Just admit it—you used a translation tool to help you read that complex book, or to write that important email.
Sure, no one talks about it in polite conversation.
After all, what self-respecting Spanish student would touch such a thing?
And why, of all things, do you need a translation website? There are so many ways to learn Spanish it is actually mind-boggling. Spanish learning websites can help skyrocket your Spanish skills. Great apps can help you sound more like a native speaker on the fly. Hey, even reading the news gets you a step closer to fluency.
So, why work with Spanish translation websites when all this is out there?
Well, when you have a large block of text that needs translation and a dictionary app just will not cut it, you will see no shame in resorting to the time-honored tradition of all Spanish language students: Falling back on Spanish translation websites.
And, as it turns out, these sites do more than translate—they are excellent resources for learning and practicing the language.
Why Use a Spanish Translation Website?
Spanish translation websites are a quick and easy way to translate large blocks of text. When you have a lot of text, translating can be time-consuming even for native-level speakers. Spanish translation websites allow you to just cut, paste and translate. A task that could normally take hours takes seconds.
They are also relatively accurate. Spanish translation websites have come a long way over the years. Even if the text they produce is not always 100% perfect, the translation is usually accurate enough to at least get your point across.
You can also learn from the translation websites. Apart from the obvious vocabulary they can teach you, they can be helpful for practicing conjugating verbs. For instance, if you are struggling with the imperfect subjunctive or the past subjunctive, try plugging in phrases like “If I were an animal, I would be…” or “If I were rich, I would buy…”. It will help you see the conjugations in action! They are also great for listening practice since many offer audio translations.
To see even more conjugations on the fly and learn in context, there is one more website/app combo you should add to your toolbox: FluentU.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos topics, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. 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.
Plus, if you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re studying with the same video.
We will talk more about how you can use FluentU specifically for translations in our list later in this post!
6 Steps to Effectively Use a Spanish Translation Website for Learning
1. Avoid using colloquialisms in the text that you want translated.
Most translation websites do not recognize colloquialisms, euphemisms or slang (in any language) and will generate a direct, literal translation.
So, when you write something in English to be translated, try to omit this kind of language. When translating from Spanish, pay close attention to individual phrases if the translation comes out a bit odd.
You can actually learn a lot from this. A lot of times, you will not even realize that you are using colloquialisms until you notice that your translated text does not quite make sense.
Google Translate is a notable exception to the rule about not using colloquialisms—it is actually programmed to recognize some slang, and all the folks who have clicked “Suggest an Edit” have almost certainly helped the site advance in this regard.
Take, for instance, the slang phrase “shoot the breeze.” Most translation services will translate it to the very literal pegue un tiro a la brisa or disparar la brisa. However, Google Translate translates it to darle a la lengua, a Spanish colloquialism that is also used to mean “to chat.” Because of this rare feature, Google Translate is a service that you can also use to pick up some Spanish-language colloquialisms.
2. Enter text and translate.
Most services have a text box that you can enter text into directly. Others also offer a window where you can upload your file as a document or enter a URL to have the text on a website translated.
Once you have indicated what text you want translated, you will select which language you are translating from and which you are translating to and click “translate.” Your translated text will appear instantly!
3. Review your translated document carefully.
Translation services are good, but they are not perfect. Most documents will probably have at least a few areas that you can improve upon by using your skills and knowledge.
A few short texts might turn out perfectly accurate, but reviewing the translated document is still an important step. Computer-translated text needs a human touch to be accurate.
Additionally, this is a valuable step in your learning process. It is a good way to practice reading and critically analyzing text, and this can improve your Spanish skills on the whole. Scan for errors and anything that sounds awkward.
4. Note phrases that do not seem correct and compare them to the original text to assess why the error happened and how to correct it.
This will help you learn more about Spanish since you will be critically analyzing the text you have and seeing why the translation website generated this text.
If text translated from English to Spanish produces something that does not sound quite natural, try translating individual words and phrases from English into Spanish to see what changes could be made, and what other translation options you might explore. You could try translating from English to Spanish and then back to English (or vice versa) to see if anything in the translation doesn’t quite compute.
Additionally, this step in the process will help you produce better-translated text in the future. If you can note what is going wrong with certain words or phrases, you can avoid using them in the future when you will want the text auto-translated, thereby making future translations more accurate.
If, for instance, you realize that your translations are inaccurate because you have used a lot of colloquialisms, slang or misspellings, you can focus on avoiding these in the future.
5. Use a speech input feature to practice speaking Spanish.
Yup. This is a real thing. You will need to hook up a microphone to do it from a computer that does not have a built-in one, or use your phone mic in the app, but Google Translate and a number of other translators can translate spoken text.
