Free online translation tools can come in handy when you need a gist translation of a written piece. It makes no sense to turn to professional translation services if all you need is the substance or general meaning of a text or speech. Trouble might follow if there is a lack of understanding or unrealistic expectations of translation tools, but provided that you use simple language and give the translation tool a clear context, it can really help you sort out your basic language needs. These tools represent significant progress in translation technology.
What are the ideal situations for using free online translation tools?
Free online translation tools can be a recipe for disaster if your content is important to you. They should never be used as an alternative to professional translation services if your goal is to translate your website or market products of any kind. These tools perform simple substitution of words from one language to another, but they hardly ever handle difficult language and nuanced meanings as skillfully as a human translator. That is why it is important to know what online translation tools can and cannot do, as misuse can lead to misunderstandings and inefficient communication. Most native speakers will be able to tell if you used machine translation, which does not particularly portray a positive image of you or your brand. Some of the situations where using free online translation tools is acceptable are:
- When they are used to get the general idea without particular attention to details
- When they are used to get by in a foreign country (understanding street signs, asking for directions, searching for restaurant menu vocabulary, etc.)
- When they are used for a language pair that you are familiar with
- When they are used because of a tight budget and quality can be compromised
- When they are used because immediate translations are required
Managing your expectations before using free online translation tools is therefore important if you want to be satisfied with the result. Online translation tools users must be aware that these tools have an accuracy rate of about 60% to 80% depending on the language pair.
An overview of the best free online translation tools
What makes Google Translator so popular is that it supports 100 languages. It can also be particularly useful because of its auto-detection feature if you don’t know what the source language is. Its con is that the meaning can sometimes be lost in translation because there is no way to incorporate context.
Similarly to Google Translator, Bing covers a wide range of languages, making it one of the most widely used free online translation tools. Bing is also incorporated in some social media platforms thanks to its ability to translate speech and tech in real-time. Its con is that it shows less close results to human translation than Google Translator.
For some language pairs, DeepL Translator seems to be a serious competition for Google Translator. It features a composition task that helps to refine the output on the target side. This enhances the final result thanks to the interaction between the computer and a human. Its con is the short stack of languages it supports.