Looking for the ultimate English to Russian translation service?
In this article, I’ll review three translator apps that are most popular and free.
I’ll also give practical advice about machine translation (MT) pitfalls you want to avoid.
Contestant #1: Yandex Translate
Yandex is a Russian company similar to Google, providing services such as online search, maps, context ads, a cloud drive, and so on, mainly focused on Russian-speaking users.
With the Russian language at the core of its business, Yandex is presumably in a good position to provide machine translations from and into Russian, potentially even better than Google.
Translation is available as an online Russian translation service. You can also install an app called Yandex.Translate to use both as an online or offline translator.
Contestant #2: Google Translate
Given the global reach of Google, it’s probably the number one translation app.
Relying on Google’s massive computing resources and AI advancements, it has the power to provide good translations in a flash of a second.
Available both as an online translation service and a smartphone app, Google Translate.
Contestant #3: Reverso
Going beyond translation, Reverso offers tools for learning new words and understanding language nuances by providing examples of real-world usage of words.
But hypothetically, it should be less powerful than Yandex or Google, because it has just a fraction of their computing power.
Available both as an online translation service and a smartphone app, Reverso Translation Dictionary.
To give you an idea of what kind of quality you should expect from these Russian translator apps, I challenged them with several translations of various difficulty.
Sentence #1: “Free machine translation services have become better in the last five years”
Let’s evaluate translations for accuracy and readability on a scale from 1 to 10.
Accuracy: 10/10. Yandex handled the easiest sentence in the test test extremely well. Hey, I’m not even sure every human translator can do this well, judging by the average quality of translations I see.
Accuracy: 9/10. Google did well, too. Surprisingly, though, it omitted “machine,” which makes the translation ambiguous. “Free translator services” might mean both machine and human translators, whereas the original talks just about the former.
Readability: 9/10. Google’s rendering of “services” is slightly worse than the Yandex’s.
Note also that Google shows you a transliterated version of the text, which might also come in handy when you need transliteration.
Accuracy: 5/10. Reverso mistranslated the ambiguous word “free” as “свободные” (as in “free market”).
Readability: 5/10. “В последних пяти годах” doesn’t sound right. Coupled with the mistranslation, this has a major impact on readability.
What’s unique about Reverso is fuzzy matching your query with its translation memories. You get a list of “original plus translation” pairs that include parts of your query.
In this example, Reverso was able to match 3 to 4 words with TM entries. These suggestions give you ideas for improving the translation as well as help you learn languages, which is Reverso’s mission.
Sentence #2: “The System is considered a life-sustaining medical device and must be tracked per foreign regulatory agency regulations”
Yandex showed weird behavior. The entire sentence produced this gibberish:
It makes no sense whatsoever.
I played with this sentence a little bit and found that removing the word “regulations” results in a much better translation. It appears that Yandex Translate may withhold from using advanced MT technology such as neural networks, limiting the output to crude translations.
This is the better version I got:
Accuracy: 5/10. Pretty accurate overall. But a major mistranslation unfolded out of thin air: “life-sustaining” is translated as “vital,” shifting the focus from patients’ lives to the life of the device itself.
Readability: 9/10. The translation reads quite well and appears credible, disguising the mistranslation—a problem that plagues translators! A sentence might make perfect sense to you, while the original actually meant something completely different!
Accuracy: 8/10. Google is hands down better in terms of accuracy (well, anyone would be, with such a blooper from Yandex). But it omitted a word again! Now, “foreign” is missing.
Readability: 9/10. I only frowned at the wording “система… должна отслеживаться,” just as with the Yandex’s translation.
Accuracy: 3/10. It feels like Reverso didn’t even try this time. “Life-sustaining” is translated as a standalone noun incoherent with the rest of the text. “Foreign regulatory agency regulations” is rendered as “foreign regulations of a regulatory agency.”
Readability: 1/10. As if the accuracy issues weren’t enough, Reverso throws in a couple of grammar bloopers: “Считается… медицинское устройство” and “прослежено… за правила.”
Sentence #3: “Stimulator module can be turned off by setting the frequency of the selected stimulation channel with the lowest number to zero”
Now, let’s play with more specialized examples. For starters, I’ve picked this rather simple sentence with a little technical twist.
Accuracy: 5/10. Yandex messed up the last portion of the sentence, making it appear as if the lowest number is zero.
