Translating texts between languages often takes more than just translating the words. Some words like “table”, “house”, or “carpet” generally cause little trouble because they have a very concrete meaning, but many words like “take”, “let”, “set”, etc., have important collocations (and multiple meanings) that make it impossible to translate them mechanically, without the context. There are a few brilliant tools I use regularly when translating between English and German to simplify the task:
- dict.cc is not just a dictionary; it is probably the best German–English dictionary on the web. It doesn’t give you just a list of possible translations, but every meaning is translated separately, including important collocations, and it is also often able to translate whole phrases.
- Linguee is probably the best tool when it comes to translating phrases and idioms. Just type a phrase (either in German or in English) into the search box and it will give you a list of bilingual texts containing (at least partially) the phrase. I also often use it when I don’t fully understand an idiom in one of the languages because seeing it translated in various contexts is a good method to get the feel for it.
- English Wiktionary is helpful from time to time when translating from German to English, because it sometimes contains more information, e.g. pronunciation, example sentences, etc., that is useful.
- German Wiktionary is sometimes useful when translating from English to German, but it contains less information than its English counterpart.