As a professional translator, you most likely know where to find resources that are useful to you. Throughout the years, I’ve collected several resources that I use on a regular basis. I’d like to share my favorites with you, plus some resources that I don’t use myself (because they don’t cover my language pair), but that are frequently used by other translators.
Online dictionaries: DeepL, Reverso
This may be a no-brainer, but if you’re stuck on a term, an online dictionary may be the easiest way to find an answer fast. You probably know Google Translate, but have you used DeepL or Reverso yet? DeepL is a German-based company that uses AI translation technology. The neat thing about DeepL is that they don’t give one or two translations like Google Translate does, but for most terms, they list 10 or even 20 possible translations, enabling you to pick the one that fits your context.
Reverso is an online dictionary that includes that context: when you enter a term, you don’t get standalone words, you get entire sentences that help you understand how a word is used and that help you choose the correct translation.
For some of you, this one is obvious; for others, it may be a surprise to see Wikipedia on the list. Wikipedia is, of course, an encyclopedia. It’s not necessarily the encyclopedia function that makes it a great tool for translators though; it’s the feature to switch between languages.
This is especially helpful if you’re looking to translate technical or specialist terms. Take the Dutch term ‘pacht’ for example. If you want to translate ‘pacht’ to English, and you don’t know exactly what it means, any online dictionary will give you ‘lease’ as the main translation. ‘Pacht’ however, is a very specific type of lease, with a different legal context than regular lease. The Dutch Wikipedia explains that specific meaning. If you then switch to the English version of that same article, you end up at the Lease article on the English Wikipedia. You’ll immediately notice that the description of ‘lease’ does not match the description of ‘pacht’. Scrolling down however, you’ll see a paragraph on Leases of land, which gives the narrower term ‘tenancy’. That’s the term you need. As Wikipedia is available in many languages, it’s a great tool, no matter your language pair.
When translating slang, urbandictionary has come to my rescue more times than I can count. It doesn’t provide translations of terms, but it does explain the meaning of English slang. If for example you need to translate the phrase “I could really use a 101” into your target language, urbandictionary tells you that it means that they need to be taught the basics (of whatever topic they are talking about). You can then choose if you translate to a slang term in your target language with the same meaning, or rather choose a more descriptive translation. Be careful though; urbandictionary is crowdsourced, and not all meanings listed are accurate.
I’m sad to say that I’ve never had a translation assignment that covers pirates. I remain hopeful though that one day I will need to use one of the many pirate glossaries that can be found online. Two of the most elaborate ones are the one on yourdictionary.com and St.Augustine Pirate & Treasury Museum’s pirate glossary.
Governmental terminology data banks
Several national governments and intergovernmental organizations have extensive linguistic data banks.
The database with the most languages covered would be IATE. IATE is the European Union’s terminology database. It focuses on EU specific terminology. Because it sources from a lot of documents that have been incorporated locally, like the EU’s directives, it’s a great source even if you’re not working on EU related texts. When for example you’re translating legal documents from one European language to another, the IATE database is invaluable.
Less extensive but still very valuable, especially because of the additional information it provides, would be the United Nations’ database, UNTerm. This database offers translations between the six official languages of the UN (English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Arabic), plus some German and Portuguese. When you click on “View full” at any term, you’ll find additional information, including a definition and acronym (if applicable).
Smaller terminology and linguistic databases that might still be useful to you include TermiumPlus (Canada, with English, French, Spanish and Portuguese entries), the Meertalige woordenlijst Vlaamse overheid (Belgium, with Dutch, French and German entries) and TERMDAT (Switzerland, with German, French, Italian, English and Romansh entries).
Glossaries: ProZ, TranslatorsCafé
Last but not least, there’s the community based glossaries of ProZ and TranslatorsCafé. On ProZ, members can build their own glossaries. A lot of these glossaries are available to all other members. Currently, ProZ has over 1200 such glossaries, covering dozens of languages and a wide range of topics. The TranslatorsCafé glossaries are less extensive, but with over 80,000 entries, still a valuable resource.