4 Must-Have Resources for Translators & Interpreters




  • Greater than 4 minutes, my friend!

    As a translator and interpreter, there’s nothing I love more than free, easy-to-use resources. Luckily, a lot of really good resources are available online for free, and I never hesitate to make use of whatever I can find my hands on.

    This is just a small selection of my must-have resources for translators & interpreters based on what I’ve found myself using for the majority of my translation and interpreting work. Some are more suited to translation (like Linguee), while others (like Wikipedia) are more suited to preparing for interpreting assignments. I use a combination of most of these resources in my day-to-day work to help me find just the right word!

    1. TermiumPlus

    TermiumPlus is the terminology and linguistic data bank of the Government of Canada. It is quite comprehensive in the number of subject areas covered, but it really only covers French and English with some Spanish and (even less) Portuguese thrown in.

    Nevertheless, it’s one of the first places I look for terminology in French and English, especially now that the interface has been completely redesigned. I love how much faster the new search menu is, as I don’t recall ever seeing the search history in the previous interface. I don’t know whether or not it’s a new feature, but at the very least it’s a lot more visible since the update. That’s a big plus, as far as I’m concerned, since I never would have discovered this useful feature otherwise. It allows you to search for multiple terms at a time and keep track of what you’ve seen. Forget to note down the correct term before looking for something else? The search history makes it easy to go back to where you were.

    Another great feature of TermiumPlus is the ability to access the references by clicking on the magnifying glass next to each entry:

    TermiumPlus Data Bank

    Pros:

    • Fast, easy-to-use
    • Covers an incredible variety of subject fields
    • Contains links to references for each term

    Cons:

    • A lot of the references are books (not as accessible as online resources)
    • Very few entries for Portuguese and Spanish

    Score: 9/10

    2. ProZ

    ProZ is, admittedly, an obvious choice for many translators, but I find myself going to it time and time again simply for the fact that it’s quick and to the point. I like being able to easily filter for a specific subfield, which is especially helpful when researching field-specific usage of common words. Even if I start looking on ProZ, it’s rarely the last place I look. The answers are, essentially, crowdsourced, so I take everything with a grain of salt and pay close attention to the person who responded. The responses are, after all, contributed by fellow translators, and while their input is very valuable, I prefer to cross-reference responses on ProZ whenever possible.

    Many responses include links to references, but I’ve found that a lot of the links no longer work, making the accompanying answers much less useful. It would be nice if there were a way to indicate broken links and encourage the original posters (or new posters!) to update the links with new sources.

    Pros:

    • Very quick to use
    • Wide variety of subjects covered
    • Lots of options for filtering subjects

    Cons:

    • Many links are out of date
    • All entries need to be taken with a grain of salt

    Score: 7/10

    3. Wikipedia

    Some of you might be surprised to see Wikipedia on this list, but the amount of information available on here is incredible. My favourite translation and interpreting trick with Wikipedia is searching for a page in English (or French) and checking the version of the same page in the other language. This isn’t foolproof because not all articles are available in both languages. Sometimes the articles are poorly written as well or inaccurate, so this is another resource that needs to be cross-referenced. Most articles now include references, making it relatively easy to cross-reference terms.

    One of the biggest advantages of Wikipedia, in my opinion, is how comprehensive it is on science and technology topics, particularly in English. Even if English-only pages don’t exactly count as French-English resources, I still find them incredibly useful for getting an introduction to unfamiliar topics and fields. The fact that articles are referenced also helps, since it makes it easier to find corroborating (and often more comprehensive!) resources.

    This is one of my favourite resources for preparing for interpreting assignments due to the extensive contextual knowledge in most articles. I find that reading (and re-reading!) introductory texts on specialised subjects is a good way to get myself into the mindset of someone in that field. That being said, it’s definitely not something I would use in the booth because of how long it can take to find what I need with Wikipedia.

    Pros:

    • Extremely comprehensive
    • Articles include extensive background knowledge on most topics, not just definitions
    • Covers a large number of languages, not just French and English
    • Most articles are referenced, making it easy to fact-check

    Cons:

    • Some articles only exist in a few languages and/or a page’s content in one language is substantially different from another
    • Long process to find equivalent terms

    Score: 7/10

    4. Linguee

    Most of you have probably heard of Linguee before, even if you haven’t used it. Essentially, Linguee is an online, multilingual dictionary. Linguee works with both words and phrases, unlike most dictionaries. Another difference between Linguee and other online dictionaries, such as WordReference, is that it is based on parallel texts. In other words, entries in Linguee are based on texts (frequently from international organisations) that have already been translated into more than one language. The major advantage of this method is that it lets you see the words and phrases you need in context. Unfortunately, this is also somewhat of a downside for Linguee. Since all alignment is performed automatically, words and phrases in one language aren’t often identified properly in the next. Yet another disadvantage is that most of the texts are translations of each other, meaning there is a greater chance of the phrases and words being misused, misunderstood or simply unnatural sounding in the target language.

    Pros:

    • Wide variety of terms and phrases available
    • Covers a large number of languages, not just French and English
    • Includes example sentences in both languages

    Cons:

    • Words and phrases don’t always match up with their target language counterpart
    • No definitions are provided, only translations

    Score: 6/10

    What Are Your Must-Have Resources?

    Disagree with what I’ve included? Think there’s something I left off this list that I should really be using? Agree with me but absolutely hate my writing style? Let me know what you think in the comments!

    Jonathan Beagley

    About Jonathan Beagley

    10 thoughts on “4 Must-Have Resources for Translators & Interpreters

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Jonathan. As an alternative to Linguee that I like a lot, I also use link to glosbe.com. There’s a dictionary lookup and a lookup in large bilingual corpora. It can do different kinds of phrase matches, but even when you look for exact matches, it is not case sensitive, which I think is a pity. They also use pivoting in case there’s no entry in the bilingual dictionary. This is not bad but it may be dangerous. That’s just something to be aware about.

      It also does and automatic translation without any context, and shows you how machine translation engines translate the term. This comes in handy if you want to scan texts quickly for possible terminology issues caused by usage of generic MT systems like Google Translate. If I see that Google Translate gets the terms right most of the time, I might consider to post-edit instead of translating from scratch. If it is wrong most of the time, I’m super careful with the job if it has been pre-translated by MT.

    2. Hi Jonathan,
      Nice post. In addition to some of your suggestions, I use online monolingual dictionaries (most often duden.de and oxforddictionaries.com) and I also have an Oxford Collocations Dictionary installed on my computer.

      1. Monolingual dictionaries are a must as well. I tend to use Wiktionary, Dictionary.com and Oxford Online online, but I have a few paper dictionaries and thesauri around just in case.

        The Oxford Collocations Dictionary sounds very useful, though. I assume it’s not free, is it?

        1. No, the Oxford Collocations Dictionary isn’t free, but it’s pretty affordable and comes with a CD-ROM so you can install it on your computer.

      1. I concur on this suggestion. I often use IATE when working on technical or legal translations, it’s a really good ressource to check jargon and accepted/obsolete translation of specialised terminology.

    Leave a Reply

    The Open Mic

    Where translators share their stories and where clients find professional translators.

    Find Translators OR Register as a translator