Browser-based Machine Translation Exercise, Level I


Other online machine translation tutorials:
Online Machine Translation Exercise: Level I


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I. Introduction

Most of us are familiar with online machine translation (MT) tools, such as Google Translate, which allow the user to translate a Web page or an excerpt of text from one language to another by entering the URL or the text on a Web page. Machine translation (MT) is increasingly being presented to users through interactive online and browser-based applications (known as add-ons, extensions, etc.), tools that can be accessed directly from a Web browser’s toolbars and/or menus. These MT tools often give users a choice between a fully automated process and one that gives them a (slightly) wider range of choices and tools.

Currently, many online and browser-based MT tools provide data using Yahoo BabelFish, Google Translate or a combination of both services as their base, although other options are available. We will use three of the more popular add-on applications for the Firefox browser as well as the built-in translation options included in the Google Chrome browser.

Since this exercise is meant simply as a way to test these applications, we will discuss how to uninstall these MT tools in a section further on in the exercise.

You might also want to compare these resources to WordReference.com. Other online tools such as this provide much of the same functionality of the browser-based tools discussed here but are accessed either through their website or can be integrated into the Firefox search engine bar.

WordReference has the added advantage of extensive online user vocabulary forums where anyone can post questions on particular definitions or translation problems and read or discuss what has been said about them. You can access all of WordReference’s forums here: http://forum.wordreference.com/index.php.


II. Getting ready

  1. Open the Firefox browser on your computer and go to the download page for Firefox Add-ons.

a.   Type the following URL into the Firefox address bar: http://www.mozilla.org.

b.   Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the Add-ons link under the Our Projects menu.

  1. Find and download the BabelFish add-on, then install it in your browser.

a.   Type “BabelFish” into the search bar at the top of the page and hit Enter on your keyboard.

b.   Click on the green Add to Firefox button to the right of the search result marked BabelFish Instant Translation.

c.   A dialogue box will appear on your screen. Click the Install Now button to install the add-on. Firefox will prompt you to restart the browser in order to complete the installation.

  1. Find and download the FoxLingo add-on, then install it in your browser.

a.   Type “FoxLingo” into the search bar at the top of the page and hitEnter on your keyboard.

b.   Click on the green Add to Firefox button to the right of the search result marked FoxLingo – Translator / Dictionary.

c.   A dialogue box will appear on your screen. Click the Install Now button. Firefox will prompt you to restart the browser in order to complete the installation.

  1. Find and download the ImTranslator add-on, then install it in your browser.

a.   Type “ImTranslator” into the search bar at the top of the page and hit Enter on your keyboard.

b.   Click on the green Add to Firefox button to the right of the search result marked ImTranslator – Online Translator, Dictionary, TTS.

c.   A dialogue box will appear on your screen. Click the Install Now button. Firefox will prompt you to restart the browser in order to complete the installation.

  1. When Firefox restarts, options for each of the new add-ons will be displayed. We will discuss these individually below.
  2. Open the Google Chrome browser on your computer.


III. MT Tools in Firefox - BabelFish

This MT tool uses dictionaries from both Yahoo Babel Fish and Google Translate for instant onscreen translations of individual words or entire blocks of text. It is important to distinguish between this add-on and Yahoo! Babel Fish, the popular online MT tool that it uses.

The BabelFish add-on uses an interface panel with menu options that is available immediately after downloading. You can begin using BabelFish right away by using your mouse to double click or highlight a word. The program will bring up an interface panel (also known as a tooltip) that appears over the highlighted word or block of text.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the various menu options in the BabelFish interface panel and customize the languages needed for this exercise.

a.   In the main Firefox menu, go to Tools > BabelFish options > Configuration.

  1. Click on the Yahoo radio button near the bottom of the options panel to select the Yahoo Babel Fish translation tool.
  2. Make sure the check box marked Alt + left clickis checked.

b.   Use Firefox to go to the following website:


c.   Double-click on any word on the page so that the interface panel appears.

d.   Click on the Languages button.

i.      In the dropdown menu that appears, click on French as the source language.

ii.     A second dropdown menu will appear immediately after choosing your source language. Select English your target language from the second list.

e.   You can switch the source and target languages between French and English by clicking on the button marked fr>en to the right of the Languages button.

f.    The next button to the right will be marked GoogleDic. Click on the GoogleDic button to switch between the multiple results from Google Dictionary and Google or Yahoo, the two translation services.

