The best free online translation tools we gather here can come in handy when you need a gist translation of a written piece. It makes no sense to turn to professional translation services if all you need is the substance or general meaning of a text or speech.
Trouble might follow if there is a lack of understanding or unrealistic expectations of translation tools, but provided that you use simple language and give the translation tool a clear context, it can really help you sort out your basic language needs. These tools represent significant progress in translation technology.
An overview of the best free online translation tools
What are the ideal situations for using free online translation tools?
Free online translation tools can be a recipe for disaster if your content is important to you. They should never be used as an alternative to professional translation services if your goal is to translate your website or market products of any kind.
These tools perform simple substitution of words from one language to another, but they hardly ever handle difficult language and nuanced meanings as skillfully as a human translator.
That is why it is important to know what online translation tools can and cannot do, as misuse can lead to misunderstandings and inefficient communication. Most native speakers will be able to tell if you used machine translation, which does not particularly portray a positive image of you or your brand.
Some of the situations where using free online translation tools is acceptable are:
- When they are used to get the general idea without particular attention to details
- When they are used to get by in a foreign country (understanding street signs, asking for directions, searching for restaurant menu vocabulary, etc.)
- When they are used for a language pair that you are familiar with
- When they are used because of a tight budget and quality can be compromised
- When they are used because immediate translations are required
An overview of the best free online translation tools
- Google Translator: What makes Google Translator so popular is that it supports 100 languages. It can also be particularly useful because of its auto-detection feature if you don't know what the source language is. Its con is that the meaning can sometimes be lost in translation because there is no way to incorporate context.
- Bing Translator: Similarly to Google Translator, Bing covers a wide range of languages, making it one of the most widely used free online translation tools. Bing is also incorporated in some social media platforms thanks to its ability to translate speech and tech in real-time. Its con is that it shows less close results to human translation than Google Translator.
- DeepL Translator: For some language pairs, DeepL Translator seems to be a serious competition for Google Translator. It features a composition task that helps to refine the output on the target side. This enhances the final result thanks to the interaction between the computer and a human. Its con is the short stack of languages it supports.
But what about data security?
Nobody likes to give everything away about themselves, this is especially the case when it comes to personal data.
Nowadays, companies are required to maintain control and privacy of their data but the Internet makes this more complicated. Free automatic translation tools come at a cost in terms of security and privacy. For instance, when text or documents are uploaded to a free online machine translation engine, they end up on an open server somewhere that can be accessed by anyone carrying out a Google search.
Some companies have already paid the price of free machine translation. Norwegian oil company Statoil discovered sensitive information related to its employees' on the Internet in 2017. The documents had been made public after being translated with an online free translation tool. As a result, they had become accessible to anyone. Other companies, aware of hefty fines that can be paid if data rights are breached, have blocked their employees' access to these types of online sites.
The need for multilingual content is growing, which is why companies like Pangeanic offer customized, secure and cost-effective machine translation solutions. Quality work requires a specialized and secure machine translation engine that can be trained in a specific way. This is something that free online translation options don’t offer.
Looking for a secure machine translation?
There are two efficient and cost-effective machine translation options that allow for security and privacy of your company's data:
- On Premise Model: the machine translation engine is hosted on a private server within the company, meaning the information doesn’t leave your company.
- Cloud Model: based in the cloud. The machine translation engine is hosted in a cloud with secure and encrypted data communication flow. Each company holds its own individual cloud, allowing for greater security.
These alternatives offered by translation companies are based on prioritizing the security of their clients' information. In many cases, these companies implement these security systems with ISO 27001 certification, an international standard that establishes procedures for managing sensitive information and ensures that, if data is lost, there is an established process for data recovery.