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https://www.duolingo.com/danjvine

Literal translation versus translating into English

danjvine
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My understanding of translation is that one tries as far as possible to translate the text into something approximating standard English but I have found several times that my attempts to do that on this site have been translated by others into a more tortured English that closely follows the original Spanish syntax.

Is it me who is misunderstanding what we trying to do when we translate a real life passage on this site? I am reluctant to get into a tit-for-tat series of changes if my approach is based on a misunderstanding.

Dan

4 years ago

16 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/paddjon

You're quite correct, the guidelines say that we should translate into natural English, but all attempts to do so are thwarted by those who expect and demand a word for word translation. (You only have to read the comments on the sentences in the tree to realise just how many users insist that there must be an exact correspondence between English and Spanish grammar and vocabulary). It's understandable that beginners' translations may be too literal, but there's no excuse for vandalising the work of more experienced users.

The trick is to find near natural English close enough to a literal translation to satisfy the less flexible. I'm learning to walk away from tit-for-tats and allow others to sort them out. But, if DL wants a decent standard of translation, they will eventually have to find a solution to this problem. My own suggestion is that newcomers should be denied access to Immersion until they can unlock it by translating a summary of the guidelines.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CuriousAtanaa

I like your guideline idea

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kassandra8286
kassandra8286
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"The trick is to find near natural English close enough to a literal translation to satisfy the less flexible." That's a great way to put it, and I totally agree. The liberties taken by professionals when translating texts would never fly here at Duolingo. For example, many Spanish articles uploaded to Immersion are themselves translations of English articles. Try using one of the original English sentences as your "translation", and see how long it lasts before the literal-minded folks revise it. (Not that I would do that, I actually stay away from those articles, but I have been kind of tempted.)

I am much more bold than I used to be with non-literal translations, but to avoid ruffling feathers (and downvotes) I mostly stick to unpopular articles or paragraphs near the end of long articles where very few venture.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/paddjon

I do the same, kassandra. But now I think about it, users at different levels shouldn't really be tripping over each that much. Beginners should be on the 'easy' articles and everyone else should be on the 'medium' and 'harder' articles. Except, of course, when the more community spirited intermediate and advanced users drop into the easy articles to up-vote, correct and encourage the beginners. I'm sure none of them would think of translating great chunks of beginner level text, just as a quick and easy way to earn points ;-)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PatriciaJH
PatriciaJH
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That's a great idea, but how on earth are the difficulty levels set? All of Grimm's Tales are rated "easy," despite being complex archaic colloquial language with some really strange imagery and regionalisms. And these beginners hit them and try to make them just like Disney.

I'd love to have a go at some of them with some more experienced translators, because the language is terrific, but the first sentence with dative in it winds up with 85 versions because other newcomer gets it wrong.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/BarbaraMorris
BarbaraMorris
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Cool idea about translating a summary of the guidelines!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
Mod
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Natural translation is preferred over literal translation. However, many people who use Immersion are at various stages of learning and many have never translated before and have never considered these kinds of questions. And unfortunately, some of us grew up in education systems that penalized risk taking, which compounds the problem..

If you would like to, please help spread the word about the Immersion Community Guidelines. Here's a link: http://duolingo.wikia.com/wiki/Immersion_Community_Guidelines_(Unofficial)

Thanks ^_^

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Salxandra
Salxandra
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Yes, a natural English translation is better than a literal translation.

I have to disagree that it's all beginners. There are beginners who recognize the difference between a literal translation and standard English. Also, I think there may be some native Spanish speakers who are taking the reverse course who are translating who lack English skill.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PatriciaJH
PatriciaJH
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Yes, and there are also a lot of non-native English speakers taking German. I try to give them a lot of help in the comments -- and I find that their translations are often helpful, even if the English is poor. They never seem to mind having someone come along and fix the English -- indeed, I find if I comment about the English grammar, I get lingots....

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/dibdin
dibdin
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If I correct a first attempt i leave a comment unless it's obvious what the correction was. If this gets reverted without a comment i will respond with a comment to justify my version. If this gets reverted again without a comment I leave it -- there's nothing to be gained by continuing.

I just wish there was an easy way to link the sentence in question to be able to comment on their stream. That is, to take the discussion off line.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PatriciaJH
PatriciaJH
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My experience is that comments can pay off splendidly.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/dibdin
dibdin
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For sure, but it would be easier if the sentence in question could be referenced so that the recipient didn't have to hunt for it in the article.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PatriciaJH
PatriciaJH
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Agreed -- I like it a lot when Duo takes me straight to the sentence that someone else has edited. It may come, though I bet it's low on the priority list.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/REXWALKER
REXWALKER
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I agree with everything posted so far, go for natural English every time. If corrected I try to learn from improvements to my efforts, but most times I just ignore literal corrections, even if I disagree with them, because life is too short. I enjoy duolingo but find it a strange website in that it tries to cater for complete beginners and experienced translators, all of whom are rewarded by a strange variety of rewards. I have stopped worrying about points as such, and about 'levelling up', I now just try and move up the translator levels, which I think is a truer reflection of ability. And I think by the time you are at level 3 or 4 most people understand the point about not translating literally. Good luck and keep up the good work.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CuriousAtanaa

I think your understanding is correct. However there are many beginners on the site so try to be patient!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Adn264109

When will there be an answer from Duo Lingo on this subject? I would like to see restricted access to complex articles to beginners and an implementation of more experienced linguists encouraging and teaching less experienced ones like myself.

2 years ago