A few of us at Durham were chatting about the challenges of reading German (and French) literature and shared some websites with each other that have been helpful as resources and references. Now, please let me make this caveat: I do not advocate using online computer translators to replace learning German for your thesis work; rather, our discussion was about getting help for ‘tricky’ portions of a translation or for re-rechecking your translation for accuracy.
I will list some resources we discussed, and I hope you will comment with ones that have aided you. Now, there are dozens (perhaps hundreds) of German-learning resources – please comment with only the ones you have found that have been very helpful (and free!).
There is somewhat of an online student consensus (of learners from many fields) that LEO is the very best for a number of reasons. It offers audio-links to pronunciation of any given word; it also links to a full conjugation of any given verb.
I have used BEOLINGUS as well, but I am not extremely satisfied with it; if you have a verbal form that is quite different from the lexical one, it is not of much help.
Once again, the most well known is BABEL FISH by Altavista. You simply type in the section of a translation (preferably enough that the program gets an idea of syntax and word order), and it generates a rough translation. But, beware, it is not well-schooled in theology!
A different site that does much of the same is www.freetranslation.com. I think that it runs a bit more smoothly.
Sooner or later you will need to learn to German Keyboard (if only to quickly produce letters with the umlaut). I found a graphic of the layout HERE. It has been a great help to me.
When it comes to French, online sites are just as plentiful, but I will only mention one – www.wordreference.com/fren. You can go to Babel Fish for a translator, but ‘wordreference’ is a dictionary. The advantage is that it has ‘forums’ where you can find a discussion of idioms or common phrases that you may trip up on. It has benefited me greatly.
For Latin, especially Ecclesiastical Latin, see Notre Dame’s basic online lexicon.
Once again, if others out there are excited about a certain German (or French) site, please share.