15 Must-Have Machine Translation Tools in 2024

Anthony Enticknap
29 Dec 2023

17 min. read


Machine translation software cannot replace human translators yet.

But it sure is getting there!

It's interesting to see just how close we are to that once-unthinkable frontier. With every update and tweak, translation tools bridge the gap between technology and human creativity.

In this guide, we'll introduce the best machine translation tools, highlight their unique features, and help you choose the right one for your translation needs.

Pro tip: Use the translation management system, Centus, with your preferred MT engine to combine speed with the quality only humans can provide.

Evolution of machine translation software

Machine translation software is a technology for automatic language translation. Over the years, it has gradually evolved from rudimentary to highly nuanced contextual translations. Let’s take a closer look at its development.

Invention of machine learning translation software

In 1954, an American researcher Warren Weaver invented the first machine translator capable of translating highly-curated Russian sentences into English. The invention garnered worldwide attention spurring investment in its further development.

Rule-based machine translation software

In the early 1970s, German and Japanese researchers introduced rule-based machine translation (RBMT). Their system could translate sentences based on dictionary definitions and grammatical rules, which resulted in clunky, unnatural translations. And yet it was a substantial advancement over its predecessor in terms of both translation quality and speed.

Based on the rules used for translation, RBMT falls into three categories:

  1. Dictionary-based MT where translation is based on dictionary entries
  2. Transfer-based MT where the grammatical structure of the source language is mapped onto the grammatical structure of the target language
  3. Interlingual MT where the source language is converted into an abstract representation and decoded into the target language

Statistical machine translation

In the 1980s, researchers at IBM built on the ideas of Warren Weaver to create statistical machine translation (SMT). SMT software used probability distributions to find relationships between translated texts. However, due to differing sentence structures and lengths, SMT software’s output was suboptimal.

Neural machine translation

In 2015, the first large-scale neural machine translation (NMT) is introduced by a Chinese technology company—Baidu. Unlike earlier isolated approaches to translation, NMT leverages machine learning to provide contextual translations that sound more natural and nuanced. Due to its effectiveness, NMT has become a dominant method in most MT engines and is the foundation for most AI machine translation tools.

Hybrid machine translation

Hybrid machine translation (HMT) is the combination of RBMT, SMT, and NMT. This approach allows running several translation systems simultaneously and then merging their output. After several iterations, HMT can create human-like translations. HMT makes up for deficiencies found in other translation systems, which is why several translation engines employ this method.

The key types of translations performed by machine translation software are:

  • Text-to-text
  • Text-to-speech
  • Speech-to-text
  • Speech-to-speech
  • Word images-to-text

Let's now take a closer look at some of the top machine translation tools that use NMT and other technologies to provide effective and efficient translation solutions for everyone.

Ranking criteria for the best translation tools for modern businesses

When looking for the best business translation tools, there's more to consider than just its ability to convert text from one language to another. You should also consider how these tools can help you with your localization projects, among other things.

Here are the critical criteria we used for our pick:

  • Accuracy: Superior software should translate text while maintaining the original context and sentiment. Does it frequently misinterpret phrases, or does it offer clear and coherent translations consistently?
  • Usability: An intuitive interface is important too. The ideal software caters to users of all levels and makes sure tasks are completed with ease. It should also offer online translation.
  • Speed: Quick translations are essential for businesses trying to stay relevant, especially in this era of fast-moving trends. How swiftly does the software deliver accurate results? Do they use automatic processes?
  • Integration capabilities: We considered how well the language translator software integrates with other tools, apps, or platforms to ensure a seamless workflow for businesses.
  • Support: Reliable customer support can make a significant difference. How responsive is the software provider when issues or questions arise? Do they have a community?
  • Innovation: Unique features or functionalities can set a tool apart. Does the software offer something special that could be particularly beneficial for a corporate business or other enterprise?
  • Value for money: The software's cost is crucial. Does the price point reflect the value provided?

