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"A chàirdean, am bu toil leibh aran milis?"

Translation:Friends, would you like shortbread?

March 6, 2020

22 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/StiobhanLothian

"A chàirdean, am bu toil leibh aran milis?" is not the best example of this problem. The problem is: how literal should the translations be, and should learners be deemed to be wrong if they use correct English (or whatever their native tongue happens to be). Having worked as a translator for 30 years (Russian-English), I can confidently assert that the aim of translation is to find equivalent, or nearest-to-equivalent, phrases or expressions in the target language, such as are widely used by native speakers. Grammars will often include literal translations in parentheses as an aid to understanding, but not as an indicator of how the phrase should be spoken. Native speakers of English do not say "have bread", or "have water" (as imperatives), but if you want to progress through the levels, this is what you will have to do until such time as the programmers decide to bring Scots Gaelic into line with Welsh. Anyway, on the whole this seems like a minor quibble compared to the value of being able to learn a wee bit of Scots Gaelic, the language of my forebears. Tapadh leibh, a Duolingo.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/joannejoanne12

For what it's worth, I've added 'some' here, and will do elsewhere when I can. Although I will also say that building this course is not an exercise in translation, but rather an attempt at finding the best way to teach learners so as best to avoid any ambiguity in meaning. There are many sentences on this course that I'd personally translate differently if we weren't using them as a teaching tool.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DaibhidhR

Firstly, I'm not sure if you need to use the polite form with Duolingo. I would say Tapadh leat, a Dhuolingo.

But more seriously, I totally agree with you about translation. I had a ex who translated and I have attended workshops at uni. There are some people who just don't get the logic. You try to explain to them 'but you just wouldn't say that' or 'it's the wrong register' and they just can't get it. They say 'but it means x.' Classic example was someone translating a book that contained a biblical quote. They wanted to translate it themselves. I was adamant the only way to get the right register was to find the passage in an English translation in the same register as the source-language quote.

But, and it is a big but, the question is here whether 'the best translation' is appropriate on Duolingo, or whether some other form might help you learn the target language better. I had an ill-informed view, but I now have a view formed specifically from having used Duolingo in both Gaelic and Welsh, which is that some kind of compromise is needed. Welsh errs on the side of idiomatic, explicitly teaching the differences, such as insisting you insert a, some or any when translating into English as appropriate, and insert 'minutes' when translating times into Welsh. The consequences are (1) that people get annoyed (which does not matter) and (2) that people get really confused about Welsh grammar, because they have no comprehension of the structure of a sentence, Gaelic goes to the other extreme, and goes for the direct calque, resulting in a much better understanding of the sentence structure, but lack of awareness of, e.g. when a different tense is appropriate in English, and thus of what the Gaelic actually means.

To use the example above, we are not allowed to insert the word some but from Welsh they would insist you insert it!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/joannejoanne12

To use the example above, we are not allowed to insert the word some but from Welsh they would insist you insert it!

I'll meet you in the middle and add it to the accepted translations :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DaibhidhR

Diolch! I think that will make everyone happy on this course, although it will not solve the arguments on the Welsh course! I think it is important to distinguish between what you teach and how, on the one (and I have every respect for the way you do it) and what you accept (which may be more or less literal) on the other.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/StiobhanLothian

Yes, I wasn't sure about which form to use, but opted for 'leibh' as I had in mind more than one person, the Duolingo crew. Inserting the 'h' in Duolingo raises another question regarding borrowings from other languages that have not yet been gaelicized, unlike say "telebhisean". Given that Duolingo does not have the wherewithal to teach languages at university level, the absence of grammatical explanations leaves the user in the dark as to tense and other language features. You just have to nut it out yourself, or make a more serious study of the language in a tertiary instituion. As I understand it, we are using a Beta version of Scots Gaelic, so they have a way to go before it reaches anything like its final form. Our feedback may help, if anyone's listening. As it is, Scots Gaelic is kind of stodgy for the time being; I've hit a wall - I tap to listen, and ... silence.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DaibhidhR

Yes they do listen. They need to know about specific bugs such as silent text. As I understand it, the best thing to do is to click the Report button and detail the problem on the discussion page. You usually get a response from a mod when they've fixed it.

As for mutating foreign words and names, practice varies by language. In Gaelic, if the word begins with a letter in the Gaelic alphabet, it generally gets lenited as normal. If it begins with e.g. a J then you are supposed to apply the rules phonologically. J sounds like a di. But most people don't. I'm not sure what they do if the letter is pronounced completely differently, e.g. Cynthia. But f can also be problematic because it should go silent and that could make a foreign word hard to recognize. In particular I have never heard the correct air an fhòn 'on the phone'. It is always air a' fòn.

In Welsh the general rule is not to mutate foreign names.

Note that although it says the Gaelic word is telebhisean, I have never actually heard this. It is TBh, i.e. TV written in Gaelic.

Note that people deny it but it is clear that people ignore broad slender rules, especially for d and t with foreign words. Te should not be pronounced as in English but it is.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/joannejoanne12

the absence of grammatical explanations leaves the user in the dark as to tense and other language features.

Have you seen the grammar notes? Each skill has them on desktop, but they can all be found here: https://duome.eu/tips/en/gd

As I understand it, we are using a Beta version of Scots Gaelic, so they have a way to go before it reaches anything like its final form.

The course left beta in December. :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Dbhaidh

Tha. Bu toil leam aran milis......agus uisge-beatha!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DaibhidhR

I wrote ...would you like some shortbread? I don't think the answer given is good English. If it were a future tense, indicating a generalization, it would be possible, but I think that this is an offer to actually give some aran milis to someone to eat, so the some would be necessary in English.

I know there are differing views on how literal the translation should be but I do not think that putting the word some in in English obfuscates the learning of the Gaelic in any way and does make a good point about good translation.

For what it's worth, the Welsh course makes a big point of inserting these words in English.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/joannejoanne12

I disagree. I don't see the issue with saying 'would you like shortbread?' in English. The meaning of the sentence changes slightly if you add 'some' to it though, and we are asking for the translation of the Gaelic sentence, rather than synonyms of the English.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DaibhidhR

There are two attitudes that could be adopted in designing the course, and on the whole I think the Gaelic way - using literal translations to make sure we understand the Gaelic, is better than the Welsh way.

I think my problem is just that it is confusing when, for the same sentence in Welsh, they would mark me wrong if I didn't put the some in.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/joannejoanne12

I think my problem is just that it is confusing when, for the same sentence in Welsh, they would mark me wrong if I didn't put the some in.

I haven't done any of the Welsh course I'm afraid, so I'm unfamiliar with the way they teach things. Generally speaking, each course's contributors get final say on how they translate sentences. Only the Welsh contributors can say what is most appropriate for their course. We feel this is most appropriate way of teaching/translating for our course :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JonAJay

I'm a little late to this conversation but it;s fascinating. I am originally from the South West of England and "Would you like shortbread?" or "Would you like water?" - without "some" - sounds perfectly acceptable to my English dialect. However, if I think of my time living in the North of England, yes I can hear people asking "Would you like some ...". So it's difficult since neither is grammatically incorrect.

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