: 21

Icon Build Status Version Download Gitter

Translate Shell (formerly Google Translate CLI) is a command-line translator powered by Google Translate (default), Bing Translator, Yandex.Translate, DeepL Translator and Apertium. It gives you easy access to one of these translation engines in your terminal:

$ trans 'Saluton, Mondo!'
Saluton, Mondo!

Hello, World!

Translations of Saluton, Mondo!
[ Esperanto -> English ]
Saluton ,
Mondo !

By default, translations with detailed explanations are shown. You can also translate the text briefly: (only the most relevant translation will be shown)

$ trans -brief 'Saluton, Mondo!'
Hello, World!

Translate Shell can also be used like an interactive shell; input the text to be translated line by line:

$ trans -shell -brief
> Rien ne réussit comme le succès.
Nothing succeeds like success.
> Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker.
What does not kill me makes me stronger.
> Юмор есть остроумие глубокого чувства.
Humor has a deep sense of wit.
> 學而不思則罔,思而不學則殆。
Learning without thought is labor lost, thought without learning is perilous.
> 幸福になるためには、人から愛されるのが一番の近道。
In order to be happy, the best way is to be loved by people.


System Requirements

Translate Shell is known to work on many POSIX-compliant systems, including but not limited to:

  • GNU/Linux
  • macOS
  • FreeBSD
  • Windows (Cygwin or MSYS2)


  • GNU Awk (gawk) 4.0 or later
    • This program relies heavily on GNU extensions of the AWK language, which are non-portable for other AWK implementations (e.g. nawk).
    • How to get gawk:
      • gawk comes with all GNU/Linux distributions.
      • On FreeBSD, gawk is available in the ports.
      • On macOS, gawk is available in MacPorts and Homebrew.
  • GNU Bash or Zsh
    • You may use Translate Shell from any Unix shell of your choice (bash, zsh, ksh, tcsh, fish, etc.); however, the wrapper script requires either bash or zsh installed.

Recommended Dependencies

These dependencies are optional, but strongly recommended for full functionality:

  • curl with OpenSSL support
  • GNU FriBidi: an implementation of the Unicode Bidirectional Algorithm (bidi)
    • required for displaying text in Right-to-Left scripts (e.g. Arabic, Hebrew)
  • mplayer, mpv, mpg123, or eSpeak
    • required for the Text-to-Speech functionality
  • less, more or most
    • required for terminal paging
  • rlwrap: a GNU readline wrapper
    • required for readline-style editing and history in the interactive shell
  • aspell or hunspell
    • required for spell checking

Environment and Fonts

It is a must to have corresponding fonts for the language(s) / script(s) you wish to display in your terminal. See wiki: Writing Systems and Fonts for more details on scripts and recommended Unicode fonts.

Try It Out!

Start an interactive shell and translate anything you input into your native language: (in bash or zsh)

$ gawk -f <(curl -Ls -- -shell

(in fish)

$ gawk -f (curl -Ls | psub) -- -shell


Option #1. Direct Download

Download the self-contained executable and place it into your path. It's everything you need.

$ wget
$ chmod +x ./trans

There is a GPG signature.

Option #2. From A Package Manager

Using Antigen (Recommended for Zsh users)

Add the following line to your .zshrc:

antigen bundle soimort/translate-shell

Using your favorite package manager

See wiki: Distros on how to install from a specific package manager on your distro.

Option #3. From Git (Recommended for seasoned hackers)

$ git clone
$ cd translate-shell/
$ make
$ [sudo] make install

In case you have only zsh but not bash in your system, build with:

$ make TARGET=zsh

The default PREFIX of installation is /usr/local. To install the program to somewhere else (e.g. /usr, ~/.local), use:

$ [sudo] make PREFIX=/usr install

Getting Started by Examples

Translate a Word

From any language to your language

Google Translate can identify the language of the source text automatically, and Translate Shell by default translates the source text into the language of your locale.