This is a great way to practice your Spanish. If you are speaking clearly, Google Translate or whichever program you’re using should be able to translate everything you say back into English. Didn’t translate correctly? Try again until it does. This will help you practice your pronunciation.
In addition to a translation website, you should also consider using some unconventional translator tools to practice your Spanish, as we mention in this video on FluentU’s YouTube channel.
Using these unconventional tools will allow you to see authentic Spanish and English side-by-side, and by doing so, you can watch your Spanish vocabulary and grammar competence soar. Whether you tour a Spanish art gallery, navigate with Google Maps in Spanish or read dual-language Spanish literature, these unconventional translation tools will make your translation exercises fun.
6. Use a speech generator to hear the words spoken.
A lot of the translation services offer audio versions of the translations. Use them.
While these audio examples are usually spoken quite slow for ease of comprehension, this will help you get the exact pronunciation down. Say the words along with the recording.
Next, try saying them without the recording to see if you still remember what you learned. This will help you practice your reading, listening and speaking skills all at the same time.
7 Quality Spanish Translation Websites That Directly Translate into Better Learning
You are probably already somewhat familiar with this option. Google Translate is a quick, easy and very well-thought-out program. It has tons of great features to help you learn while you translate—some you might not be aware of yet.
To get started, just set your languages of choice and Google Translate with translate as you type or paste in the text. This will help you see how individual phrases translate.
Intelligently enough, as you enter more text, the translation will change to reflect the context. For instance, if you type “How are you?” it translates as “¿Cómo estás?” However, if you type “How are you, sir?” the website recognizes that this is a formal situation and switches to the usted form of the verb, translating the phrase as “¿Cómo está usted señor?”
Furthermore, in ambiguous situations like “How are you?” while it lists the informal tú form in the main translation window, it offers the formal form as an alternative just below the main window.
You can even use Google Translate to translate a document, website or spoken words.
Another nice feature is that you can have Google Translate speak the text out loud so you can practice your pronunciation and listening skills. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the spoken version is very slow. While this is great for working on your pronunciation, you will not want to actually speak this slowly in conversation if you are looking to sound more native-like.
It gets even better—Google Translate uses human power to make translations more accurate and natural-sounding. If you see a translation pop out that does not sit well with you, click “Suggest an Edit.” Rest assured that more learners and native speakers are out there doing the same every day, improving the overall quality of the site’s output.
You can also click the star button to save your translation to a list of favorites and come back to it later, click the “copy” button for easy copy-pasting or even share translations with friends via social media, if that strikes your fancy.
Reverso is another strong option for any of your translation needs. Like Google Translate, you are able to listen to the spoken versions of the text you enter.
One unique feature of Reverso is that it gives you examples of using the phrase you typed in context culled from frequently translated texts. Another is the selection of foreign language characters offered beneath the entry box, so you do not have to try to figure out how to type ñ or é if you are looking to do a quick translation or are using a keyboard that is not Spanish-enabled.
There is also a nifty “context” mode where you can see how words and phrases are used in full sentences. Here you will also find a mobile translation app, dictionary, a conjugator and a separate website/document translator.
When you type in “you,” Reverso usually uses the formal usted regardless of context. However, it will often generate example texts that use the tú form, so this is something to watch for.
We have already talked about FluentU as a great way to learn Spanish thanks to the personalized learning experience it creates for its users, but how can you make the most of it when it comes to translation?
Let’s start with its contextual dictionary. Most translation sites and online dictionaries only give you the general or most often used translation of a word. If you are trying to translate single words, this might do the trick, but if you want to translate a longer text or learn Spanish through translation, you need much more than a simple translation.
Enter FluentU’s contextual dictionary. FluentU’s dictionary goes one step ahead of the competition by giving you nuanced, context-adapted translations. You will never see a word by itself on FluentU! Context is utterly important, and FluentU’s dictionary gives you translations that fit the context of the word you are trying to translate or learn. Hover your mouse over any word you see on the site and you will get all the primary information you need, translation included.
For example, if you decide to watch a clip from Disney’s “Into the Woods,” you can play the video until you come across something that you want to understand better:
Then, hover your cursor over the word or phrase you want to learn for a quick translation, or click on it to see a full definition, audio pronunciation, example sentences and even other videos that use the phrase in context:
You can then click on “Add to…” and add the word to your personal vocabulary list or a specific deck of your creation.
Speaking of flashcards, FluentU’s flashcards are another out-of-this-world feature that can help you learn Spanish like the masters. The interactive flashcard system has everything you need to know about the word or phrase you are trying to translate. In addition to finding new words as you watch videos, you can search for any Spanish or English word to find more flashcards to add to your list.
