https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs

The absolute worst English translations ever!

  • 1716

In an effort to fix the worst English translations ever, I'm asking native English speakers to identify those in the FR-from-English tree which are so ridiculous, horrible, awkward, wonky, bewildering, and gag-me-with-a-spoon outrageous. No need to write an explanation, just list the actual French sentence and the English translation you were shown as the correct answer which left you shaking your head. Please pace yourself (don't list 50 worst, give others a chance) and please don't add "me too" comments. If you see one that you agree is just over-the-top awful, you can just give it an up-tick. I'll check back later to see how this is going. Thanks!

EDIT: I appreciate the interest being shown. This page is not intended to answer all questions or range too far afield but just serve as a collection point for the most annoyingly bad English sentences. Sometimes the answer is, "Oh yeah, that's outrageous. I'll fix it" and sometimes it's that there is another perspective that says, "Oh, I see now". I will periodically wipe the page. Thanks to all who take the time to make a thoughtful contribution.

A great initial response. Thanks to all. This page has served its purpose and we'll shut it down for now. If you have a truly awkward sentence in FR-for-EN speakers, let me know directly. Thanks.

July 26, 2015

124 Comments
This discussion is locked.


https://www.duolingo.com/georgeoftruth

I'm submitting three sentences. Perhaps they could fit your description. They're not as awkward and outrageous as others but could use some minor tweaking. Thanks for what you're doing.

  • Ce parc est plus joli au printemps. = This park is more prettier in spring. Link
  • Il nous faut un moyen de transport sûr. = We need a safe mean of transport. Link
  • Il aime les travaux dans le jardin. = He likes the works done in the garden. Link
July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

Exactly. They are groaners. Thanks.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/SussexSoleil

Although if you are talking about a grand garden, there could be multiple works in progress or completed.

He likes the new works at Versailles .... the road works, the water works, etc.

Still puts my teeth on edge, though.

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/tjomd

J'aimerais vivre dans tes chaussures pour être avec toi à chacun de tes pas... this is like... I don't know... it would appear so much and have so many possible translations that I hated this one

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/oskalingo

Came in to add this one as it seems to be almost universally reviled.

Here is the direct link:

https://www.duolingo.com/comment/1289536

I note that the sentence has been downvoted to -12 at the top of the sentence discussion page. I wonder if it would be possible, n6zs, to ask duolingo to furnish a list of sentences that have been heavily downvoted like this one. Should only be a simple database query for them...

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

It seems that you are not alone. Agreed that it is rather silly. Another reason to avoid DL's "Flirting" exercises. I'll see what can be done short of deleting it. There are only a couple of exercises that use the key word this sentences is supposed to teach (aimerais).

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/BastouXII

It seems the bonus lessons, both flirting and idioms, are a lot stricter than the regular ones, and in all languages. I can understand for the idioms, it's the definition of idioms to be fixed, but for flirting, it's really annoying.

Maybe that happens because not too many people actually buy them, so they get few feedback and reports. I wonder if it's even possible to make these sentences more flexible.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Mary2100

For the idioms, it's really annoying. Especially because I've already checked the translations for the idioms that Duolingo didn't accept in the dictionnary and they confirmed my answer ! I think that it's definitely not worth buying it if the translations are not a flexible at all.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Skippero

That sentences actually makes me laugh !! There is a song by Gnawa Diffusion which goes like "Je voudrais être un fauteuil dans un salon de coiffure pour dame" - "I would like to be a chair at a ladies hairdresser".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6M5-gBDgaQ

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

I suppose it helps us understand why there are so many unattached men with "flirty" lines like this!!

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

J'aime ce café = I like SUCH coffee

J'aime ce type de café = I like SUCH coffee

une petite émotion = a small feeling?

ma première impression est bonne = my first FEELING is good?

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

Thanks for bringing these to my attention. I made a several changes. Note that "faire une demande auprès de" is a French idiom for "make an application to", so not much I can do about that one.

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

Okay, I removed it based on the responses. "Make an application to" appears to be a common expression in some places. I also removed "the credits."