2. Use BabelFish to translate various words and phrases from the website.

a.   On this same “Watson” page, double click on the word informatique.

b.   Translate the phrase programme informatique by highlighting it while holding down the Alt key on your keyboard.

c.    How do the results for informatique change between these two examples?

d.   Repeat the same action with the phrase programme informatique d’intelligence artificielle.

e.   Use BabelFish to translate the following sentence in the first paragraph: Le nom « Watson » fait reference à Thomas John Watson, qui créa IBM en 1911.

  • What did you like or dislike about the BabelFish interface?

  • How does BabelFish compare to traditional manual translation using a dictionary?

  • Who do you think would find this MT tool the most useful and for what purposes?

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of having multiple translation choices come back for single words and only one variation when translating an entire sentence?

  • Do you think that including an editing option sends a message to the user about how MT can/should be used? Do you think this message is realistic and useful?


IV. MT Tools in Firefox - FoxLingo

FoxLingo sets itself apart from other MT tools by providing links to dozens of online resources including dictionaries, encyclopedias and language resources, in addition to MT tools. FoxLingo allows users to translate individual words and phrases or entire web pages using either the TextTrans or WebTrans functions. All of these resources are arranged in a toolbar that appears below the other Firefox menu options. This toolbar includes a main search bar where any word or block of text highlighted on a webpage automatically appears and can be translated or spell checked.

In order to use FoxLingo effectively you will need to first complete the installation by customizing the add-on. FoxLingo also provides some very useful tips in the Help section of its website. You can access the site here.

  1. Complete the installation and customize FoxLingo in the pop-up window entitled FoxLingo - Installation.

a.   Select English as the default language in the dropdown menu in the first section.

b.   Click Next, Next and Finish to complete the process.

c.   Click Yes when prompted to turn on Site language identification.

  1. Familiarize yourself with some of the resources available in FoxLingo.

a.   Ensure the FoxLingo toolbar is visible by going to the main Firefox menu and clicking on View> Toolbars> FoxLingo Toolbar.  

b.   In the FoxLingo toolbar, click on the small black arrow located next to Search.

  1. Scroll down the list to Dictionaries & Encyclopedias and visit several sites of your choice.

c.   Click on the dropdown menu entitled TextTrans to display all of the possible source languages.

  1. As you scroll down the list of languages you will notice that other windows appear, each offering multiple online MT tool choices for each source language.
  2. Repeat the same process in the WebTrans dropdown menu.

d.   Click on the toolbar dropdown menu entitled Services.

  1. Scroll down the list and look at any resources you find interesting.

3. Use the resources in FoxLingo to translate individual words, a sentence and a webpage.

a.   Use Firefox to go to the following website:


b.   Translate the phrase programme informatique by highlighting or double-clicking the word in the website’s text.

c.   Once the highlighted text appears in the FoxLingo search bar, click the TextTrans menu option and scroll down to the text’s source language (French, in this case). Once you’ve selected a source language, choose one of the target language translation services that will appear in the new menu. A new window will automatically open, taking you to the website of the translation service you chose. The original text you selected (informatique) and the suggested translation(s) will appear automatically.

d.   Translate the phrase programme informatique using TextTrans by highlighting it in the same way.

e.   How do the results for informatique change between these two examples? How do the results differ when you choose a different target language translation service from the list?

d.   Repeat the same action with the phrase programme informatique d’intelligence artificielle.

e.   Translate the following sentence in the first paragraph: Le nom « Watson » fait reference à Thomas John Watson, qui créa IBM en 1911.

f.    Translate the entire webpage using WebTrans.

  1. Click on WebTrans menu option and scroll down to the text’s source language. Choose one of the target language translation services in the list.
  • FoxLingo offers access to many online MT resources. In your opinion, which were the most useful? Why?
  • How does the FoxLingo interface compare to other browser-based MT tools that you know? What did you like and dislike about it?
  • What uses and users do you think FoxLingo would be particularly useful for? Why?
  • Many of the dictionaries and other services available in FoxLingo are geared towards English-language users and terminology. In what instances would this be problematic?
  • How would you rate the ability of this add-on to translate entire websites?


V. MT Tools in Firefox - ImTranslator

ImTranslator features a pop-up interface window and relies on PROMT and Google Translate dictionaries for its MT services. It also offers a variety of tools including a cut-and-paste function, a dictionary, a multilingual virtual keyboard aid, a customizable spell-checker and a text-to-speech service.

The ImTranslator add-on will automatically install an icon in Firefox’s navigation toolbar, but it can also be accessed by going to Tools > ImTranslator. You can learn more about what ImTranslator offers by visiting the website for the add-on, located here.

