Mozilla has created a translation plugin for Firefox that works offline. Firefox Translations will need to download some files the first time you convert text in a specific language. However, it will be able to use your system's resources to handle the translation, rather than sending the information to a data center for cloud processing.
The plugin emerged as a result of Mozilla's work with the European Union-funded Project Bergamot. Others involved include the University of Edinburgh, Charles University, University of Sheffield and University of Tartu. The goal was to develop neural machine tools to help Mozilla create an offline translation option. "The engines, language models and in-page translation algorithms would need to reside and be executed entirely in the user’s computer, so none of the data would be sent to the cloud, making it entirely private," Mozilla said.
One of the big limitations of the plugin as things stand is that it can only handle translations between English and 12 other languages, according to TechCrunch. For now, Firefox Translations supports Spanish, Bulgarian, Czech, Estonian, German, Icelandic, Italian, Norwegian Bokmal and Nynorsk, Persian, Portuguese and Russian.
Mozilla and its partners on the project have created a training pipeline through which volunteers can assist out by helping train new models so more languages can be added. They're looking for feedback on existing models too, so Firefox Translations is very much a work in progress.
For the time being, though, the plugin can't hold a candle to the 133 languages that Google Translate supports. Apple and Google both have mobile apps that can handle offline translations as well.
On the surface, it's a little odd that a browser, which is by definition used to access the web, would need an offline translation option. But translating text on your device and avoiding the need to transfer it to and from a data center could be a boon for privacy and security.