Readability: 8/10. Aside from this blunder, the translation reads well.
Accuracy: 10/10. Bravo! Again, Google did just as well as a professional Russian translator would.
Readability: 9/10. I’d only pick on “установив частоту… до нуля.” “на ноль” would sound better.
Accuracy: 5/10. “Stimulator” is left untranslated. Otherwise, the translation is more or less comprehensible. Still, you can already see that Reverso starts to lag behind the other two contestants.
Readability: 3/10. “Урегулирования частоты… к нолю” and “низким номером” don’t sound right.
Sentence #4: “25 subjects were exposed to the study drug as a single agent; 12 subjects received the drug as part of a combination or cross-over regimen; 13 subjects received blinded-therapy”
TechEmergence published a chart from Google that promises MT quality close to human translation. Let’s see how true this promise is for English to Russian translation. This sentence is packed with medical terms to put additional pressure on MT.
Accuracy: 10/10. No objections.
Readability: 8/10. “подвергались воздействию” and “слепую терапию” could use some improvement.
Accuracy: 9/10. The translation of “cross-over regimen” is questionable. It’s simply too literal to make sense.
Readability: 7/10. “в качестве одного агента” and ”часть комбинации” sound robotic. “Subjects” are translated inconsistently, making the reader raise their brow.
Accuracy: 1/10. Reverso failed miserably with this one: from translating “subject” as “topic” to rendering “blinded-therapy” as “with you blind therapy.”
Readability: 1/10. The translation feels like a classic MT blooper. Translators used to generate this type of translations just to make fun of MT back in the day.
Sentence #5: “With simultaneous bilateral knee surgery, release leg tourniquets ten minutes apart to lessen any lung insult that may occur”
This is a specialized sentence requiring deeper thought. It’s an example of critical communications explained by Preciso that professional translators are paid to translate.
As I worked on testing this sentence, I reviewed the result that Yandex had given me. But when I ran this sentence through Yandex again a few days later, it gave me gibberish instead of the first version:
It’s the second time when Yandex produces a translation that doesn’t make any sense. I’ll use the first version anyway:
Accuracy: 3/10. Yandex got all the three main challenges wrong.
“Bilateral knee surgery” is translated word-for-word, whereas the correct translation is “surgery on both knees.”
“Release leg tourniquets ten minutes apart” is completely mistranslated: “move the tourniquets away from each other for ten minutes,” whereas what’s meant is “releasing the tourniquet from one leg and taking 10 minutes before releasing the tourniquet from the other leg.”
“Finally”, “lung insult” is translated as “treating lungs with disrespect.”
Readability: 8/10. The sentence reads well, but it’s totally wrong. I’d rather have it backwards.
Accuracy: 3/10. Google didn’t go beyond word-for-word translation either, letting the ambiguous portions of text backfire.
Readability: 8/10. The same result as with the Yandex’s translation.
Accuracy: 1/10. Another useless translation from Reverso. It did no better than the other two contestants in terms of meaning.
Readability: 1/10. But from the style perspective, things are even worse. Take the unnecessary comma or clashing perfective and imperfective verbs (“выпустите… чтобы уменьшать”).
Sentence #6: “We all have an impact and a role in connecting people to work in ways that enrich their lives”
Now, let’s have the contestants tackle a more creative piece of text. This is the most difficult type of translation for machine translators, because they have a hard time going beyond the face value of words. According to thoughts on machine translation by Creative Words, marketing content should always be left to the inspiration of a translator.
Accuracy: 6/10. The main challenge here is the ambiguous part: “connecting people to work.” On the surface, it might be understood as “bringing people to work together,” whereas the author meant “assigning people to jobs.” Yandex went for the word-for-word translation, but in a “soft” way—you can still get a general idea of the author’s message—it’s something about helping people work.
Readability: 7/10. The translation reads well overall. The only major blooper is “свою жизнь.” It means “our lives ” instead of “their lives”. Another incoherence is a wrong preposition in “влияние… в объединении.”
Accuracy: 9/10. Google did better than Yandex, translating the “connecting people to work” part correctly.
Readability: 8/10. Unlike Yandex, Google got the “their lives” part correct. And the grammar incoherence (“влияние… в подключении” ) is still present.