Plus, you can see what country each word is used in! So you can find out, for example, why the “Into the Woods” clip we mentioned uses the term habichuelas for beans, when you might have heard them called frijoles, instead.
Finally, to really drill those words into your memory, FluentU gives you the chance to study each word through spaced repetition quizzes that test your understanding through fill-in-the-blank questions!
Give it try with the FluentU free trial to experience the beauty of contextual, video-enhanced translations for yourself!
Like other translation services, SDL offers text translation with audio. Additionally, you can upload a Word document for translation, and you can send your translation to someone via social media platforms or email with a single click.
It is important to note that this website will use the casual tú form of verbs even if it is not contextually appropriate, so always pay attention.
Update: The free translation option has been discontinued. However, if you are willing to pay for some machine translation, they offer two possibilities:
- SLATE: It is supposed to be a paid version of the free translation service they used to have, geared toward businesses.
- SDL Machine Translation (TRADOS): This is a very expensive machine translation software for professional translators. It is a wonderful tool if you translate for a living. However, it is not a good choice if you are trying to learn a language.
PROMT-Online offers the standard feature of text translation with audio, with a few bells and whistles that are well worth checking out. For example, you can handily open up a Spanish keyboard right on the page and simply click any special characters you might need.
However, what really sets PROMT-Online apart is that it offers tabs that also allow you to see Google and Microsoft’s translations of the same phrase.
Another cool feature is that it offers “back translation,” which means that if you start out in English, the website will translate the text to Spanish and then back into English so that you can ensure no meaning was lost in translation.
Please note that this website uses the formal usted when referring to “you,” so if you are looking to write for or read about a casual situation, you will need to change this.
Linguee + DeepL
That’s it, two for the price of one! (They are free, don’t worry.)
If you are using translation as your tool to learn Spanish, Linguee is where it’s at. Start by typing a word or sentence in the search bar. While you type, you will be given several options that contain the word(s) you are typing. Choose the one you are looking for or just click on the magnifying glass icon to start the search.
The first thing you will notice is that Linguee gives you all the possible translations of the word or phrase you are looking for with their corresponding audio. You also get sample sentences with their translation, collocations and less common translations of the word, among other info.
Linguee also provides the Wikipedia definition of the word (if one exists) in both English and Spanish, a list of external resources that show your term in context as well as its translation. Linguee shows sentences from a huge variety of resources that use the word in context, pairing the English and Spanish versions side by side. You can click on any resource link to visit the website and see the word “in the wild.”
On the other hand, we have DeepL, which is basically Linguee’s text translator. You can type in your text, paste it and even drag and drop a .docx or .pptx document, and the program will generate an automatic machine translation for you.
If you type or paste the text yourself, your translation (and some alternative translations if they are available) will appear automatically in the box on the right. You can copy the translation to your clipboard, share it online or download it as a text file.
DeepL takes into account all the information included in Linguee, so the translations you get tend to be pretty accurate, grammatically correct and context-specific. However, do not forget you are using a machine to translate, and when it comes to translation, humans are much better at it.
If you decide to drag and drop a document, you will get to download the same document, in the same format, but already translated. This can save you a lot of time if you were planning on printing the document and working on your Spanish with it.
Notice I said printing, not editing. The thing is you can only edit the documents if you subscribe to DeepL, so if you are only using translation websites to learn or improve your Spanish, your only option, in this case, is to either read the document on-screen or print it.
The Free Dictionary
Another great translation website you can use for learning Spanish is The Free Dictionary.
When you search for a word, this dictionary will give you not only its translation but also any other information related to it, e.g. definitions, synonyms, collocations, idioms, etc.
This is a very useful site if you are trying to get as much knowledge about a word as possible, since you will have everything related to it in a couple of clicks. However, The Free Dictionary is not your best choice if you want to translate more than one word or a collocation like buenas tardes (good afternoon).
The site has a feature I personally enjoy a lot. You can search for words beginning or ending with specific letters. This can come in handy if you are looking for words of the same family (like pan/panadero/panadería — bread/baker/bakery) or need to find rhyming words (like canción/emoción — song/emotion).
If you are going to use this website, bear in mind that if you type a word in Spanish, you will first get all the information in Spanish, i.e. definitions, synonyms, collocations, etc. In order to look at the translation of the word, you will need to scroll down the page until you find the Translations/Traducciones section.
When you have text that needs to be translated and are prepared for a side of learning, do not shy away from Spanish translation websites.
As you can see, they have a lot to offer!
Francisco J. Vare is an English professor and freelance translator who loves teaching and writing about grammar. A freak of languages, you can normally find him either learning a new language, teaching students or just reading in a foreign language. He has been writing for FluentU for almost seven years and has recently become one of their Staff Writers
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