How to Translate a PDF for ELL and EB Learners

Easily translate text to your preferred language using your iPad.


An animation of PDF text being translated from English to Spanish.

The translation will improve your Emergent Bilingual (EB) or English Language Learners (ELL) reading experience. I often give my students a PDF version of an article or instructions in my classroom. In any class, I have students who are not native English speakers. Some words and phrases cause them difficulty and frustration due to language barriers. I want to help my students overcome these barriers.

The iPad has a built-in feature that allows you to easily translate text in a PDF without using any third-party apps. Here’s how you can get it done:


  1. Open the PDF
  2. Select the Text
  3. Tap Translate

Video Demonstration

Detailed Steps:

  • Open the PDF: Open the PDF document containing the text you want to translate using the Files app.


The Files app open on an iPad screen, displaying a folder containing a single PDF file. The file is titled "American Bison."

  • Select the Text: Once the PDF is open, it’s a breeze to select the text you want to translate. A simple tap and hold on the text brings up the selection tool, allowing you to adjust the selection handles to choose the specific text you need.


The first word of the article is highlighted.
The first sentence is highlighted.

  • Tap “Translate”: After selecting the text, a menu will appear above the selection. Tap on “Translate” and choose the language you want to translate the text into.


The menu bar is shown above the highlighted sentence. The button titled “Translate” is selected.
Alternate languages for the translate tool is shown.

  • View the Translation: The iPad’s reliable built-in translation tool then automatically translates the selected text into the chosen language. You can view the translation right there on the screen, without the need to switch to another app or website.


The translate tool is open. The Spanish translation of the highlighted sentence is shown.


  • Listen to the Translation: Tap the play button to hear the translation read out loud.
  • Copy the Translation: Tap the “Copy Translation” button to copy it to the clipboard and paste it in another app.
  • Save the Translation: Tap the “Add to Favorites” button to save it to the Favorites menu in the Translation app.

That’s it! With these simple steps, using the built-in tools, you can easily translate text in a PDF on your iPad. It’s a quick and convenient way to understand and work with text in multiple languages without hassle. Language should not be a barrier to learning in any classroom.

If you want more information:

To see how I quickly and easily converted the Wikipedia article into a PDF, check out my post on How to Convert a Webpage to a PDF to share with students. 

Tapping Options in the share menu and selecting PDF as the new file format

2 replies

July 17, 2024

I love the revisions you made since I last saw this! I am passing this on to some of my LAS from last year, thank you!

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