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/dweebs12

I'm a British English speaker and it actually sounds ok to my ear. I'd probably say "I've put in an application" or something similar, but "made" doesn't sound wrong. So yeah, it's probably one of those differences. The others do sound weird though.

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/SussexSoleil

Certainly, as an English speaker who has lived in Britain for decades, "to make an application to the bank for a current account" doesn't sound at all strange.

Unlike the US term "checking account", which is something I do when I log on to look at my bank balance!

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

Just out of curiosity, what do you call a bank account?

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/driusan

A chequing account.

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Luscinda

I would assume they wanted my business and just set up an account with them, though I agree it's not too outlandish.

@ Driusan, I wondered whether that might have gone out of fashion. Do Americans still use cheques much?

@SS I think the American for Building Soc. is Savings & Loans? Which caused me some frustration the first time I had to deal with in text. A Savings & Loans What?

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/driusan

There's nothing wrong with making an application to the bank. Be careful not to confuse "This wouldn't be said in my dialect" with "This wouldn't be said by any native speaker."

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

Yes, of course.

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/pir_anha

The primary problem that I see with many of these is that the sentence construction is correct, but that we wouldn't use it often or at all with precisely those types of words. I don't know how Duo constructs their sentences, but they sometimes feel to me like they were put together by a software program, not a human being.

"I like such coffee" -- We do use "such" in such constructs (heh), but not with uncountable nouns, I think. Hm. I don't like to swim in such dirty water. That's fine. This is such good coffee. That's also fine, so if there is an adjective, one can say it. But I feel with unmodified uncountable nouns, we'd instead say "I like this kind of coffee" or "I like this type of butter".

"A small feeling" -- urm. I wonder. It sounds very wrong to me, but "feeling" is a countable noun, so theoretically that should work. Maybe it feels wrong because so many actual emotions are singular uncountable nouns, have no size, and must be used with "a little" or "some" -- some anger, a little joy, some fear, a little love. And "feeling" has no measurable size either. In general when emotions come into it, we use "little" or "a little", even when "small" would normally be right because we can assess the size of something. For example, we say "He's a small boy", but "he's a wonderful little boy". I bet that's why I feel uncomfortable about "small feeling".

"First feeling". My first feeling after watching the movie was anger. Ok, that works. My first feeling was anger. That works too. My first feeling was positive. Yeah, I can say that. My first feeling is good sounds iffy. I think this might just be a matter of not hearing it used often. Google finds "first feeling is good" only 30 or so times, and they mostly seem to occur in reviews of driving a new car.

Both "credits" (course credits in education, tax credits, debits and credits in accounting) and "make an application" are proper English in Canada.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

It appears that the driving force (vision, if you will) has been to generate a wide variety of phrases to expose learners to different verb conjugations or expressions which start with simple things like "The (noun) is red" and degenerate into others that feel like words are being pulled out of a hat. No, it's not done by computer. With about 1900 words, this approach inevitability leads to creating some real groaners. Can we learn from them? In many cases, yes. But sometimes, exercises are created without much consideration for whether it even makes a lot of sense in French (is it idiomatic) and does it make good sense in English. One such sentence was created to demonstrate the use of the FR "volume". Perhaps you have seen it: Un cube est un carré en volume = A cube is a square in three dimensions. Is it true? Yes. Is it grammatically correct? Yes. Is it idiomatic in French? Extremely unlikely. Is it the best way to demonstrate the use of the word "volume" in English? Sadly, it completely missed the target. Could we learn something from it? Of course, but there are a dozen better ways to use the word in a natural sense. One of the most ticklish (and apparently annoying) questions that I ask people is, "But what does it mean?" Because if you don't know what something means, you are going to have a very rough time translating it, unless you're working at the level of "La pomme est rouge".

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/pir_anha

Yes, exactly. I don't mind simple sentences like "the man eats the woman" because I know we're just going after sentence structure there, and I can plug in something less cannibalistic (or less likely to make our inner twelve-year olds snicker) -- and there is actually something to be said for weirdness to a certain degree, because cognitively it sticks better. I actually think Duo might preface each course with a short intro that explains this to people.

