Free Translation Tools and How to Use Them

So you’ve landed a few gigs. Your using your language skills. And you’re getting paid (fairly, I hope)! 

But now you’ve got to get actual material translated! 

How do you handle looking up all the vocabulary? What about formatting and proofreading? 

Luckily, there are plenty of free tools out there to help get you started. So let’s get to streamlining  your translation process.

Make sure you bookmark this blog post so you have this page to refer to! 

Free Machine Translation Tools

Here are some pro-tips for using MTs (and I’m not talking about just Google Translate):  

  • Make sure that you’re properly allocating your time 
  • Avoid “rate-remorse (charging too low)” when you invoice 
  • Manage your projects and get stellar reviews from clients!

One last thing—let’s establish the meaning of the word “glossary” and “memory.”

  • A glossary is a collection of terms that apply to your translation. Sometimes the client will provide you one or you can create/find your own online. 
  • A memory is a string of terms that your MT has memorized to make translation faster and easier 
    • For example, if you’re translating a travel brochure and the word “travel agency” appears several times, your machine will memorize these words and translate them instantly! Pretty nifty, right?

Systran is my go-to machine translator (MT). It stands out as an MT because it offers smart suggestions. I cannot stress how many hours this tool has saved me when I’ve translated big projects. Their blog also has interesting content on localization, machine translation, and more. ⁣

Mate Cat

Matecat is a freemium translation management platform. Its open source online CAT tools make translation projects easier. It has options to include glossaries and memories. Sleek and cool—just like a cat! ⁣

It’s by a site called I’ve gotten some projects through there but they have not been very frequent or high-paying. They even recommended that I charge as low as 0.03/word. Again, not awful if I was getting frequent projects but I wasn’t. 

This tool is more on the transcription side but it’s still a pretty useful tool for practicing your listening skills! I had to transcribe and translate 90 minutes of Japanese audio (I was contacted by an agency on I would have never gotten it done without using this tool in combination with Systran! ⁣

This is my go to for translating Spanish to English and vice versa. It offers suggestions on how to word things differently. I usually use it with SpanishDict, my favorite Spanish dictionary but it does have a glossary feature now. It also includes Japanese! 

Bonus: Free Japanese Dictionaries for Translation

I’ve been using NJ star since I first started learning Japanese. This unique program conjugates verbs for you. It also includes kanji lookup. You can download medical, legal and name dictionaries from within the program too! Its amazing dictionary is powered by JMDict.

NJ Star Japanese Word Processor
DMM Eikaiwa

DMM Eikawai is like Yahoo answers for English learners. It’s a great reference for translating common Japanese phrases. While everyone’s responses may not be 100% accurate, it’s a good place to get a human touch to any machine translation you’re doing. 

Weblio is a Japanese site. It not only has a dictionary but a thesaurus that helps me figure out which word sounds best!  It’s also great to making sure you can differentiate literal and semantic translation


Which of these tools have you used before? Am I forgetting any MTs or dictionaries that you use often? Let me know!

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