Being enrolled in a German master’s program, I do my fair share of reading and writing [in both English and German]. I also do a lot of translation work for my student job at the university. So, I would consider myself quite knowledgeable when it comes to online translation tools and websites.
If you have taken a German class, then your teacher probably told you to never use a translation website. Instead, you should use a German dictionary.
Sure, that is a good tip for gaining a deeper understanding of the German language, but translation dictionaries are quick, easy, and the best (or only) option for certain situations. So, whether you are also a student in Germany, do translation work, or just enjoy watching German YouTube videos, here are my top 5 favorite online translation tools.
For translating single words between English and German, Leo is my go-to. The article (der, die, das) and plural form of German nouns are always provided on the main results page (which is normally what I am looking for when I search for a German word). Also, by clicking on the table next to (most) words, you can see how to properly declinate/conjugate that word. To check pronunciation, just click the play button in front of the word.
If LEO fails me, then I turn to dict.cc. This is another standard, quality translation service. However, instead of writing [der, die, das] in front of the German nouns, they write [m, n, f] after it. It achieves the same purpose, but I prefer LEO’s presentation.
Linguee is the translation tool that I spend the most time using by far. Unlike LEO and dict.cc, which are just English<>German dictionaries, Linguee is a search engine that provides translation examples from translated texts and websites throughout the Internet. This makes Linguee really helpful for translating idioms and other non-literal phrases.
You should always be cautious when translating more than just a single word or phrase. But in times of absolute need, Google Translate can be pretty helpful for quickly getting a general understanding of what a longer text is about.
But, like I said, be careful…
Okay, Duden isn’t a translation dictionary, but I had to include it. If you ever forget how to conjugate a verb or aren’t sure of the correct spelling of a noun (darn Germans and their dialects), then Duden is the #1 resource. Also, you will make your German teacher proud by turning to a proper German dictionary instead of just typing it all into Google Translate.
Let me know if you use any German/English translation websites that I didn’t include!