1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Duolingo
  4. >
  5. When translating...


When translating...

Are we to do it word for word, or thought for thought... or both?

June 27, 2012



Not word for word. It should flow naturally in English. What you should strive for is a sentence that sounds like it was originally written in English, not translated.


If word-for-word translations were good enough for the people who are buying Duolingo's translation services, then a machine would be all that is needed. Duolingo offers us language lessons for free, in exchange for the use of our brains, which potentially do a much better job than a machine, producing translations that, in csi's words, sound like they were originally written in English.

It is very difficult for non-native English speakers to produce good translations into English; I've seen some god-awful translations on this site.

Christian and jackelliot's poetry is all very well, but the problem we as translators face, is that the meaning we are looking for is in the individual words, and in the grammar of their arrangement.

I find knowing the context of the text I am translating is often useful. I often use Google or Wikipedia to find out more. In the process I have learned a lot, about politics, history, etymology, all sorts of stuff.

http://dict.leo.org is a German-English dictionary I use a lot, just for finding out the different meanings of words; it also often has some common phrases which use the word in question, and/or tells a bit about the usage of the word. http://www.linguee.de/deutsch-englisch is a good one for finding idiomatic translations of phrases; put the phrase in quotation marks "..." and it will find the whole phrase.

[deactivated user]

    I absolutely agree with csi. If a translation sounds odd in your native language, then there's something wrong with it. The trick is to translate meaning, not grammar or words.


    yes, I agree.

    It does help to know the meaning of the words and perhaps a wee bit of grammar.

    I think that the trick is to feel a sense of meaning.

    Something from the heart, which can convey the gist of it all.

    Sometimes a sentence could be reduced to a word and maintian the meaning.

    English is my native language though it is Polish which is my main language.

    I have to strongly agree with Christian that "if translation sounds odd in your native language, then there is something wrong with it.

    Thanks Christian I could not have put it better

    all the best


    [deactivated user]

      Just a word of warning about leo.org. Their database contains a lot of user-generated content and there's no professional editorial control. I've seen quite a lot of translations on leo.org that are flat-out wrong. It's still a great resource, but I usually only go there if I can't find what I'm looking for elsewhere.


      I am quite jealous and would dream to have your ability and access to all your tools

      all the best



      Thanks for the warning about leo.org!

      Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.