Immersion - What is the biggest waste of time?
This is a quick op-ed piece. It is geared toward translators from French to English but it could apply for any any language being translated into English.
I think one of the greatest wastes of time on Duolingo Immersion is people correcting each other on things like whether the US, English or French title of a book or movie should be used and whether quotes should be or not be around a title. And they are doing it in the context of a Wikipedia article that has no future. Focusing on this stuff is not about learning how to translate, or about learning to write a language clearly....it is simply pedantry. How do we get people past this silliness that only clutters up people's e-mail?
I think that, when an article is being translated from French to English, the working assumption is that it is intended for an English speaking audience. This is what happens in the real world. So when we are talking about books, movies, whatever, the French conventions should largely become irrelevant particularly if the subject matter has no particular French connection, other than the fact that the article originated in French.
Just a short while ago, I glanced at an article about a movie that was originally released in English under the name of "The [Whatever]" (trying to preserve some anonymity to avoid needlessly embarrassing someone). It turns out that the movie was released in France without the "Le" or "La" under the name "[Whatever]", and the French Wikipedia article starts off, naturally focusing on the French audience, by saying "[Whatever] (The [Whatever])" putting the French title first as the article was intended for a French audience and the original English title in parentheses.
The first translator very sensibly translated the first sentence by starting out "The [Whatever]...." as that was the name of the movie that was originally released to the English-speaking world, and ignored the French title.
Then, someone dutifully came in and "corrected" this to "[Whatever] (The [Whatever]).....", mimicking the original French, with a nice note that this is how the movie was released in a French-speaking country.
Now I ask you, does this make any sense? What percentage of the readership of an English Wikipedia article about a movie written in English really cares what the French title of the movie was ? There is just as much chance that you are interested in the Chinese title as you are the French title; in fact there is a better chance of that because there are more Chinese. You might care if you lived in France, but I suspect, if that is case, that there is a lot better chance that you are going to be reading an article about the movie that is written in French....like the original article that was translated. And if you are an English speaker who happens to live in France, you are much more likely to be reading the English Wikipedia article about an English movie than a translated version of a French article.
So my thinking is that the working assumption is that the translated piece is intended to be read by a native English speaker.....and that you should think about what your doing with that as your working assumption.
I am interested to hear other theories.
I agree. There are some words, titles, names etc. that are well-known across the world in their original language, and those should be untranslated, I think. Everything else should be converted to something readable in the target language. E.g., "escargot" in a menu context should remain "escargot". Not "snail". "La Vie en Rose" should not be converted to "The Life in Pink", in a movie context. "Madame Bovary" is not "Mrs. Bovary".
Once, on a vacation to France, my girlfriend and I were leaving a restaurant. The waiter comes running after us and asks us what the translation of "escargot" into English was, so we tell him it's "snail". Before we could stop him to tell him we use "escargot" for the food, he thanks us and runs back inside to tell another customer.
(I doubt the customer ordered it.)
I agree with you whole-heartedly. However, one of the notable exceptions to this is "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly", which was the English title of the original Italian "Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo".
Yup...sometimes the English title overtakes the original title, at least in the English-speaking world. Damn!....this translation stuff requires thought!
No worries, I definitely see where you're coming from and what you had in mind with the post, and if the accuracy of translation didn't matter I'd be with you, but DuoLingo wants dependable translations from the public, and that's one of the goals of the website, so therefore we do need to get caught up in the little details like this one when translating proper nouns, even though it isn't practicing translation persé (Note the word usage there).
There is a statement there that I am not convinced is correct. You say that "Duolingo wants dependable translations from the pubic, and that's one of the goals of the website..." Does it say that somewhere? I don't see a mission statement on my website? Maybe I am not looking in the right place. And if that is the case., is there any indication that they want dependable translations of French Wikipedia articles or anything else that is currently kicking around the Immersion section?
As far as I can see, the primary goal of Duolingo is to be a reasonably innovative platform for helping people learn the basics of a language. Maybe part of the ultimate business model is to be paid for translations that its worker bees translate, but that model is not yet in operation.
I see from the Duolingo Wikipedia article that, in 2013, Duolingo entered into a agreement with CNN and Buzzfeed to provide some translations for their international websites. But I have not seen any Buzzfeed or CNN articles in the "Immersion" section. Again, what makes us think that the Immersion section is anything more than a practice field, or even a proving-ground, for when Duolingo wants to actually do something serious with its translations?
In the meantime I think that folks are totally missing the point if they think that anyone cares whether these pieces ever arrive even near a pristine condition.
Why do I think this? Because if Duolingo was really serious about providing quality translation it would have a series of proctors or managers who are continuously monitoring what is going on in the world of Immersion. I don't see any.
Or, they would find pieces that are substantially completed and wrest them away from the general public and hand them over to a series of high-quality editors to finalize them for whoever wants/needs them. I don't see that either.
The point of my original point was fairly simple, that articles translated into English should be translated as if headed for an English-speaking audience. I think most of the people on this thread seem to agree with that, and maybe we can encourage others to think along that line as we encounter them in the process of translation.
The thread has, in various places, expanded to an examination of how you arrive at perfection in the translation section. Perhaps I invited that with the title of the post.
I will continue to say that I really don't care about perfection until Duolingo shows that it cares about it. Until that time I am perfectly happy with imperfection. Insisting on perfection more often than not undermines what I think should be the principal purposes of the current Immersion section....to help you, and others, figure out what a given text is trying to say and to help you, and others, figure out how to effectively communicate the content of that text to someone who who speaks a different language. Nothing more complicated than that.
When Duolingo needs perfection and comes up with a path to get there, I will worry about that.
Surely, before anyone pays Duolingo to translate something, they will want to see some proof or statistics of our accuracy. I am curious if Luis and the rest are gathering statistics of the accuracy of a Duolingo translation. I would imagine that that would take time. Now with the translation tiers, (I know a high tier and a low tier don't always correspond with one's language prowess), butI would imagine that makes it easier to gather more specific data. (It is late and I am bone tired. I hope this makes sense), but I wonder when we'll really start translating the web.
As a piggy back to your original post, I have down loaded a lot from fr.wikipedia.org that is already better or more complete on en.wikipedia.org. It is a little bit of a waste of time, but it was/is easier to translate things with which I am already familiar. It has helped increase my vocabulary.
