In today’s globalized world, chances are you occasionally communicate in a language(s) other than your native tongue. There are situations and situations, however. After all, it’s one thing to chat up your Parisian neighbor and quite another to draft a make-or-break client brief for a French multinational.
When the pressure is on to sound competent, the following online tools might be helpful.
1 – www.linguee.com
This site is a good place to start if you have to write a short text (10-15 words) and aren’t sure about the precise terminology. As an “online bilingual concordance” system, Linguee translates a number of language pairs including English to Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese and many more.
Unlike machine translations such as Google Translate and Babelfish, Linguee uses a “translation memory system,” accessing a database of texts translated by flesh-and-blood translators. When you type in your text, you’ll get a list of around 20-25 entries for your perusal, which vastly increases your odds of a perfect customer-facing translation.
2 – www.deepl.com
Especially useful for longer texts, DeepL Translator is an add-on to Linguee capable of converting English into 10 languages: Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. It sometimes offers alternative translations, although these tend to be shortlisted for space reasons.
3 – MS Word “translate” feature
If you have a subscription to Microsoft Office 365 or Microsoft 2019 installed on your computer, you’ll find a “translate” feature in the top menu under “Tools.” Like Google Translate and Babelfish, it will give you the general gist and help out in a pinch but isn’t 100% reliable.
4 – ProWriting Aid
ProWriting Aid is an amazing editing tool and picks up spelling and grammar mistakes sometimes overlooked by MS Word’s checker. Better yet, it offers tips for stylistic changes and suggestions to improve readability. We used to use the free online version but realized the yearly fee was worth it. In a word, it’s a better and more economic tool than Grammarly.
5 – Online dictionaries
Our go-to sources are dictionary.com and dictionary.cambridge.org, both of which offer American and British spellings (when applicable) and mainstream pronunciations of each with a click of the mini-megaphone button. For American English, another good option is merriam-webster.com, a modern version of Noah Webster’s famous printed tome.
6 – Online thesaurus
When you’re on a quest for the perfect synonym, both dictionary.com and merriam-webster.com are helpful, although www.powerthesaurus.com is by far my favorite. Since a “rose” isn’t always a “rose” :-), the site lets you filter for different parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, idioms, etc.) to speed up your search.