6 French Translation Exercise Websites to Flex Your Skills (Plus Bonus Translation Tools)
As a major language, French needs translators who can help share research, speeches, books and more with the world. That means there are loads of opportunities to transform your French skills into a fun new side hustle.
And even if you’re not studying French to become a professional translator, there’s nothing like the feeling of being able to seamlessly switch between two or more languages when you’re writing or talking to native French speakers.
In this article, you’ll find some online exercises and tools to help with French translation practice, as well as specific reasons to start translating (if you don’t have them already).
- 1. Lawless French
- 2. Apprenons Ensemble (YouTube Channel)
- 3. Love Learning Languages
- 4. A Green Mouse
- 5. Quizlet
- 6. European Commission
- Invaluable Tools for Top-notch Translation
- How Does Translating Help You Learn French?
- And one more thing...
1. Lawless French
On this website, you’ll find a handful of French translation exercises for CEFR levels A1 to C1. (There’s no translation exercise here for C2 French users, and that’s probably because you no longer need them given that you’re already near or at the native level of fluency.)
The exercises are pretty straightforward: translate the French sentences or phrases given, and check your answers by clicking “(Expand) Translation” to the right of each phrase or sentence. For added practice or if you just want to review the basics, scroll down for some vocabulary, grammar and listening practice.
2. Apprenons Ensemble (YouTube Channel)
Apprenons Ensemble is a YouTube channel aimed at French learners. They have a playlist of French translation exercise videos that run between 30 and 40 minutes.
Each of these videos starts off with a step-by-step lesson on a particular grammar point before diving straight into the French translation exercise. The beauty of the YouTube format is you can pause the video before the narrator gives the answers, giving you enough time to write or type out your translations.
3. Love Learning Languages
If you’re at the B1 to B2 (i.e., intermediate) level, you can try out this website’s translation exercises on pronouns and tenses (for B1 and B2), as well as the past conditional.
Prior to each exercice, you can review vital concepts like verb tenses. The answer keys are under the heading corrigé.
If your translations don’t match the author’s exactly, don’t worry: to quote the website, it’s more important to “[l]ook for essential grammar mistakes rather than choice of vocabulary.”
4. A Green Mouse
Want to try translating an English short story to French? This short exercise from A Green Mouse might just be up your alley.
What makes this exercise extra challenging (or perhaps easier, depending on your level) is that the author provides French words that you’re supposed to use in your translation—and you’re supposed to use all of them.
There’s also a multiple-choice translation quiz you can do instead, though I suggest doing the translations from scratch to get the most out of this exercise.
If you’re using flashcard apps to study French, chances are you’re already familiar with Quizlet. In fact, one user was kind enough to create an entire quiz around French translation exercises.
This flashcard set has 18 cards all in all, and you’ll start with the English phrases face up. Try to translate those into French first, then tap the cards to check if your translation is accurate.
As with Love Learning Languages, your translation doesn’t have to match the answer exactly, as long as the essential ideas and correct grammar are there.
6. European Commission
If you’re planning to break into professional French translation, chances are you’ll be dealing with tons of jargon-filled documents like the ones issued by the European Commission.
Just download the .pdf files from the page linked above, type your translation into a separate document and send your translation along with the original document to your French language exchange partner or tutor. You can also run your translation through BonPatron (more on this handy tool later) to check if it’s accurate.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Invaluable Tools for Top-notch Translation
Even the best translators need help with their work now and then. There are simply too many words to know and too many nuances that can escape non-native French speakers.
Here are some of the tools I use to help me in my translation practice:
- Linguee. What makes Linguee different from other word search sites is that you can search entire phrases. Linguee scours the internet to find word-for-word copies of the phrase you typed within a larger context, allowing you to make sure that you’re translating a given word correctly depending on the situation.
- BonPatron. Here, you can literally copy and paste your entire French text and it’ll identify errors and explain why you were incorrect. BonPatron even gives you the option to uncheck “I’m Francophone.” By unchecking this box, BonPatron will know that you’re a learner and will offer more explanations.
- Trados Studio. If you’re really serious about translating, think about investing in Trados Studio. Although it’s not free, Trados Studio offers automatic translations, dictionaries, project management and much more. Its dictionaries, in particular, offer a consistent tone of voice across all languages. This is very important when translating academic and corporate documents because there’s a very specific writing style that you must adhere to.
How Does Translating Help You Learn French?
- Get practical experience with vocabulary, sentence structure and grammar. Even if you don’t intend to make a career out of your language skills, translating exposes you to real-world French, which is essential for truly mastering the language beyond the cut-and-dry material often appearing in textbooks.
- Some French words are used more often than others, even if they mean the same thing. I keep a database of French words I encounter while translating, and let me tell you: getting familiar with these words makes your French more authentic.
- You’ll learn many new words related to academics, technology and jurisprudence. These are the subjects most frequently translated.
- There’s also a cultural element to translation. For example, French correspondence often uses formules de politesse (lit. “formulas of politeness”) such as Je vous prie d’agréer, madame, l’éxpression de mes sentiments distingués. (I beseech you to accept, madam, the expression of my distinguished sentiments.) That seems like quite a long-winded way to say “sincerely,” but it gets you thinking. Why the need for such expressions? What does this say about French speakers’ relationship with their language? Every language implies a different way of thinking, and understanding this is indispensable to mastering French.
If you can translate, you’ve made it. It’s the ultimate expression of French mastery. And French translation exercises can help you get your language skills up to a native-sounding level.
And one more thing...
If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
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 learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally 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 the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)