$ trans vorto

From any language to one or more specific languages

Translate a word into French:

$ trans :fr word

Translate a word into Chinese and Japanese: (use a plus sign "+" as the delimiter)

$ trans :zh+ja word

Alternatively, equals sign ("=") can be used in place of the colon (":"). Note that in some shells (e.g. zsh), equals signs may be interpreted differently, therefore the argument specifying languages needs to be protected:

$ trans {=zh+ja} word
$ trans '=zh+ja' word

You can also use the -target (-t) option to specify the target language(s):

$ trans -t zh+ja word

From a specific language

Google Translate may wrongly identify the source text as some other language than you expected:

$ trans 手紙

In that case, you need to specify its language explicitly:

$ trans ja: 手紙
$ trans zh: 手紙

You can also use the -source (-s) option to specify the source language:

$ trans -s ja 手紙

Translate Multiple Words or a Phrase

Translate each word alone:

$ trans en:zh word processor

Put words into one argument, and translate them as a whole:

$ trans en:zh "word processor"

Translate a Sentence

Translating a sentence is much the same like translating a phrase; you can just quote the sentence into one argument:

$ trans :zh "To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,"
$ trans :zh 'To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,'

It is also possible to translate multi-line sentences:

$ trans :zh "Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
> To the last syllable of recorded time;
> And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
> The way to dusty death."

To avoid punctuation marks (e.g. "!") or other special characters being interpreted by the shell, use single quotes:

$ trans :zh 'Out, out, brief candle!'

There are some cases though, you may still want to use double quotes: (e.g. the sentence contains a single quotation mark "'")

$ trans :zh "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player"

Brief Mode

By default, Translate Shell displays translations in a verbose manner. If you prefer to see only the most relevant translation, there is a brief mode available using the -brief (-b) option:

$ trans -b :fr "Saluton, Mondo"

In brief mode, phonetic notation (if any) is not shown by default. To enable this, put an at sign "@" in front of the language code:

$ trans -b :@ja "Saluton, Mondo"

Dictionary Mode

Google Translate can be used as a dictionary. When translating a word and the target language is the same as the source language, the dictionary entry of the word is shown:

$ trans :en word

To enable dictionary mode no matter whether the source language and the target language are identical, use the -dictionary (-d) option.

$ trans -d fr: mot

Note: Not every language supported by Google Translate has provided dictionary data. See wiki: Languages to find out which language(s) has dictionary support.

Language Identification

Use the -identify (-id) option to identify the language of the text:

$ trans -id 言葉


Use the -play (-p) option to listen to the translation:

$ trans -b -p :ja "Saluton, Mondo"

Use the -speak (-sp) option to listen to the original text:

$ trans -sp "你好,世界"

Terminal Paging

Sometimes the content of translation can be too much for display in one screen. Use the -view (-v) option to view the translation in a terminal pager such as less or more:

$ trans -d -v word

Right-to-Left (RTL) Languages

Right-to-Left (RTL) languages are well supported via GNU FriBidi.

The program will automatically adjust the screen width for padding when displaying right-to-left languages. Alternatively, you may use the -width (-w) option to specify the screen width:

$ trans -b -w 40 :he "Saluton, Mondo"

See wiki: Languages to find out which language(s) uses a Right-to-Left writing system.

Pipeline, Input and Output

If no source text is given in command-line arguments, the program will read from standard input, or from the file specified by the -input (-i) option:

$ echo "Saluton, Mondo" | trans -b :fr
$ trans -b -i input.txt :fr

Translations are written to standard output, or to the file specified by the -output (-o) option:

$ echo "Saluton, Mondo" | trans -b -o output.txt :fr

Translate a File

Instead of using the -input option, a file URI scheme (file:// followed by the file name) can be used as a command-line argument:

$ trans :fr file://input.txt

Note: Brief mode is used when translating from file URI schemes.

Translate a Web Page

To translate a web page, an http(s) URI scheme can be used as an argument:

$ trans :fr

A browser session will open for viewing the translation (via Google Translate's web interface). To specify your web browser of choice, use the -browser option:

$ trans -browser firefox :fr

Language Details

Use the -list (-L) option to view details of one or more languages:

$ trans -L fr
$ trans -L de+en

Some basic information of the language will be displayed: its English name and endonym (language name in the language itself), language family, writing system, canonical Google Translate code and ISO 639-3 code.

Interactive Translate Shell (REPL)

Start an interactive shell using the -shell (or -interactive, -I) option:

$ trans -shell

You may specify the source language and the target language(s) before starting an interactive shell:

$ trans -shell en:fr

You may also change these settings during an interactive session. See wiki: REPL for more advanced usage of the interactive Translate Shell.