1. Use ImTranslator to translate and spell-check a short text.

a.   Open the following website in Firefox:


b.   Highlight the first paragraph of the article and click on the Start ImTranslator button in the Firefox navigation toolbar or by using the keys Ctrl+Alt+T on your keyboard.

c.   Once your highlighted text appears in the source text area of the pop-up interface window, choose your source and target languages from the panel below it.

d.   Click the Translate button.

e.   Once the translated text appears, look at the translation differences between the two MT services offered by clicking on the PROMT and Google tabs just above the target text area.

f.    To spell-check your machine translation, ensure your cursor is in the target text area and select the Spell All icon from among the options near the top of the interface. A separate pop-up window will appear for the spell checker.

2.   Try some of the other available tools in ImTranslator including the back translation feature, which translates the target text back to its original language, and the virtual keyboard.

a.   Highlight the same paragraph of text from above and click the Translate button in the pop-up window.

b.   Once the translated text appears in the target text area, check the check box marked back translationand then click the Translate button again.

c.    A new pop-up window will appear with the back translation of the original text. Compare the two versions and then close the back translation pop-up window.

d.   The ImTranslator help page states that, “back translation doesn't always generate the exact original text.” Why is this? In what instances do you think this feature would/might be useful to you?

e.   To use the virtual keyboard, click on the Keyboard icon near the top of the ImTranslator pop-up window, ensuring that your cursor is in whichever text area you want to work in. A new pop-up window entitled Virtual Keyboard will appear.

f.    Select the regional keyboard you want to work with from the dropdown menu and use it to add text to your translation.

g.   Close the ImTranslator and the Virtual Keyboard pop-up windows when you’re finished.

  • In what ways does ImTranslator differ from the other MT tools discussed in this exercise?

  • In what situations would ImTranslator be useful to you? To other users? Why?

  • Which of the IMTranslator functions/tools do you think are most useful? Why?

  • What benefits or drawbacks are there from having a spell-checker (and a dictionary) included in this add-on?


VI. Google Chrome

The Google Chrome browser uses a built-in version of the Google Translate service that allows users to automatically translate entire webpages that are not in their default language. You can learn more about MT functionality in Chrome here.

1. Use Google Chrome’s built-in MT tool to translate a webpage.

a.   Ensure that Google Chrome’s setting allow for automatic translation of webpages by clicking on the wrench icon (located to the far right in the browser toolbar), selecting Options (or Preferences in Mac or Linux computers) and clicking on Under the Hood, located in the left-hand pane of the Options window.

  1. Scroll down the list of options in the Under the Hood section and check the check box marked Offer to translate pages that aren’t in a language I read next to the Translate heading.
  2. Close the Options (Preferences) tab and return to the main tab.

b.   Open the Italian-language version of the website used in previous exercises: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watson_(Intelligenza_Artificiale).

c.   A dropdown translation toolbar will appear near the top of the browser. Click the Translate button. The page will reload with the translated content.

d.   What happens when you move your mouse cursor over a translated sentence in the text?

e.   Click on any link within the translated page.

f.   What happens when you do this? What other translation options are available to you in the toolbar or in the Options dropdown menu? 


VII. Uninstalling MT Tools in Firefox

In this section, we will go through the steps required to fully uninstall the browser-based MT tools we installed earlier in Firefox.

  1. Uninstall the BabelFish, FoxLingo and ImTranslator add-ons in Firefox.

a.   Go to Tools > Add-ons in the Firefox menu or use Ctrl+Shift+A to access your add-ons.

b.   Click on the icon marked Extensions in the left of the page.

  1. Click on the list entry for BabelFish and then click Remove. The message BabelFish has been removed will replace the add-on in the list.
  2. Click on the list entry for FoxLingo and then click Remove.The message FoxLingo has been removed will replace the add-on in the list.
  3. Click on the list entry for ImTranslator and then click Remove. The message ImTranslator has been removed will replace the add-on in the list.

c.   Click on the link marked Restart now located to the right of ImTranslator has been removed.

d.   Firefox will now restart itself to complete the uninstall process.


VIII. Uninstalling Google Chrome

In this section, we will gothrough the steps required to fully uninstall the Google Chrome browser from your computer.

  1. Uninstall Google Chrome from Windows 7.

a.   Go to Start> All Programs and click on the Google Chrome folder.

b.   Click on the icon entitled Uninstall Google Chrome.

c.   On the pop-up window that will appear, click the Uninstall button.