But as sentences become more complex, and expressions more idiomatic, I always worry whether native French speakers really say this (and the English translation is just weird because Duo tries to do it literally), or whether people don't even say this in French. That makes me distrust the entire course, and makes me wonder whether it's worth it. Fortunately this isn't my only source of French, but it's still not a good feeling.

The comment sections are invaluable because they clarify many of those issues.

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Luscinda

This, x several 100.

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/curlymopsmum

Thanks for clarifying that one. I tripped over it this morning and was surprised. Fortunately I cannot imagine any time when I'm likely to need to talk about cubes

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/DaveDickens

the credits one makes sense. Think of credits as currency or a noun (hence it is in economics). I suppose you could just say "credits" in most situations so the "the" portion is kind of redundant but still not technically incorrect.

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

Credit is often used in the singular.... extend credit, get credit, buy on credit, and so on. I'm not entirely sure if the French equivalent in those cases would be singular or plural.

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

The term "credits" in English is quite legitimate. It can refer to academic credits, "I transferred 90 credits over to the new university", or in bookkeeping, "The credits and the debits must balance." We don't use these terms frequently but there they are.

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Persikov

In Spanish credit (crédito) is used in the plural to mean loan. Maybe that's technically true in English too but it's super-weird. I assume the French means that, but it sounds like movie credits!

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

Sometimes something can be plural in one language but the same exact thing will be said in the singular in different languages!

I'm learning Dutch, and so far it appears that they say vegetable in the singular where we would say vegetables plural in English. It's all these little nuances that I find fascinating.

Credits can mean many different things in English. Movie credits, education credits, or tax credits are some examples. In accounting for a particular account, credits are money that you have given us and debits are money that you owe. (edited)

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Persikov

Your response makes me cringe because I misrepresented what I wanted to say. When I said "is used in the plural to mean loan" I really wanted to say "is a countable noun that means loan". Where in English you would almost always say "loan" (except in the professional accounting context), in Spanish and I assume French, you get a "crédito" to study, to buy a car, etc.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

"Credits" in English does not mean loan(s), although "le crédit" (un prêt d'argent) is a "loan"; "le prêt" is also used by itself.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/SussexSoleil

Good initiative, but is this different from identifying the worst of:

https://www.duolingo.com/topic/147/sent

Also, sentences like the recently posted: "J'ai mes sources." although correctly translated as: "I have my sources." is miscategorised in Nature - presumably a reference to a French spring (of the water variety).

Just as much of a howler as some of the more absurd translations.

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

The posts there are just people asking questions, puzzled or wondering about an exercise. Here, I am looking for EN translations you have been shown as "correct" that are absolutely, categorically outrageous and you know this for a fact because you are a native English speaker acquainted with regional variations (UK, US, Canada, Australia, etc). As to "J'ai mes sources", the reason that sentence is in "Nature" is that one of the meanings is a "spring", a source of water flowing directly from the earth. That's not the only meaning, however, so the owl took the opportunity to expose you to another meaning, literally, a "source" or "origin" for something. "J'ai mes sources" = I have my sources, is a perfectly normal sentence. It sounds like something a journalist might say. http://www.wordreference.com/fren/source

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/driusan

It's been a while since I did the French from English tree and I can't remember all of the bad ones, but the worst one that sticks out in my mind was "Impose yourself on her!" It's very rape-y.

(I just Googled for the discussion thread, and the last comment is 5 months old, so maybe it's been taken out of circulation, though..)

If memory serves, the subjunctive ones were pretty bad too, but I think that's mostly because the subjunctive is so rare in English and the correct answers were trying really hard to keep the subjunctive which made the English translations pretty awkward..

But I hope you don't take out all of the ridiculous and outrageous sentences, because those are what makes Duolingo so much fun..

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

I hear you. There is a difference between ridiculous as in "funny" and ridiculous as in "outrageous". I'm looking for the real nasty ones, not just dialectical variations.

