Beyond Basic Google: Search Tricks for Every Linguist’s Toolbox

Last Updated November 28, 2013

11 essential search tricks and resources we uncovered for translation and localization professionals.

Remember writing school papers and your only references were books that borrowed from the library and the encyclopedia you had at home?

No Internet, no search engines and certainly no clever search tricks. Knowledge sources were limited to teachers, parents or friends. If you knew something, you were considered a smart person, if you didn’t… you know the rest.

Today the question of being stupid or smart is not so much about what you know at the particular moment, but rather the ability to find the information you need and decide if it’s correct or not. Practically the whole ocean of knowledge is available for those who know where to look and how to apply the right search tricks.

The ability to search effectively is a skill that everyone should have. And since we work in the localization industry, we find the ability to find references and apply smart search tricks extra important – it’s a skill we consider a must for translators and quality assurance testers.

After all, we can’t know everything, no matter how good we are. But, you should be able to find almost anything online, or at least get a hint about where to look for more information.

So where can you look for additional references, as a linguist?  Here are some of our favorite search tricks and shortcuts:

11 Search Tricks for Every Linguist’s Toolbox

1. Microsoft Language Portal

All of Microsoft’s translations are available to the public. You can find a translation for any term that has been used with any Microsoft product.

Not a bad idea when you think about it: They want to make sure their terms become standard computer terminology and across countries.


Having a proprietary translation portal is not that uncommon, actually. Check out the European parliament’s list of terms or Intel’s guidelines for translating their trademark names.

2. Localized versions of a company’s site

If you’re translating content for a specific company, see if they already have a localized version of their website. There you can find lots of nice surprises, such as already translated product names, slogans, and more.

Of course, you can’t assume that all of the translations are perfect.  A company may have hired their own “linguist” – e.g. their accountant’s wife who came from France 15 years ago. That kind of situation is pretty common, especially in Canada, so it’s worth keeping a critical eye.

3. Look for specific terms on specific sites

Are you not sure if your client prefers to use term Y or term X? You can decide which to use by searching their website for these specific terms.

For example, if you want to see all Intel pages with the word “stacja”, go to google and search for > stacja.

An even more sophisticated search trick is to search only for pages in a specific language.

4. Check the popularity of terms

Seeing how many people use a specific term online is a valid indicator of how accepted it is. If you get 5 million results as opposed to 10 when you search for a term, you can be assured you can’t go wrong by using it. One word of caution: The amount of content available in foreign languages may be significantly different. While it’s not uncommon to get millions of results for English or Chinese terms, you can’t expect the same number of results for Bulgarian terms, as they only have 6 million people. This method works best for comparing the popularity of different terms in one language.

A simple example: Google users slightly prefer “sofa” to “couch”; “chesterfield” comes in a distant third.

5.  Use quotation marks for multi-word searches

Are you looking for a term what has more than one word? Enter it in quotation marks, otherwise you will get any page that contains these words, but not necessarily next to each other.

6. Look up English terms

This is one of the more basic search tricks. So basic we hesitated to include it, but if it’s beneficial for even one person, it’s worth mentioning.

Here is a list of ways to search for English terms:

  • XZXX definition – For example enter to the search engine “malfunction definition” and you will receive a number of pages that explain the definition, but the first result might be good enough that you don’t have to look further.

  • VS – use vs for looking up alternatives.

  • What is/how to – use the “what is/how to” phrase to find an answer you are looking for

7. Get friendly with advanced operators

Lifehacker has rounded up a few more search tricks for looking up specific terms on sites.

For example, using the word AROUND will let you to search for terms that are close to each other.

8. Narrow your search results

If your search results come back mainly from one site and you’d like to exclude that site from further search, simply use “-site:URL”.

For example, you would like to search for all pages that use the word Microsoft, but you would like to exclude Microsoft pages, search for > microsoft

9. Find archived websites

If you want to look at old websites that are no longer available, use the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to access web content from a given point in the past.

It’s quite a neat service if you’re trying to find content you remember seeing that seems to have disappeared.

How can we forget about the turquoise Mac?

10. Taus

This is a collaborative project of several multinational corporations with the aim to exchange their translation resources.

A little bit of advanced search knowledge can really add to your efficiency as a linguist.

11. Google images 

Once you search for a term on google images, you will be able to see what the association of this term with various images on the Internet.

This is our complete list of Google Search Tricks.

Summa Linguae specializes in technology-enabled translation and localization solutions.

We combine the best of what human intelligence and machine learning have to offer to bring your business to more people around the world—quickly, efficiently, and affordably.

Contact us to learn more about our language solutions.

Related Posts

Summa Linguae uses cookies to allow us to better understand how the site is used. By continuing to use this site, you consent to this policy.

Learn More