EDIT: My biggest pet peeve is when someone changes a translation from big to large, or very to really, something trivial like that.
Part of what I understand you to be saying is exactly right. The instruments with which we work in immersion cannot assure quality. In fact, they are so poorly adapted to that goal, that already they are very noticeably adding to the frustration of translators, the more that quality is emphasized.
I believe that we can have it both ways.
Everyone could stop complaining about trivial changes. This will free the community to more boldly make editorial decisions based on matters like style and coherency, allowing words to be chosen in the interest of humor or power. Etc.
But to allow that to happen, people would need to stop commenting their changes with pseudo-expert notes about how this or that is more "correct", when that isn't what it really was about.
And by the way, no one should EVER vote down a translation just for being "wrong". A translator should be held back, not for participating, but for ruining participation for others: Spam, vandalism, personal attacks.
It would help too, if we could interact with individual sentences in a Discussion view; but I'm not advocating any more feature bloat. Something similar can be done with the tools we have, and primarily it has to do with more open collaboration focused on the goal of teaching and learning.
Without trying to upset you, I have to mention, that you are complaining about the pedantry in the first half of your post, while in the second half you are pedantic by yourself with the movie titles.
I think sometimes a little pedantry is necessary to produce a good result (While it obviously won't help you much in learing the language). I agree, that these things should not result in some edit war or downvotes, therefore it is necessary to have clear guidelines how to handle them.
So I didn't really get the point of your post. Is it about being less pedantic? Or is it about being more pedantic in the "right" direction?
Fair comment and questions. I tend to babble, but I do so with the hope of getting a conversation going.
My ultimate point (which folks are welcome to disagree with) is: When you translate an article into English, imagine that you are writing something for an English-speaking audience.
This then has some natural corollaries. One is, if the article has nothing to do with France (other than the fact that it was written in French), then the French terms and references in it (that were targeted for a French-speaking audience) are essentially irrelevant and should be trashed (an exception might be if the article notes that a term or word is derived from the French; then you have to think about how to present that to an English-speaking audience).
I am sure I do not always practice what I preach, but I consider myself anti-pedantry, at least in the context of re-translating French Wikipedia articles. I try to come up with rules and rationales to apply if I get the first crack at a sentence. I am going to try to convince others in the discussion fora that my approach makes sense. But, I am not going to try to impose those rules, by say reformatting a title, on others who have gotten to a sentence before me and applied a different set of rules. So, I guess the answer is that I am pedantic with myself, and I will try to encourage others to be pedantic with themselves, but I am trying not to act like a pedant when I stumble upon someone else's good faith effort.
Hopefully that was clearer.
I'm not even sure why I care, but I am ultimately trying to get folks to ask questions before they translate -- like who is speaking and to whom are they speaking -- and not just blindly translate words. This, it seems to me, is fundamental to translation, as it is to any communication. I'm babbling again.
I care, because I don't want to waste a lot of time on an article that is filled with computer-generated translations or reversions to translations that are obviously inferior. Luckily, this doesn't happen often, but it seems as if some articles attract this sort of thing more than others. The last thing I want is to get into an editing war, where someone automatically reverts to their translation no matter how valid and well-documented (including conciliatory comments) a new edit may be.
Thanks for the clarification! I agree with that.
It gets difficult when two people have profound reasons to do things in two different ways. Then something has to be decided and that should happen in the way it is written in the guidelines. If no guidelines exist, a guideline should be created (if some similar case is likely to happen again).
The only point I (probably) disagree with you is that if some guideline is agreed upon and some translation violates it, it should be ok to just edit it to fit the guidelines (Maybe with a link to them). The reason for that is, that such cases will happen quite frequently and nobody has enough time to always start a discussion first. Of course, just like everywhere else, each edit and discussion should be done in an appreciative and understanding way.
I agree that it makes sense to use the English title if the film was originally released in an English-speaking country. Including the French title in an English translation does not make much sense.
The unofficial guidelines say something about this, as well as the use of quotation marks for titles, but most people don't follow those guidelines. I try to do whatever prior translators for that article have done. The same goes for UK or US spellings, date formats, etc. I don't really care which standard is used, but there should be consistency or it looks careless and detracts from the overall quality of the finished product. If you're reading an article and in one sentence, you see "on 24 December 1995, the water level was 5 metres" and in the next sentence, you see "on January 1, 1996, it reached 7 meters" it just looks weird.
With consistency in mind, if someone has already begun work on an article, and they chose (for whatever reason) to include both the English and French titles, I would not go through and edit their work. Instead, I would conform with their model, or I'd find another article.
I realize that the translated articles will probably never been seen outside of DuoLingo, but people do spend time trying to come up with good translations, so while the finished product certainly doesn't need to be perfect, it shouldn't be a mess, either.
The problem is that while there are unofficial guidelines, they are often not observed, probably because many people don't know about them, or can't remember all of them, or assume that they remembered incorrectly when they see previous translators doing things that violate the guidelines. If DuoLingo could post the most basic guidelines right on the page, as part of the template for Immersion articles, that might help. They could also require the uploader to indicate whether US or UK standards are to be used, by checking a box when uploading, and then the appropriate flag would appear at the top of the page.
That would free up translators to argue about really important things. ;-)
All good points, but, as we also know, a lot of people flit around from article to article, from paragraph to paragraph, and from sentence to sentence, picking off "low-hanging fruit" (or maybe they just have a limited attention span - I know I do). I would think a lot of conventions, which, unless I am mistaken, often come down to British English vs. American English (if we agree on the point that the article should be directed at English speakers), could be based on which of the two has the greater vested interest or greater proximity. I'll give you Winston Churchill and Western Europe if you give me FDR and Latin America! Mmmmm....hungry for power! I suspect folks will disagree until eternity on whether neat and tidy is all that important -- you should see my house!
I often go from one article to another, for a variety of reasons, all of which seem valid to me, but might not seem valid to someone else. That's not really the point of my comment, since I don't see it as a negative thing.
I don't think we need to worry about translations becoming too "neat and tidy." Even if every translator is using the same conventions, the finished products usually lack a sense of cohesion, because as others have mentioned, you're dealing with different styles. That is inevitable when you do translation by committee.
My comment was my answer to the question "Immersion - What is the biggest waste of time?" If we can figure out a way to handle title translation, we ought to be able to figure out a way to achieve consistency in an article. Of course, it's possible that we can't resolve any of these issues, but we won't know unless we try.