NOTEIf you don’t already have Firefox installed, you can download and install it for free at http://www.mozilla.org.
If Firefox is already installed, you will need to make sure that you are using a recent version. If you are using your own computer, you can do this from the Firefox Help menu, by choosing the Check for updates option. If you are in the Writing Centre, you can also do this from the tab that automatically opens when you start Firefox, by downloading and then running the install file. You may also need to update any plug-ins installed in Firefox as well.


NOTE: To save time and to avoid having to restart Firefox after each separate add-on installation, you can skip through the introductions for the following two MT tool add-ons and install them all now. The fastest way of doing this is to repeat the installation process described above after entering the search terms “FoxLingo” and “ImTranslator” in the Add-on website’s search bar.
You can also carry on with the exercise as-is if you prefer to try these applications one at a time.
NOTE: Several pop-up windows may appear after installing these add-ons and restarting Firefox. These are not important for the purposes of this exercise and can be minimized and ignored.
NOTE: If you don’t already have Google Chrome installed, you can download and install it for free at: http://www.google.com/chrome.



NOTE: Depending on your Firefox settings, BabelFish will likely load up a help page in your browser after installation, and may install an icon in the Firefox toolbar. Feel free to use icon to select your source and target languages. The help page is useful and can also be used to supplement the information in this exercise.




NOTE: While there are other options in BabelFish for translating highlighted blocks of text (such as Alt + right click), this exercise will use Alt + left clicksince it is one of the more efficient choices available.


WARNING: When you are making changes in the BabelFish options, please ensure that you check the check box entitled "Use dictionary service when possible." This will give you access to multiple search results from Google Dictionary when translating individual words. Leaving this check box unchecked will limit you to single results from Yahoo BabelFish and Google Translate.



NOTE: You will notice that the Google Dictionary (GoogleDic) option will not be available with this search because it is for single-word searches only. Searches for multiple words, sentences and paragraphs will use results from Yahoo Babel Fish or Google Translate.      


NOTE: At this point you can use the copy and editfunctions located in BabelFish’s interface panel to edit text within the interface panel. The C (Copy) function will copy the text currently in the BabelFish interface panel to your computer’s clipboard, while the E (Edit) function allows the user to edit text within the interface panel.      

















NOTE: If you would like to decrease the number of possible languages available in the TextTrans and WebTrans functions, you can do this by going to the FoxLingo toolbar by clicking on FoxLingo > Options > Translate From andTranslate To. You will be given the options to individually select or deselect any languages you do or do not want to use.


NOTE: If you already have the BabelFish add-on, double-clicking will automatically bring up BabelFish results. Please note that this does not interfere with using FoxLingo.




































NOTE: You can also preselect default languages in the main Firefox menu: Tools > ImTranslator > ImTranslator Options.














NOTE: If you have blocked pop-ups in Firefox or your computer you may experience limited functionality with ImTranslator. Unchecking the Block popup windows check box (go to Tools> Options> Content in the main Firefox menu) will allow the add-on to function properly.



NOTE: To begin typing using the virtual keyboard, you can use your mouse pointer to click individual keys on the virtual keyboard pop-up window, or you can simply start typing in one of the text areas using your computer keyboard. Any keystrokes you make using your computer’s keyboard will be reflected on the virtual version.

















NOTE: Chrome will automatically detect Italian as the language used in this website. If the browser selects another language by mistake, click on the dropdown language menu to the left of the Translate button and select Italian from the available languages.












NOTE:The FoxLingo add-on will automatically open a survey page in your browser when you click the Remove button. This page is not part of the add-on uninstall process and can be closed.




IX. Questions for reflection

  • What message do you think the methods of presenting these machine translation applications send to the user, in terms of the usefulness and reliability of machine translation? Is it more appropriate to use them in specific situations that require MT tools?
  • What are your reactions to the overall quality of the MT offered by these tools? Are the options very different in their quality?
  • How do you find the user friendliness and interface display of each of these MT tools?
  • Many of these tools offer translations of Web pages that preserve the original format of the page. Do you see advantages and/or drawbacks to this approach?
  • Do you think that these tools are likely to have an effect on the professional translation market? Why or why not?
  • Do you think that these tools are likely to have an effect on the perception of the value of professional translation? Why or why not?
  • Which of these tools would you find most and least useful for your own use as a professional translator? Why?


Tutorial and Exercise created by Thierry Black. (2011-06-04)