A simple search on Google for “online translators” will throw up a host of automated services that will translate your word, phrase or document in a jiffy. Some of these are free. Some require you to pay a small amount to retrieve your translated document.
With these tools, you can carry out some simpler, shorter translation jobs that don’t need the kind of expertise or contextualization that a native speaker will bring. With these tools, you don’t need to spend on translation software. Though many of these online translators have their flaws, they are being improved every day.
Probably one of the most popular online translation tools among general users is Google Translate. It’s free and works relatively well when compared with many other free translators. The auto-translate feature is particularly useful on websites and browsers. There are also many built-in apps that can translate your emails, webpages and tweets on your phone.
Another really useful feature is the auto-detection of language. You don’t need to figure out what language you’re reading, as Google Translate can detect languages for you. The tool also supports over a hundred languages. While translations from context-heavy languages like Japanese and Chinese can be impossible to perfect by machines, Google does reasonably well when translating languages with related grammar. Beware that without context, Google can often miss out pronouns, word inflections etc. that can lead to imperfect translations. But it’s still the best free and mobile-friendly automatic translator around.
The problem with Bing Translator is that it doesn’t support a lot of languages like Google does. For example, it auto-detects a Galician phrase as English. However, within its supported language library, it is reasonably useful and accurate. It has a spoken word feature for some languages. It also lets you hold the app (on your Windows phone) to some unfamiliar text and if the language is on the database, the app will translate it for you. Both Google Translate and Bing Translator lets you upload documents to translate.
Rather than being a document translator, Linguee is a resource that combines a search engine with a dictionary. It is a bilingual dictionary with support for dozens of languages. You can use the search engine to find words and phrases used in context on documents from around the web. It also looks up documents on the web to see how the word or phrase has been translated elsewhere. It doesn’t come with spoken word support and is probably not the best rushed-translation tool. But it is an excellent resource for finding word usages in context. One failing is that it doesn’t have a huge database of languages like Google does. On the other hand, it’s a good tool to use in conjunction with Google Translate.
Paid Online Translators
SDL Trados Studio
For serious translations for researchers, professional computer assisted translation tools like SDL Trados Studio is a worthwhile investment. You can try out the tool for a thirty-day period before you buy. The software has a powerful TM engine, or translation memory, that captures repeated words, phrases and even paragraphs to speed up translation time. It offers features like auto-suggest as you type. It also includes the SDL MultiTerm terminology management feature that helps the software quickly recognize terms and lower errors in translation. Most professional translators who work for translation agencies are required to use such computer-assisted translation tools (CAT tools) like SDL Trados Studio.
Independent translators and organizations can try out Fluency Now by Western Standard. This is a professional translation tool that is scalable. Individuals can enjoy low monthly charges and full features, while organizations can add as many users as possible. It works on Linux, OSX and Windows. Features include multiple machine translations for faster processing and a translation memory tool that can use old translations to create new TMs.
Other tools that deserve mention include MemoQ (which has been designed for individual freelancers as well as small translating teams), WordFast Pro and the scalable Memsource. Choosing a translation software to use from this list will depend on the level of accuracy you’re willing to pay for.
Note that in the end, an experienced native speaker will do a better job at translation than a machine, though machine translations are improving with modern self-learning technology.