Last updated on
When it comes to translating texts from German into English, or vice versa, nothing can beat a professional human translation. However, there are several useful online tools for non-professionals that can help you get results faster and for free. For example, you can use a free German-English online translator to do the initial translation job and then manually correct mistakes it makes. In fact, most of the mistakes made by free online translation tools are a result of poor recognition of sentence structure and phrases. Thus, by adjusting the initial text you can greatly improve the quality of the automatic translation output.
In general, a typical German sentence tends to be longer than a typical English sentence. Remember that the average English sentence has about 14 words. Therefore, when translating texts from German into English it helps to reduce the number of clauses in the long German sentences by breaking them into shorter sentences. If it is not possible to break up the long German sentence, make sure at least that the clauses are separated by commas. This will save you a lot of time when manually correcting the text after automatic translation. Likewise, to improve the quality of the automatic German-English translation output it is recommended to remove or to replace complicated language-specific phrases before performing machine translation.
Free Automatic German-English Online Translators
There is a number of automatic online translators that are being constantly improved and no longer just translate the text word by word. The most advanced among them are powered by proprietary artificial intelligence and natural language processing technology, employing intelligent algorithms to recognize sentence structure, grammar and the actual meaning of expressions and phrases. As a result, the differences in translation results among different tools can sometimes be quite noticeable.
We have tested about a dozen of free online translators for the quality of their translations from German into English and vice-versa. Unsurprisingly, none of the translators we know was able to deliver results that were better than those obtained from Google Translator, though DeepL was about as accurate. Furthermore, the Collins Dictionary Translator and the Bing Translator appeared to be nearly as good as Google’s translation (and suspiciously similar to each other). When referring back to a similar test done two years ago, it appears that the gap between the Google Translator and other machine online translators has narrowed, so that it is now difficult to choose a clear winner. Therefore, you probably won’t be missing on anything, if you just continue using the good old Google Translator. Alternatively, try DeepL for double checking on Google Translator results. Those who are browsing the Internet with Google Chrome (or any other Chromium-based web browser such as Opera) can also use the Google Translate extension.
When it comes to free German-English translation, web-based automatic translators are generally good for translating simple sentences that do not contain any professional jargon, colloquial phrases or slang. Their greatest benefit is speed. For a better quality of translation you can try the Google Translation Toolkit. It is a free semi-professional translation tool that enables editing of automatic translations produced by the Google Translator. The Google Translation Toolkit offers a user-generated library of translations that will help you correctly assign meanings to words and phrases. You can also create your own personal translation memory to avoid having to translate the same phrase or sentence again in the future. It goes without saying that you will need a good knowledge of both, English and German to use this tool effectively.
What about ChatGPT as a Translation Tool?
Since the public release of conversational language models powered by artificial intelligence (AI), there are new AI-driven tools that can be used for translating texts between languages. They are available to everyone for free. The most popular names that were examined in our review are ChatGPT and Bing Chat (BTW, Google Bard wasn’t included because it is not yet available in the EU and doesn’t yet support German). Our test results from June 2023 suggest that ChatGPT is the winner between the two. It was found to be at least as good as the Google Translator discussed above. The Bing Chat shares the same technology with the Bing Translator and, therefore, its translation results are practically identical to those obtained from the machine translator it is based on (in Bing Chat choose the ‘precise’ answers for best results). It follows from the above that Bing Chat is a little less accurate than ChatGPT. Hence, it was concluded that ChatGPT is alongside the Google Translator the best choice for automated translation between German and English, especially if you are a skilled user of ChatGPT.
If you are not yet familiar with conversational language models, you should know that they work like a web-based chat (e.g., Skype) but instead of another human being your conversational partner is an intelligent bot. You are free to ask the bot any question you like. For example, you can ask the chatbot for an English translation of a German text using the following prompt: “Please provide the English translation for these sentences: insert your German text here.” The piece of text in quotation marks instructing the chatbot what to do is called a prompt. For translations from English into German just replace the word “English” with “German” and insert an English text. Choosing the prompts cleverly can greatly improve the quality of translation output. Moreover, you can provide the chatbot with helpful hints to better clarify the task or ask for explanation or rephrasing to further refine your translation.
Free German-English Online Dictionaries
When correcting texts obtained from the google translator you can either use the Google Translation Toolkit mentioned above or you should refer to an online dictionary to double-check for words that sound suspicious and do not seem to fit in. Below you will find a list of the most powerful free German-English online dictionaries:
- BeoLingus Online Dictionary from the Technical University of Chemnitz provides not only translation of individual words but also examples of sentences, synonyms, proverbs and aphorisms in which the word is used.
- Leo Dictionary has a forum where members discuss various linguistic topics. For each translation you will get links to the threads in the forum where the word has been discussed.
- Dict.cc is similar to the one above with links to the related forum threads. This dictionary uses resources of the BeoLingus Dictionary of the Technical University of Chemnitz mentioned above and Mr Honey’s Business Dictionary.
- Pons Online Dictionary gives you examples of sentences from the Internet that illustrate how the word is used.
- Collins Online Dictionary also provides examples of sentences using the translated word.
- Linguee Dictionary offers sentence examples from their own database and from external sources. A free app for mobile devices is also available.
Free German to English Translation Apps
Free translation apps are semi-professional translation tools designed for portable devices. They usually offer a database of synonyms, text & voice translations, audios with native speakers pronouncing the words and phrases, and ability to create your own translation memory. Some apps can be nearly as good as the Google Translation Toolkit if used in conjunction with a dictionary and a shared translation memory which are usually only available through an in-app purchase. Most of these apps are particularly suitable for travellers who need to translate common phrases and simple sentences and hear them pronounced by a native speaker. On Google Play there is a long list of German-English translator apps for androids for you to check out (Google Translate with over one billion downloads and nearly 9 million user reviews is by far the most popular among them). As of yet, there aren’t as many German translation apps for iPhones and iPads available on Apple App Store. In general, the basic versions of translator apps are free while premium and pro versions are usually paid but affordable.
Other Useful Tools
If, after all corrections you have made, you still are not certain about the quality of your translation into German, you can sign up with HiNative.com and have your text checked for free by one of the native German-speaking members. HiNative.com is a community of language enthusiasts who are helping each other correct texts. Remember that you are supposed to return the favour and correct somebody else’s text written in your native tongue for free and so help them learn their target language. Alternatively, you can ask for free help with difficult translations at forums dedicated to discussing German as a foreign language.
Is a Free German-English Online Translation Any Good?
Admittedly, the above piece of advice may not be suitable for everyone as it requires you to have a good knowledge of German as well as English to be able to prepare texts for free online translation and correct them afterwards. Although free translation tools are also used by professional human translators, the quality of the translated text will eventually depend on the human editor who is proofreading the final output. Beginners and those who need the top quality German-English translation should better use professional translation services.