When you need to translate one language to another, either just to communicate or because you’re trying to read something, you have tons of options—they’re just not all that great at capturing what the original language really meant without sounding silly. This week we’re looking at five of the best, based on your nominations.
Most people are already familiar with Google Translate. It’s fairly ubiquitous, works relatively well, is integrated with Google’s other products, like Chrome’s auto-translation feature in-browser, and multiple Android apps that hand off to the built-in Translate app for things like translating tweets or text on webpages or in emails. It supports dozens of languages, and takes the hassle out of figuring out which language you’re reading thanks to its auto-detection. You can translate entire web pages or documents easily as well. It’s not perfect, and it definitely falls down on complicated sentences and context, but it’s still one of the best free, web-accessible, and mobile-accessible options available.
Bing Translator, a Microsoft product, is the translation engine embedded into Windows Phone, and it also has the distinction of being the last major translation engine on the web with a free API, so developers rely on it often to power their in-app translation features (since Google makes developers pay for access.) It also supports dozens of languages, has auto-detection built-in, can translate web pages or uploaded documents, and the ability for users to vote translations up or down depending on their accuracy.
Linguee is less of a translation service as it is a translation dictionary and search engine. While it won’t translate documents or web pages for you, you can always type in words in languages you don’t understand and see meanings, contextual translations, and other documents around the web where the word is properly used so you can get a feel for how it’s used. It also doesn’t offer the spoken word capabilities of other services, so it’s probably not best used for quick words or phrases that you may encounter elsewhere, or things like tweets and Facebook posts made by your friends in other languages.
WordLens is the brainchild of the folks at Quest Visual, recently acquired by Google, so expect to see some of its features rolled into Google Translate any time now. WordLens made waves back in 2010 because its iPhone and Android apps were some of the first to offer real-time, camera-based translations—where you just hold your device up to an unfamiliar language, and have it re-rendered in your native language right in front of your eyes.
5.A Trained Human Translator
At the end of the day, automatic and machine translation tools and dictionaries all fall down when compared against a trained human translator who has spent years studying and truly understanding the languages you need to translate. No algorithm or programmed resource—at least not yet—has been able to appropriately capture context, meaning, tone, and even inflection the way a human being can communicate it if they know multiple languages. As long as languages are what they are—human methods for communication—it’ll be very difficult to come up with a machine or automatic tool that’ll translate it perfectly.
Now that you’ve seen the top five, it’s time to put them to an all-out vote to determine the winner. (via lifehacker)