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/driusan

Well, in that case I maintain that "Impose-toi contre elle!" and "Impose-toi contre lui!" being translated as "Impose yourself on her/him!" is the worst that I can remember.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

I have to agree with you on that one! That verb just isn't used the same way in English. Creepy! It appears that both those sentences have already been removed.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Luscinda

I have a whole document full of screen shots if you're looking at creepy-inappropriate-thinking it's funny to encourage the learner to say something socially unacceptable. I really think it's time they got rid of all the chatte/chienne rubbish. Who uses '❤❤❤❤❤' in the proper sense (or queen for a cat) in general conversation in English?

It just encourages unpleasant spam comments.

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/alexandrashaye99

D'accord. As a native English speaker, I have NEVER heard the words for 'female dog' and 'female cat' used in a legitimate, non-obscene way. In English, we just have the gender-neutral words 'dog' and 'cat.' In translation exercises, the only correct translations for "La chienne" and "La chatte" should be "The dog" and "The cat" respectively.

Stop bending to the will of trolls, Duo. You are much better than that.

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/pir_anha

I respectfully disagree. Well, not with the fact that those words are often used by misogynistic creeps, that is definitely true. And that usage is a whole lot more common than the legitimate usage.

But the words are used regularly and without obscene intent by breeders, veterinarians, and other people associated with raising those animals in their conversations. You can easily check this in your favourite search engine; "dog breeder ❤❤❤❤❤" gets a lot of legit results. And nobody is sniggering. Maybe that doesn't count as "general conversation", but I see nothing wrong with acknowledging that those are legitimate terms.

That particular word is also used non-obscenely in "life is a ❤❤❤❤❤" and "bitching about something", but I haven't seen that type of slang here.

Last, but not least, however much one's sensibilities might dislike it, gross and obscene associations stick better in our minds than nice, polite ones. As long as no actual women (or men) are insulted here, I don't really see anything wrong with allowing people to make whatever associations that work for them. I'll never show anyone my Anki mnemonics (though they tend towards the gross rather than the obscene), but I don't feel guilty about them either.

July 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/alexandrashaye99

You do have a point. Also, this points to another problem with translating languages in general, since a perfectly fine word for one person can be obscene for another. There are quite a few Spanish words that are okay in one country, and a sexual euphemism in another.

Edit: Another problem I just thought of: what about native French speakers using the EN -> FR tree as a reverse tree? Someone learning English wouldn't know that "b****" has an obscene meaning, and it's doing a disservice to users to not clarify that. A native French speaker may not realize the obscene meaning of certain English words, like I wouldn't recognize an obscene word in French.

July 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Luscinda

There's nothing wrong with acknowledging the legitimate usage in immersion, say, but there are issues.

  1. It's teaching misleading language. This is, as Mrdachshund86 rightly says, not the normal usage for the sentences as displayed in French. It's not what you say if you want to comment on how much you like someone's pet. So it is essentially teaching everyone incorrect usage.

  2. The technical language of breeding pets is not exactly common usage, so whilst it may be legitimate French, it is not where you start with beginners, in the same way that installation hydroélectrique is perfectly legitimate French but not the high frequency vocab that we need to learn at the outset. And even if you were going to teach it to beginners, it should be flagged as what it is, making it clear that this could be offensive or embarrassing if used in the wrong context. It is not properly defined.

  3. This is someone having a laugh at the expense of users and not in a nice friendly way. It's setting them up. They are trying to encourage schools to use the site. This sort of rubbish makes it unsuitable for schools, which are normally expected to use products that show equality and do not encourage bad attitudes to any group. One of these days they are going to get caught out and someone is going to take it up in the press. It is farcical that we are prevented from uploading innocent but grown up documents to immersion whilst obscenities are taught to kids in the lessons.

Having this sort of nonsense undermines the integrity of the entire site. I know better than to use these expressions in French. What if someone doesn't? And what are we being taught as innocuous that is actually unacceptable in other languages where you and I don't know that we are being set up, whilst some *$%£&! at Duolingo is laughing up his sleeve at us?