So often, an article is virtually abandoned by the group less than a third of the way through- after which, if you like the subject, you can be on your own. You will rarely get upvoted, mind you, because no-one comes to visit except the odd rare and wonderful person, but you will have your way in terms of style,
I'm plugging away at a few of these. It is a little frustrating to do it without getting any upvotes for it, but it's good to know others are doing the same.
Hmmm...what about a semi-regular Abandoned Articles Rescue Thread in the forum?
I think that is an idea that can be toyed with. I posted on my own thread that I had finished an article, and a wonderful person who was following me took the time to go through it. Maybe we who enter where all hope has been abandoned could donate some of our lesson time to checking the articles of our friends. Even going through a couple of paragraphs and upvoting where appropriate would be of help. (and, Duck_man, thanks for the vulture analogy- I got my morning laugh.)
Well...it's not about recognition; it's that one ends up doing a lot of translation without making any progress toward the next tier. Which can be a little frustrating.
That's right. So yeah, it's slower to begin with, and if on top of that you're translating stuff everyone else has abandoned...
But this morning I'm going through and checking translations in some of the abandoned articles. So some other folks are getting upvotes, and maybe they'll be reminded that there are still a lot of incomplete articles out there...
All very true. There are a lot of half-eaten cadavers out there. I think you should change your handle to "hyena" or "vulture".
Love it - here's your lingot. Just hope Carolyn has the same sense of humour; I best give her one too, just in case : )
"unofficial guidelines" ??? Where? I usually just look at the Wikipedia guidelines for this type of thing. They are very specific about punctuation - but, of course, lack any reference to translation. I have also seen reference to a FAQ... hmmm, the great mysteries of life. Anyone have a link?
Thanks! That is exactly what I was looking for. Yes, I meant the real Wikipedia guidelines, but this covers more that is particular to Duolingo.
A problem for the consistency of a translation is that in Duolingo there are not only native speakers translating. I mostly translate from Italian to English and I have to say that I cannot place particular importance on details like a more British or American translation (I am just happy if I "guess" the right word order etc.).
Yes, I always read the discussion threat first but then I try to translate; I don't check all the writings of dates or weights and measurements, I don't control if "double" or 'single' quotes are used.... I only check the names and place names (mostly in the dictionary or in Wikipedia), the tense in which the article is written and the type of speech (slang or pompously...). I know that my translations are everything else than perfect, but I try to make them as good as I can; finally I only want to improve my English.
On my opinion a really good translation has to be from one single translator. The best is that after finishing the translation one single person reviews the whole article to bring it in a consistent form and that after this review the last translator can declare the translation to be finished. (Sometimes I wonder how often an old article can be viewed and reviewed).
Sandra - Thank you for your thoughts. I greatly admire people who are willing to take the risk to translate into a language that is not their native tongue. I am waiting for the day when I will be brave enough to try it. We English speakers are very spoiled as virtually all the world wants to learn English and accommodates us by resorting to our language as we travel around the world. On the other hand, I find that English speakers (at least Americans) are very receptive to foreigners trying to speak in English....probably because the English speakers do not have a chance of meeting them even close to halfway.
The issue of multiple levels of translation skill is a little tricky, but certainly manageable, provided everyone knows the "game" and shows the respect that everyone is due. From what you have said, it seems that you anticipate that your translation will and should be improved, and you welcome it, as it helps you learn. Hopefully people are doing so courteously. I, for one, try to leave plenty of notes, suggestions and footprints as to why I am doing what I am doing. Often it is clear that the last person on the translation was not a native English speaker so that is generally easy to deal with courteously. You are at that awkward level where your English is clearly very good and someone looking at your translation might or might not think English is your mother tongue. When faced with a situation like that, I always try and check the person's profile (and I hope others do) to see if I can get any information that will help guide me (as yours would). Sometimes there is no information on the profile and you have to take your best guess. Often you can make an educated one by noticing certain word choices that just don't sound right. That being said, I have probably annoyed some people by appearing incredibly condescending by detailing what I am doing, not realizing that English is their native tongue. As we say.....you win a few, you lose a few.
On the other side, I would hope that people who are not native English speakers would pay attention and recognize when they are out of their league. Unless you are very sure of yourself, it would be a bit silly, but not totally out of the question, for you to wade in and start correcting someone whose fluency level is clearly better than your own. And you may just annoy someone when they get an e-mailI showing your "corrections". Best to find some text that no one has already tackled or that has been tackled by someone who is clearly not a native English (which may be slightly harder for you to assess). However, there are plenty of situations where experienced English speakers make stupid mistakes or assumptions (or clearly have missed the point in the language that is being translated into English). I know I do it all the time. In those cases, step up and take a shot at it. You will get kicked back every once in a while, but you may surprise yourself. One thing I have learned from trying this for a while, you have to have a thick skin.
As far as the little specifics, like date formatting and quotes around titles, etc., I am not sure Duolingo is really the best place to learn those things. It is probably better to just go on-line and, for example, read English Wikipedia articles to learn how theses specifics work. You will get the feel for it pretty quickly.
Finally, I would give you the same advice that I suggested before, although it is even a bit harder for you. When you are translating an Italian article into English, try to believe that an English speaker is reading the article and wants to lean about the subject that is in the article, not necessarily about Italy. So, for example, if it is an article about Justin Bieber that you are translating into English, it would be hard to imagine that there should be anything in the finished product that even hints of Italy unless there is something about Justin Bieber and Italy that I don't know about (I confess I know nothing about Justin Bieber, and that is fine with me).
Sorry.....that was a lot.
Jonathan aka Duck_man
You are right that the translations have to be informative and comprehensive for the people they are written for. In the English to German immersion it was very interesting to see the development of a translation. Normally it starts with a very literally translation, then other people correct this translation until it's already close to perfection (so that it seems to be a word-for-word translation) and then finally others "passed by" and change it definitively in an readable, understandable, clear and fluid text in an appropriate style. And this is - in my opinion - a good translation.
It seems as if at first it has to be demonstrated that a literally translation was possible and that a more "free" translation was not an inability but a choice.
Sometimes I missed in the Italian to English Immersion this "breaking away" from the original sentences, obviously without taking anything away from its meaning. Maybe because the word order between Italian and English sentences has not to be changed in such a drastic way like from English to German.
