1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Scottish Gaelic
  4. >
  5. Duolingo vs Google Translate


Duolingo vs Google Translate

I've noticed some words are spelled very differently between Duolingo and Google Translate. Now I'm aware that Google Translate is rather limited in it's Gàidhlig translation and is often wrong with sentences but I thought it would at least translate the spelling of single words right.

For instance 'America'

Duolingo spells it 'Aimearaga'

Google translate spells it 'Ameireagaidh'

Which one is truly correct, or are both correct?

February 12, 2020



Use this dictionary instead. https://www.faclair.com


Don't trust Google Translate it's sketchy


Although I use Google translate, I wouldn't trust it as far as I could throw it. It will also hand you inflected grammatical forms instead of the nominative. It can be handy for a quick check, but if it what it comes up with doesn't look like what's on Duolingo, I move on smartly.


One thing I'm curious about though is the word "fear", which I have seen on Google and also in a cartoon "teach yourself Gaelic" book I've had for about 20 years but never read until I glanced at it the other day.

Duolingo tells us that the word for "man" is "duine", plural "daoine", and it is the same word for "people". And "my husband" is "an duine agam". This is what I remember learning from a much older teach yourself Gaelic book which I did read a bit of over fifty years ago. But.

This rather frivolous book agrees that "woman" is "boireannach" and "boy" is "balach". So far so good. But then in the same table it tells us that "girl" is "nighean" (which Duolingo tells us is "daughter"), and "man" is "fear". I've also seen "fear" come up on Google translate. "Duine", according to this book, is exclusively "person".

Then, some pages further on, we have "wife" being translated as "bean", again so far so good, but then alongside that "husband" is again "fear".

Now I get that there are different usages sometimes. I can cope with rothair and baidhsagal for example. But this seems fairly fundamental and I'm eagerly awaiting the explanation from someone who actually knows what this is all about.


duine and fear are pretty interchangeable except that duine also means "person" and fear also means "one". And by "one" I don't mean the number. I mean "one" in the sense of "I have another one".

Tha duine agam and tha fear agam both mean I have a husband.


Thanks. Still a bit confusing mind. I wish all this was explained as a whole in one place, rather than different resources giving different versions.

ETA: I was wondering if this had something to do with "fheàrr" but maybe not and now I'm all confused again.


I also tried to relearn Gàidhlig when I was a teenager, a wee bit more than 20 years ago (well maybe 50) in my case, and I also noticed some changes in the Duolingo course. Apparently there is a new number system which isn't completely covered yet but mentioned in the tips. It's perfectly understandable. I also noticed some changes from the French I was taught at school.


Another oddity I came across the other day relates to "Tha an t-eagal orm."

This was introduced in a Can Seo episode in the context of mild regret. A customer asked a waiter for a cup ot tea, and the waiter replied, "Chan eil mi tì agam." Then, rather than follow it with "Tha mi duilich," he said "Tha eagal orm." The presenter explained that this meant "I'm afraid," but she said it wasn't usually used in the sense of actual fear, but in that alternative sense which is also there in English of mild regret.

In contrast the Duolingo course presents "Tha an t-eagal orm" rather than "Tha eagal orm", and quite specifically translates it as "I am scared", which eliminates the mild regret meaning and definitely points to an expression of actual fear. They accept "I am frightened" as a translation.

So, do we have a situation where the presence or absence of the definite article changes the meaning? "Tha eagal orm" - Fear is on me - I'm afraid (expression of mild regret), in contrast to "Tha an t-eagal orm" - The fear is on me - I'm frightened (actual expression of fear)?

Or is there a different explanation for this discrepancy?


I believe this is a classic example of a "calque" which is what happens when people put Gàidlig words directly ino english constuctions. The worst i ever heard was "Rinn mi m' inntinn suas" for "I made my mind up" instead of "Chuir mi romham". Problem is that if enough people do this, often enough then the language gets degraded.......


I'd wager 'rinn mi m' inntinn suas' is a dialectal thing; I've definitely heard it more often than 'chuir mi romham'. To me, those two phrases mean slightly different things, and so I'd use them in different circumstances. I'd also say there are plenty worse examples of Gaelic>English constructions (or vice versa) :)


Can you expand on that? Are you referring to "Tha eagal orm" as a "calque"? I can kind of follow you. It is surprising that such a thing would be included in an actual Gaelic language course though. I don't know a lot, but I'd automatically expect "Tha mi duilich" in that context. And that flippin presenter Mairead actually said it was not an expression of actual fear.

Certainly in the Duolingo course we have had "Tha an t-eagal orm" with the definite article most certainly being associated only with actual fear. (I loved "togalach eagalach" but I haven't had it back in any of the revision exercises at least so far.)


The Duolingo owl got it right. Can seo got it wrong. Tha eagal orm is Gàidhlig words in an english construction. Another similar one : "Tha cnatan orm" = Good Gàidhlig. "Tha fuachd orm" = Bad Gàidhlig. The point is that we must NOT translate word-for-word, because that's not how languages work....."Thalla gu Hiort!" is a fair bit stronger than "Go away to St. Kilda!.......


Yes, I totally see the overall point.

I'm thinking this is why "Tha an t-eagal orm" is given as "I am scared", when scared seems a surprising word choice. It absolutely excludes the mild apology sense. (I'd have gone for "I am frightened", but the tree accepts that as a correct translation anyway. I expect it accepts "I'm afraid" too, but with the model translation being "I am scared", the point is made.)

It's odd that Can Seo even went to the trouble of stating that the phrase specifically wasn't intended in the sense of actually being frightened. I wonder if we'll ever get to the point of finding out what Mairead thinks we should say if we actually do find ourselves in a haunted house? (I'm watching it partly for "comprehensible input" and partly to be horrified by the wallpaper.)


Someone asked about this the other day, and I tried my best to explain: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/36414474

The more I think about it, the more confused I get. But in short, 'tha eagal orm' is the one you'd use in 'the mild apology sense', as you put it. "Tha an t-eagal orm' would be used to describe the feeling of genuine fear.


Does anyone know if there is another phrase translator like google translate? I would like to have something like that still since phrases are dodgy in google translate.


Google Translate uses translations that er very literal, whereas Duolingo most likely uses common translations. for example, In french the word "potato" is "Pomme de terre" lit. meaning apple of the earth. Google might translate it as that, but Duo gives common uses, and would translate it as just "apple". hope this helps!

Learn Scottish Gaelic in just 5 minutes a day. For free.