Firefox Translations is going to be a game changer, if...

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 14, 2022
Updated • Aug 14, 2022
Firefox
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Firefox Translations is a translation service for Firefox that Mozilla is working on currently. It is already available as a limited preview that supports a handful of languages and can be installed in any recent version of Firefox. What sets it apart is the fact that the translations happen locally on the user system, and not in the cloud.

firefox translations

At its core, Firefox Translations works similarly to how Chrome's Google Translate or Microsoft Edge's Bing Translate features work: when the user visits a foreign language website, as identified by the languages used on the system or in the browser, translate suggests to translate the content to the system language. When that happens in Chrome or Edge, data is submitted to servers that the companies operate. With Firefox Translations, no such data is submitted. Mozilla does not know the URL of the website, when you accessed it, your IP address, information about your system, or the information that the site contains.

Another difference between the two translations systems is that Firefox Translations needs to download language information the first time a language is selected for translation; this may be a bit inconvenient for users who have access to slow Internet connections only, but it is a one-time process for each language.

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Firefox Translations is a game changer

Firefox Translations improves privacy significantly when using translate services. Vivaldi Browser offers the next best thing, by hosting translate servers that users of the browser use. While you could argue that this is not really that different from Google hosting its Translate servers, it is clear that both companies have a different stance on user privacy. Google is an advertising company first and foremost, and data is what increases the company's revenue.

Firefox Translations fills a feature gap in the Firefox browser. Translate functionality is important to many users, and Google's integration of Google Translate in Chrome was a game changer at the time. It improved translations by making them convenient in the browser. No longer was it necessary to install a browser extension or open a translate website manually to get a translated version of a site.

Mozilla's service is a work in progress, and there are several restrictions and limitations currently that hold it back. If Mozilla manages to address these, Firefox Translations could very well become another game changer when it comes to in-browser translations.

The ifs...

Language support is still a work in progress; this is without a doubt the main limitation right now. Firefox Translations supports a dozen or so languages, including English, French, Spanish, German and several others, but it lacks support for hundreds of others, not even counting languages such as Klingon or Borg. It takes time to get support added for these, which, in the meantime, limits the reach of Firefox Translations.

Firefox integration is provided via a browser extension currently. Native support improves the usability, as translate functionality is built-in then and not dependent on the installation of a browser extension. To compete with Chrome's translate service, Firefox Translations needs to become a native feature of Firefox.

Translation options need an option to always translate a particular language; this does not seem to be supported at the time. While users may select the "never translate language" option, no such option to always translate a specific language or site is provided.

Last but not least, there needs to be an option to translate specific text parts such as a paragraph or a sentence.

Closing Words

Firefox Translations is a huge undertaking that improves Firefox already and will improve Firefox for lots of users in the future. Time is an issue, as language support is lacking and needs to expand. While Mozilla is working on that, the organization can't afford to continue working on the service for several years before it is ready to compete with the cloud-based translation services in regards to language support.

Several Chromium-based browser makers may be interested in Firefox Translations. Brave Software, for instance, decided against integrating Google Translate natively in the browser. It displays a prompt to users to install Google Translate, but that has privacy implications and reduced functionality when compared to Chrome's native offering. It is unclear if these companies could integrate Firefox Translations in their browsers.

Now You: what is your take on Firefox Translations?

 

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Firefox Translations is going to be a game changer, if...
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Firefox Translations is going to be a game changer, if...
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Firefox Translations is a local translate feature that Mozilla is working on for the Firefox web browser that could become a game changer.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. userpassadmin said on August 14, 2022 at 7:44 am
    Reply

    I personally love this feature, just as you said, I want more languages, I want Japanese, I want Chinese because I surf their websites a lot.

    Maybe even OCR too because if it’s possible to translate images, it’s even better.

    1. user said on August 15, 2022 at 11:55 am
      Reply

      I prefer translate.yandex.com

  2. Did you see the size of that... CHICKEN? said on August 14, 2022 at 9:11 am
    Reply

    > Now You: what is your take on Firefox Translations?

    Sounds interesting thanks for the well detailed post!

  3. Gavin B. said on August 14, 2022 at 9:14 am
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    I much prefer selecting a paragraph on a page
    and translating it into a on-top panel
    – like the SimpleTranslate Firefox Addon.
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/simple-translate/

    Swapping to a new Tab with the full page translated is way too much distraction for me.
    Ideally SImpleTranslate would be given access to the Firefox Translations resource – so it doesn’t need to call up google anymore.

    1. Paul(us) said on August 14, 2022 at 12:07 pm
      Reply
      1. Shiva said on August 14, 2022 at 10:17 pm
        Reply

        > Ideally SimpleTranslate would be given access to the Firefox Translations resource
        Ah, I could bet it is certainly one of the first things TWP and Simple Translate users come to mind. Me included.