I would consider a great advancement the possibility to comment without changing a sentence. So a native speaker - maybe not really fluent in English - can submit a comment without interfering in a translation. For me it's no problem to understand Italian or German and in many cases I also understand the English translation; BUT: there is a huge difference between seeing an error in a translation and correcting it.
Unfortunately, there is yet no possibility to comment a translation.
Commenting without translating is a SUPERB suggestion. There are many times I don't want to look petty, because what is said is "correct", but maybe it could be said a little better (And who would know better than me?!?!)
Sentence structure is a big issue on how well things evolve. I often find if I start translating in "interpretive dance" mode, the literalists swarm all over me, because they don't get what I am trying to do. I should have the self-confidence to just plod fearlessly onward, but I find myself sliding back and conforming more to the structure of the sentence. And this can be a huge problem in French, where there is a ton of passive voice, reflexive verbs, multiple pronouns, etc.
And don't get me started on French punctuation...yet. I have that in mind for an upcoming thread. Fortunately for you, you are interested in Italian.
I will say one thing, this thread is getting a whole lot more thoughtful commentary than I ever expected.
Agree wholeheartedly on adding the ability to comment without editing the translation. An alternative is to post a comment on the person's timeline, but that might seem weird to some.
And while we're on the subject, how weird is it that in the Proofread view--which is presumably where most people are going to be doing their translation checking & editing--there's no space for comment in the edit screen? If you want to leave a comment, you have to flip back to Translate view.
The biggest waste of time is any debate over which good-faith effort to learn and teach the language is the most annoying.
Complaining about behavior would be more valuable if it focused on behavior that is actually hurtful, like plagiarism, down vote abuse, vandalism, machine spamming, upvotes given without reading; or behavior that isn't helpful, like why out of any thousands of sentences translated only dozens are checked.
Even though we're not professionals, I like to use the code of ethics of the American Translators Association as a guide to what to do.
First on the list is to convey meaning between people and cultures faithfully, accurately, and impartially.
To me, that clearly implies that if the work has a well-known name in English, then that's what you use.
And if it hasn't, then it may as well be left in the original language. It's a pertinent question in connection with the article on zarzuela posted a month or so ago in Spanish immersion. Given that zarzuela is virtually unknown in the English speaking world, it seems irrelevant whether the titles of individual works are translated or not since the works themselves will be completely unfamiliar to the vast majority of English-speaking people. In the end I left them in the original Spanish.
Something of the same problem would arise in translating an article on, for example, Viennese operetta, as although a handful of works are well fairly known in the English-speaking world and have recognized English titles such as The Merry Widow, The Bat or The Gipsy Baron, the rest are very rarely, if ever, performed in the English-speaking world so a translation of their titles would leave the reader none the wiser.
Yup....though I haven't heard the definition of impartial means in this context. I hope it means "Apply the same set of criteria, whether you are translating from French to English or English to French". I would hope that a Frenchman would agree, although he is going to look at askance at being told what to do by some American group of translators (this all gets very metaphysical).
Of course, I'm still trying to see if there is buy-in on my original suggestion....that a translation into English should be considered intended for an English audience.
When I see an article on what looks/smells and tastes to me like Velcro (or velcro) that is being translated into English, I don't think we need to hear about the English equivalent of "bande autogrippante" (auto-gripping material ?) and "scratch", as the French allegedly affectionately call it (Frankly I suspect the French, except those whom the overlords can control, just call it velcro like everyone else. I am awaiting an honest Frenchman to tell me that "bande autogrippante" is as much alive in France as Napoleon). If you ask me, this Académie Francaise declaring what the language is from on high is downright un-American!!!!! Incidentally, folks may be interested in the following, which I just found (and therefore do not vouch for): http://weirdfrenchsayings.tumblr.com/
Stay on track, Duck_man.
Also note that this means that some parts of an article, which ramble on-and-on about what this subject matter "means" in French could/should really just be trashed. Although it is hard for people to resist the temptation to try and translate it. Often, when I come upon such a translation effort, I suggest adding "In France....." as a lead-in as that seems somewhat more courteous then telling them that what they are doing is senseless.
PS Don't go back and check the original of that article on "bande autogrippante", because I may have stumbled down this senseless path. I have since become enlightened.
PPS I hope the American Translators Association has no enforcement arm; I have enough problems with various authorities.
I think "impartial" means that you don't "fix" what you preceive to be factual errors in the document. Fixing typos is fine, but not much more than that.
As for your rule about assuming an English-speaking audience, I think that's necessary to meet the obligation to convey meaning. Your objections all seemed to be focused on cases where someone chose a "translation" that would be meaningless to the target audience.
What a wonderfully coherent and well thought out set of arguments. I doubt you could find any other website that 76 comments would not degenerate into a free for all bunch of one-liners of disparaging comments of each other's characters. The discussion may not have gone where you intended and your blood pressure was raised but it was a pleasure to read all the same. Wonder if we can come back in a few years and have the same discussion in French? Hope so, then DL really will have added some value to our lives.
Interesting that you chose movie titles. Some of the French movie titles do not translate word for word into English like so many here think they do. Often, once you learn more French (or have someone who is French living with you) you can see the nuances of the a French title over the English one and enjoy it more. Like they say, the a French have a way with words.
Absolutely, for French-language films. But I think Duck_man's point was about English-language movies whose title has been translated into French for the Wikipedia article.
Movies originally in French should definitely have the French title in parentheses in the English translation.
Nothing to add that has not already been said, except to note that it is gratifying to see so many people who care about what they are doing.
There was an article where one of the subheadings was the name of a theatrical company. Someone translated part of the name as if it had been a French word rather than a proper name. I corrected this, with the note that this was actually the name of the company.
A few days later, someone "corrected" this by shortening it to a single word. I'll never figure that one out. I fixed it and again posted the comment I had made before.
IMO, a lot of these pitfalls can be avoided if people stick to articles on subjects with which they have at least some familiarity. You don't have to be an expert, but it really helps if you know something--especially if you have a sense of the vocabulary of the subject (because every field has its own terminology). If you know what the original English-language movie title is (or where to look it up), or what a given legislative body is called, or how scoring works in a sport, you'll produce a better translation and (IMO) learn more from the experience.