For more details on command-line options, see the man page trans(1) or use trans -M in a terminal.

Usage:  trans [OPTIONS] [SOURCE]:[TARGETS] [TEXT]...

Information options:
    -V, -version
        Print version and exit.
    -H, -help
        Print help message and exit.
    -M, -man
        Show man page and exit.
    -T, -reference
        Print reference table of languages and exit.
    -R, -reference-english
        Print reference table of languages (in English names) and exit.
    -L CODES, -list CODES
        Print details of languages and exit.
    -S, -list-engines
        List available translation engines and exit.
    -U, -upgrade
        Check for upgrade of this program.

Translator options:
    -e ENGINE, -engine ENGINE
        Specify the translation engine to use.

Display options:
        Verbose mode. (default)
    -b, -brief
        Brief mode.
    -d, -dictionary
        Dictionary mode.
        Language identification.
    -show-original Y/n
        Show original text or not.
    -show-original-phonetics Y/n
        Show phonetic notation of original text or not.
    -show-translation Y/n
        Show translation or not.
    -show-translation-phonetics Y/n
        Show phonetic notation of translation or not.
    -show-prompt-message Y/n
        Show prompt message or not.
    -show-languages Y/n
        Show source and target languages or not.
    -show-original-dictionary y/N
        Show dictionary entry of original text or not.
    -show-dictionary Y/n
        Show dictionary entry of translation or not.
    -show-alternatives Y/n
        Show alternative translations or not.
    -w NUM, -width NUM
        Specify the screen width for padding.
    -indent NUM
        Specify the size of indent (number of spaces).
    -theme FILENAME
        Specify the theme to use.
        Do not use any other theme than default.
        Do not use ANSI escape codes.
        Do not autocorrect. (if defaulted by the translation engine)
        Do not convert bidirectional texts.
        Do not write warning messages to stderr.
        Print raw API response instead.

Audio options:
    -p, -play
        Listen to the translation.
        Listen to the original text.
    -n VOICE, -narrator VOICE
        Specify the narrator, and listen to the translation.
    -player PROGRAM
        Specify the audio player to use, and listen to the translation.
        Do not listen to the translation.
        Do not translate anything when using -speak.
        Download the audio to the current directory.
    -download-audio-as FILENAME
        Download the audio to the specified file.

Terminal paging and browsing options:
    -v, -view
        View the translation in a terminal pager.
    -pager PROGRAM
        Specify the terminal pager to use, and view the translation.
        Do not view the translation in a terminal pager.
    -browser PROGRAM
        Specify the web browser to use.

Networking options:
    -x HOST:PORT, -proxy HOST:PORT
        Use HTTP proxy on given port.
    -u STRING, -user-agent STRING
        Specify the User-Agent to identify as.

Interactive shell options:
    -I, -interactive, -shell
        Start an interactive shell.
    -E, -emacs
        Start the GNU Emacs front-end for an interactive shell.
        Do not invoke rlwrap when starting an interactive shell.

I/O options:
    -i FILENAME, -input FILENAME
        Specify the input file.
    -o FILENAME, -output FILENAME
        Specify the output file.

Language preference options:
    -l CODE, -hl CODE, -lang CODE
        Specify your home language.
    -s CODE, -sl CODE, -source CODE, -from CODE
        Specify the source language.
    -t CODES, -tl CODE, -target CODES, -to CODES
        Specify the target language(s), joined by '+'.

Other options:
        Do not load any initialization script.

See the man page trans(1) for more information.

Code List

Use trans -R or trans -T to view the reference table in a terminal.

For more details on languages and corresponding codes, see wiki: Languages.


Lists of all languages, writing systems and fonts for reference:

The following pages demonstrate the advanced usage of Translate Shell:

Find out whether your Linux distribution has included Translate Shell in its official repository. If not, contribute one:

Frequently Asked Questions, historical stuff, AWK coding style, etc.:

Reporting Bugs / Contributing

Please review the guidelines for contributing before reporting an issue or sending a pull request.


This is free and unencumbered software released into the public domain. See LICENSE and WAIVER for details.