Most of us have seen and laughed at some of the results of using online translation software. You only have to read the English or Spanish instructions on many of the goods made in China to see the problems software like Google translate has with context and word order.
However the web offers many more sophisticated (and free) translation tools that can help you do a far better job. Here are five of the best that are easily accessible to the untrained user:
Linguee is a unique translation tool combining an editorial dictionary and a search engine with which you can search billions of bilingual texts for words and expressions. Here you can see examples of human translator’s work using the vocabulary in context and displayed as full sentences.
• Extremely fast search: translations are shown as you type
• Approximately 1,000 times more translated texts
• Editorial dictionary, reviewed and approved by the Linguee editors
• Single word translations displayed in a clear, user-friendly structure
• Great variety of contextual translation examples
• Most common translations printed in boldface
• Source website shown for all example sentences
ProZ.com — search translation glossaries and dictionaries.
Search ProZ.com’s extensive translation dictionaries and glossaries for medical, legal, technical and other specialized terms, in Spanish, Italian, German, Chinese, Arabic and many other languages.
Proz also has many useful searchable forums featuring translation questions and answers.
With over 700,000 registered users Proz is a very useful resource
The InterActive Terminology for Europe is a vast database of terminology applied in official public EU documents, covering many fields and all official EU languages. Depending on the word you wish to translate, this may be the most appropriate source. Example translations are given and you can search by category. This is quite technical, and not the best for more natural language.
MyMemory is a relative newcomer to our translation tools, but first impressions are positive. It opens up Translation Memories from professional translators and makes them searchable. Like other sites mentioned here, it has many language combinations and category relevant search options and is constantly updated.
Wordreference is a dictionary for looking up words, concepts, expressions, and some grammatical doubts. It has the ability to conjugate (regular and irregular) verbs in a search (e.g. searching for quepa in Spanish will direct you to the verb caber, “to fit”, as well as tell you what conjugation quepa is of this verb and give a link to its full conjugation table). You can search the forums for questions and answers and post your own questions if you register for free.