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  5. More context, please...


More context, please...

I just stumbled across this task (German): Translate: "Wann wird er erfolgen?", with the expected input of "When will he follow?". In any case, this is incorrect as "erfolgen" can only refer to events and never to a person. The basic problem is, that languages can't be translated word-by-word, in most cases not even phrase-by-phrase. Over the last few days, I tried to 'test out of' the basic German lessons with extreme difficulties even though as a native speaker I should have excelled easily. In most cases, this was due to translation inaccuracies such as the one above. The way I see it, there are two possible solutions to this problem. As even the shortest phrases can have a whole array of possible correct translations, it is either necessary to broaden the spectrum of accepted answers - or, and that is my solution of choice, to provide context. The phrases that should be translated need to be embedded into an example sentence. This way, the learner is directed to the specific meaning of a possible ambiguous word, the appropriate genus, number, tense or case. Additionally, the learner has examples of the situations this newly learned phrase can be used in. Adjusted to my case from above, this could be as follows: [ Translate the phrase in brackets {} into English: "Vor dem Theater. 'Ich habe die Zeit des Einlasses vergessen. {Wann wird er erfolgen?}'" - "In front of the theater. 'I forgot the time of admission. { - }'" ] With this bit of context, the learner can understand, why German "er" simply can't be translated with "he" in this case - even though as a single word this would be correct. It is also clear, why in this context "to follow" is the wrong verb. One correct solution would be "When will it take place?". And, best of all - this approach would not require much coding, as it doesn't change the mechanics, but only expands the "question strings"...

January 9, 2013
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