Foreign Language Translation Browser Apps and Extensions

We all have our favorite websites, those go-to destinations where we take our browser on a regular basis. In addition to the usual stops, many Web surfers will also do some exploring from time to time, catching the next wave to sites they've never visited before. Some of this searching may be targeted, while at other times we may just stumble around until we find something cool.

While it may seem like the number of Web pages available to us is limitless, just imagine how that figure would rise if you included all of the non-English sites out there. The abundance of content presented in languages other than our own is staggering, and there are plenty of free browser apps and extensions that provide translations, definitions, and other dialect-related assistance so we can truly take advantage of the World Wide Web's global presence.

We've listed some of the best below, available for Chrome and Firefox and sorted alphabetically.

Google Translate

Man using google translate plugin on laptop
unsplash.com

What We Like

  • Supports well over 50 languages.

  • Translate only selected text rather than an entire page.

What We Don't Like

  • Translations are occasionally imperfect.

  • Crowdsourced and statistical machine translations can produce awkward results.

Google Translate is a Chrome extension that quickly translates words or blocks of text by highlighting it or right-clicking on it. Full pages can also be translated by clicking on the extension's toolbar button, located to the right of the browser's address bar.

Duolingo on the Web

Duolingo

 Duncan Hull/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

What We Like

  • A very popular language learning site.

  • Interface is fun and simple.

What We Don't Like

  • This web app is just a link to the Duolingo website.

  • Ads in the free version can be distracting.

Intended to teach you English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish or one of half a dozen other languages, Duolingo on the Web is a Chrome app that is essentially a shortcut to the Duolingo home page. Translations are displayed by simply hovering over predesignated words, phrases and sentences. As you progress through the training program, you can gain XP (Experience Points) and work toward daily targets to stay on track. You are also given the option to compete against other users for a little added motivation and bragging rights.

Google Input Tools

Google Plus logo
Google

What We Like

  • More features than simple translations.

  • Transliteration allows you to type in a foreign language.

What We Don't Like

  • A bit buggy at times.

  • Translations and transliterations can be rough.

The Google Input Tools Chrome extension provides virtual keyboards to allow you to type in almost any language, easily accessible with just a click of the mouse. It also offers character conversion into other languages (transliteration) as well as handwriting input for touch-screen devices.

Flagfox

Official Firefox logo.

Mozilla

What We Like

  • See where the hosting server you're visiting is located.

  • Offers translations of sites through Google Translate.

What We Don't Like

  • Has limited uses for the average person.

  • Few translation and language specific features.

A user favorite for many years now, the Flagfox extension for Firefox displays the country's flag where the server hosting the active Web page resides. Integrated with Geotool, which narrows down the location even further, Flagfox offers a diverse feature set including diagnostic tools, security validations, as well as automatic translation of the current page into the language of your choice.

Readlang Web Reader

Stack of index cards on a black background
Douglas Sacha / Getty Images

What We Like

  • Provides in-line translations on websites.

  • Translations are easy to see and read.

  • Offers flashcard language learning tools.

What We Don't Like

  • Extension can break website layout and display.

  • Doesn't translate multiple words, phrases, or sentences at once.

The Readlang Web Reader Chrome extension is not only a handy translator but also an excellent companion for learning a new language, showing a word in the language of your choice either directly above the word that you click on or replacing it altogether based on your settings. Readlang creates flash cards and relevant word lists to help accelerate the learning process. In addition, the extension allows you to change the source and destination language selections from a conveniently placed menu in the upper right-hand corner, and also offers easy access to a dictionary.

Rikaikun

Internally illuminated sign of city name Tokyo in kanji or traditional Chinese characters
DigiPub / Getty Images

What We Like

  • Robust information offered in translation pop-ups.

  • Can designate a hot key to display pop-up only when pressed.

What We Don't Like

  • Pop-up definition window can obscure content and get in the way.

  • Slight disparity in features and functions between Chrome and Firefox versions.

The Rikaikun Chrome extension, toggled on and off via a custom toolbar button, provides instant translation of Japanese words just by hovering your mouse pointer. It also offers information about the first Kanji in the chosen word.

TransOver

Transover

Screenshot

What We Like

  • Text-to-speech option.

  • Reverse translate option.

  • Translate a word by clicking it or hovering over it.

What We Don't Like

  • Key press options are limited and may interfere with Chrome shortcuts.

  • Text-to-speech isn't perfect for some languages.

The TransOver Chrome extension automatically translates a word into or from one of dozens of available languages, activated by clicking on a word (the default behavior) or hovering your mouse cursor once that feature is enabled. Optional text-to-speech functionality is also included, as well as configurable hotkeys and user-defined translation time delays. You are also given the ability to disable translation on certain websites.