It can be done, as I discovered just yesterday. What's more, it can be done for most of the common languages (shame if you want to learn Georgian - as I do for a planned trip to Tblisi later this year - but as I say, the more common languages, from Swedish to Japanese).
How's it possible?
Here's how (apologies to those who knew about it already).
First, use the internet to find a newspaper in the language of interest. You can enter 'newspapers france' into Google search for example, and then click on one of the links provided.
Here's a screen grab of today's L'Humanité for example. (Chosen for its colorful blog-friendly front page I hasten to add - forget the paper's links with the ultra-lefty French politics).
Find an article with some recognizable current news with which you are familiar. It might be "Ukraine" for example, or the recognizable equivalent in your chosen language. This being a science site, I scanned for a non-subscription article that had "antibiotiques" in the title.
Then copy and paste a chunk of text into Google Translate.
Here's the chunk selected:
Use the left and right selectors to set the language entered and the translation required. The URL for the above link to Google Translate is:
That shows it's set to translate French into English.
Now click the Translate key to get a near instant translation.
No, it's a a machine translation, needless to say, but is usually good enough to get the sense of a passage.
The real joy is the discovery by this blogger of the additional keys at the end of the two texts of a phonetic pronunciation in each of the two languages. I have circled them in yellow.
So one has a triple whammy here - the foreign text, an instant translation alongside, and an impression of a native reading the foreign text. Again, the latter's not perfect, especially where one sentence ends and another starts, but it's still remarkably good in my opinion.
How long's this 3-in-1 facility been available I wonder, and how come it's not been generally fanfared? It certainly wasn't some years ago when I was struggling to acquire and perfect foreign languages, even the most common like French, German, Spanish and Italian.
I have to say it's doing wonders for my foreign languages, and it's fun to take a particular passage and hear it being recited in all the major world languages, while attempting to follow (for me) the foreign text.
What an amazing species we are, to have developed a proliferation of languages, all different, yet which work so effectively in each of their different regions. Which member(s) of the tribe or clan decided what new word to give common items originally, like love, hate, thunder, lightning, dog poo? Or did they sit round a table and cast votes? What were they drinking (or smoking) when any number of 'memorable' English place names. villages especially, were chosen?
Would it be too much of an exaggeration to claim that the 3-in-1 package offered by Google is as close as one is likely to come with present technology (short of the homogenized one-size-fits-all audio-visual software packages) to SCIENTIFIC language acquisition? One is able, after all, to EXPERIMENT, by taking current affairs materials that are of interest to one, instead of pre-written software. One can change a word here or there and see what effect it has on the translation.
The Achilles heel, needless to say, are those machine translations that can still be painful to read. But there's a way of tweaking those, as I discovered a while ago. Take the offered translation, and see what you get by way of back-translation. If it's different, then try simplifying the text until the original and translation are faithful to each other.
Oh, and one other thing. Don't expect to get a complete audio version from very long passages. The "voice" may stop before the end. I suspect it's something to do with real-time bandwidth control on the part of Google, rather than being subject to a personal ration, since repeated hitting of the audio key can often get it to resume where it left off. If that doesn't work, then try deleting everything up to the stop point, and then rehit the audio key, a few times if necessary.
Oh, and here's something else that's amazing. One can copy the URL for any particular page of translation, and SAVE or even email, then paste it back to resume where on left off.
Here's what the URL looks like for what you see above (Yes it's long, because it contains every single word on the page!)
Here it is as a single hotlink . That's if you want to see and hear for yourself the amazing versatility, to say nothing of educational value, of the Google Translate facility. Go to that chosen L'Humanité page, click on the audio tab at the bottom right. Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the lady's spoken French. Just ignore one or two strange inflections now and again.
Further reading: try entering 'google translate learn language' into your favourite search engine.
Or click here: google translate learn language
For those like me, still grappling with fast-spoken French, here's another tip. Log onto the France Info radio station home page. There you can listen to the radio direct if you wish. But what I do is select one or more pre-broadcast items from the list (daily, or listings that go back some 2 months). You can listen to the broadcast first, often including interviews. But here's the chief advantage. Look at the end of each summary for the (black font ) link labelled 'detail' and it gives you an independent write-up, providing an overview of the broadcast, which you can then cut-and-paste in Google Translate and "Google Speak".One can then listen to a particular topic over and over again, either retrospective 'live'-broadcast or accompanying summary, preferably both, at the end of which you can expect to have a pretty good grasp of both vocabulary and pronunciations.