(Steps off soapbox.)
You're right: it's frustrating as heck when people "correct" what was essentially correct in the first place. An example: the Spanish phrase was "mate de coca" which, though I explained - politely, I thought - that coca was not cacao (chocolate) and there was nothing about "hot" in the phrase, was changed back to "hot chocolate" a couple of times before I gave up, thinking that if people don't want to translate correctly that's their problem. And, yes, I have drunk mate de coca.
Sometimes people just don't know. They're relying on the hints, translation machines, dictionaries, and they are led astray.
My favorite example (forgive me if I've already bored you by telling it elsewhere) was in an article where I decided to stand my ground and demand that "tres" should be translated "four" - not because that's what "tres" means, but because that's how a phrase that counts "four words in English" comes out. I got several "wrong votes" for that, and I think I reverted it with comments somewhere around a dozen times. I hoped it could be taken in the helpful spirit it was intended, but evidently not everyone appreciated it.
However, I think it's a misplaced concern that you raise about somebody "correcting" something incorrectly; even if I sympathize with the feeling of annoyance.
Teaching is far more exhausting than learning. If they sold them in the Lingot store, I would buy you a badge to wear on your profile, to memorialize the teacher's war story about the battle for coca. Hopefully that would encourage more of this very necessary function of teaching, for which reward famously lags far behind the effort it demands.
Since I have no suitable honors that I can confer upon you, in recognition of your example of bravery and long-suffering in the struggle against darkness, I hereby present you with a handful of humble lingots.
Oh man, that is maddening. And yeah, this is exactly what I'm talking about.
That said, I do sometimes try to translate topics I know next to nothing about simply for the practice. To those, I've started adding a comment to the effect that I know there will be changes because I don't really know what's going on....And I don't like to discourage others' efforts so upvote anyone's translation if it seems to me it's more or less on the mark.
Yes it is frustrating, but I respectfully disagree (I might even disagree disrespectfully) with your suggestion that you should have priority over an article because you think you know more about the subject matter. This is a program that is intended to teach people things, including courtesy, not show off.
Putting aside the question of what makes them think they know more (I know lots of people who are "informed" badly, probably including me), it all sounds very elitist to me. As I continue to state, these translations are nothing more than a trip to the driving range, and everyone should be welcome, whether they whiff half the time or can hit it 350 yards. The trick is to learn to get out of each other's way while still respecting each other.
Half the fun for me is learning something about a topic that I knew nothing about. Better for people to just accept the fact that this is not a business or a machine, and no one should care that much. If you want to take it too seriously, pull out your wallet and pay for something that meets your specific needs.
While I started this thread and probably invited a remark like this, I also try to keep in mind that I am getting quite a bit for absolutely nothing.
Sorry (not really), but you struck a chord with that comment.
I'm a little taken aback at the vehemence of your response to a position I regard as essentially non-controversial. I'm also confused (and to all appearances, you may be as well) about what you actually think about these immersion exercises.
There's nothing elitist in the notion that for any given subject, some people are better informed than others. There's nothing elitist in the notion that context is essential to translation. Those are just acknowledgments of reality.
And I'm not suggesting that anyone (least of all myself) be set up as a judge of everyone's competence. What I'm suggesting is that individuals take into consideration their own interests and expertise. I'm saying if you have no interest whatsoever in baseball, and you aren't familiar with the terms "ball" or "strike" or "run", you might consider translating an article on another subject than baseball.
Nor am I saying anyone is better informed about everything; different people know different things. I know virtually nothing about most mainstream pop music (for example), so I stay away from those articles. Everyone knows something about something, so everyone should be able to find articles to translate that intersect with their knowledge base. (Not already on the Immersion page? Fine: upload something yourself.)
And sure, translating an article about a subject on which you aren't an expert can be a good way to learn something new. Two things, though: first, if it's something you know nothing about, then you aren't really going to learn much. People learn the most when they already have some foothold, some basic understanding, some information overlap with the subject.
And second, sure, translating something you don't know anything about can be an opportunity to learn something new...provided you take the trouble to learn something new. And that means reading outside the thing you're translating. It means looking up unfamiliar terms, and trying to understand the broader context of the article. When people are willing to do that, I say more power to them.
Finally, there's your oddly self-contradictory assertion that none of this matters. You use the metaphor of a driving range. I wouldn't golf if you put a gun to my head, but I think I understand what you mean. Except I don't. Because to me, practice has no value unless you try your hardest. You aren't developing your skills unless you try to produce the best possible outcome. And maybe golfers are an exception to this (I wouldn't know), but I suspect not--I suspect, in fact, that your own metaphor militates against your contention that, well, sloppy half-assed attempts are good enough. (Except, of course, where streak freezes are concerned, at which point you become a condemnatory hardass. But that's another story.)
Anyway, I don't think half-assed attempts are good enough, and I can't imagine that anyone would think that. I would expect everyone to welcome the challenge to translate these useless articles as if our very lives depended on it. Because that's how we learn.
I can understand where you are coming from in wanting people to make a serious attempt at translating on subjects that they have a grasp of. It makes sense just from an opportunity cost perspective: if I really want to learn something new it is much quicker and easier, and the outcome will be much more effective if I do this in my mother language. For this reason I try and stick to articles where I think I will have at least a reasonable grasp of the subject matter.
However, as someone who has only been studying French for 3 months even on subjects I know I will make plenty of errors, and for experienced translators this may appear as sloppy or half-assed when in fact it was the best I could do at the time with my limited knowledge. With ever more people joining DL I see this problem getting bigger, not smaller.
An additional point to this was that I started translating quite a bit trying to get off level I as I was getting negative votes (not a lot but some) for perfectly fine pieces of translation which was both annoying and frustrating, when it was pedantic items and in some cases for no reason. Since moving up to level II I haven't received a negative vote so the problem would appear to lie with new immersion users. However, my point is that receiving negative votes spurred me on to get off Level I and hence my activity increased in a shorter time frame than my skill level did. It also made me translate the easier sentences, "the low hanging fruit", as they were referred to earlier for fear of receiving negative votes and forever stuck on Level I.
I only add the last point so that more experienced translators might see the problem that new DL users on Level I are now experiencing.
Oh, I agree completely: at most of our levels, mine included, none of us is going to be translating perfectly. We're all going to make errors. My point was just that we should treat it seriously, and make the best effort we can. Which sounds like exactly what you're doing.
