How to Translate Websites on iPhone or iPad with Safari

Image of mountains. Text reads, translating websites on mobile devices.

The release of iOS 14 brought hardly any changes to the Safari web browser, but it did include one notable feature that Apple is sure to build on in future releases. Website translation is now possible when you visit sites that were written in one of seven different languages. This is useful if you are trying to see how news is reported in different countries, or if you are traveling and want to keep up with the latest information in that region. In this post, I am going to show you how that works, and give you some options on what else you can do if you are looking for a language outside of the seven that Apple currently supports.

Translate a Website in Safari on iOS

To translate a website on your iPhone or iPad, simply open Safari and navigate to a website that you know is written in a language that is different to the one you use on your device. Right now, the Apple translation feature is in beta, so it only supports English, Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Russian and Brazilian Portuguese. For the example below, I used lemonde.fr, the online website for the French daily newspaper, Le Monde.

Two iphones side by side. Screens show before and after of the Safari translation feature.

To translate the website from French to the language set on your iPhone or iPad, simply tap the Aa to the left of the address bar, and choose Translate Website. This can sometimes take a few seconds because it sends a copy of the website to Apple’s servers to do the translation. However, once complete, you should see a fully translated version of the website that you are visiting.

For additional clarity, you can also take advantage of Safari’s Reader View. This cleans up the website you are reading by removing sidebars, ads, and other distracting elements. Simply tap the Aa in the address bar once more, and choose Reader View from the menu to activate that option.

How Good is the Language Translation?

You don’t need to be fluent in very many of these languages to know that the translation is not perfect. Machine translation rarely is, so it’s always best to temper your expectations and consider your uses for technology like this. Computers will often miss the nuances of language that are better translated by a human. They are better than they used to be, but they still have some way to go. That said, you can still get some very usable translations that can give you an insight into what is being reported on websites from other countries.

Translate a Website with Microsoft Translator

If you are not happy with the quality of the translation, or you want to move beyond the seven languages that Apple supports in the beta period, you can take a look at the Microsoft Translator app for iOS. Once installed, you can summon it from the Share menu to translate websites in Safari. Here’s how that works.

  1. Download the Microsoft Translator app from the App Store
  2. Open Safari and tap the Share arrow
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the Share sheet and tap Edit Actions…
  4. Tap the green plus sign next to Translator, then tap Done

Once you have that set up, you can tap on this option the next time you visit a website in a foreign language. Simply tap the Share arrow, and then tap Translator to translate the text to your chosen language. You can choose your default language in the settings for this app. In my usage, Microsoft Translator worked better in an article view, as opposed to a homepage of a website, but it is still a handy app to keep on your device, especially if you visit sites outside of the languages that Apple supports in their beta product. The image below compares the different translations that are offered up by Apple and Microsoft on the same story from Le Monde.

Two iPhones side by side. The one of the left shows the Safari translation of Le Monde. The one on the right shows the Microsoft Translator version of Le Monde.
Left: Apple’s Safari Translation – Right: Microsoft Translator

What About Google Translate?

Currently, the Google Translation app does not support website translation in Safari. In fact, Google doesn’t even offer this service on the Google Translator website. Instead, you have to manually copy and paste text from a website and paste it into a search field at https://translate.google.com/. Google seems to prefer the Google Translate Chrome extension for website translations, so if you are working on an iOS device, you are better off using Safari or the Microsoft’s Translator app.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s