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https://www.duolingo.com/bosberg

to translate 'literally', or 'fluently' ?

Just an open question here: how literal should we try to translate sentences? I find a lot of people here are trying to stick to the literal translation with the original German sentence structure, but I find that always sounds a bit funny.

Also, German sentences tend to be much longer than normal English sentences, so sometimes I break them up into two or more sentences. I'm not sure if that creates problems for the automated accuracy-checking, but I think it really makes for better translations. Any thoughts, anyone?

6 years ago

27 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Trello

I do translations as part of my work (albeit not German), and it's a tricky matter. If there's a big name behind the original language, or it's for something official, then trying to stick close to the original text is important, but without making it such a direct translation that people can tell it was, well, a translation. To me, this is when content is first, audience is second. For other things written to promote something or convey humor, etc., the audience comes before the content (just barely, perhaps, but still). So I think it's far better to divide sentences and change structure, grammar, punctuation, and all of that when needed if it makes it a better read for the audience.

It would be nice if Duolingo had a page somewhere that explained some of the basics of translation. Learning a language is great, and being able to speak it even better, but being able to understand/speak a language doesn't automatically mean you're able to translate it.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mamapotato

I agree with you. The translations should sound as if they were originally written in English, especially when the reader doesn't understand German sentence structure. The goal is to translate the web, so I think the flow for the future reader is very important.

I would like to know more about auto-check, too. It is one of my fundamental doubts of this program/method, but I have great hopes here.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/narmical

I favor the fluency approach. I'm still a beginner too, but i will very often chose different English words that the ones suggested as translations in the hover-over thingy. I try to create sentences with the same meaning but in the way that I would say it. I think this is why the term "interpreter" is used more often than "translator". I want to convey the correct meaning, not the correct words.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/gregprice

You're mistaken on the terms "interpreter" and "translator" -- they mean different things. An interpreter works in real time, whereas a translator works on texts and can take more time to be sure to get it right. Wikipedia has a decent discussion of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interpreter#Comparison_to_translation

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/anabelmd
anabelmd
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I'm a translator and agree that the translated sentences don't need to stick word by word to the original text. However, it might be very discouraging for beginners to get the 'only 11% agree with your translation' all the time. It is discouraging to me at least, and I'm not a beginner at all, just freshening up my rusty German. I hope the ratings will get better for accurate translations when the word is out and Duolingo becomes available to more users of all levels.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MattPellegrini

The point of duolingo is to get fluent (good) translations by using the huge audience that is the online world! literal (and therefore sometimes incorrect translators exist, such as google translate and others) So "Alles ist gut", should be translated as "Everything is fine", or maybe "all is well", but not all is good, no one says "all is good" when you ask them how they are. The downside of this is that duolingo often ends up thinking that common mistakes are correct. For example I did a translation of "es Schneit" as "It's sunny" because i misread "Schneit"(snows) for "Scheint" (shines - is sunny) and was told I was correct, clearly enough people had made my mistake so I was passed by the system.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sknipp

It depends on the region you are in and the dialect, where I am from few people say ''all is well" and "all is good" or the even more frequent 'all's good" to express every thing is indeed fine. Also a possible direction is "it's all good" and an acceptance of apology. This is one of those phrases that I think requires a specific tone and setting to convey different possible meanings.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/rsairu
rsairu
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I was under the impression that Duolingo's rating math was partially mechanical, that is strictly word-for-word type cross-checking, and partially crowd-sourced / Bayesian, whereby the more good votes a translation gets, the more liberal / adapted 'acceptable' translations become. So a "62% agreement" is short for, "Your translation agrees 62% with our composite of 'book-smart' + 'what people have been saying'". Perhaps as time goes on, what was once a 62% rating becomes equivalent to, say, a 91% rating. Perhaps the translation actually is misunderstood, and the 62% actually worsens, and would now only be considered 42%. I just try to feed my best into the system in hopes to make it better.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/takeitsaxman2012

Here's the rule I always go by:

Language is supposed to communicate ideas. Translation should most clearly communicate the idea. I hate to drag anything slightly religious into a conversation like this, but that's one of the big fights in the Christian church. There are groups of people who are just clinging for dear life to the King James Version bible, when in fact, it's a TERRIBLE translation because it was meant for a 1611 audience. Phrases that would have made sense to them make no sense.

Another good example is a translation problem we were given in a Spanish class: an old Mexican proverb:

"Ya que la casa se quema, calentémonos."

Lit: Already that the house is burning, we warm ourselves."

That sentence makes no sense in English, but we can extrapolate meaning from it: "Since the house is already burning, let's warm ourselves." So the proverb is roughly equivalent to the English phrase, "Make the most of a bad situation." or "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wordcustard

I too agree with this approach. Literal translations often sound stilted and 'odd' to native speakers, and are not going to be all that helpful to non-native speakers. But the auto-check is assuming that what most people do is going to be the most accurate translation. In the real world, translators have to be creative to give the best possible translation from several possibilities. I guess those of us aiming for that here will have to get used to a lower percentage of agreement with the auto-comparison.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Tsila
Tsila
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Just my 2 cents here - we don't translate words, we translate meanings. This is what I learned in language school and as a language teacher. If I translate strictly the words I end up with a bunch on nonsense.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Kags
Kags
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But the irony is that, particularly if you're the first translator of a sentence, if you translate the meaning you may get the "You're the first but it doesn't look like you're correct" message ... and you get no points. If you want to play the points collecting game and deliberately do a word-for-word translation you get points for agreeing with the dictionary, but a sentence of gibberish! So, do I sacrifice the points for the altruistic "better" translation, or selfishly collect points at the expense of being culpable for a bad translation?