And I agree with your approach. Besides learning more about the subject in question, I think one can get a deeper understanding of the language by seeing how it operates in a familiar subject context.
If I try to translate an article on some video game I don't know, every sentence might as well be "La plume da ma tante est sur la table". I'm just translating random sentences that mean nothing to me--it's a formal exercise. If I translate an article on something I know intimately--the Sierra Nevada, say--then I'm actually comprehending what I read in a much more productive way--internalizing the language rather than merely doing drills (which, of course, are also essential).
ETA: Sorry to hear about the downvotes; I agree that first-tier translation behavior can be, um, let's just say erratic. For the record, I have yet to downvote anyone's translation. If I think a translation is wrong, I correct it (and usually leave an explanatory comment), but I don't think downvotes are all that helpful.
I value a translation being as good as it can be. This comes out of my first concern, which is to learn the language as a community.
People need to be welcome to do badly at trying to do their best. A translation that becomes excellent in that process is amazing. If we don't allow that, this community will have become nothing but a club for language snobs.
I'm not talking about not allowing anything. I'm saying people should actually try to do their best--in response to Duck_Man's comments to the effect that "no one should care that much".
I'm sorry that my comment came across as a criticism, TH. It's meant as an expression of my own anxiety about where the immersion program is going. There is a steady drift toward emphasis on the quality of the translation. There needs to be a warning, every once in a while (alright, I admit it's all I really care about), of the implications, if an environment is emerging in which inconsequential or non-improving "corrections" are being called vandalism, trolling, seagulling, and whoring, and down votes are professedly used to punish this (which you have not done).
In an environment like that, beginners and children are not welcome. My gibberish French, baby talk German, heavily accented Spanish and occasionally bizarre Dutch will never improve in that environment., because I will never have the courage to try translation INTO those tongues - which is what I really want to be doing. I already know English pretty well, but that's where the rising "quality" toxicity levels keep me confined, along with everyone else with confidence problems.
Mark: No worries, and I get what you're saying. I agree that we should all try not to scare away beginners. I think the emphasis on quality is important, but it also has to be understood as aspirational--with everyone striving for quality within their own limitations--and in the end, as something achieved through an iterative process.
I think beginners or non-native speakers have to come to it prepared to be corrected; I also think the people doing the correcting should be as helpful (leave comments!) and patient as possible. That's the way I see it working out ideally.
I think I see a path here that we might be able to agree on.
Here is what you said in your prior post:
"IMO, a lot of these pitfalls can be avoided if people stick to articles on subjects with which they have at least some familiarity. You don't have to be an expert, but it really helps if you know something--especially if you have a sense of the vocabulary of the subject (because every field has its own terminology)."
I still contend that that statement, on its face, is silly (and a bit offensive). There are lots of things I know nothing about (including diplomacy), and I should not be shy to try to translate sentences (after all, this is done sentence by sentence) on that topic, provided I do so courteously and within reason
So, let me suggest a rule of reason where your quote has some value.
If you know nothing about a topic, you are probably well advised to stick to sentences that have not yet been translated. Nobody cares if you stumble and bumble around, and someone coming along later who knows more about the topic will clean up your mess if there are special terms or the like.
But, if you know nothing about a topic, you may very well just annoy the hell out of a person if you come across a sentence that someone has already translated and go randomly changing the meanings of terms that you now nothing about. In that context, you should probably confine yourself to "clear errors", which does not involve hovering over a bunch of Duolingo suggestions and throwing on in.
A similar rule should apply if you are a non-native English speaker. In fact, I had a sidebar discussion yesterday with someone who was a non-native speaker and was interested in how they should approach the translations. What I suggested (I think) was:
If a sentence has not yet been translated, it is fair game....give it your best shot. If you have done so poorly, a native speaker is likely to come along after and you may learn something from the corrections they make (and hopefully they will do so courteously).
But, if a sentence has already been translated, correct it at your own peril. There is a wide range of skin thickness among the people working on the site and you may get a high, hard one thrown at you (going with the baseball analogy now) That being said, even relatively experienced translators (and from what I have seen translation tier does not always accurately reflect that) can make pretty glaring errors. I know I do. Again it is all about courtesy and common sense.
Also, I have made it a habit, if someone has done one of the most "annoying" of edits, like adding of removing quotes or changing a date format, or correcting an American English spelling to an British English spelling, to take a look at who made the change and see if they are totally new to translation from their profile...often they are. I then try to take the time to politely tell them how they might want to avoid pissing people off. I don't know if others take the time rather than just being pissed off and reflexively changing it back without even a note.
Does that make sense? I am not even going to get into golf, it's too painful a subject.
I clearly am spending way too much time on this site (and my wife agrees) because it is bringing out all my worst tendencies. Maybe the right thing for me to do is to stick to lighter fare in the fora. Also, my new rule is to put the computer away at 6 pm (I promise I won't look...I promise).
Finally, who is the cool looking guy in your photo? He looks Civil War vintage, but I can't place him.
Good eye--Civil War vintage is correct (but he's not actually a Civil War figure). It's William Henry Brewer, field leader for the California Geological Survey from 1860 to 1864. I have a sesquicentennial blog following his travels, through journal excerpts posted in real time +150 years: http://upanddowncalifornia.wordpress.com/.
I find it a little weird that anyone would take offense at what I said (disagree, sure, but offense? really?), but whatever. I do agree with you that anyone who is completely unfamiliar with a topic should avoid "correcting" any translations on that topic.
I have explained elsewhere why I think one actually learns a lot more by sticking to subjects with which one has some familiarity (not necessarily expertise, mind you--just some minimal knowledge); learning is always more effective when you can connect it to something you already know. I'll just add that this applies especially to newbies and non-native speakers: if you know something about a subject, that can partly make up for a lack of language proficiency, and give you more confidence in attempting a translation. So setting aside any question of translation quality, that would be my advice from the perspective of how best to learn from the immersion experience.
Anyway, you remain unpersuaded, just as I remain unpersuaded of the value of trying to translate something one knows nothing about. So be it. At least we do agree on the matter of corrections. (And I also agree with your primary point in the OP, about assuming an English-speaking audience.)