With these criteria in mind, we've handpicked the top machine translation software tools that truly deliver on their promises. Remember, these tools fall into specific categories based on your needs, whether you're seeking powerful software for large-scale projects, user-friendly options for personal use, or advanced AI-powered solutions that can provide real-time translations.

The first category on our list is …

Best machine translation tools

The best online translation service goes beyond simple translation. These powerhouses handle large volumes of text, seamlessly integrate into workflows, and offer robust features for professional results. Here are the top translation tools that excel in these areas:

1. Google Translate

Developed in 2006 by Google AI, Google Translate is the king of accessibility, supporting a staggering 133 languages for text and translation, plus 32 languages for real-time voice translation. Its free, user-friendly interface makes it ideal for quick, on-the-go translations of common phrases, documents, or websites. Google translate screenshot Source: Google Translate

  • Performance (⚙️9/10): Known for fast translations, Google Translate provides great accuracy for common languages. Alas, translation accuracy dips for less common language pairs.
  • Compatibility and assistance (🔧7/10): Integrates with various Google products and offers diverse support options. It has an active community forum for support and queries.
  • Innovation (💡8/10): Regularly updated with new features, like offline translators on mobile (once the language pack has been downloaded), but not always groundbreaking.
  • Value for money (💰10/10): Google Translate is free for personal use, while its business-oriented version, Google Cloud Translate, starts at $0.003 per character. More details are available on their website.

2. DeepL

Founded in 2009, DeepL takes a different approach from Google, focusing on superior translation quality over raw accessibility. While supporting fewer languages (currently 31), it leverages its proprietary neural network technology to deliver exceptional accuracy and natural-sounding translations, particularly for European languages.

DeepL is especially useful for professionals, academics, and anyone needing high-fidelity translations for sensitive content or publications. DeepL screenshot Source: DeepL

  • Performance (⚙️9.5/10): DeepL is often hailed for its exceptional translation quality, especially for European languages. The translations are natural and retain the text's original nuances.
  • Compatibility and assistance (🔧8/10): While primarily web-based, there's also a dedicated desktop app for offline tasks.
  • Innovation (💡8/10): Using advanced neural networks, DeepL often delivers translations that can compete with human ones.
  • Value for money (💰9/10): It has a free version with character and document restrictions. The Pro version offers more features (document formatting, tone adjustment) and unlimited translations. Prices range from $8.74 per user per month to $57.49 per user per month.

3. Bing Translator (formerly Microsoft Translator)

Developed by Microsoft in 2007, Bing Translator stands out for its tight integration with Microsoft products like Office and Azure. It supports 70 languages for text translation and 60 for speech, making it a shoo-in for businesses heavily reliant on the Microsoft ecosystem.

Beyond integration, Bing Translator caters to enterprise needs with features like custom glossaries and terminology management. Additionally, its Translator API allows seamless integration with custom applications and websites. Bing translator screenshot Source: Bing

  • Performance (⚙️8/10): Microsoft ensures accuracy in over 60 languages, with the best performance in European ones.
  • Compatibility and assistance (🔧9/10): Integrates with Microsoft products and is available on various platforms, including mobile. Their documentation and support channels are comprehensive.
  • Innovation (💡7/10): Focuses on native integration and customization more than on the refinement of its automatic translation services.
  • Value for money (💰8/10): It's free for basic usage with paid options offering higher limits and functionalities suitable for small to large businesses.

4. Baidu Translate

Launched in 2006 by the Chinese tech giant Baidu, Baidu Translate is popular for its extensive support for Asian languages, particularly Chinese dialects. It currently boasts over 280 languages for text translation and 45 for speech.

Baidu Translate also focuses on innovation, incorporating features like document translation, image recognition for translated text within images, and even offline translation capabilities.

While user experience might not be as intuitive as some Western competitors, Baidu Translate is still a great automated translation service for those who need deep support for Asian languages. A screenshot of the Baidu Translate web interface Source: Baidu Translate

  • Performance (⚙️7/10): Offers reliable translations, with a strong focus on Asian languages, particularly Chinese.
  • Compatibility and assistance (🔧7/10): Easy-to-use machine translation tool, available on the web and mobile.
  • Innovation (💡8/10): Great for speech recognition and photo translations—a traveler's friend.
  • Value for money (💰9/10): Freemium model with generous free tier, affordable paid plans. Great for budget-conscious users and language learners.