Accuracy: 2/10. Not only did Reverso fail to handle the challenging piece correctly, but it produced a more vague sentence overall, too.
Readability: 2/10. Reverso exacerbated the grammar incoherence seen in the previous two translations: “воздействие… в соединении,” making it sound 100% robotic. Another stylistic blooper is “работать путями, которые обогащают.”
Sentence #7: an error in the source text
Finally, let’s see how these services tackle a sentence with an error. English texts can be imperfect, which is something a human Russian translator can spot easily. But what about machines?
I started by testing a simple sentence, “This medication is for tropical administration only.” “Tropical” should be “topical” here.
Both Yandex and Google corrected the error on the fly, i.e, without even asking me for help. Impressive! Turns out the intelligence behind these services is already able to spots tricky misspellings.
Our underdog, Reverso, failed to correct the error.
Let’s crank it up another notch and test an error less obvious to a machine translator:
“Lift the left side of the crate and only after it is in the air, lift the left side.”
Accuracy: 3/10. Not only did Yandex fail to correct the “left and left” error, but it also made a major mistranslation, assuming “it is in the air” refers to the entire crate. It appears that after you lift the left side, you need to wait until the entire crate is in the air. Which makes no sense.
Readability: 10/10. As we’ve seen before, Yandex is very good at producing readable translations for simple sentences.
Accuracy: 6/10. Although Google didn’t question the “left and left” error either, it understood that “it is in the air” refers to just the side, but not the entire crate, outperforming Yandex.
Readability: 10/10. Well done, Google.
Accuracy: 1/10. Another blooper from Reverso. “Lift” is mistranslated. “It” is incoherent with “crate.”
Readability: 1/10.Unnecessary comma. Different forms of the Russian verb for “lift,” whereas they should be identical.
Now, let’s compare performance between these three English to Russian language translator apps.
To calculate the final score, I used the formula below, assigning the importance factors of “2” to accuracy (more important) and “1” to readability.
((accuracy 1 + … + accuracy 7) × 2 + (readability 1 + … + readability 7) × 1) / 7
Yandex and Google came in very close. They got the same score for readability, but Google outperformed the competitor in the accuracy department.
That makes Google my go-to English to Russian translation app.
I also feel that Google Translate is the best app in terms of usability.
Be alert, however, to its aggressive interpretation of the original text that led to omitting important words in two sentences out of seven.
Both Google and Yandex might also display different translations in the app and in the browser. With two of the examples, Yandex provided a second version that was worse than the one I had got a few days before.
Our runner-up, Yandex, might display incomprehensible translations. But if you adjust the source text a little bit, the translation may get better. It appears that Yandex may a times display a raw version of a translation first, without letting the more powerful AI technology to step in.
With a score that’s three times less than the leader has, Reverso trailed well behind. Its quality of translation is below average. However, one good reason to still use this app to translate from English into Russian is usage examples it conveniently provides.
Note about human translation services
We’ve seen that MT works well for simple sentences and has a hard time with specialized terms, creative text, and non-standard situations like errors in the original.
So, if you need something translated on the fly in order to understand the gist or communicate in an informal situation, reverting to Google for translation is your best option. The overall value it provides for these scenarios might be higher compared to professional translators: whereas quality is comparable, Google is immediately available, lightning-fast, and free.
Yes, an experienced translator might produce a better translation, but it’ll take time and money. The reason I made might “bold” is that finding a translator who’s able to produce high quality consistently is difficult.
However, for content that’s not carved out for free English to Russian online translators, you need professional translation services as Semantix points out. Here’s why:
- Even one word translated inaccurately can change the entire meaning of a sentence. Machine translation is prone to such errors, because it can’t figure out nuances. It’s particular stumbling point is ambiguity. Imagine you need to translate a medical report for your child urgently—you just don’t want to take risks.
- Another reason to choose professional services over a translation app is readability. These apps have a hard time with creative texts, producing translations that may make sense, but sound so robotic that they can never help you meet the goals you pursue with this kind of texts. I’d never trust an app in the readability department for purposes such as marketing or securing new business.
- Also, if your text is in a format that an app can’t handle, such as a scanned PDF, you can engage a professional translator who will not only translate the actual text, but also re-create the original formatting.
- Remember that you have an option of having a translation produced by Google revised by a Russian-speaking proofreader to ensure its quality meets your expectations.