The blog looks fantastic. [Notice how I am artfully moving away to another topic]. I am particularly impressed with the "Start at the Beginning" link, which allows you to go in chronological time. I was SO disappointed that the NYT Disunion blog did not allow you to do that...I really wanted to go back to the beginning and pour through it (slowly). It was frustrating that it was so cumbersome to do so...another example of technology spoiling a great opportunity. I suspect that we will have many happy moments making "suggestions" to each other. I am definitely going to stick to more fluffy topics in the fora for a while.. I really don't need (nor do my wife and dogs need) my blood pressure to go up on Duolingo. Thanks for taking the time to contribute and care...we just seem to care a slightly different way. It is interesting to see how passionate people can get about some of the issues that are raised. I hope the folks at Duolingo will, at some point, tell us what they think they are doing, rather than making a bunch of people engage in a free-for-all that might turn them off before they really get started.
Thanks! It's been a really fun project. Part of the fun has been a whole series of road trips to obscure corners of the state to shoot photos for the blog. Been living in CA for 38 years, but I feel like I know it a whole lot better just in the last 3 years.
Duolingo does periodically answer questions about translations, and those answers have been compiled into a single "Unofficial Guidelines". But because it's unofficial there's no easy way to find it. I would like to see Duolingo make the guidelines official (tho I can understand their reluctance to formalize anything) and put a link right there on the Immersion page. I think it would be much less of a free-for-all in that case.
It annoys the heck out of me, too. It offends my pride, especially. But, being "pissed off" by minor edits really must stop.
I had hoped that the "share credit" box would finally fix it, but evidently it hasn't had the effect it should have. It hasn't resolved the annoyance I feel, either, unfortunately; but I recognize my pride at work.
If a follow-up edit is "also correct", please mark it that way, as "correct" - believe me, I know how hard it is to "reward" these petty alterations. If you make one of those edits, please always - of course! - share credit.
Agree completely, and when someone corrects me correctly...erm, you know what I mean...I always give it a thumbs-up. And I always share credit as well (because hey, even if they got it partly wrong, they still went to the trouble of making the initial translation attempt).
I also agree with that.. This happens to me everytime i translate an article, right after i translated one i decided to go and work on my lessons and then i got a notification that somebody edited my article. I checked it and saw that the person who edited my tranlsation got the same thing, I got all confused at the moment, either they finished translating right after me, or they were just copying for xp I think something should be done about this, it just gets pretty annoying. -about discussion- just like the movie titles, many people don't know a specific book, and some people write the titles but need to hover around the words.. that's not always going to give the way the actual title will be said in that language, many phrases will be in different orders and have to be said differently on other languages. TIP: if you don't know the book or movie, don't translate it!!
...or else look it up before you do. In fact, even when I know the original English title, I still go and check the IMDb to make sure I have it right.
The fact that this discussion has generated 77 comments so far (as of May 7), many of them very detailed and making valid points, says something about how people feel about Immersion. And of course this isn't the only discussion on the topic.
A common theme in many of the comments here and in other discussions about Immersion seems to get down to questions about the motive(s) of another translator. If you think a person made a translation or an edit in good faith, but for whatever reason got it wrong, you may view the translation or edit differently than if you think it was not done in good faith. (Notice I'm saying "may," since some might have the same response no matter what).
The problem is that we have no way of knowing, we can only guess. We might suspect that the person is not a native speaker of English, we might think that they are still new to Immersion, we might think that they are doing random junk translations or edits for the hell of it, we might have good reason to think they're using machine-generated translations to rack up some fast XPs, or we might think that they are simply nit-picking.
We might think any of these things, but we cannot know. Most of us probably want others to assume that our translations and edits were done in good faith, and not for some questionable motive, but how ready are we to assume the same about another translator who has just edited our own translation and made it worse? If our translation was down-voted in the process, we're even more likely to assume the worst about the translator.
I agree.with what Markmcopc wrote in one of his comments in this thread: "no one should EVER vote down a translation just for being 'wrong'. A translator should be held back, not for participating, but for ruining participation for others: Spam, vandalism, personal attacks." The three cases he mentioned reveal enough about the translator's motives that they should be reported as abuse. If it makes someone feel better to down-vote it too, go for it, though it's probably not necessary and could invite retaliation from someone whose motives are already in question.
To me, the down-vote is the nuclear option, and if it must be retained, at the very least the wording on the button should be more explicit. "Looks wrong" is too vague and innocuous.
Completely agree - down-vote button is a real trap for young players. When I first saw it - I thought I had to click "looks wrong" before I could begin editing!!! All I wanted to do was correct an incorrect plural adjective or something equally (un)importnant. Of course it needed correcting, but didn't deserve a down-vote. But I didn't realise that's what I had done. That was all before I found the "Guidelines" section.
The problem for me was that I ended up in Immersion from the link after a lesson. I was just launched straight into the article.
I am curious though about the % DL suggests. Apparently I can now read 96.3 % of all french articles! Really? They must write a lot of articles about Bonjour and Merci : )
My take on immersion is that the reward structure is built around producing the correct translation - but that the correct translation is determined by the crowd. Having some sort of widely posted guidelines like tattafrat mentions here may help with that. Being the internet, there will always be the contrarians and they will have some influence but it's hard to come to a consensus that way.
Or maybe just starting with every sentence already translated by duobot? For the little phrases it is Good Enough and may free up people to focus more on the article and less on those little details.
There are unofficial guidelines, which collect answers by Duolingo staff to questions in the forum: http://duolingo.wikia.com/wiki/Immersion_Community_Guidelines_(Unofficial). It's well worth a look, but as it's unofficial it isn't widely publicized.
I came across a similar thing in the article on Hard Rock. It's not really relevant whether or not Wiki is a good source. What is relevant is the language of the reader. It makes no sense to translate the title and then to put in parenthesis the English version if they are both the same. It could be translated clearly either by leaving the original title in French and putting the English version in parenthesis or as the translator did, just starting the sentence "The [whatever]....." But it's best just to change it back with an explanation. We all learn as we go.
I think you are right that whether it is a Wiki piece or not is probably a red herring on this specific issue. The real issue is whether you can get yourself in a mind set that you are writing for an English-speaking audience. I pick on Wiki translations because I find it very comical that people think they are gospel and have to be "correct" even though the original article could be different tomorrow and even though we know full well that the translation is not being used for anything. As I once put it....this is essentially the equivalent of all of us hitting buckets of balls at the driving range. We should try and stay out of each other's way, but be willing to give helpful advice on how to improve someone else's swing if we see some fundamental flaws. The stakes may ultimately be different if Duolingo gets seriously into crowd-sourcing translations that are actually used for something.
