Machine translation

Sometimes you get a job with a lot of individual words that something like Google Translate could do a reasonable job at. If you get a lot of such work, it might be worthwhile to get some software for this, but if it is only occasional, there are free options.

Google Translate


With Google Translate you can copy in a list of words, choose the source and target languages just above the entry boxes, and it will produce the same list in the target box, translated. In my example above I have only one word, but if you click on the translated word, you will be provided with a list of possible other translations.

In this way you could copy a long list from your source file (let’s say Word), paste it in the left/source box above, play around with the options in the translated list in the right box, and once you are satisfied, copy/paste that list back into your Word file.

Translating entire Word files

Unfortunately, sometimes the above process directly in Google Translate might not be ideal due to the specific formatting of the Word or other file. Copying the list from Google Translate back into Word could lose all your formatting and cost you extra time to reformat. In which case it is more ideal to perform the machine translation directly in Word in order to maintain the formatting.


Newer versions of Word have a built-in feature to accomplish this, or you could try a free tool that works for older versions, including Excel etc. It also has a pro version with more options. Or you could try one of many free online tools, where you upload your file and download it translated.


The first two tools would be better for files that are not entirely all single words, since machine translations generally do not do so well with sentences and paragraphs. However, they can still be useful for short phrases. Just experiment a bit, but this approach is definitely good for the occasional job with a long list of individual words or short phrases.

Incorporating machine translation with your translation memory

This is easily accomplished by creating an Alignment Project.


  1. First, copy out the long list of individual words or short phrases that you think a machine translation will be useful in speeding up your work, and paste them into a blank file.
  2. Save it as a special file, preferably in list format, the individual words or short phrases separate on individual lines (separated by a hard return – ENTER on the keyboard).
  3. Use your machine translation to translate that file, go through it to make sure it’s right, then save it as a second file with a different name.
  4. Create an alignment project in your translation memory software, aligning the source and translation file, checking to make sure that the list of words and short phrases are aligned properly.
  5. Create a new project in your translation memory software using the original file as your source file. Add the alignment project as part of your translation reference, including the usual reference files that you deem would provide translation memory from your previous translations.

This way, when your TM software comes up to the individual words, they should automatically get translated for you without a blink.

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