July 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/pir_anha

@mrdachshund86 Yes, that's a good point -- however, does DL ever offer "❤❤❤❤❤" as the primary translation, or does it simply accept it whenever "la chienne" is used? If the former then I see that as a problem, if the latter that wouldn't bother me since I consider it a legitimate word.

July 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/pir_anha

@Luscinda I am just catching this now, though maybe I am wrong? You seem under the impression that "chienne" and "chatte" are primarily obscene slang in French. They're not. They are commonly used for female dog / female cat because gendering things is simply a feature of French. In English gendered terms for animals usually fall into the realm of speciality jargon, in French they might not (depends a bit on how familiar the animal is).

In France you'd be quite safe using "la chienne" in regard to an actual female dog. When my downstairs neighbour in Gex introduced her dog to me, it was "ma chienne BB" (short for Brigitte Bardot as it turned out, snicker). I have a Canadian children's book called "Michelle, la Chienne Française", about a little dog. You're only moving into insult territory when you apply the word to people. Just like "dog" in English is primarily a term for an animal, but if you call a person a "dog" you're insulting them. The context matters. This is actually an interesting subject -- a lot of perfectly innocuous words get pressed into doing insult duty. At what point should a teacher step up and warn people?

My biggest beef with DL is probably that so much of what we see is completely bereft of context. It makes it much harder for me to learn efficiently, and it causes endless confusion in comments.

As to your third point, I prefer not to speculate on the mindset of the people creating this course; I don't know them, and I tend to give folks the benefit of the doubt. I'm also not in favour of threats to affect change.

July 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/pir_anha

Which doesn't contradict what I said. The first definition is "femelle de chat". Just because it's also a popular vulgar term for a woman's private parts doesn't negate that. Apply it to an actual cat and nobody will misunderstand you. Heck, you can affectionately call your girlfriend (romantic partner) that and she won't mistake it as vulgar either.

There are a number of threads on wordreference.com and other sites where native French speakers assure concerned English speakers that there is no reason to worry as long as they clearly are referring to actual cats. Easy to find.

But definitely, watch out for using it in any context where it might be misunderstood. I think Duo should make that very clear instead of not even mentioning it. I think it would be cool to have a section for things that sound harmless, but aren't", like "tu es bonne" (= you're good...in bed), or "je suis chaude" (= I am horny).

Anyway, I've said my piece; didn't mean to hijack the thread.

August 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Luscinda

This is part of a pattern.

'C'est sympa d'avoir une belle fille a chaque bras'. 'Elle veut etre nue.' 'La serveuse est entierement nue'. 'Elle aime sa chatte.' 'Impose-toi contre elle.'

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/ketoacidosis

"Their bag is very heavy, even empty."

Translation: Leur sac est très lourd, même vide.

https://www.duolingo.com/comment/9028246

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Luscinda

Je sais nager facilement./I know how to swim easily

I don't know whether anyone would ever say that in French but we wouldn't in English.

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/postsolipsist2

This is a tough assignment, because it requires keeping a personal list for an extended period of time and then picking the worst. It looks like you'll mostly get something else. In my case, I'll just pass this along from today:

Notre fille fait de la danse.

Correct response: "Our daughter does dancing."

Anything repeated often enough will start to sound normal, and god knows this one has been pounded into us enough. But stop and think: would any native speaker ever say this? If you did, you would get a big blank stare: what the heck do you mean? This leaves the tricky question of how you would translate it. No doubt there are some sentences in French or any other language that simply can't be translated into good English, at least without more information. A guess without more would be "Our daughter dances."

I'll keep my eyes open for the many other, much worse translations.