5. Papago

Developed by Naver Labs in 2017, Papago positions itself as a user-friendly translation tool. With support for over 130 languages for text and 28 for speech, it covers a wide range of basic translation needs. Papago's strength lies in its diverse features, including real-time voice translation, document and website translation, and even image translation capabilities. It also has a sleek mobile app for on-the-go translation. A screenshot of the Papago interface Source: Papago

  • Performance (⚙️7.5/10): Best translates East Asian languages like Korean and Japanese.
  • Compatibility and assistance (🔧8/10): User-friendly, works on several devices.
  • Innovation (💡9/10): The voice translation sounds natural and is great for real-time chats. It also lets you switch honorifics for Korean and Japanese.
  • Value for money (💰10/10): Freemium model with limited free usage, paid plans offer higher translation quotas. Great for basic communication and travel needs.

6. Systran

Founded in 1968, Systran boasts a long history in machine translation. They offer their platform in various versions (tailored to specific fields like legal, technical, or e-commerce), which allows users to access domain-specific terminology.

Additionally, Systran provides advanced features like custom glossaries, terminology management, and machine learning adaptation. You can even fine-tune translation models for your unique needs. While its interface might not be as flashy as that of competitors, Systran caters to businesses in need of highly customized translations. systran screenshot Source: Systran

  • Performance (⚙️7/10): Great accuracy for European languages. Struggles with uncommon language pairs.
  • Compatibility and assistance (🔧8/10): It offers a range of products catering to different platforms, including web, desktop, and mobile. The support and documentation are also commendable.
  • Innovation (💡7.5/10): There’s no specific wow factor. While it uses neural translation models, it sometimes lags behind the top-tier tools in handling nuanced translations.
  • Value for money (💰7/10): With multiple product offerings and a basic freemium, users and businesses can choose based on their budget, but some might find certain products pricey for the features.

7. iTranslate

iTranslate specializes in real-time language translation through browsers and mobile apps. Its B2C app has gained massive popularity with over 200 million downloads across major mobile app stores. iTranslate’s consumer-oriented app is particularly well-suited for on-the-go translations.

In addition to its B2C offerings, iTranslate also has a solution for corporate clients. The B2B solution features enterprise-level API allowing automation and customization of translation workflows. iTranslate mobile screenshot Source: iTranslate

  • Performance (⚙️8/10): iTranslate supports over 100 languages. It has decent accuracy for common languages but may lack nuance for complex texts.
  • Compatibility and assistance (🔧9/10): iTranslate comes in both a web version and a mobile application for on-the-go translations. Notably, it has voice and camera translation features which can be particularly handy for real-life conversations.
  • Innovation (💡8.5/10): iTranslate’s Pro version offers an offline mode, website translation, and a verb conjugator.
  • Value for money (💰7.5/10): While there's a free web version available, unlocking all of iTranslate's powerful features requires a Pro subscription. Still, given the expansive language support and additional tools, many find it well worth the investment.

Best AI translator software

Artificial intelligence translation software leverage sophisticated AI algorithms to catch even the subtlest aspects of language and deliver translations that sound faithful to the original intent. While they may not cater to all budgets, they’re great at complex tasks and specific fields, making them ideal for professionals, academics, and anyone seeking superior translation quality.

1. Amazon Translate

Developed in 2017 by Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon Translate uses advanced machine learning models, particularly NMT, to provide high-quality translation for large-scale projects. It accurately translates business and technical jargon, making it highly suitable for professional use in sectors like e-commerce, customer support, and content localization.

