No matter your level of French, it’s always useful to have a dictionary or translation tool at your disposal to help you with the most difficult words and phrases.
Report readers have shared with us the apps and websites they find most useful for translating to or from French.
We review those mentioned.
The majority of Report readers who contacted us recommended DeepL, which is a neural machine translation service claiming to offer “the best machine translation in the world”.
Neural machine translation predicts the probability of a sequence of words, thereby identifying translation patterns in texts.
The DeepL website and application are presented in a format similar to Google Translate, allowing users to enter text in 26 different languages - including French – into a single box, to see it translated into English or the language of their choice in another.
You can then click on individual words in the text to see definitions and alternative translations.
DeepL also offers a glossary feature, which allows users to “customize” translations based on specific context.
Ian Buck, who lives in the English Channel, said: “DeepL is by far the best. [It] gives a wide range of alternatives and grammar,” and another reader commented, “I only recently discovered Deepl and find it very good. I’ve been here for 30 years, I live in a rural town and I haven’t needed a lot of translation.
“However, when my husband passed away earlier this year, I found writing to a translator about his will and banking and other services was just too much for my French letter writing skills. A friend who had used several translation applications recommended DeepL to me.
Another reader said, “After using Google Translate for years, I now use DeepL.
“The reason is that DeepL will show, in small print at the bottom, another way of formulating [something] it makes more sense in the context of what you’re trying to express.
“I’m using the basic free DeepL, but I’m quite impressed so far.”
“Try Reverso. It’s a great app with lots of different languages. The basic app is free and inexpensive to upgrade,” said Carolyn Williams, who lives in Oxfordshire.
“I mainly use Reverso to translate single words, or maybe a few words. He gives examples in context which I find very useful.
“It also gives the audio pronunciation I use for languages I know less well than others.”
Reverso offers contextual dictionaries, parallel texts that reflect the nuances in the expression of different sentences in French and English, for example, spell check and conjugation tools.
Like DeepL, it uses neural machine translation and can be used through the website or through its smartphone app.
Its Reverso Context tool searches texts from movies, books, government documents and other sources to find idiomatic usages for phrases that users want translated. It also provides language learning features like flash cards.
“For individual words, I use the Larousse English French app,” said reader Harriet Devine. “Everything is better than Google Translate.”
The Larousse site and application look like a traditional dictionary, translating words and putting them into context.
Plus, it provides pronunciation guides and lists of proverbs and idioms the word in question may appear in.
It also has conjugation and synonym tools, and a feature that allows users to view their search word in different different phrases.
Other English to French translation services include Reference wordwhich works similarly to Larousse, but also has a forum where users can request native-speaker translations of trickier phrases or grammatical constructions.
There is also Lining, which works similarly to Reverso, using parallel texts to try to make translations as idiomatic as possible. This platform also has a dictionary tool where single words can be translated in context with synonyms.
Do you use a translation app that is not on this list but would recommend? Let us know at [email protected]
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