Translation Industry News | 01.09.2010

Stuck for words? Try Linguee, the new online translation tool

A new multilingual online ‘dictionary’ called Linguee was launched in September 2010. Unlike automatic translators such as GoogleTranslate, Linguee offers contextual translations by bringing the all important human element into the translation process and citing the website and the source of the translated text. Touted as a translation ‘web crawler’ rather than an automatic translator, it’s really rather good and will surely be used by professional translators to help with their research.

Linguee is the brainchild of Gereon Frahling (who came up with the concept whilst working at Google Inc.). Software developer Leonard Fink was invited to join the project and the rest is history! The original German / English version of the site went live in May 2010 and already receives 600,000 daily searches and nearly 80,000 unique visitors every day.

These are impressive figures, but when you visit the site you will understand why. The interface is extremely user friendly and it searches for common phrases along with individual words. It is presented in the form of a two-column comparison table with the source language displayed on the left, and the target translations on the right. But probably the most important feature for translators is that it offers a contextual translation and also states the source of the translation and a link to the website from which it was taken. The frequency of the translation is also provided and there is a ‘comments’ function allowing people to leave feedback.

Linguee only deals with translations that have been carried out by human beings. Its bread and butter texts (like automatic translators) are those from the United Nations and the European Parliament, in other words, those that have already been professionally translated. Patent translations also get a look in as regards to translation sources. However, with the controversial proposal for an EU-wide patent and the possible use of automatic translation in this sector, this source may well turn out to be less accurate in the future.

Focussing on quality rather than quantity, the Linguee website explains that out of one trillion sentences that have been run through the system, ‘only the top 0.01 per cent, i.e., 100 million translated sentences, are retained’. Currently, the language pairs available are English and German; English and Spanish; English and French; and English and Portuguese. Plans are currently underway to add further languages, including Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Italian. The multilingual search facility is free to use at the moment, but it is thought that charges may apply in the future.

Linguee received a glowing review from the French version of technology website TechCrunch. However, as one comment stated, as with any free dictionary, the translation should always be checked against a veritable source.

Language professionals checking out this new multilingual search facility may well be pleasantly surprised!

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