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/curlymopsmum

Or you might specify the type of dance. I think "our daughter does ballet" or "our daughter does ballroom dancing" would work. But on its own it does sound odd

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Persikov

My impression was something like "takes dance classes". But it's very awk

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

Give me your worst! I have to admit "does dancing" is a bit weird, just plain "Our daughter dances" expresses it a bit more normally, I think. Perhaps it was a French owl that posted this translation because an English owl would not likely say that she "does dancing". But unless we start to berate the owl too much, look here: http://www.wordreference.com/fren/faire%20de%20la%20danse BTW, the expression "faire de la dance" is apparently quite common. As curly has pointed out, we might see it more likely to be used with a modifier (she does classical/modern/ballroom dance, or such like) but I suspect that unless one is in the dance world, you may not hear people say such things which may account for why it sounds a little odd. Any French ballet dancers out there? Example from WR: j'apprends à danser > je fais de la danse (classique, moderne etc...)

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/seanc0x0

As a father of a young girl, it's not unusual to hear our peers say something like 'Our daughter does dancing, swimming and piano', so it's not completely weird. Without that sort of context, however, it is definitely awkward to translate.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

Good to know. Thanks, Sean!

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Luscinda

It's really 'takes part in dancing/dances regularly', isn't it? I agree with Sean that the gerund construction is common when talking about children's activities but I think it is a spoken rather than a written form. It is very informal.

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Sue.Bee

Verbs: Compound Past: On a vu ca. = 1 saw that. (Should be the letter "I", not the #1.).

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

Hmmm. I assume this was quite recently? It is not shown among among the list of accepted sentences so it's not a typo and cannot be fixed from where I sit. Maybe it is something in the program that is substituting the numeral "1". I.e., not quickly fixed. I'll pass it along and see if one of the programmers can find it and fix it.

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Sue.Bee

I saw it multiple times yesterday. I just saw it again today.

July 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Sue.Bee

I sent it to "Report a Problem" as well.

July 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

Okay. There is nothing I can do about that one. I'm told that they are now looking into it.

July 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

"Je suis une amie de votre propriétaire."

Translation: I am a friend of your landlord's.

Also accepted: I am a friend of your owner.

https://www.duolingo.com/comment/1252585$comment_id=9760361

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/KaitteKat

"Le verre est haut" -> "The glass is high".

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

It's a choice: tall vs. high. Idiomatically, one would be more likely to say a glass is "tall" rather than "high", but both are correct.

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/KaitteKat

Without further clarification, the only thing the English sentence means to me is that the glass is under the effects of a mind altering substance, that's why I think it's poorly translated.

It needs to either specify "The glass is tall" or "The glass is high up" to really make any sense in English.

July 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

That's an interesting perspective. Thanks for sharing. "Tall" in this context is certainly more common, but it might surprise you how many people use "high" to say the same thing. Source: Google's Ngram Viewer: "high glass,tall glass". https://books.google.com/ngrams/

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/pir_anha

Oh, way cool; I had completely forgotten about the Ngram Viewer; thanks!

I would agree with KaitteKat that I've never heard anybody say "the glass is high" in reference to the size of a drinking glass. I'm familiar with three large regional variants of English and pretty well read, and the results completely surprised me. So I plugged "high glass" into plain Google and got 450,000 results. Clearly something else is going on here, because that number goes way beyond rare regional variation.

The most common problem with such searches is that the two words are not actually a unit in the way we think of it. That turns out to be true here.

The search found mostly things like "63-foot-high glass-enclosed court" and "this kind of system has a high glass transition temperature" and "leads to increased interlayer rigidity and high glass adhesion" and "Mile High Glass - Auto Glass Services" -- "high" isn't used in relation to the size of a glass at all. The only cases of the latter are all about high glass doors and windows.

I checked for 15 (5 front, 5 middle, 5 back) pages, and this covers the vast majority of cases.

There is also New High Glass Inc, a Total Packaging Supplier For The Cosmetic, Food And Pharmaceutical Markets. There are some other businesses who seem to refer to "High Glass" in regard to a specific quality of their glassware, while dropping "quality" from the description. There's probably a patent for that around somewhere.

Finally, once upon a time "high glass" also had the specific meaning which we're talking about here, and it even had a special name:

tallboy -- "high glass or goblet," 1676, from tall + boy, though the exact signification is unclear. In ref. to a high chest of drawers it is recorded from 1769, here perhaps a partial loan-transl. of Fr. haut bois, lit. "high wood."