        @Paul(us)
        Both extensions have good privacy policies, and for their respective functionalities it might also be comfortable to use both.
        I suppose at most the focus point is when the information is sent to third parties (URL or selected text). From the browser console it seems to me that any such request is made only when the respective icons are clicked (perhaps it also depends on how one handles the settings).

  4. Tom Hawack said on August 14, 2022 at 10:39 am
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    Firefox Translations is a work in progress, indeed.
    To the ifs mentioned in the article conditioning a game changer let us not forget the main point IMO : the translation quality.

    In my experience, from best to worst : DeepL Translator, Google Translation, Bing Translation, Yandex Translation.
    Where will ‘Firefox Translations’ position itself among these four in terms of quality? Where *does* it position itself should I say given an extension is available. I haven’t tried this dedicated add-on. At this time all translations are performed,
    1- semi-automatic : DeepL (script, manual input on their Website)
    2- automatic : DeepL and Google Translate with the ‘TWP – Translate Web pages’ extension.

    Bing and Yandex translations : never.
    Bing because I block system-wide Microsoft servers AND because Bing translations aren’t satisfactory IMO.
    Yandex because in my experience the translation quality is as low as can be.

    Note 1 : translation experience based on English French languages only.
    Note 2 : I will give a try to the ‘Firefox Translations’ in its extension format available at AMO.

    1. Paul(us) said on August 14, 2022 at 12:18 pm
      Reply

      @Tom Hawak,
      I am not reading anything about TWP – Translate Web Pages & Grammarly.

      What I am still waiting for is an add-on for deepL!

      But what I really need is an add-on that doesn’t search online and also has the style knowledge and correction database to match.

      If it turns out that the new firefox addon has all these qualities, I will switch in a macro second.
      But so far I cannot find anything significant about the correction characteristics control and sentence structure style correction.

      1. Tom Hawack said on August 14, 2022 at 1:12 pm
        Reply

        @Paul(us),

        Indeed ‘TWP – Translate Web Pages’ does not concern grammar and styling: it’s a translator services extension, not a writing assistant. It connects to translators.

        If you search for ‘grammar’ on AMO you might find what you need :
        [https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/search/?q=grammar&type=extension]

        First on the list right now is ‘Grammar and Spell Checker – LanguageTool’ [https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/languagetool/] which might fit to your requirements, at least partially because indeed they all connect to third-party sites.

        Firefox Translations, the extension, does indeed not handle corrections of grammar. I have no reason to believe it ever will given it’s only a translation tool, moreover without a user input module.

        NOTE : I’ve just tried the ‘Firefox Translations’ add-on. Chaotic. Can’t get it to translate. It downloaded the French module when I asked to translate to French a page written in English, then nothing. Slow, heavy. Perhaps a clash with one of my Firefox settings? Some reviewers on the extension’s AMO have mentioned problems as well though.

        @Paul(us), I understand your concern for grammar and all that is required for obtaining a clean, understandable translation (which includes ‘a’ not to say ‘our’ style) but that corresponds more to a translation assistant than to a translation service which means it is aimed at user input rather than at word/paragraph/page translations on the Web. I’d add that IMO automatizing grammar correction is a hard task for an algorithm but an even tougher challenge when it comes to the style not to mention the rhetoric, both IMO best served by a human teacher beyond our own efforts to read as most as possible the language we aim to translate our own work to.

        I may be old fashioned but I firmly believe that mastering a language requires work, time, time dedicated to learn the basics, to practice them with lectures. Even when it comes to our very mother-tongue : I’m not a writer and have no degree in French nor in French literature yet I can affirm that French speak French increasingly incorrectly. Maybe correlated to our digital world, to the Twitter syndrome requiring short sentences, short sentences often requiring themselves short thoughts … if we (try to) write as we think maybe do we get to think as we write as well?

      2. Tom Hawack said on August 14, 2022 at 2:33 pm
        Reply

        @Paulus, for fun I proceeded to a translation on [https://www.deepl.com/translator]

        1- French, incorrectly, with grammar and spelling mistakes

        “J’ai dis et repeter que qu’est-ce-qui nous concern me concene ausi.”
        Translated to English by DeepL :
        “I have said over and over again that what we are about is also my concern”
        Translated the translation back to French :
        “J’ai dit et répété que ce dont nous parlons me concerne également.”

        2- French, correctly written :

        “J’ai dis et répéte que ce qui nous concene me concerne aussi.”
        Translated to English by DeepL :
        “I have said over and over again that what concerns us also concerns me.”
        Translated the translation back to French :
        J’ai dit et répété que ce qui nous concerne me concerne aussi.

