Nothing beats a flesh-and-blood translator, but unfortunately, people are not so easy to carry around in your pocket. So, when a quick translation is due, your smartphone will offer relief. Whether you are traveling in Iceland, chatting with your Chinese girlfriend, or trying to order a Tikka Massala in Mumbai, these seven translation apps and websites will help you out.
From all translation apps out there, Google Translate is probably the best known. The Google Translate app even offers a way to translate pictures or handwriting by connecting with your camera. Granted, Google Translate does not always generate perfect translations, but with its recent upgrades and addition of neural machine translation techniques, Google has made a huge step forward.
But occasionally, it pays to look over the giant Google wall. Yes, there are other translation apps, tools and websites out there, some of which offer a very good alternative to Google Translate. Here are seven of them.
DeepL launched in 2017 as a spin-off of Linguee, another well-known language service (see below). DeepL translation is based on neural network techniques, which is why it provides translations that appear to be far more natural and human sounding than most translation apps.
Why you’ll love it: DeepL offers very fluent translation, especially for longer and more complex sentences.
Why you should be careful: Although web-based, DeepL is not available as an app. And with only seven European languages in its portfolio, you probably won’t use it for your next world trip.
The Linguee language service was launched in 2009. Unlike many other translation apps, Linguee has a search engine that provides bilingual sentence pairs from a large database.
Why you’ll love it: Different word contexts result in different translations. When prompted for a particular word, Linguee will show you multiple, bilingual sentence pairs that are actually used in online publications. This way, you can see how a word or an expression is used in different contexts. Linguee supports 25 languages.
Why you should be careful: We can’t help but suspect that the Linguee sentence corpus, is limited. When we search for a translation from Dutch to English, the English example sentences mainly come from Dutch or European (.eu) sources, which is a bit dodgy. We thought the whole idea of presenting examples was to give a broad overview of how a word is used. Although, the translations are not necessarily wrong, the lack of UK or US sources is suspicious.
3. Baidu Translate
In absence of Google in China, Baidu is the country’s best known internet search engine. Just like Google Translate, Baidu Translate is based on the use of neural networks, which results in very fluent translations. Baidu has a built-in voice-based translation functionality, which allows you to search on your smartphone through voice commands. The Baidu Translate app supports 16 languages.
In September 2017, Baidu launched a portable talking translator that can listen and speak in several different languages. Smaller than a typical smartphone, the handheld translation device can also be used as a portable Wi-Fi router and is able to operate on networks in 80 countries.
Why you’ll love it: Baidu Translate provides very fluent translations, especially for longer and more complex sentences.
Why you should be careful: Not all translation combinations give good results or are even supported at all.
Youdao Dictionary is a well-known language service in China that fills the void of the blocked Google China. Youdao Dictionary offers over 350,000 words, phrases and meanings of English. Unlike other language apps, it also offers additional information about the use of English, as well as culture, fashion and sports.
Why you’ll love it: Youdao Dictionary is especially targeted at Chinese users. It also offers integration with WeChat, China’s most popular chat service.
Why you should be careful: Youdao’s language offering is limited to Chinese-English and it often generates too literal word-by-word translations.
5. Microsoft Translator
Microsoft Translator is a free app, available for Windows, iOS and Android. It offers text, image, and voice translations for over 60 languages, all of which can be downloaded for offline use. Microsoft Translator can be integrated with other Microsoft applications, like Microsoft Office and Skype. The browser versions can translate only text and web pages, but the Microsoft Translator apps can work with text, real-time speech, and images.
Why you’ll love it: Microsoft Translator has a very convenient split screen user interface and is especially handy for conversations. You can speak or type in your language to communicate with other participants in a conversation. Other participants will see your messages in their own language.
Why you should be careful: Speech translation is currently limited to 12 languages.
With iTranslate you can translate text or websites or lookup words, meanings and even verb conjugations in over 100 languages. For iPhone users, iTranslate also offers a way to use the camera and instantly translate menus, cards or signs. You can even have voice conversations by speaking into the device and then listening to the translation within seconds. This is available for over 40 languages.
Why you’ll love it: This app is very user-friendly and offers a wide range of languages.
Why you should be careful: The free version of this tool will show ads and does not support translation of longer sentences.
This app is really geared towards travelers. TripLingo offers voice- and text-based translations in 42 languages and takes into account language nuances and slang. Quite handy when you are in the middle of a foreign-language conversation.
Why you’ll love it: Travelers will love TripLingo, because next to translation, this app offers a lot of extra features that make traveling much easier.
Why you should be careful: TripLingo is great for essential conversations abroad, but probably not for translation of large chunks of content.
There are many more …
The list of translation apps is nearly endless. The apps we presented here are just a few we like to use occasionally. Up to you to discover what Google alternatives will bring you the most benefits.
Do you have a favorite translation app? Let us know. We’ll be glad to add it to our list.
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