like all translator tools, the window is divided into two columns: the left side for the source language and the right side for the target language. In this case, none of the segments on the right side were pre-translated because I chose not to use the Global/Shared TM.

The document is divided into segments. These are usually sentences, headlines, bullet points, etc.

When you highlight a segment in the left-hand window, a corresponding translation window shows up for that segment on the right-hand side.

In the screenshot above, notice the segment highlighted in blue and the translation window on the right that corresponds to that highlighted portion.

As you translate, your edited translation segments on the right-hand side turn orange as a visual clue. Other colors indicate other types of information:

GTK Color Indicators
GTK Color Indicators

Now, let’s say I had chosen to use the Global/Shared TM.

In this case, the text on the right side would have been machine translated. Here’s an example from a Univision news article about Venezuela:

GTK Machine Translation
GTK Machine Translation

You’ll notice again that the segment I’ve already translated is orange. The red text on the right-hand side is text that has been automatically machine translated by Google.

The translated text not only appears in the translation box, but also on the bottom right of the screen.

If you don’t see that part of the screen, you’ll have to click the “Show toolkit” button on the top right of the screen.

If you like the machine translation as is, click the “Use suggestion” button below the computer translated segment and then move on to the next segment.

If you don’t like the translation, you can edit it inside the translation box.

One other thing to note is the use of hyperlinks in your source language.

If you import a URL or document that has hyperlinks, these links won’t be represented exactly the same way in the target language. Instead, each hyperlink on the right hand side will be represented by numbered placeholders.

Instead of explaining exactly how this is done and how you should treat them in your target language translation, I’ll just point you to the Google support page on placeholders.

Step 5: Finish your translation

When you’re done, it’s time to save and complete.

Hit the “Complete” button on the top right of the screen. You’ll get the following pop-up window:

GTK Pop-up
GTK Pop-up

Hit “OK” and the translation will be marked as completed. When you close that translation window and go back to the GTK Dashboard, you’ll see you’ll be taken back to the dashboard.

You’ll see all your translation projects listed, which ones are marked as being completed and which ones are not yet 100% complete.

Once you have translation projects in your dashboard, you can download the target language translation, share the translation with friends, or request a professional translation.

And that’s all there is to it.

As I mentioned, it doesn’t have to be your long-term solution. But if you’ve never used translation software before, it’s a great introduction to how they work… and it’s free.

I wish I would have had access to something like this when I was a college student studying translation. It would have made it much more convenient to keep track of all my translation assignments if nothing else.

Try it out. Let me know what you think.

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