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sknipp

Forget the points, the goal is the better translation

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/chris42

Conveying the best meaning should certainly be the goal, but that isn't always easy when prose uses double meanings, or translating poetry. It also depends upon the content in other ways: when I translate a blog entry, I lean more in the literal direction and make more minimal changes to structure, just so the English grammar is correct and the meaning is clear; for a magazine article, I try to write clear English and capture the style of the author as well as I can. One of the hard parts for Duolingo is taking into account how heavily the sentence structure and words have to be changed from literal translation when establishing difficulty. Hopefully they will also weight translations from more gifted speakers more heavily than beginners. When entries don't have many translations, it isn't realistic to expect great agreement on hard translations.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/OrtegaPeru

Translation is as much an art as a science. For example, there is a phrase about the German people that goes: "Die Deutsche sind fließig." You could translate that as: "The Germans are hard-working." but you could also translate that as, "The Germans are industrious." To many people there would be no difference but to some people "hard-working" has a positive connotation while "industrious" is more neutral.

There is not a lot of room for confusion when you are saying things like: "The milk is on the table." or, "The child is reading.", but the things real people actually spend time talking about involve more subtle uses of language. It is important to remember that a lot of human communication is ultimately persuasive in nature rather than simply informative.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/rsairu
rsairu
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The best practice is to translate the desired meaning, taking into consideration audience, tone, and context, and attempting to do so with a framework that most closely mimics the original grammatical structure and vocabulary. Sometimes it only sounds weird because it's not what one is used to, not because it is wrong.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MattPellegrini

Also you get points if people think your answers are good so if you're the first and people think you've got it you'll get points later in the game.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/takeitsaxman2012

rsairu, I agree that it's good to understand the actual phrase structure and meaning from a linguistics standpoint, but eventually the goal of any language learning program should be to arrive at a clear, culturally-relevant interpretation of an idea. Duolingo does a good job of giving you a transliteration. The whole point of the program (if you haven't seen the TED video about Duolingo, you should!) is to bring a human perspective that a computer can't provide to online translation.

Bosberg asked if he should write a transliteration or a translation; in this case, in order to preserve the spirit of what Duolingo is trying to accomplish, a more culturally-appropriate English translation should be written.

Though, honestly, I haven't encountered any translations on here that required that level of interpretation. Most of this stuff is technical or dialogue related. I'd imagine a lot of difficult decisions would have to be made in order to preserve both the meaning of the text and it's artistic purity.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jparaya
jparaya
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I think, being a not german neither english native, the fluent translation is the better way to humans, but when i'm trying to understand the gramatic rules from other language i prefer to have a comparision point, word to word, so I think if there're automated systems behind this a similar system would be used, that's why google translated web pages are so funny or creepy.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ERen785378

I try to make it fluent, but as close to the original connotation of the sentences as possible, so it's still the original author's work, but it makes sense to the new readers as well

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Catweasel

For me, being English, and a newb, literally translations drive me insane. First off, it's super easy to do...translate every word....and end up with utter rubbish :) and is rather frustrating. It really is a case of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts...and that, to me, separates the newb from the fließend.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/stefano.zanella
stefano.zanella
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I agree with @rsairu. I think the strength of the platform is the voting mechanism: since we are asked to properly translate the web, we cannot rely on judgement of an automatic checker as a base for correctness (otherwise it could as well do the translation...). I suppose this tool is here just to settle in translation and their ratings; the more votes we give, the more accurate will be percent ratings. You can already notice it in fact on sentences that start to have some hundreds translations: rarely the bot translation receive good ratings; rather, chance is you have more useful information comparing with the "current best translation". As a final note, I think this kind of voting policy will give extremely important and accurate results in the long term: just compare / use one of the StackExchange sub-sites (like Stack Overflow for programmers). In fact, since the platform is running for quite some time, people that use it have a great confidence in questions / answer ratings: I'm expecting the same result with Duolingo as the user base and vote count grow up with time.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/rsairu
rsairu
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@Kags The pursuit of truth & knowledge is greater than the vain collection of digital bits. Give of yourself for the greater good and have faith in karma

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/rsairu
rsairu
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I think the system should accept both translations, and then have as the (1) main translation the idiomatic / colloquial meaning, and then for the (2) sub-translation, the actual transliteration. Because it is useful to know how to use a phrase in a sentence, but it is also helpful from a developmental and grammatical standpoint to understand the sentence on a fundamental level. This however would require great effort. Also, "the house is gonna burn anyway, so let's warm ourselves " is a cool phrase and you would not necessarily pick that up if it were just "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade"

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/chris42

It would be a lot of work, but it is too bad that you can't get delayed points for good translations that aren't recognised until a passage has been translated and rated a few times ...

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EchoEternal

I usually put in a literal translation to get a good score and then edit it to be a fluent translation for the reader's sake and to get good feedback shrug

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/smudgeon

For me, I (at least initially) try to stick to a literal translation because I find it helps me better understand how German is structured. Once I have a concept or phrase right in my head, I'm fine to think of it either way.

Maybe once I'm more fluent, I'll ditch the literal :P

4 years ago