Need a quick French translation?
Want to look up a French word on the go?
Look no further than your pocket! In the age of smartphones, a translation app is your new best friend for quickly learning a new French word or figuring out how to say a necessary phrase.
Translation apps can be very helpful when you’re not quite fluent in French. But don’t rely on them for everything, and know the limits of your favorite app. Not all translation apps are created equal; some are better than others.
As you become more and more well-versed in French, you’ll realize that instead of one translation app, you might prefer to have an arsenal of translation apps, each bringing a different element of translation and comprehension to the table.
To help you get started, here are five of the best French translation apps currently available.
The 5 Best Translation Apps for Learning and Understanding French
WordReference – The Best Cultural Translation App
WordReference is absolutely the place to go for cultural translations. Why? Because they don’t translate literally!
WordReference has been a key reference site in translation for years, and their app offers all of the same benefits as their site. These benefits are slightly niche, however, meaning that WordReference is not a great catch-all app.
WordReference not only offers translations of words and phrases, but it also has a large forum frequented by native speakers. When you’re looking for an exact translation of an idiomatic phrase and can’t put your finger on the proper translation, WordReference’s forum will be a helpful place to start. You can follow past conversations, which are helpfully arranged based on key words so that the appropriate thread will pop up during searches. There are a lot of previous threads, so be sure to take a look. If you really can’t find the exact expression or context you’re looking for, ask your own question and wait briefly for experts to respond!
If you are looking for a direct translation of a sentence, for example, this may not be the best place to go. Unlike other apps on this list, WordReference does not offer a great option to translate full sentences. However, if you want to understand some French slang or an idiomatic expression – or figure out the translation for an English idiomatic expression in French – WordReference is perfect.
Be aware that WordReference users appreciate when question-posers take a stab at solving their own translation queries before asking for help. This means that when you’re formulating your question, be sure to offer a suggested translation, even if you’re not sure it’s right. Native French speakers will correct and help you arrive at the right translation!
Jibbigo – The Best Spoken Translation App
French spelling isn’t always obvious, especially to a native Anglophone hearing a new word for the first time, which is why Jibbigo comes in handy. If you’ve heard a new French word and want to know what it means, you can simply say it into Jibbigo, a voice translation app. Not only will you be able to see how the word is written in French, but you’ll get a full translation into English as well!
This app works for both words and short sentences, so you can also use it while traveling to ask questions if you need to. Simply say the sentence you are trying to say, and the app will translate and speak the response for you. The other benefit of this app is that it can be used offline, so if you are traveling and don’t want to use precious data to solve your translation woes, there’s no problem!
Google Translation – The Best General Translation App
For basic translations, there’s really nothing better than good old Google Translation. What we like best about this application is that sentence structure is integrated into the app, meaning that you won’t get something incomprehensible in the target language if you input a whole sentence. Of course, it’s not infallible, but it’s a pretty good start if you’re really unsure of how to say something.
You can also use FluentU to double-check the translation output and make sure that it’s said the way you wanted!
Whatever translation comes out of Google, you can search for the given terms in FluentU to find authentic French videos that show the correct usage.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the French language and culture over time. You’ll learn French as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive subtitles.
You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with FluentU's adaptive quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning and play the mini-games found in the dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
As you study, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a 100% personalized experience.
It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
The other cool thing about the Google Translate app is the text-to-speak function. Again, it’s not infallible, but when you consider just how much these sorts of features have improved over the last few years, it’s quite impressive! And quite useful too, given the French penchant for critiquing a less-than-perfect accent. You can always play back the audio version of your translation, either for your interlocutor or to improve your own pronunciation, to make comprehension and communication a bit easier.
Audio isn’t the only thing supported by this app. If you need to translate text from an image or handwriting, Google Translation is great as well. Use it for everything from everyday French expressions to French menu items.
Translate Me: The Best English-French-English Translation App
Many translation apps translate both ways, to and from a source language. But if you need an easy format and plan to be translating in both directions frequently, Translate Me is a great option. You can very easily flip the input and output windows, for translations into and from French that are virtually seamless.
But that’s far from the only benefit of the Translate Me app. It’s absolutely perfect for communicating with a French language exchange partner, as Translate Me can also translate source text from a text message. This easy-to-use option allows you to double-check the meaning of a French text without having to copy and paste!
Online-Translator: The Best Topical Translation App
For topical translations, we’re all over Online-Translator. Why? Because the app’s topic feature allows you to pick your topic (business, travel, academia…) before translating.
This might not seem all that important, but consider the difference when translating a simple animal name, for example. When translating the French term “boeuf,” if you’re translating an agricultural text, you’d want the English word “steer”; if you’re translating a menu, you’d want “beef”. There are countless possible mistranslations that could occur similar to this one if your translation is not contextualized.
Thanks to the topical feature of Online-Translator, this app with give you the best or most appropriate version of the translation for the category you’ve chosen, which may not ensure a perfect translation, but you’ll definitely get much closer to the word or phrase you were looking for!
Online-Translator automatically detects the language you are trying to translate from, which is a cool bonus!
These are just some of the fantastic translation apps that are already out there, but more are being developed every day! Whether you use just one, two or many, enjoy using these translation apps to get you through the nitty gritty of learning French.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.