Simple Translation in macOS

Whether you’re trying to learn a new language, or working on foreign language keyword research for a digital marketing project, access to quick bi-directional translations is always handy. If you’re a Mac user, it couldn’t be simpler.

Three-finger tap dictionary definitions

The three-finger tap is a great feature of Mac trackpads. Place your cursor over a word, tap three fingers, and a little bubble appears with a definition of that word. You can also get synonyms from the thesaurus, and other relevant information like Wikipedia articles and maps.

Contextual dictionary definitions in macOS
Contextual dictionary definitions in macOS

If it doesn’t work by default, you need to enable it in your trackpad preferences. Go to Preferences > Trackpad and, under Point & Click, select Look-up & data detectors.

Trackpad preferences in macOS
Enabling three-finger tap definitions in macOS

If you’re using a traditional mouse, don’t worry; you can still access the same feature, albeit less elegantly. Just right-click and select Look Up [word].

Adding foreign language translation

In Apple’s native Dictionary app, under Preferences, you can select any number of different dictionaries. If what you want isn’t there by default, this site has an extensive collection of free dictionary downloads.

Enabling dictionaries in Apple Dictionary
Enabling dictionaries in Apple Dictionary

I’m learning German, and with the Oxford German-English dictionary enabled, a three-fingered tap now brings up a translation from English to German, or German to English. Great for building vocabulary, cheating in Duolingo, and more besides.

Note that you can click and drag dictionaries into your preferred order.