How to translate emails, documents and more with Microsoft Office

I once worked for an international company headquartered in Switzerland and have always been fascinated by languages ​​and dialects. I appreciated the frequent exchanges with Swiss colleagues who knew four or five different languages. Their emails gave me a tantalizing taste of another culture. I am also half-Italian and frequently exchange emails with Italian parents.

When the person I’m emailing is more comfortable writing and reading in their native language than in English, I don’t let my own inability to write in that language slow me down. I just use Microsoft Translator to translate my emails for them and their emails for me. Not only does it broaden my view of the world, but it also gives me the chance to sharpen my Italian by watching how Translator turns Italian into English and English into Italian.

If you want to translate text in Outlook emails, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations, it’s easy to do. Maybe you work for an international company, like me, or maybe you communicate with colleagues or clients who are more comfortable writing in their native language. None of this is a problem for Office, which offers translation through an AI-powered translation service that can translate a selection of text or an entire document, file or message between many different languages.

the Translation service is accessible across multiple Microsoft products and technologies on the consumer and business side. Translator is integrated with Bing, Microsoft Office, SharePoint, Microsoft Edge, Skype Translator and Visual Studio. Microsoft Translator is also available as an app for iOS/iPadOS, Apple Watch, Android OS and Android Wear.

The translator supports more than 100 languagesincluding more common languages, such as English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic, and some less common languages, including Fijian, Creole Haitian, Icelandic, Kurdish, Maltese, Serbian and Ukrainian.

Microsoft Translator’s accuracy is assessed using a BLUE Score (Bilingual Evaluation Understudy). This score measures the differences between a machine translation and a human translation of the same source text. A 2018 report measuring Chinese to English translation gave Microsoft Translate a score of 69 out of 100, which is a high score compared to human translation. It will probably get better over time too, at least according to one Microsoft Translator blog post of November 2021 which explains how the company is working to advance its machine translation technology.

Now, here is how to use the translator in the different Office applications.

Translate in Microsoft Outlook on desktop

If you purchased Outlook 2019 or later for Windows as a standalone app or as part of Microsoft Office or Microsoft 365, translation functionality is built-in. To configure it, click on the Case menu and select Choice. In the Outlook Options window, select Tongue.

The window now displays your default display language for Office. Scroll down to the Translation section. Here you can decide how to handle messages received in other languages, choosing to always translate them, to be asked before translating or never to translate. Then select the target language if it is not your default language. Then click on the Add a language and select the languages ​​for which you don’t want to see a translation.

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You can change the translator settings in Outlook to better manage the feature. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

Close the Options window and return to the main Outlook screen. Open an email that you want to translate into your native language. Depending on the options you have chosen, the email will be automatically translated or give you the option to have it translated. Either way, you should see a link in the message to translate the message into your language. If not, click the Translate button on the ribbon and select the Translate message ordered.

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Outlook should offer to automatically translate a message. Otherwise, you can manually trigger the translation. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

Run the translation command and the entire message appears in your native language. You can then switch between the translation and the original text and activate automatic translation if it is not already activated.

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You can easily switch from the translated message to the original text. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

What if you want to take the reverse trip and translate an email you’re composing from your own native language to another language? Unfortunately, Microsoft currently offers no reliable or convenient way to do this in Outlook. The easiest workaround is to translate the text in Word, then copy and paste it into your message in Outlook.

Translate in Microsoft Outlook on the web

The translation service is also available for Outlook on the web. To set it up here, sign in to Outlook with your Microsoft or work account. Click it Settings icon in the upper right. In the Settings pane, click the link to View all Outlook settings. In the Settings window that appears, select To post and then Message processing. Scroll down to the Translation section and you will find the same settings as in the desktop version of Outlook.

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Outlook on the web offers the same translation settings as the desktop version. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

When you receive a message in another language, the Translate function will offer to translate it for you. Click on the link to translate it. You can then switch between the original text and the translation.

As with the desktop version of Outlook, the web version currently offers no convenient method to translate a new email from your own native language to another language. Again, translating the text in Word is your best bet.

Translate in Microsoft Word

the translation feature in Microsoft Word works pretty much the same in both desktop and online versions.

Open a document that you want to translate, in whole or in part. Select the Review tab on the ribbon. To customize the function before using it, click the Translate button and select Translator Preferences. In the Translator pane that appears on the right, confirm that the switch is set to Yes for “Offer to translate content that is not in a language I read.” You can also add any languages ​​you don’t want translated.

If you only want to translate certain texts, select the text. Click it Translate button in the ribbon and choose Translate selection. In the Translator pane on the right, make sure the correct source language is detected. If it is not correct, click on the down arrow of the target language and change it. Hover your mouse over each word in the translation, and the function will show you the translation just for that word. To add the translation to your current document, click the blue button Insert button on the far right.

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Select the text you want to translate, then run the Translate command. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

Similarly, to translate the whole document, click on the Translate icon in the ribbon and select Translate the document. In the Translator pane, make sure that Document the tab is selected. Confirm that the target language is correct. Click on the blue Translate button on the far right. A new document is created and appears with the complete translation.

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In Word, you can choose to translate the entire document as well as selected text. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

Translating from your own language to another works the same way. Select the text you want to translate (or leave the selection blank if you want to translate the whole document), then click the Translate on the Review tab of the ribbon and select either Translate selection or Translate the document. In the Translate pane, set the target language in the To: field. Any selected text is automatically translated and appears in the pane. To translate a document, click on the blue Translate button.

Translate in Microsoft Excel

the translation for Excel only works in the desktop version of the program. Select one or more cells containing the text you want to translate. Click it Review menu and select Translate. In the Translate pane, ensure that the source and destination languages ​​are correct. You can then hover over each word to see its individual translation.

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In the desktop version of Excel, you can select one or more cells to translate text. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

To insert the translated text into a cell in your spreadsheet, select and copy the translation into the pane. Click on the target cell, then paste the text.

Translate in Microsoft PowerPoint

As with Excel, PowerPoint translation is only available in the desktop client. PowerPoint can translate selected text (not an entire presentation); it works like translating selected cells in Excel.

PowerPoint also offers a handy feature who can translate your presentation as you speak it, which is great if you have an audience more comfortable in another language. Translations appear as subtitles as you present.

To begin, click on the Slideshow menu and check the box to Always use subtitles. Then select Subtitle settings. In the web version of PowerPoint, click the Slideshow menu and select the down arrow next to Always use subtitles. Select or confirm the spoken language. Then select the subtitle language. Return to the subtitle settings menu to choose where you want the subtitles to appear – bottom overlay, top overlay, above slide, or below slide.

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In PowerPoint, you can choose a language for translated subtitles and decide where the subtitles should appear. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

When you view the presentation as a slide show, say the words from each slide or your own commentary. The subtitles of your lyrics will appear in the language you have chosen.

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Subtitles appear in the translated language as you speak. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

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