We all know how much technology improved during the last decade. We can see any part of the world via Internet, talk with anyone, anywhere, anyhow. But is learning a foreign language without paying expensive classes or going to language schools also that simple? Today we bring you an overview of the five best rated apps for foreign language learning. We have tried to refresh our Italian, and you can tell us which languages you tried and if you were successful in them.

Best Free Apps for Learning a Foreign Language: Duolingo

Whenever we talk about learning a foreign language, Duolingo is probably the first app everyone mentions, which isn’t surprising as it is highly rated on Google Play Store. It provides the option of a Placement test and places you at a level based on your score. The number of skipped lessons depends on the level you have been placed.

Before you start, you can choose how much time you want to spend learning a language on a daily basis (5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes). The app contains ads and purchase offers (both are short enough not to interfere with your learning process, and it is also pointed out that the ads help to keep the education free).

To use this app, proficiency in English is key, because knowledge of spelling and grammar is highly important during the learning process, but also during the translation process from the language you are learning to English.

There is no daily limit of lessons you can complete. Also, all those questions you answered incorrectly will appear again at the end of the lesson. The lessons unlock gradually, in order to ensure you don’t skip too many lessons until you really learn the previous ones.

Every lesson has its levels arranged by their difficulty. Let’s take the FOOD lesson as an example. The first level contains the basics, the second is a bit harder and includes recognition, matching, identifying gender, etc., while the third level includes independent translation from Italian to English and writing of certain words, as well as use of the correct article (l/l'/le/i/gli in Italian). Also, the harder the levels, the more tasks they contain.

You can look up the meanings of underlined words in the sentence while you are in the middle of the task. Also, words appearing in Italian always contain the appropriate article, which is very important in the Italian language. You won’t see the word “la ragazza” written as only “ragazza”. The app also offers the option of pronouncing words on a microphone. The microphone can be turned off if you find yourself in an environment where you are unable to speak.

There are also some bonus levels unlocked with gems, which you get after completing lessons.

DUOLINGO PLUS is a feature that activates for a week if you invite one of your friends to Duolingo (they can choose any language, they are not obliged to learn the same language you are learning). If you invite two friends, the option will be active for two weeks. The feature works only if that person doesn’t have the app installed on their phone but installs it upon your invitation. This feature offers the option to download lessons for offline language learning, and automatic download when you are connected to Wi-Fi. While DUOLINGO PLUS is active, you get additional prizes without having to watch ads and you have the option to open two chests in order to get gems.

Another cool feature Duolingo offers is Discussion during learning, in case a certain task or answer is not clear enough. You can enter the Discussion by pressing the speech balloon icon, right next to the flag icon. The users can comment on a certain lesson in that Discussion so you can get additional explanations, which is extremely useful in less familiar languages, Japanese for example. The following screenshots show you how that looks like in the app itself.

Best Free Apps for Learning a Foreign Language: Tinycards

Tinycards by Duolingo is an app with a rating of 4.1 on Google Play Store. Knowing the English language is necessary for this app as well. It is designed in the form of flashcards containing an expression (and sometimes a picture) in English on the one side, and an expression in the language you are learning on the other side. You have the option to hear the foreign language expression on the side that contains it. You can see the example below.

After a certain number of pictures appear, a picture that needs to be matched with the correct expression comes up, while by the end of the lesson you have to independently translate expressions from English to the language you are learning and vice versa. So, the app doesn’t contain only flashcards, it also tests what you have learned right away.

The lessons are, just like in Duolingo, unlocked gradually. Additionally, they can be added into collections or shared via social networks.

Best Free Apps for Learning a Foreign Language: Mondly

Mondly is an app rated 4.7 on Google Play Store. It doesn’t contain ads like the previous ones, but it encourages users to purchase it. This is the only app for which the knowledge of English is not important.

As you are learning, new words are underlined, and you can see the translation. There is also the option to assemble a certain word with offered letters, which is extremely useful because it contributes to learning new words. If the unknown word is a verb, its whole conjugation will pop out in the past, the present, and the future.

The articles before foreign words are not shown, even though the articles in Italian are almost as important as those in German.

