Online translators can be tremendously useful for those of us who are not bilingual (or at least not fluently). This year I wanted to translate a simple sentence from English into French. I ran it through four different free online translation sites. Here is how those sites compare.
- English: “Father Christmas says that Christmas may be late this year.”
- Desired French: “Le Père Noël dit que Noël pourrait être en retard cette année.”
There are a number of criteria that we can use to evaluate a translation site.
- Is the translation correct? Are there any typographic or spelling or grammar or vocabulary errors?
- How good is the translation? Is it idomatic? Does it make good or poor vocabulary choices?
- Is the user interface user-friendly? Can you easily switch the FROM and TO languages?
- Are there limits on the length of the text that can be translated?
- In addition to translation, does the site offer any other useful tools?
Google can translate only short passages. Its translation had one capitalization error. The SWITCH LANGUAGES feature is primitive. User interface is not user-friendly.
The user interface is good. A major CON is that the translation had the most errors (3) of any of the sites. On the other hand, it was the only site where you could hear the translated text in good native-speaker French. It can translate up to 5000 characters.
Click to open a larger image.The user interface is good. It is possible to hear the translation, but the spoken French is terrible – it was what you’d hear from an American who doesn’t know any French and is phonetically sounding out the written text. It can translate up to 5000 characters.
Systran seems to be the most full-featured of all of the sites. It provides a lot of vocabulary tips and offers alternate translations based on different “models”.
Click to open a larger image.
DeepL has a good user interface and produced the best translation of any of the sites. The real strength of DeepL is that you can upload a long document in .docx format and DeepL will translate it for you. This is the only site that offers that feature.
THE BOTTOM LINE
DeepL is our winner. It produced the best translation (zero errors), has a simple and friendly user interface, and can translate uploaded documents.
Systran is a strong runner-up. It did a good job at translation and offers a lot of useful extras.
Our obvious losers are Google and Bing (Microsoft). Google Translate has an extremely crude user interface that is actually unpleasant to use. Bing‘s translation was the worst of all of the sites, with 3 outright errors. However, it gets an honorable mention for its good user interface and its ability to produce good spoken French.