Types of Computer Language Translators


Translating text to a foreign language is famously difficult due to the differences in syntax sentence structure as well as in the less formal aspects of language, like usage of idioms. Although simple dictionaries are available for the beginner, language translation tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their ability to interpret words or phrases in a more natural, contextual way.

Computer-Assisted Translation

  • Computer-assisted translation, also known as machine-assisted translation, involves the use of software or databases to help people translate words from one language to another. Although the most complex software is commonly used by professional translators, various types of programs and databases are available to the public as well.


  • Many dictionaries are available on CD-ROM for the direct translation of a single word from one language to another. These tools are helpful for students, travelers, and those who are just beginning to learn a language.

Online Translators

  • Some online language tools function as dictionaries, accessing databases to translate words from one language to another. Often, entire websites can be translated simply by entering the URL, then indicating the languages to translate to and from. However, without a human to interpret ambiguous or idiomatic terms, the results are often as funny as they are helpful.

Spelling and Grammar Checkers

  • These tools are used to check the spelling and grammar in a text. They can be purchased as stand-alone programs, as well as in the more familiar word processing format. Of course, their limitations are the same as when being used to check a text written in a native language; they are unable to decipher the context of the words in the text, so it is still possible that the grammar and spelling are incorrect.

Terminology Databases

  • These databases contain phrases that have already been translated from one language to another. Much like a dictionary, the user can enter a phrase and retrieve its meaning in another language. Fortunately, terminology managers provide the intended meaning of a phrase, rather than just translating it word for word.

Terminology Management Software

  • Terminology managers allow users to create their own database of translated phrases. New phrases can be added for future use, using a variety of formats. Complexity can range from simple word processor documents or spreadsheets to special software targeted to the language industry.

Human-Aided Machine Translation

  • This term covers a broad variety of computer translation tools. However, programs that fall under this category allow for human interaction, providing for more flexibility. For example, instead of simply replacing one word with another in a text, a pop-up might appear, offering several alternatives.

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