• Richie Crowley

The Tool That’s Bigger, Faster, & Stronger Than The Google Translate App

Avoid being the ignorant entitled American traveler and create your own customized travel dictionary with this function.


Adefining characteristic of identity is the language with which we communicate. Language is a tool that allows us to express love, share admiration, resolve conflict and more.

Language brings us together.

As the world becomes more and more accessible, there is an increase in opportunities to cross communicate with others who have a different native tongue. These opportunities educate us.

That’s exciting.

To best prepare for these opportunities, schools have increased the variety of languages offered to study, and individuals have purchased Rosetta Stone and Duolingo for self-guided language lessons.

Apps are also popular for in-the-moment translations with the most commonly used ones being Google Translate, Microsoft Translate, and Triplingo.

All of the above are great resources. But, what if I told you there was a more scalable way to create your own customized 58 language travel dictionary in 5 minutes?


The way to create yours is with the use of a Google Sheet Function, and your own mind. Super simple right?

Let me show you.

Google Sheets, a free tool for Google users, has native functions. The one for language translations begins with =GOOGLETRANSLATE.

The full function is: =GOOGLETRANSLATE(CELL OF DESIRED TRANSLATION VALUE,“Native Language Code”,“Desired Language Code”)

A use case of this from English to Spanish is: =GOOGLETRANSLATE(A3,”en”,”es”)

With this function, Google has made available 58 language codes to translate to and from. These can all be found here.

Now, I’ll share how to best use this function to create your own customized world dictionary.

How To Organize Your Own Customized World Dictionary

  1. Open a new Google Sheet

  2. In A1 enter the name of your native language you will be translating from. For me this is English, so I’ll enter English.

  3. In A2 enter the google code assigned to your native language. For me, it’s “en”

  4. Now, in A3 — A10, type in some common phrases you want to translate. Start easy with: Hello, How Are You, Where Is, May I Have The Bill, Thank You

  5. Return to Row 1. Moving from left to right from Column B, begin entering the desired languages you want to translate into. Type the full name as we did in A1 with English.

  6. Drop down to Row 2. Moving left to right from Column B, enter the code that Google assigns to the native language that has been entered in the above cell in row 1. Those codes can found here.

  7. Now in the appropriate cell in row 3, enter the =GOOGLETRANSLATE function with the appropriate values corresponding to the language selected in Rows 1 & 2. Do this for each cell in row 3 that has a value in row 1 and 2.

  8. The final step, copy your function value from row 3, down the entire column of each language.


I’m a visual learner, so I’ve attached an image of what this looks like along with a Template Google Sheet you can copy and make your own. *If you copy the function and paste it into every cell in your sheet don’t be alarmed if you see a returned value of #VALUE!, this just means you have yet to enter a value into the cell you are asking the sheet to translate from (ColumnA).

For any of the 58 two-letter language codes provided by Google Translate, this works. And, you can customize your sheet to have the native language of your choice.

This tool also travels with you. It’s easily accessible via desktop and mobile with the Google Sheets app and works via data and wifi. You can even turn your sheet to Offline Mode (File → Make available offline), to always be equipped.

The only “buyer beware” is that Google Translate has imperfections. It most likely won’t translate into slang or shorthand popular amongst native speakers, but you’ll be understood and even more, appreciated for your effort.


You may not want to be an international ambassador, but as someone who lived in Europe for 3 years, traveled to over 20 countries, it’s a much better experience when you at least attempt to speak the native language of the country you are in.

The rude entitled American that strolls into a store demanding “Do you speak English” is not a good look. Trust me. This happened with a friend in a Vodafone location in Bolzano, IT. I was deeply embarrassed. Thankfully, I had a cheat sheet that allowed me to apologize for him.

So, at a time where division is so publicly being created through xenophobic attitudes and rejections of entire cultures, consider whipping up your own customized communicator and allow language to bring us closer together.

The only question now is where to travel next?

Richie. Human.

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