The best online resources for translation between English and German

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

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.

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.

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