While translating, it’s necessary to connect the offered words into a meaningful sentence. Since the first word in a sentence is always written with a capital letter, and there is always a period after the last word, it is questionable how much you can learn using this method and if that kind of translation process is even demanding enough.

Mondly is the only app we tried that requires 15 minutes to pass between lessons. If you allow app notifications, it will remind you daily. This app offers Weekly and Monthly Challenges. You cannot participate in the Weekly Challenge if you don’t finish all seven Daily Lessons, and you cannot participate in the Monthly Challenge if you don’t complete all Weekly Challenges.

Except for Hi, Daily Lesson and Chatbox bubbles, all subsequent lessons are locked behind a Premium membership. Chatbox requires the use of a microphone, which should definitively be pointed out as a good feature.

Best Free Apps for Learning a Foreign Language: Busuu

Busuu is an app rated 4.5 on Google Play Store. It also encourages users to purchase it and it is essential to know English in order to use it.

Before you start learning, you have to complete the obligatory Placement test. The results said we belong on the A2 level and all previous lessons were unlocked.

As in other apps, all the questions you answer incorrectly are repeated at the end of the lesson.

The app doesn’t offer the option of speaking into a microphone, only the option of listening.

It is organized with flashcards, meaning that the first thing that appears are two or three pictures with audio recording and written text in Italian and English. After that, two out of those three expressions in Italian appear, and you need to decide whether the offered translation is correct or not. That cycle is repeated four times. Everything is followed by a short revision where you should choose the correct phrase, complete the sentence with a word that is missing or the one you hear on audio recording.

In the very next lesson, there is dialogue that requires listening and contains a lot of unknown words for which the translation is not offered. After that, the same dialogue appears, this time with empty lines for the expressions that are offered. You are learning the phrases, while the rest of the text is a bit too difficult for beginners.

In the entire fourth lesson of the A2 level, only five exercises were unlocked, while the other six remained locked because we don’t have Premium membership. So, we have managed to complete only 45% of that lesson.

Also, the lesson that is completely locked is the one concerning grammar, which deals with irregular nouns. Not even the lessons that were automatically completed because the A1 level was skipped are available. A Quiz after the lesson is not available without Premium membership.

ADDITIONAL APP THAT HAS BEEN TRIED OUT, BUT DOES NOT EXACTLY FIT INTO THE CATEGORY OF FREE APPS: Memrise

Memrise is an app with a 4.7 rating on Google Play Store. It also contains ads and purchase offers. This app also requires the knowledge of the English language.

Firstly, the app doesn’t provide a Placement test at the beginning of the course. Just like Duolingo, it repeats the questions you answer incorrectly at the end of the lesson. The introduction of grammar rules after the vocabulary practice is a nice novelty. Also, after you complete a grammar lesson, you are shown its summary.

As you solve your tasks, a small lamp in the bottom left corner shows the rule required to solve the current task.

Just like the previous ones, this app was listed in the top 10 best free apps. It is not clear why, since you cannot continue your learning process after lesson number two. The price of a membership is HRK 385 a year.

Have you tried some of these apps or any other apps for learning foreign languages? Were they useful and interesting? What features did they have? Is there an app that has everything you need to learn a foreign language?

There are many CAT tools available today and it’s always worthwhile to write about a promising one. Smartcat is a browser-based, computer-assisted translation tool worth showcasing. We’ll give you a quick rundown of its main features which will undoubtedly intrigue you enough to give it a go.

Smartcat is a great platform for finding, hiring and paying freelancers, but we’ll focus more on the features Smartcat offers to project managers and translators.

 

Project Manager’s Point of View

Smartcat supports pretty much any file format you can come up with. It can be used to translate anything from Microsoft Office file formats to technical writing and localization file formats such as DITA XML or CSV, but also import packages such as SDLPPX / SDLRPX and create return packages. Also, it can be used to translate images in formats such as JPG, however this requires prior file conversion with Smartcat’s OCR software. This is not a free feature, but it is always possible to convert the file beforehand using online conversion tools or an OCR application such as ABBYY FineReader.

If you need quick statistics on your translation project, Smartcat’s got your back. When creating a project, it will calculate all the statistics you may need. This means word count, character count (both with and without spaces), number of segments, pages, repetitions, etc. Everything you need in one place.

