Top 6 sources of free German translations – and how to get the most from them.
You’ll find free German translations all over the web. They're a great help if you're looking for English translations of German words, and for improving your general German language and translation skills. Here are my top 6 sources:
Project Syndicate calls itself "The World's Opinion Page" and brings together high quality commentaries published by over 500 media outlets around the world.
Its primary objective is to “Bring distinguished voices from across the world to local audiences everywhere, regardless of ability to pay”.
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. (Look for the dropdown menu at the top left of each article title for list of available languages.)
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 60,000 books, free for you to download, and plenty 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 (Book Categories - Deutsch) to download to your preferred mobile device.
I’ve taken passages from Alice in Wonderland and A Christmas Carol, sourced from Project Gutenberg, to demonstrate the value (or not!) of using a free online translator to produce instant German translations.
The European Commission's Press Corner is an absolute mine of high quality, free German translations. Scroll down the page to the list of latest press releases. On the left, you can filter by keyword, or document type if you are looking to practice translation in a certain subject area.
Choose a document and open the English version. At the top left of the page you'll see “Available languages: English”, and next to it the dropdown menu. Run down to “Deutsch” and the chances are you’ll have 2 excellently written texts in German and English which you can study and compare.
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 offers different language versions of its website, making this an increasingly important source of free German translations - as well as potential 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.
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 and Austrian companies with an international presence. Here are some major names, 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 free German translations of 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!
For example, my own personal bugbear is the Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, which I would automatically want to translate as the Austrian Chamber of Commerce. But I'm afraid its official name is the Austrian Economic Chambers.
Chambers of Commerce, Embassies and Ministries are a mine of information when you need to translate official German terms, and particularly when you're 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 the client might not immediately agree with.
Most Wikipedia entries are available in both German and English. Although the entries are not direct 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.)
I hope these sources of free German translations are useful. If you can think of some more you'd like to share, then I'd love to hear from you!
German Translation Tips & Resources