Translation Services and Sources

Translation Services

Machine translation services (where a computer does the translating) produce very crude translations that give you the gist of a document, but are not reliable (or quotable). Google translate is often the best. See below a list of other options. Professional human translators are expensive. See links below to paid translation services but also to tools that will help you translate yourself if you know a bit of the language.

Automatic machine translation services

If you plan to scan an article in a paper journal and then use automatic machine translation, keep the following in mind. Your OCR (scanning) software should have a dictionary for the language you are scanning (e.g., German). If it does not, it will make many, many spelling errors and no machine translation service will give good results. If you plan to manually key in the text, read the online help at that translation site about how to enter accents, umlauts and other special characters first.

  • Try Google translate first. It uses statistical methods to translate between more than 50 languages, including French, German, Greek and Hebrew. The software learns to translate by comparing original texts and translations prepared by humans. Google translate works well when it has a few hundred billion words of text of analyze, as is the case with common European languages, but it works poorly when it has much less text to learn from. So the results in some languages is quite bad. You can upload text or give it the url of a document to translate.
  • At Freetranslation you can paste text (up to 10,000 characters) and get a free bidirectional machine translation between English and more than 30 other languages and between a few other pairs. For a fee you can get a human edited translation. For yet a bigger fee you can get a professional human translation in an expanded range of languages. Free online quote. Uses SDL software.
  • WorldLingo offers free bidirectional machine translation for more than 30 languages. Submit the URL of a single web page or paste your document into their form (but 500 word limit). For a fee you can get a professional human translation in an expanded range of languages.
  • Systran offers free machine translation from 15 languages (Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish) into 7 languages, including English. Submit the URL of a single web page or paste your document into their form. Uses Systrans software, the market leader. You can purchase translation software.
  • Altavista Babelfish Translate Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish. Translate text or a web page. Uses Systran software.
  • Latin dictionary translates Latin to English and English to Latin. Enter a word stem with or without an ending. Or scroll down to the Latin Wordlist and enter a word or phrase.

Human translation services

This is often the only way to get a reliable translation, but be prepared to pay $.30 per word or more if you use a professional. Perhaps you can use free automatic machine translation to get the gist of an article, identify the key pages and passages, and then ask a human translator to produce a polished translation of the key passages. Let the library know if you discover translators are willing to accept small jobs like that.

  • Many freelance translators in the DFW area are members of Metroplex Interpreters and Translators Association. Freelancers are likely to offer lower rates than large companies. Try this first.
  • 1-800-translate.com. For fee you can get a professional human translation in a wide range of languages.
  • Fox Translate, specializes in translation of academic documents in 35 languages.
  • American Translators Association Directory lists thousands of professional translators and interpreters. You can search by language and specialization. For example, choose "religion" and "German to English." ATA lists hundreds of translation/interpretation companies.
  • Go translators provides contact information for human translators in well over a hundred languages.

Indexes of Published Translations

  • Index translationum: International Bibliography of Translations lists translations of books published by member states of UNESCO. It does not include journal articles. The paper edition (which is in some DFW area libraries) covers from 1932 to date. The database begins coverage with 1979. You can search by author, title, publisher, translator, etc.
  • WorldCat is another excellent source of finding books translated into English. You can search by author or title.
  • On rare occasion you will find a translation of a journal article cited in ATLA.
  • There are several US agencies that regularly translate foreign newspapers and journals. They do a good job with public affairs (political, economic, social, cultural) publications and with STM (scientific, technical and medical) literature, but make almost zero effort to cover humanities or religion in particular (unless it relates to terrorism!). There is very little chance any of these agencies has translated the theological article you are interested in, but check the Open Source Center and BBC Worldwide Monitoring.