It’s possible to create and upload translation memories as well as glossaries and use them for projects. This is an extremely useful feature when it comes to using proper terminology in a certain project and keeping your translations consistent.

Smartcat allows project managers to allocate certain parts of a project to specific translators. This is great when working on a big project with a short deadline. That allows several people to work on their own part of the project at the same time and complete the project faster. However, since all translators have a translation style of their own, it is of vital importance to have a single editor for the whole text. Smartcat offers three workflow stages: translation, editing and proofreading. This allows employment of several translators, and then of one editor to go over the whole text once the translation stage ends.

 

Translator’s Point of View

Smartcat has a user-friendly interface that is aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate. All quick icons are displayed in the toolbar above the text, the source and target texts are displayed one next to another, all translation memory and glossary info is displayed on the right, and segment filtering is just one click away.

smartcat-segments

Have you ever worked on a large translation project and just knew there was an unconfirmed segment somewhere, but you couldn’t seem to find it? Just press F9 and Smartcat will find it for you. Also, if you’ve made notes on several segments you want to get back to later on, you can jump to the segment you need by entering the segment number.

smartcat-segments

This feature is particularly useful when translating from a language with several cases, such as Croatian. Translation memories are sensitive to cases, so this can be an issue when searching for a term you need. That’s why you can enter a part of a word or phrase in the source text box, and all the segments containing it will be filtered.

smartcat-replace-text

When you realize you’ve been using a wrong key term throughout the text after getting more than half of the translation done, don’t despair. Smartcat allows you to find all key terms in the target text and replace them with the terms you initially overlooked with a single click.

smartcat-comments

If there’s something you want to leave a note on regarding a certain segment or document, you can use the comment feature. This is a great way for you to explain to the person editing or proofreading your translation why you’ve preferred one term over the other, leave links to relevant sources, etc. It’s also a great way for the editor or proofreader to explain why something in your translation was altered and what to look out for in the future.

There are many other useful features as well, such as changing case, limiting segment length, undoing/redoing last actions, inserting special characters, and concordance searching. There’s also the progress bar that will always be there to show you how many words you’ve got left.

 

There you have it. This browser-based, computer-assisted translation tool has a bunch of useful features that will meet all your needs. The best thing; it won't cost you a dime. So, if you ever wanted to get yourself a translation tool, but did not want the additional expense, this is your chance to try out a great translation tool for free.

 

 

 

Starting something new requires knowledge and bravery. If that something comes from personal desire and intrinsic motivation, it becomes a much easier task to accomplish. Regardless, blindly undertaking such responsibility can be troublesome without proper advice from others.

Today, we are going to be focusing on facilitating the starting process of any young translator. Of course, there is a lot for individuals to learn on their own, but we’ll do our best to provide some guidance for new translators, and it will hopefully make the entire starting process somewhat easier.

 

  1. Understand the business.

First things first, learning the business is an important aspect of starting anything. When it comes to translating, there are several options for you which you must explore before going any further. You need to be aware of the risk/reward ratio of anything you would do and compare it to your professional capabilities and personal desires. Translating literature is not the same as translating technical texts and it does not require the same amount of work for the same profit. For example, translating literature is often not that cost-effective. If you enjoy translating literature, be ready for the fact that it will not always be sunshine and rainbows, since it can take up a lot of time and additional research. But, ultimately, enjoying what you’re doing is what matters most.

Furthermore, figure out the differences between working for an employee and being a freelancer. This one is important. There are many differences between those two and you should see what works best for you.

All in all, learn about yourself and your intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, and act accordingly.

 

  1. Be prepared to work hard.

Despite what you have chosen as your business direction, it will not be easy. Sure, some days will be easier than others, but there will be harder days too. If you are freelancing, you might think that you can wake up whenever you want and still have a lot of free time because you don’t have a 9-5 job. On the contrary. Depending on the amount of work, there will be days when you’ll be working from early in the morning to late in the evening (including weekends) and you’ll still be cutting it close. On the other hand, when working for a company, you have your office hours and then you’re done. But, approximately the same amount of work will be crammed into your normal working hours, and you’ll end up exhausted for the rest of the day. So, whatever you choose, be ready to give it your best.

