Your guide to finding free German translations on the Web
You’ll find free German translations all over the web. They are a great help for finding English translations of German terms and for improving your general German language and translation skills. Whatever your needs, here are my top recommended sources:
Project Syndicate is an international association of 426 newspapers in 150 countries.
Its primary objective is to “Bring distinguished voices from across the world to local audiences everywhere”.
But for us, their main benefit is that they provide free German translations of well written articles on current topics by “thought leaders” from around the globe. I rate their translations as good, so this is a marvellous resource for anyone looking to improve their translation skills by comparing German and English texts.
TIP! Need to practice German translation for exam purposes?
Chose an article originally written in German (choose a German author, e.g. Joschka Fischer, Green politician and former German Foreign Minister) and print out the German and English versions of the text.
Do your own translation of the original German article and then compare with the English version they provide.
You’ll find a host of things to consider when you make the comparison, and it forces you to consider why you translated each sentence as you did. This was a great help to me during my exam preparations.
Project Gutenberg was designed to encourage the creation and free distribution of copyright free books. It’s a non-commercial site, relying on volunteer contributions and donations.
The Project Gutenberg online book catalogue offers a library of 30,000 books, free for you to download, 590 of which are in German. This is a marvellous resource for anyone looking for free German translations, with many classic novels available in both German and English versions (Advanced Search, Language - choose German). Download an ebook to your computer - or your Palm organizer or smartphone.
I’ve taken passages from Alice in Wonderland and A Christmas Carol downloaded from Project Gutenberg to use to demonstrate the value (or not!) of using a free online translator for producing instant German translations.
Where a company publishes its website in several languages, this can produce a mine of information about how a company likes to translate set terms.
Nowadays, almost every serious German company knows it has to translate its website, so this is an increasingly important source - of terminology, and work for German translators!
Although the German and English texts are less likely to be one-to-one translations, you should regard them as a rich source of terminology specific to that company and its field of business activities.
The quality of the translations do vary, indeed maintaining consistency in translation is a major challenge for many large enterprises and corporate groups, especially where multiple subsidiaries, translation departments, and external agencies are all involved.
Have a look at the German websites of a few well-known German companies active in a range of business areas.
Here, in no particular order:
Another good reference would be this Forbes list of Germany's top 40 companies.
Governments on the WWW is a great starting point for official terminology.
It directs you to all the websites of political institutions at both Federal and State levels in each of the following German-speaking countries:
I suspect the majority of these websites are available in both German and English versions.
If they are, regard the English translation as being officially sanctioned, and stick to their terminology (even if you / dictionaries / other sources don't entirely agree)!
My own personal bugbear is the Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, which I would automatically want to translate as the Austrian Chamber of Commerce. But its official name is the Austrian Economic Chambers (here's the link if you want to check!)
Chambers of Commerce, Embassies and Ministries are a mine of information when you need to translate official German terms, and particularly when you are looking for translations of German entities with no direct equivalent in the English-speaking world.
The German education system is a case in point. It is always good to be able to refer back to an official source for any translated German terms which could prove contentious.
Most entries are available in both German and English, and although not one-to-one translations, they do provide a good source of related vocabulary on the topic you are researching. (See my "Wiki-Tips" on how to use Wikipedia for specific queries about German translation.)