I agree with you that articles should be translated as if they were written for an English-speaking audience. Therefore, keeping the French title of a film released in English doesn't make sense, but keeping the original title of a French film surely does! Particularly, I am annoyed by translators who replace French titles with English translations for works and institutions that do not even have an official English title. That serves no purpose and obscures what the article is talking about. (English Wikipedia articles always at least mention the original title for French works.) Well, I am sure everyone of us can think of something that annoys us.
Once we are discussing these kinds of details and start writing down what we have agreed on, we quickly find ourselves with an awful lot of rules, like the ICG, all of which perfectly make sense individually but might collectively seem pedantic. We certainly should not forget we are here for the learning and the fun.
Yet, I do enjoy proofreading an article and making sure everything is consistent. The point is that even if I know the article is never going to be uploaded, I translate as if that were going to happen. In fact, when I first found out that people are uploading articles that do not need translation, or that are actually translations of English-language articles, I was taken aback. There is a long list of French-language articles that actually need translation.
Edited: How ironic, bad formatting in a paragraph on proofreading :)
I absolutely agree on French titles of French movies, books, works or art, whatever. I think the French title should be given first and, if appropriate, an English translation. Occasionally, there is English translation that has become part of the vernacular (struggling to think of one). And thank you for the heads-up and link to the articles that need actually need translation on French. Of course, who knows if what we do with them will ever make it back there.
I suppose it depends on how much one wants to mimic the state of the English Wikipedia when translating other wiki articles into English. For instance, the English Wiki page for Kieslowski's Trois Couleurs: Rouge is headed as Three Colors: Red. This might be an example where either instance is acceptable.
Good example. Either should be acceptable and you would hope that someone coming upon a previous translator's used of one or the other could resist the urge to correct it. Another example might be Stendahl's "Le Rouge et le Noir" (The Red and the Black). The English equivalent is commonly used. PS. You just saw my preference for putting quotes around titles....but I try to restrain myself from correcting it if I come upon a title without quotes. Another hot button issue that we could talk about all day, particularly since Duolingo does not accommodate italics or underlining (maybe some day).
Sorry! I was just a little lazy...! Regardless of Duolingo's capabilities, do you consider the italicization of titles to be equally legitimate? That's typically the way I see it on the internet; so maybe we could try to get it fixed?
First off, please understand that that was not intended to be a shot at the formatting in your post. I knew exactly what you were referring to. Second, understand that I do not proclaim to be an expert on these matters, although I do have a subscription to the Chicago Manual of Style, probably the premier US resource on these "weighty" topics (that is a bit like saying "But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night", a joke you may or may not get depending on whether you watch TV in the US). Finally, in answer to your question --- yes, I think italics would be great. I suspect though that issues such as these coming from the "Immersion" (a term I am amused by) community are not high priorities for the Duolingo powers-that-be, as our numbers are no doubt overwhelmed by the folks who are going through the lesson programs. We can always hope, though.
This is more complicated than a simple statement of philosophy. I agree that the essence of good translation is to get at the meaning and intent of the original work and that that may mean using different words or phrases than the original, often very different phrases. However, at the same time that is the task of the experienced translator, not the beginner. If the beginner attempts to get the gist of a passage, they may come close if the passage is straight forward, but be wildly off when compound complex sentences are used.
I do translate often, although not usually in French. To translate a simple phrase like "Would you get the phone?" can take a paragraph of explanation before the correct everyday phrase comes out of the other language.
The process of translating as a collective is fascinating. There are beautifully poetic translators in this group, but amazingly good, strong translations seem to emerge from beginners. The corrections made can be wildly wrong, but more often they improve, and while improving, teach.
I try very hard (but don't always succeed) not to look at what "tier" the translator is on, and just focus on the translation. Some people come on this site to refresh a language and may have a great deal of experience with it before they enter immersion for the first time.
Here's a nice guide to translating principles. I suppose there might be standard manuals? http://www.thenewsmanual.net/Manuals%20Volume%201/volume1_13.htm
I know a few perfectionists around that i hate for doing that. I agree, it doesn't have any affect to the real translations.
Search the web if the title is already translated then use the translation, else translate it? Adding original tittle is helpful for people who want to find the original source. Most important, do it this way or another, just let us be consistent. Maybe we can put on some different forms and just vote. I don't search perfection, democracy is good enough
My suggestion: "ORIGINAL" (transl. "TRANSLATION")
I both agree and disagree on this but I think it's an interesting point to raise. My response includes some thoughts I've had on details in translation as well.
If a person's goal is rapid vocabulary acquisition and exposure to as much grammar in situ as possible I think that focusing on these things is absolutely a waste of time. (I would add that he or she should also consider reading things OFF duo lingo as well such as books and newspaper articles which do not have the little hover over the word translation in the interest of accepting that we are not going to understand every word and real immersion is less clear cut than duolingo immersion.)
On the other hand, the effort of group translation means that we get to see multiple translations and make our own take whether it favors the poetic, literal, technical or whatever other flavor of translation one might like. Putting these together makes for interesting experiences and sometimes unexpected translations. Picking at the details also can make for an exercise in greater accuracy and really slowing down to pick up the different tones of the language. I worked on a translation of Candide mostly with one other learner last year and it was really enlightening to see the way each of us had a different take on the translation. It was also helpful to make distinctions about which terms should be translated and which should remain in French, which expressions had made it over to English and which should be translated for clarity. This is probably an approach better suited to intermediate advanced to advanced learners though.
When it comes to movie titles, I give kudos to those that look up the proper target language title. Nobody has to do it of course - but it means that whoever finally reads the translated article - someone who might not know what the original language was - has a chance of finding the movie or book in question instead of relying on a title which is vague. As an example, if I were to look for "Angels Over Berlin" it is a far cry from "Wings of Desire". This is going to be a bigger issue as languages using other writing systems come into use on duo and a google search may not be so easy. An article on some of my favorite Russian writers rendered literally would make it tough to find some of the works.
I think I'd say if it helps you to be exacting, do it. If it doesn't help you, let somebody else do it it might be helpful for them.