Amazon Translate features multiple customization options, allowing you to fine-tune translations based on industry terminology, brand voice, or other specific needs. This adaptability, coupled with its integration with other AWS services, makes it a compelling choice for organizations requiring extensive, tailored translation solutions. Amazon Translate Source: Amazon

  • Performance (⚙️8.5/10): Amazon's translation tool is particularly effective for translation of business and technical content.
  • Compatibility and assistance (🔧8/10): Best suited for enterprises using AWS services. Although it may be complex for some users, comprehensive documentation is available to assist them.
  • Innovation (💡8/10): Makes use of advanced machine learning techniques and offers custom glossaries.
  • Value for money (💰8/10): While it provides accurate translations, the pricing is more tailored for businesses and might seem steep for casual users.

2. Reverso

Created by the French company Softissimo in 1998, Reverso uses AI and big data to offer context-based and idiomatic translations. This makes Reverso an excellent AI translation software for learners, professionals, and anyone who requires a deeper understanding of language nuances.

Its user-friendly interface and additional features like dictionaries and grammar tools add to its appeal, making it particularly beneficial for educational use and everyday language learning. Reverso screenshot Source: Reverso

  • Performance (⚙️8.5/10): Reverso is pretty good at common languages and excels at context-based translations and synonyms. It can also capture idiomatic phrases with impressive accuracy.
  • Compatibility and assistance (🔧8/10): Accessible online, on desktop, and mobile.
  • Innovation (💡8/10): Integrates AI for improved accuracy and context, but doesn't offer groundbreaking features. Although, along with translation, Reverso offers a dictionary, grammar check, and conjugation tool. Users can also listen to and rephrase translated sentences for varied outputs.
  • Value for money (💰8/10): Freemium model with limited features. Paid plans at ₤9.99 for advanced options, offline access, and no ads.

3. ChatGPT

ChatGPT, developed in 2022 by OpenAI, this large language model uses AI and massive datasets to engage in realistic, context-aware dialogues. While not strictly a translation tool, its ability to understand and respond to natural language nuances transcends simple vocabulary swaps.

ChatGPT can also handle a wide range of topics and tones, although it can sometimes generate awkward sentences when asked to be casual. The best part? It's always improving. OpenAI keeps tweaking it to make it sound more natural. Plus, now ChatGPT can interact with uploaded media, which opens up new ways to use it. ChatGPT screenshot Source: ChatGPT

  • Performance (⚙️9/10): ChatGPT is proficient in generating coherent and contextually relevant text across various subjects.
  • Compatibility and assistance (🔧9/10): Accessible mainly via the web, it's user-friendly and suitable for various applications.
  • Innovation (💡9/10): Stands out for its advanced AI, providing accurate and context-aware responses.
  • Value for money (💰8/10): Basic functions are free. OpenAI also offers the ChatGPT Plus subscription at $20 per month, with faster response times and priority access to new features and improvements.

4. KantanAI (formerly KantanMT)

KantanAI, previously known as KantanMT, is a platform that uses neural machine translation technology to efficiently (and automatically) handle large volumes of content. It's highly customizable and allows users to train translation models specific to their industry and content type. This feature is particularly useful for sectors requiring specialized translations, like legal, medical, or technical fields. KantanAI Screenshot Source: KantanAI

  • Performance (⚙️8/10): KantanAI offers quality translations across technical and specialized domains. Its customizable nature allows users to fine-tune translation models for specific needs. KantanAI also has strong AI-powered translations, which focus on speed and cost-efficiency for large volumes.
  • Compatibility and assistance (🔧6/10): Cloud-based platform, limited integrations, basic support options.
  • Innovation (💡6/10): The platform's customization and cutting-edge AI options are its unique selling point, allowing users to build and deploy customized translation engines. Users can even create whole chatbots powered by AI.
  • Value for money (💰6/10): Custom pricing, varies depending on volume and features. While not the most budget-friendly option, KantanAI's customization makes it a worthwhile consideration for businesses with high output and specific translation needs.

Best professional translation services

Professional translation software and services are designed for translators and businesses needing advanced features and greater control over their translation projects. The best professional translation tools cater to a range of specialized needs, from large-scale localization projects to detailed document translations.

1. Centus

Centus takes a cloud-based approach to translation management and localization. Developed with a focus on collaboration, Centus allows managing the entire translation process from initial translation to quality assurance. It stands out for its simplicity and multiple integration options.

