The best translation apps and online services for students


We live in a world growing ever closer in communication and education. But our exposure to global influences also reveals language barriers. Happily, the same internet that exposes us to languages we don’t know also gives us tools and resources to translate them. We’ll look at translation products and services from the viewpoint of a student. We’ll look at how to work with professional translation services and freelance translators. We’ll consider online translation software and translation gadgets. We’ll recommend which apps and services deliver the best value for money, and we’ll also consider how students with language skills can make extra money by translating for others.

Translation Needs and Means of Students

Students – and here we focus on young adults from 18 to 30 – are characterized by curiosity, a passion for travel and adventure, pressures to complete assignments and pass tests. They are also characterized by light wallets and tight budgets. That means that, usually, they will not have the means to pay the fees that a professional translation agency will charge for its expert linguistic services. However, there are exceptions to every rule. Student pay a lot for tuition, for books and for various internet services, gadgets and apps. So purchase decisions are based on value and opportunity cost: if a service or an app can save time and help achieve better grades, it may well be worth the extra expense.

Colleges require papers to be written. Students who are not native English speakers, or students who must write papers in another language that is not their mother-tongue have a problem. For that matter, native English speakers often have inadequate writing skills. All of the above need help, especially as deadlines approach. Ideally they will tough it out, burn the midnight oil and turn in a paper that makes the grade. But the reality is: panic sets in, time runs out, and many students seek a shortcut to getting their assignment completed. That need creates a “grey” market for writing and translation services.

In a perfect world, everyone would play by the rules, and hard work and good intentions would always be rewarded. But it turns out the world is imperfect, but the laws of supply and demand are still operative. For every student seeking a shortcut there are other students, and non-students, ready to provide a valued and in-demand service – for a fee. There are contexts in which the requested assistance is ethical and acceptable, and other contexts in which it is not. But this is not a contract killing or human trafficking: it’s a writing or translation services, so no one should get their knickers in too much of a twist.

Professional Language Service Companies: The Royal Road to Getting Assignments Done Fast

For students who have the means, and the need, this is the easiest and fastest way to get the job done. There are plenty of companies available online that will translate, research, write, edit and proofread – everything you need to fill in what you lack. It’s all for a fee, of course. But for short assignments, it may well be worth it.  The companies will not ask too many questions: just describe exactly what you need, and they will send back a quotation and a timetable. That’s really all it takes. Don’t worry about the translation process. You don’t need to know how sausage is made. Just put the finished product in your bun (the one with your name on it) and deliver it to your professor.

Typically, writing and translation agencies charge by the word in the source document with varying rates for research, writing, editing and proofreading – or a combination of these services. And because agencies have offices and overhead, administrators and project managers, expect to pay a premium for working with these. Of course, you can find cut-rate resources in India and other cheaper countries, but the quality of the output may be accordingly lower. Or, if you need to translate Spanish to English, you are likely to find a less expensive Spanish translator in Latin America than in the United States.

A Cheaper Alternative to Translation Companies: Services from Freelance Translators

You can find freelance translators everywhere. Maybe ask the cute Argentinian in your dorm to help. Or maybe there’s a note posted offering this service at the library. But these days, a better answer is most likely in your hand. There are freelance marketplaces where you can instantly find translators and other writing services at competitive rates. Check out Upwork,, Fiverr. All allow you to scan and filter profiles, compare rates and rating, read reviews and review portfolios. You can engage directly, asking questions and negotiating a deal. Most platforms take their commission from the freelancer, so working this way won’t cost you more.

The downside? Freelancers are human, too. If they get sick, take a trip, or get bogged down in their own assignments, you are out of luck. One safety tip is to hire two translators, one to do the heavy lifting and another to check the work of the other, or to fill in should the other flake out. But again, two birds in the bush cost more than one in hand. You’ll pay for this insurance.

How much do translation services cost? It depends on the exact service(s) you need, the language pair, the urgency of your delivery, the experience and location of the translator or translation agency. But as a rule, freelancers will cost a half to a third the fee of agencies.

Welcome to the Machine:  Are Translation Tools and Apps Your Low-Cost Salvation?

There is a plethora of educational web tools out there. Many applications build in features that help your writing: spell-checkers, punctuation checkers, grammar checkers and synonym finders all built into Microsoft Word and other word processors. You also can find standalone writing improvement apps like Grammarly and Whitesmoke. There are style checkers to keep things short and simple (Hemingwayapp). There are plagiarism detectors aplenty.

Which are the best language translation apps for iphone, Android, PC or Mac? For most language pairs, you’ll find Google Translate unmatched, though for Asian translations you might want to check out Waygo. Most of these apps are free or nominally priced. But – here’s a big but – machines still are no match for skilled human linguists, and they are prone to embarrassing errors that can get you caught red-handed and red-faced. Teachers and professors are also aware of machine translation, and they may not be so understanding if they catch you using it.

Translation Apps for Travelers

The truth is that standalone translation gadgets don’t make much sense these days. After all, you already have a gadget that can do the job: your smartphone. Out of the box you have camera translation that uses augmented reality tech to superimpose a translation over the lettering of foreign signs and menus. Two-way voice translation replaces a simultaneous interpreter when you want to understand a foreign language lecture or charm that gorgeous exchange student down the hall with your (translated) wit and wisdom.

How Students Can Make Money, Not Spend It, on Translation

There are lots of ways to make money online, but making money online is easier if you’re fluently bilingual. You can earn money online either by signing up as a provider on one of those freelance platforms, or you can seek work with a translation company or language services agency (like the ones you were tempted to use when you needed to turn in that term paper).

Now you can be on the other end of the transaction, helping others in need. You can also offer hourly services offline, helping people in need on-campus, or visitors to your city. How much to charge per hour for translation services? One tip, applicable online or offline, is to charge a low rate till you establish your reputation and gather stellar reviews. Then gradually increase your rates as awareness of your linguistic talents spreads far and wide across the campus – and the world!