Best Tools and Free Programs for Freelance Translators

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Best Tools and Free Programs for Freelance Translators

Many people think that all a translator needs to work is a Microsoft Word and a dictionary. But, like any skilled technical profession, translators rely on a variety of tools to help them work. These tools can range from free, open-source databases to cutting-edge computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools. The tools a translator uses depends on how much they translate and for whom. In this article, we will take a look at some of the leading tools for freelancers.

Reference Materials

Even though translators spend years training and practicing language, they can’t possibly know word in a language. They’re humans, after all! That’s why all translators have a series of reference materials they use when they don’t know how to translate specialized terminology.

Bilingual Dictionaries

In the internet age, it may seem crazy to have a paper dictionary. However, these printed dictionaries are edited and assembled by translators for other translators. Translators should invest in field-specific bilingual dictionaries to help them with difficult terminology. Not only will these dictionaries suggest an equivalent, they may suggest multiple ones and give context examples.

Terminology Databases

It’s important that translators use one or more terminology databases when translating. Many terminological databases are open-source and updated constantly. This way, when searching a word or phrase you know you’ll find the most current translation. Databases like ProZ and Linguee allow linguist contributions and use peer review to check translations and offer suggestions.


Free CAT Tools

If you’re just starting out as a freelance translator, CAT tools can seem really expensive. Many freelancers start translating on top of having a full-time job – so paying for software may seem unnecessary. Luckily, there are lots of free, online CAT tools available to use.

One of the most popular free, online CAT tools is MateCat. To start translating, all you need to do is go to the website, sign up, and pick your file. MateCat is used all over the world and allows users to access community translation memories and create your own. Plus, MateCat has a very intuitive design for users unfamiliar with how to work a CAT tool.

Another popular free CAT tool is OmegaT. Unlike other CAT tools, OmegaT is a free tool that is compatible with Mac OSX operating systems. OmegaT has many features that are standard in professional CAT tools such as fuzzy matching, making projects with multiple files, glossaries, and translation memories. It is a great tool to use with a higher volume of technical work.

There are dozens of free, online CAT tools and more are developed each year. Others include Smartcat, CafeTran Espresso, and Anaphraseus.


Professional CAT Tools

If you’re transitioning from part-time freelance work to full-time, you should consider purchasing a license for a professional CAT tool. Professional CAT tools will allow you to grow your freelance business with time-saving programs and project tracking.

The three most popular professional CAT tools are SDL Trados Studio, memoQ, and WordFast.

SDL Trados Studio

SDL Trados Studio offers multiple types of CAT programs depending on the volume of your translations. Conveniently, Trados has a freelance translation program that has less project management functions and is cheaper than a professional license. One of the biggest benefits of purchasing Trados is the massive amount of information about the software. There are videos and troubleshooting pages across every language online so that if you encounter an issue or want to learn new tricks, you can simply search what you need.


MemoQ is another very popular CAT tool. Because of its lower price and simpler user design, many freelancers initially choose to work with memoQ instead of Trados. With much of the same functionality as Trados, memoQ’s main benefit is that it is compatible across multiple CAT tools and file formats.


WordFast is the most paired-down CAT tool for professionals. As a plug-in that runs in Microsoft Word, the interface is easy to use for everyone while still outputting professional-level work. WordFast is also one of the most cost-effective CAT tools but doesn’t work with as many file types as Trados or memoQ.


Freelance translation is a great career opportunity for anyone who loves languages and needs flexibility. By investing in good tools, you can translate faster and better. If you’re a freelancer who wants to join the Midwest’s premier translation agency, visit the Acutrans website and contact us today. Turn your passion into a high-paying career!