        We can notice ;
        – French incorrectly written led to a partially correct translation
        – French correctly written led to a totally correct translation AND the translation back to French rendered the exact same source sentence.

        I guess this means that a translation tool providing user input and moreover skilled as DeepL can manage to translate relatively correctly an incorrect source sentence : this may help those of us struggling for grammar and style as well as word to word translation.

        Of course the complexity and level of mistakes will impact the translation, but this test provides an example that shows that the engine handles not only words but the overall meaning even when the source is incorrectly written.

        Translation is a fabulous universe, it is a specific area of communication. Be noted that even within a one and only language relaying a story told to us by Reader-A to Reader-B, the Reader-B relaying it back to Reader-A will most likely diverge from the source story… and that’s how misunderstandings flourish :=)

      3. Paul(us) said on August 14, 2022 at 4:08 pm
        Reply

        Thanks @ Tom Haweck, I came to the same DeepL conclusion in Dutch.
        I have also noticed that how shorter the sentence is the correctness of the translation is significantly improving.

      4. Tom Hawack said on August 14, 2022 at 6:46 pm
        Reply

        @Paul(us) … and not ‘Paulus’ as i wrote above, too quickly :=)

        > I have also noticed that how shorter the sentence is the correctness of the translation is significantly improving.

        Now that’s very interesting. Reminds me math equations in school : long ones were frightening!
        Perhaps a translation algorithm, considering the sentence only, resolves faster and better short ones. No idea.
        Anyway short sentences are advised by everyone, readers as publishers, exept by a few talented authors who blend infinity with art and dare say a long sentence, well built, has its pertinence, legitimacy and charm.

        Short sentences, but as many as needed to get ourselves understood. On the other hand too much is as dangerous. In French we say “ne pas écrire comme on parle surtout quand on parle comme un livre” (“don’t write like you talk, especially when you talk like a book”) [translated by DeepL !] : odd, because books offer shorter sentences than most of us (myself leader of the band) but I guess that means one shouldn’t translate his thoughts directly into words without referring to what he expects others to understand, otherwise it’s a monologue (my specialty, even if I do dialog and read more than I answer).

        You know what : communication when aimed to be successful is a tough labor.

      5. Ask said on August 14, 2022 at 5:11 pm
        Reply

        @Tom Hawack

        What do you think of https://lingva.ml/?!

      6. Tom Hawack said on August 14, 2022 at 6:31 pm
        Reply

        @Ask, I discover lingva as you mention it. Seems very similar to the SimpleWeb/SimpleTranslate instances I know [https://simple-web.org/projects/simplytranslate.html] and use [simplytranslate.org] at this time (I may choose another instance in case of failure, occurred only once).

        What I know of SimplyTranslate instances (maybe the same for lingva) is that,

        1- Has four translation engines : Google | ICIBA | Reverso | LibreTranslate (some instances only three)
        2- Great to have user input translated via a third-party site (privacy):
        3- Used to provide DeepL translate engine, apparently removed (when available would fail sometimes).
        4- Haven’t tried ICIBA | Reverso | LibreTranslate
        5- I seldom call SimplyTranslate given that it’ll be DeepL (input) or the ‘TWP – Translate Web Pages’ FF extension for paragraphs (via Google or DeepL) and pages (full, in-page content translation only with Google).

        [https://lingva.ml/] is a .ml site and as such system-wide blocked here given its score on Spamhaus Project’s ’10 Most Abused Top Level Domains’ [https://www.spamhaus.org/statistics/tlds/], in which case I visit the place via Startpage’s Anonymous View (nice, by the way). This is what I just did for [[https://lingva.ml/].

        I know, I may be over-doing it with excessive caution. Hard to find the exact balance.

        Thanks for the info. Bookmarked for future testing.

    2. Eric said on August 14, 2022 at 1:52 pm
      Reply

      Not trying to be pessimistic but I really don’t see how could a translation software running locally on the users PC would be as good as, for instance, Deep-L, which is by far the best translation ever.

      I think the vast majority of people would prefer best translation quality over privacy regarding who is reading the translated text.

    3. Heydrich said on August 15, 2022 at 1:10 am
      Reply

      @Tom Hawack:

      As always, you are right, DeepL Translator is superior to the competition.

      While, FilipePS’s TWP (Firefox) extension is excellent (fast and accurate), the Firefox Translations service is as good, but slower – I use both options daily. However, the privacy advantage offered by offline translations is a good choice to have.

  5. Sol Shine said on August 14, 2022 at 2:29 pm
    Reply

    I avoid Google as much as possible, and use http://www.deepl.com/translator, and it is sometimes better than Google Translate.