Centus comes with a powerful feature set including machine translation, glossaries, translation memories, quality assurance, and automation. The solution is particularly well-suited for growing companies looking for an affordable way to localize their websites, software, and content. Centus dashboard screenshot

  • Performance (⚙️9/10): Centus integrates with reliable machine translation engines and uses translation memories to increase translation accuracy.
  • Compatibility and assistance (🔧9/10): Customers find Centus user-friendly and remark on its wide integration with management, developer, and design tools.
  • Innovation (💡8/10): The platform constantly updates to improve its website, software, and document localization workflows.
  • Value for money (💰9/10): Centus offers flexible pricing models for small teams and enterprises.

Centus features seamless integrations with the most popular machine translation tools. Here’s how to use machine translation with Centus:

  1. Import your content to Centus
  2. Translate the content instantly with DeepL, Google Translate, or Bing Translator
  3. Assign the translated content to human editors
  4. Track and manage the editing process
  5. Export the translated content

2. SDL Trados Studio

SDL Trados Studio, developed by RWS, is an old hand in the professional translation software market. It's built on a foundation of translation memory technology and stands out for its comprehensive feature set, which includes advanced terminology management and extensive localization capabilities.

Ideal for freelance translators and translation agencies alike, SDL Trados Studio offers a high degree of control over translation projects, making it suitable for complex, large-scale localization efforts. SDL trados screenshot Source: SDL

  • Performance (⚙️9/10): Renowned in the professional translation community, SDL Trados Studio is known for its high accuracy and extensive features tailored for detailed translation projects.
  • Compatibility and assistance (🔧7/10): While powerful, it might have a steeper learning curve for beginners. Its integration mainly focuses on Windows, which can be limiting for Mac or Linux users.
  • Innovation (💡8/10): Trados offers unique features like translation memory and terminology management. It’s also regularly updated with new features, creating a steep learning curve for a casual user.
  • Value for money (💰5/10): Its pricing is on the higher side—starting at £264 for freelancers and £150 per user per month for businesses. It is subscription-based and best suited for enterprise-level needs.

3. Promt

Promt has been a significant player in the translation software market since its inception in 1991. The technology under the hood includes rule-based, statistical, and neural machine translation, allowing it to cater to a wide range of translation needs.

Promt is particularly known for its proficiency in European languages and is best suited for professional environments, government agencies, and language service providers. Its unique selling point lies in its versatility and ability to handle complex, specialized translations in fields like legal, IT, and healthcare. PROMT machine translator interface Source: Promt

  • Performance (⚙️ 8/10): Renowned for high accuracy and fluency, particularly excels in creative and literary texts.
  • Compatibility and assistance ( 🔧7/10): Primarily software-based, limited integrations, basic support options.
  • Innovation ( 💡9/10): Pioneering research in neural translation, offers unique features like style selection and terminology management.
  • Value for money ( 💰6/10): Subscription-based pricing starting at $199, can be expensive for casual users. Great for professionals and specialized translation needs.

4. Text United

Text United, developed by Text United GmbH, offers a blend of traditional and modern translation approaches by integrating human translation with neural machine technology. It is especially good at software and website localization, providing features like overlay editors for the integration of translations into digital products.

Text United is irreplaceable for collaboration and project management, which makes it an ideal choice for large teams. Text United translate interface Source: Text United

  • Performance (⚙️8.5/10): Text United focuses on human-in-the-loop translations, combining AI with expert linguists for superior accuracy and quality control.
  • Compatibility and assistance (🔧9/10): With its cloud-based interface, users can access Text United from anywhere. Additionally, it offers overlay editors for website translations, making it easier to visualize the end result.
  • Innovation (💡8/10): Text United offers a combination of human and machine translation services. Although it regularly adds new features like real-time feedback and collaboration tools, it is not heavily focused on cutting-edge AI.
  • Value for money (💰8/10): Freemium pricing with subscriptions starting at ₤60 per month. It also offers custom pricing based on project needs which makes Text United expensive for individual users.

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