So it seems that "high glass" in this sense is archaic, and the steady rise in the Ngram Google results in modern times is due to all the new technical uses of "high glass adhesion" and "high glass transition temperature".

When searching for "the glass is high" the results are similarly tainted. Most of them talk about "the glass is high quality" and "the stress pattern developed by the glass is high", etc. I excluded more and more of those false positives, and finally ended up with 10 results, which are accounted for by this:

"The glass is high" was also sometimes used in reference to a high temperature on a mercury thermometer. The usage has been falling out of favour, not surprisingly..

So, no, nobody says it anymore in reference to a tall glass.

Well, that was a fun little excursion. I always appreciate being able to procrastinate on what I really should work on. ;)

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/pir_anha

@n6zs Yes, thanks, I do know how to search. ;) My point was that caution in interpreting the results is necessary for your source of "high glass", and that indeed people do NOT use it synonymously with "tall glass". At least not today.

And here I thought I put enough detail in my post in order to show my work. Maybe it was tl;dr.

Because I am curious beyond all reason, I went back and looked at the Ngram results from the earliest days, 1800-1849 because those might have predated a lot of the false positives from modern materials science. I looked at every single result.

Check it out. Mostly false positives as well, but in 1843 there is "I observe it is the custom in this hotel to put a high glass full of flowers on the table". Finally. That's one result in all of them. If you compare with "tall glass", you will see that there are quite a lot of legitimate positives. So even back in the olden days "high glass" was a very rare occurrence.

I think Duo should remove it as a proper translation because the native speakers are right; it isn't used anymore.

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

The results can be skewed by putting in shorter or longer (more specific) phrases so use caution in interpreting the results.

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Luscinda

Applied to a goblet it would mean stemware, which isn't the same thing as a tall glass as we tend to use it, is it.

July 31, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Luscinda

That takes me to a chart on Frankenstein and Sherlock Holmes. :-/

I have never heard a native speaker use 'high' for a glass that was tall rather than out of reach, myself. Not Brits, not Americans. Highball, yes. Doesn't mean it isn't out there, of course, but I wouldn't regard it as standard English, so not something to volunteer as a preferred answer.

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

You have to type in the phrases you want compared as I showed above. In the field where it has "Frankenstein", etc, type in "high glass,tall glass" with the phrases you are looking for separated by a comma.

The question of the "preferred answer" is critical. Some translations shall we say are "less than optimal" and yet have been presented as the correct translation in the past. It gives the impression that this is the only correct way to say it. That is not the case. The best idiomatic (natural and correct) expression should be the best answer, the one displayed. However there are other answers, perhaps less common, that are also accepted. Depending on what answer you enter, you may be shown other variations which may inadvertently include errors. These also must be individually inspected and corrected or removed. It is an extremely tedious job.

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/curlymopsmum

Translations of peur de have tripped me up regularly. Today's was Il avait peur de changement which I translated as he is frightened of change but was told that only afraid would do. I might also translate this as scared. Is this British/American confusion?

I've posted on shall/will elsewhere

And a final confusion comes with using the word "mean" to translate "mal". In British English, mean doesn't necessarily mean bad (hope you can disentangle all those means) but is more about a lack of generosity and unwillingness to share or being unpleasant. My Chambers adds low in birth ("he was poor and mean and lowly"), humble or shabby, ignoble, petty

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

Hi, Curly. As to "Il avait peur de changement", it's "He WAS afraid of change" (avait is imperfect past tense).

