According to the latest figures from W3Techs, 53.7 percent of all content on the Internet is written in English.
That’s lightyears ahead of the rest of the top five (6.3 percent Russian, 5.7 percent German, 5.0 percent Japanese, and 4.9 percent Spanish) – but it still means that almost half of all the Internet is inaccessible unless you’re fluent in multiple languages.
There are any number of reasons you might want to read content in another language, from understanding local news stories to researching places to visit while on vacation.
So what are the best tools for translating web pages? MakeUseOf investigates…
With more than 90 supported languages, 200 million daily users, and versions for multiple browsers and operating systems, Google Translate remains the undisputed king of translation.
It first went live on 28th April 2006 and has consistently added more features. It can now understand and translate the spoken word, offers downloadable dictionaries for offline use on mobile, and provides real-time photographic translation.
It is also not without its drawbacks. For example, it does not apply grammatical rules because its algorithms are based on a statistical machine analysis rather than a more traditional rule-based approach, in non-European Union languages errors are frequently seen (Google uses perfectly-translated EU Parliament notes as the basis for all its translations), and certain tenses (such as the Spanish subjunctive) are almost impossible for it to recognize.
With all that said – let’s take a look at how it works on various browsers.
Predictably, Google Chrome provides the best Google Translate experience.
The official Google Translate extension in the Chrome Web Store places a button on your browser’s toolbar, but also adds a lot more functionality to the browser itself.
The extension can:
- Provide instant translation of any selected text within a web page
- Translate any typed phrase in the same way as the main Google Translate web page
- Translate entire web pages at the click of a button
It also recognizes when a part of a website is not in your main language and provides a pop-up button next to it. Clicking this will show you the translation in a box on the screen.
Google does not offer an officially supported Firefox translation add-on, but there are plenty of tools that use the service’s API to provide the same functionality.
The three best are arguably Google Translator for Firefox, S3.Google Translator, and Google™ Translator. They all offer a slightly different user experience, but at their core they are providing the same service.
- Adds a translate option to the right-click context menu
- Adds a clickable toolbar icon
- Allows you to set up a “translation hotkey”
S3.Google Translator [No Longer Available]
- Automatically translates subtitles on YouTube
- Provides text-to-speech functionality
- Includes a language learning mode
It is the language learning mode that makes this tool stand out. Just head to Settings > Learning Language and set up the languages and number of phrases that you want to use. Thereafter any site will automatically replace phrases with the selected language’s equivalent.
Google™ Translator [NO LONGER AVAILABLE]
- Translate long articles by holding ALT while selecting text
- Double-click translation of individual words
- Menu bar pop-up for quick translation
Like Firefox, there is no official version of Google Translate on Opera.
The most widely used unofficial version is Google™ Translator by Sarahavilov – this is the same add-on and developer as the Firefox add-on listed above.
The features are very similar:
- One-click translation of single words
- Pop-up bubble translator
- Context menu option
- Automatic spell-check function
Unfortunately, Edge does not yet have extensions or add-ons, so Google Translate is not available.
If you stumble across a page you need to translate, there is a workaround. We’ll come back to it later.
Make a Keyword Search for Google Translate
If you’d prefer to use the main Google Translate web page rather than extensions and add-ons, it’s really easy to make a keyword search.
Firstly, head to Menu > Settings > Search > Manage Search Engines. You’ll be presented with a list of all the search engines currently saved in your browser.
Paste the following link into the space where it prompts you to add a URL.
Make sure you replace [language] with the two-letter code of the language you want to translate into. For example, Spanish is “es”, English is “en”, Italian is “it”, and so on.
Give the search an appropriate keyword. Now all you need to do is enter your keyword followed by the word you want to translate in Chrome’s omnibox.
Hint: if you frequently need to translate into multiple languages, set up a keyword search for each language.
On Firefox, open your Bookmark Library by clicking on the bookmark icon in the toolbar and selecting Show All Bookmarks.
Choose Bookmark Menu from the panel on the left, right-click in the main window, and select New Bookmark.
Fill in the necessary details, pasting the same URL as listed above into the Location box and choosing an easy-to-use keyword. When you’re done, click Add.
Now you can enter your keyword into the address box followed by the word you want to translate. Google will take care of the rest!
Google Translate Alternatives
Google Translate remains the number one choice for most people, and the vast majority of third-party tools use its API to power their own product.
Nonetheless, there are non-Google products out there which are equally powerful.
IM Translate – Chrome, Safari, Opera
IM Translate uses a combination of Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, and Babylon Translator to give users a combination of statistical machine translations and rule-based machine translations, and thus more accurate results.
It has four main features:
- Inline translator
- Single word translator
- Pop-up bubble
- Web page translation
All your activity is stored in its translation history for easy recall, and it has a text-to-speech feature that supports 26 languages.
Bing Translator – Internet Explorer and Edge
Remember we mentioned that workaround for Microsoft Edge? It involves using Bing.
If you come across a page you need to translate on the latest Windows browser, just click on the three horizontal lines in the top right-hand corner and select Open With Internet Explorer.
Once the page fires up, right-click and choose Translate With Bing.
The Bing translation tool is actually an “accelerator”, but comes pre-installed on all recent versions of Internet Explorer.
If yours has been disabled or deleted, head to Tools > Manage Add-Ons > Accelerators and find the Bing option to fiddle with its settings.
Translate Safari – Safari
The last tool we’ll cover is Translate Safari.
It adds a toolbar button and contextual menu item that will allow you to translate any web page by using either Google Translate or Bing Translate.
It is widely considered to be the best and most reliable translation tool for Apple’s browser.
Which Tool Do You Use to Translate?
Which of the above tools do you use for you own translation needs? Perhaps you’ve come across a little-known gem that your fellow readers are unlikely to be using?
Whatever your story we’d love to hear from you. You can leave us your opinions and thoughts in the comments section below.