  6. Yashar said on August 14, 2022 at 2:30 pm
    Reply

    Hi, How do I fix this error:
    “We could not find the translation engine to download”

    Thanks.

  7. Ez said on August 14, 2022 at 4:25 pm
    Reply

    Another good option.

    [https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/traduzir-paginas-web/]

  8. ECJ said on August 14, 2022 at 5:15 pm
    Reply

    “…Last but not least, there needs to be an option to translate specific text parts such as a paragraph or a sentence.”

    Yeah, I use that a lot. On Twitter for example, it’s not uncommon to have multiple languages used. Being able to select the text in a tweet and translate just that particular tweet is useful.

    “…Brave Software, for instance, decided against integrating Google Translate natively in the browser. It displays a prompt to users to install Google Translate, but that has privacy implications and reduced functionality when compared to Chrome’s native offering.”

    I think Brave are also creating their own translate feature (Brave Translate Go). I’ve not looked into what it’s using behind the scenes though, or how good the translations are.

    https://twitter.com/PrivacyMatters/status/1556938149695148032

    1. nan gong qian jue said on August 15, 2022 at 7:17 am
      Reply

      How about this for Twitter translation? https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/twitter-old-ui/

  9. satan said on August 14, 2022 at 9:29 pm
    Reply

    Klingon or Borg!

    Could it be a more obvious way to hate on Firefox?

    GHACKS sold their soul to Santa, since obviously spelling isn’t a thing around these parts..

  10. Gerry said on August 15, 2022 at 4:57 am
    Reply

    I tested out DeepL and on several samples IMO it translated as good as if not better than Google Translate. The issue is there isn’t a web addon as far as I can tell, and last but not least it’s a paid service, so the comparison to free services is a bit of apples and oranges. The new Fx service isn’t quite as good as Google’s, but then again, it’s a limited preview, so I’ll give them a pass on that. What I’ve seen so far is very impressive. I agree, if they can continue to improve (and they current are flagging words and phrases they believe aren’t quite accurate, so that’s a good thing) then it indeed will be a game changer. I’m glad I found this article, I wasn’t aware this preview existed! Thanks!

  11. anona said on August 15, 2022 at 11:32 am
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    I wish Firefox Translate, and also DeepL, would start supporting Korean. It’s the one thing missing for me and why I still have to use Google Translate.

  12. ChromeFan said on August 15, 2022 at 2:32 pm
    Reply

    In a world where Google Translate exists ( and DeepL), Firefox Translations is not needed. Firefox yet again trying to reinvent the wheel. If Firefox cared about the open web (it doesn’t) it would scrap this.

    Firefox died when Google released their browser. It has been on life support ever since.

    1. Anonymous said on August 15, 2022 at 7:31 pm
      Reply

      Low effort trolling.

  13. me said on August 17, 2022 at 1:03 pm
    Reply

    I’ll get excited if and when this feature comes to Firefox mobile. Until then, Vivaldi does a pretty decent job at website translation from Russian, Spanish & French – though not necessarily with mixed language content and Javascript off.

    Google translate for web pages used to not be available for Android browsers last time I checked (ages ago), but it is now.

  14. Mothy said on August 17, 2022 at 4:58 pm
    Reply

    While I use Firefox (ESR) as my main web browser I do not have any interest in this feature and would not use it (if it were built-in I would want to disable it). This is primarily because from my experience offline translation is just not as accurate as cloud based translation services which have access to a vast speech recognition database and also use neural network features that can adapt and learn in order to provide the best possible translation. An example is using Google Translate on a smartphone in offline mode with the language information downloaded. Translation can be very different than when it’s using online mode and has access to the much larger speech recognition database and neural network features. Of course there is a privacy implication but it’s the only way if you want to get the best and most accurate translation.

    Otherwise on my computers, I use a separate application called QTranslate (portable version) to read and write translations. It has the option to use numerous online translation services which can be useful to compare translations to make sure they are correct. In my experience DeepL is not always very accurate compared to Google and Microsoft/Bing. In fact I have found that Microsoft is the most accurate for me in translating Spanish/English. What is also very useful is QTranslate has dictionary services and a history function that can be used to review past translations or also to save them to a text file for future reference if needed, which can be useful if you wish to save/document a conversation you have had with someone. It can also be used on any application to translate something (not just in a web browser). Also what I like about it is the application can be closed when I do not have a need for translation so I know there is no background process still running.

  15. virgincuck said on August 17, 2022 at 6:27 pm
    Reply

    “A CPU that supports SSE4.1 extensions is required for this addon to function properly”

    Never would I have thought that a firefox addon would be hardware dependent.

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