 

  1. Find a mentor.

When starting, don’t be too confident. Be aware that there are many things you can still learn and that you will learn every day when translating. Finding someone who can constructively criticize you is of the utmost importance. You also need to learn how to accept that criticism as something valuable to you, not as a personal blow. Translating means constant improvement and learning. It’s okay to make mistakes when you are a beginner, but it’s not okay not to learn from those mistakes.

 

  1. Check everything.

As we said, it’s okay to make mistakes, but it’s your job as a translator to give your best and minimize them as much as possible. It’s obligatory to check everything at least twice, if there is time. Distractions lead to mistakes, which is fine, as long as you detect and correct them before sending the translation. Our advice is, if possible, to sleep on it, and then come back with a fresh mind to reread it.

And, of course, always use a spell checker.

 

These are only some of the most important advice to get you started, but make sure to further look into what is needed to be a good translator. There are many books that might interest you, such as Translation in Practice: A Symposium by Gill Paul or How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator by Corinne McKay, among others. Make sure you network wisely, try out different translating tools to find the best one for you, set a realistic deadline when freelancing, and don’t shy away from a challenging project (within reason), because you will end up far more knowledgeable on the subject and you will be proud for doing it in the end.

There is no denying the fact that deadlines are extremely important when it comes to the quality of translation projects. However, many clients require large translation projects to be completed in an impossible amount of time.

Why does this happen?

Many companies work on a project and find themselves in need of a translation. In many cases, their own project has a short deadline, therefore they need the translation to be done ASAP so they could continue working on the project. If the translation is late or faulty, the whole project is affected. This is one of many examples where translation projects with unrealistically short deadlines might turn up. What clients do not understand is that translation takes time.

It is not at all unusual to get an inquiry for a very technical translation project of some 20 000 words with a deadline set for the next day at 11 a.m. It can be done, but likely at a high cost, and we are not even talking about finance here. No translator, or a group of translators, would be able to make a high-quality translation in such a short amount of time. High-quality translations require careful research, appropriate terminology and, most of all, proper editing, especially after several translators had worked on a single project.

However, there are cases in which the deadline for a large translation project can be met. The questions are: how can this be done, and how does this affect translation quality?

Translation quality

It all really depends on the organization of the translation project. If several translators are working on the same project individually, with no mutual communication or project glossaries, the translation will inevitably be of poor quality. Different terms will be used by different translators and the differences in their styles of translation will be obvious. This will result in an enormous amount of work for the editor.

Make sure translators communicate during the translation process

If an agency decides to accept a big project with a short deadline, more often than not, several translators need to work on it. In such cases, communication among translators is essential. Translators can exchange information on certain terms and concepts or point each other towards useful resources for the translation project. Also, they are able match their styles of translation to a certain extent. Moreover, creating a project-specific glossary of terms is also of great help when dealing with an urgent translation project that involves several translators. All of this is important to ensure consistent use of terminology throughout the text and decrease the time needed to complete the task.

Ask the client for a translation memory or previous similar translations, if possible

If the client is able to provide a translation memory, this may be extremely helpful, especially if dealing with a translation project that requires extensive research regarding terminology. Translation memories can be uploaded to a CAT tool directly and improve the translation process. However, if all the client can provide are examples of previous similar translations, this can be helpful in terms of acquiring proper terminology and context for the current translation.

Leave enough time for editing

Plan the translation project to leave enough time for careful editing. This may decrease the short translation deadline even more; however attentive editing always results in a higher quality translation. When a large translation project is done in a short period of time, especially by several translators, some errors will most likely remain after the translation process. The editor can then correct those mistakes and adjust the style of writing and make it consistent throughout the text. The better the communication between translators during the translation process, the less work there is for the editor.

Clients are not always familiar with the way a translation project is carried out and often set unrealistic deadlines. When translation agencies decide to undertake such a feat and deal with the client’s request in the best way possible, several things are required to achieve the necessary translation quality: several translators need to work on the project, they need to communicate and use all available resources, and, finally, there must be enough time for the editor to “touch up” the translation. This way, urgent translations can be done to a satisfactory level. Still, whenever possible, it is best to negotiate with the client and get a deadline appropriate for the task at hand.

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