The best linguistic resources for translators

If you have ever tried to translate a text, you know that sometimes it can be very difficult to find the information needed. When should you use quotations and italics? Which spelling is needed? What about specialized terms? Translators use a range of resources on a daily basis to be as correct as possible in their translations, in regards to grammar, syntax, semantics and accuracy (compared with the original text). Today, we bring you some useful resources for all types of translation and any degree of specialization in the field.


The most basic resource for a translation is a dictionary. We can use monolingual dictionaries to look up and verify the meaning of certain words in the original language of the text and in our own language. For example, some free, high quality ones are the Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Oxford English Dictionary, which also include etymology, usage of words and variants of the dictionaries for learners.

It is also important to have on hand bilingual dictionaries to translate specific words into other languages. For general vocabulary between English and Spanish (EN<>ES), Cambridge has its own dictionary here, but other useful ones are WordReference, Linguee for full sentences, and Reverso for informal words and phrases. Most of these dictionaries have multiple combinations of languages, but you should always double check the translations, as they are not always the most reliable. However, they can give you multiple options and point you in the right direction. 

To avoid repetition or to find the exact word you are looking for, Thesaurus can be your best friend, even more if you pair them with the previous resources. Thesaurus show synonyms and related words to the one you input, as well as antonyms, and idiomatic phrases. Merriam-Webster is a great resource for this. Nuances are crucial in translations, so comparing synonyms and similar words is essential in order to find an accurate translation. If you are not sure how to use a word in context, you can also use collocations dictionaries, such as this one, in which you submit a word and it tells you which words (verbs, nouns, prepositions, adjectives…) tend to go with it.

English usage

Even if you are a native English speaker, you may have doubts about grammar, spelling and punctuation. If you have specific doubts, there are many forums where you can ask other speakers, native and otherwise (WordReference, EnglishClubESL…). If you do not remember particular rules about one topic, like quotation marks, how to write numbers, etc., there are English usage resources such as the Purdue University Online Writing Lab, or the Grammar section by Cambridge. 

Glossaries and termbases

Some translations include specialized vocabulary that does not usually appear in normal dictionaries. For those terms, you need glossaries and termbases. Glossaries are documents with specific topics in which words of the same field are grouped together, defined and sometimes translated to a particular language. In KudoZ by ProZ, you can look at many glossaries in different language combinations and fields. To look up words that appear in more than one field and to find their translation, you can use termbases: databases that contain terminology in different languages and related information, i.e. specialized multilingual dictionaries. Some of the largest ones are IATE (powered by the EU), Termium Plus, and KudoZ also has a search option. 

Do you use all of these? Let us know below! Click here for more translation advice.

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