[Article updated on May 16 at 13:40]
No matter your level of French, it is always useful to have a dictionary or translator tool at your disposal to help with more difficult words and phrases.
Connexion readers have shared with us the apps and websites that they find most useful when translating from or into French.
We take a look at those mentioned.
The majority of Connexion readers who contacted us recommended DeepL, which is a neural machine translation service claiming to offer “the world’s best machine translation.”
Neural machine translation predicts the likelihood of a sequence of words, so identifying translation patterns within texts.
The DeepL website and app is laid out in a similar format to Google Translate, allowing users to type text in 26 different languages – including French – into one box, to see it translated to English or whichever language they choose in another.
You can then click on individual words in the text to see definitions and alternative translations.
DeepL also offers a glossary feature, which enables users to “customise” translations depending on the specific context.
Ian Buck, who lives in Manche, said: “DeepL is by far the best. [It] gives a wide range of alternatives and grammar,” and another reader commented: “I discovered Deepl only recently and I find it very good. I've been here for 30 years, living in a rural commune, and didn't need much translating.
“However when my husband died earlier this year I found writing to a translator about his will and to banks and other services was just too much for my French letter writing skills. A friend who had used several translating apps recommended DeepL to me.”
Another reader said: “I trust DeepL to convey my meaning gracefully more than I trust Google Translate.
"For example, when I write 'you', Google usually translates that as 'tu'. If I were writing to a pal, I wouldn't bother with a translation app! DeepL always uses the more correct 'vous'.
"I feel that DeepL is a more considered app."
“It will often show, in small print at the bottom, another way to phrase [something] that makes more sense in the context of what you are trying to express.
“I am using the basic free DeepL, but I am quite impressed so far.”
“Try Reverso. It’s an excellent app with lots of different languages. The basic app is free, and cheap to upgrade,” said Carolyn Williams, who lives in Oxfordshire.
“I mainly use Reverso for translating single words, or maybe a couple of words. It gives examples in context which I find very useful.
“It also gives audio pronunciation which I use for languages I know less well than others.”
Reverso offers contextual dictionaries, parallel texts which reflect the nuances in the expression of different phrases in French and English, for example, spell checking and conjugation tools.
Like DeepL, it uses neural machine translation and can be used either through the website or through its smartphone app.
Its Reverso Context tool searches texts from films, books, government documents and other sources to find idiomatic usages for the phrases users want to translate. It also provides language-learning features such as flash cards.
“For individual words I use the Larousse English French app,” said reader Harriet Devine. “Anything is better than Google Translate.”
The Larousse website and app is set out like the traditional dictionary, translating words and putting them in context.
In addition, it provides pronunciation guides and lists of proverbs and idioms in which the word in question may appear.
It also has conjugation and synonym tools, and a functionality which enables users to view their searched word in various different sentences.
“By far the best translator app I have ever come across and now use whenever we go to France is the Microsoft Translator app,” another reader said.
“It has so many features covering every eventuality. You can: translate text as you type, speak into the microphone to translate short phrases rather than typing and listen to the translation at three different speeds.”
She added that you can choose two languages to be spoken into one microphone for reciprocal translation during a real-life conversation, or choose ‘multi-device conversation mode’, during which several people can join in using a QR code.
Microsoft Translator also enables users to download language packs so that they can translate while offline, and to translate text in photos or letters.
It has a phrase book which pronunciation guides, and also a tool allowing users to mark translations for which they search frequently.
“I have found this app really useful when translating letters I receive in French,” our reader said. “It used to be such a chore to scan the letters then copy the text into a browser translator.
“Now I just photograph the letter, which is then translated instantly and it’s pretty accurate.
“I was recommended this app by a French friend and have been using it for several years now, I would highly recommend it.”
Other English-French translation services include Word Reference, which works in a similar way to Larousse, but which also has a forum where users can ask for native speaker translations of trickier phrases or grammatical constructions.
There is also Linguee, which works in a similar way to Reverso, using parallel texts to try to make translations as idiomatic as possible. This platform also has a dictionary tool where single words can be translated in context with synonyms.
Do you use a translation app which is not on this list but which you would recommend? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org