Switch Between Languages in Firefox The Easy Way

Ann Smarty 03-05-2010

<firstimage=”//” />Switch Between Languages in Firefox The Easy Way firefox spellcheck multilanguage 05Saikat provided an excellent tutorial on how to use Firefox’s built-in spell-checking feature, but for multi-language browsing it is actually not really usable, especially if you intend to make a Firefox browser language change frequently.


I guess there are thousands of MUO readers who use several languages randomly both for reading and writing (blogging, tweeting, commenting) and thus find the built-in Firefox spell-checking somewhat limited.

Luckily, it can be extended and here’s how.

How The Built-In Functionality Works

To enable multi-language spell checking you need to install a separate dictionary for each language you use.

When you have one language active and then start typing anything using another language, Firefox will either ignore errors all in all or consider all words an error (ironically, both happened to me and I am not sure what the actual rule for this behavior is).


To make the Firefox browser language change, you need to right-click on any word you type and select another dictionary – which is not really usable:

FireFox spell check: switch dictionaries

Now let’s try to list some alternatives to this default behavior.

Dictionary Switcher

Dictionary Switcher is a handy FireFox addon that adds the dictionary switcher to the status bar. This makes it easier:

  • To quickly see which dictionary is currently active and thus change it before you start typing;
  • To easily change the dictionary:

It also has an option to remember the dictionary for the current site which is quite handy as I usually use Russian for only a handful of websites and English for the most part of the day. So I can just remember the language settings for those few sites and never care about dictionaries again.

firefox browser language change

The tool also claims to have a language auto-detect option but it didn’t work with me (like with other people as well judging from the tool reviews) or I just failed to figure out how it should work.

Quick Locale Switcher

Quick Locale Switcher is a more advanced way to switch to another language. It allows you to “quickly” switch to a different language (User Interface, Spell Checker Dictionary and Website content) in your browser.


The most notable features of the addon include:

  • Like the above tool, this one adds a handy notification to the status bar displaying the currently active language;
  • The tool switches the accept_language preference, so complete websites will be translated. (if the http accept language header is supported, e.g. like Google does)
  • The tool also switches the Spell Checker Dictionary preference.
  • The addon remembers the dictionary and content locale for each site and automatically switches when you load that site. It also tries to detect the language of sites itself, and if found automatically switches to that language.

The tool also supports a shortcut: it quickly switches back to the previously selected locale if you press CTRL + SHIFT + Q.

firefox browser language change

The options allow to customize all the above mentioned behavior (for example disable the website translation, hide the status bar icon, etc):


firefox browser language change

To remove all languages you don’t need (there are quite a few by default and you may want to avoid that clutter) you should go straight to the “Locales” tab in the Options and select only those you need (there are about 200 languages available):

Quick Locale Switcher - locales

All in all, the tool looks very useful but it just seemed too much to me, so I went with the one I mentioned first.


Do you need multiple languages when surfing? Which tools do you use to make international browsing easier?

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