Friday, November 6, 2015

Online Linguistic Resources: Linguee

Over the past year, we've dedicated a few of our posts to some of our favorite online linguistic resources. In our first post, we looked at the Ethnologue, a reference work dedicated to cataloging all of the world's living languages. A few months later, we turned our focus to Wordreference, a website which features several monolingual and bilingual dictionaries, as well as a wonderful forum where people can ask and answer language-related questions.

Our most recent post looked at The World Factbook, a reference work published by the CIA that contains all kinds of interesting information about countries around the world, including detailed linguistic information. However, today we're turning our gaze to Linguee, which we first learned about while studying translation technology in graduate school.

Linguee is handy because it combines three different linguistic resources: a dictionary, a translation search engine, and a corpus. Once you've chosen the language pair you need, you can type in any word or phrase, for example "raining cats and dogs".

If only it would rain adorable kittens like this one...
When your results load, you'll see relevant dictionary entries at the top of the page, followed by a number of side-by-side translation excerpts. These excerpts come from Linguee's corpus, which is made up of online bilingual texts from universities, companies, government institutions and other sources.

The great thing about this side-by-side translation feature is that it allows you to compare texts in both languages and see the phrase you're using highlighted in context, which can be very helpful when a word has multiple translations. Linguee also lists the source website in the bottom corner of each excerpt, so you can decide for yourself whether or not you want to trust the translation.

Going back to our example phrase, you can see that Linguee's search engine has done a relatively good job: the very first excerpt includes the phrase "lloviendo a cántaros", which is the most common Spanish translation. However, it also provides "looser" translations such as "lluvias intensas" and "lloviendo muy fuerte", which both convey the general idea of the phrase. The rest of the page is filled with results that just contain "cats and dogs".

This example provides a good look at what Linguee can help you do, as well as its shortcomings. While it's certainly not perfect, we still find it to be a great linguistic resource. As long as you use it carefully and don't just trust it to always give you a perfect translation, it should certainly come in handy.

Have you ever used Linguee before, and if so, what did you think of it? Leave us your comments below, and please let us know which language pair you worked with (we've only used it for translations from Spanish/French to English and vice versa).