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/curlymopsmum

Whoops. I hope my point about translations of peur weren't lost in my grammatical mistake

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

Okay. As to "peur de", the French seems to be much broader whereas English has specific terms: afraid, scared, frightened, fearful, etc. Context will tell you which is best. For example: J'ai peur de devoir partir maintenant = I'm afraid I have to leave now. You would not use "scared", "frightened", or "fearful"here. That's way too strong for the context. As you know, it's not that you are frightened/scared/fearful of having to leave, but just "I'm sorry that I must leave now. I'd like to stay, but I'm afraid I need to leave now. Is it those pesky little hints that seem to equally suggest "scared" and "afraid"? Sometimes we run into French words that appear to mean the same but actually are quite specific in application. And now we see from the other side how subtle and yet how specific these terms are in English. I hope that has helped.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/curlymopsmum

As you say, context is all and in the case of change we don't know if it makes him slightly nervy or turns him into a gibbering wreck so it's difficult to judge which fearful word to use. I'll just have to remember that DL world uses afraid unless it is clearly wrong

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Aude_Can

Hi, here native French speaker. About this, the correct sentence in French is "Il avait peur DU changement".

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

An unexpected bonus. Thanks!

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/dbqkdgghjgk

I used to leave the correct translations in many of the French questions after being told I was wrong. Will have a look at the reverse tree soon.

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

Here's something I forgot to mention. Depending on what answer you entered, you may be shown a variation which DL accepts. However, it may not be the very best answer and be assured that there are probably a lot of other accepted answers that you don't see. So while some answers displayed are indeed awkward (and the outrageous ones should never be displayed as "correct"), try to stay just a little humble in instructing the owl about what "THE CORRECT TRANSLATION" should be. Sometimes, the translation may have been put in by someone for whom English is a second language or even trying a bit too hard to be so inclusive that wildly outrageous sentences are marked as correct. Everyone is trying to do their best. Shared knowledge always works to our mutual benefit when we share it with respect.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

Looking for "correct answers" that you know for a fact are truly outrageous, not just that your submission was counted wrong. Include both the FR sentence and the EN sentence and post directly at the top of the page, not in reply to a comment. Thanks.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/pir_anha

I didn't write them down; I've been reporting the ones no native English speaker I know would ever use (and I am familiar with British, American, and Canadian variants) -- do you have access to those reports?

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

If you really are confident that there are no native English speakers on the planet that do not say it, let me know. That is a tall order, however. I'm aware of many of these regional variations but I see new ones crop up all the time. The problem is that there are literally thousands of exercises and many thousands of error reports. I was thinking that this might be a way to bring just the most troublesome sentences to light in a way that they could be caught right away rather than wait 6 months or a year before a methodical working through all the lessons would expose the error. There is no flashing red light that goes off at DL HQ when someone reports a bad sentence. I'm not talking about that particular verb conjugation sounds funny to me, I'm talking truly outrageous. I.e., if you see the English sentence and just shake your head in disbelief, that's what I'm looking for.

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/pir_anha

Fortunately any preconceptions that "no native English speaker would say this" are easily tested. I'm thinking mostly of sentences where there was a gratuitous article thrown in, or the wrong preposition used, or that have a completely awkward sentence construction -- when you check the comments you can see which ones get strongly downvoted, those are good candidates (I wonder whether a database search could not easily find those). Thanks for shedding some light on the reason why problems seem to take so long to get fixed; I'll keep a copy of the ones I'll report from now on.

And thanks for doing this! I am relatively new here, but I've already noticed you often give excellent advice. The comments on Duo are my favourite part; it's where I learn the most.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

The problem you mention is a common one and rather a trap of our own creation. In the early stages, DL wants to make sure everyone knows the difference between "un livre", "le livre" and "ce livre" and so is quite methodical in correcting any errors. In more advanced sentences, sometimes an idiomatic (natural and correct) expression in French will, if translated literally (word-by-word) will produce a really awkward English sentence. So here's the trick. Translate good French into good English. It's tricky on both sides when you have been drummed into writing literal translations (and being rewarded for doing so), to find that at some point, those literal translation are not always good anymore (and being counted wrong). It's rather like parenting. You want your children to grow up and be responsible, make their own decisions, and take responsibility for their own actions. But the transition can be a bugger. It can be hard on both parties to match the speed of making that transition, of moving through the dynamic of intelligently making the shift from parroting literal translations to turning idiomatic French into idiomatic English.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

Il dort après qu'il a bu = He sleeps after he has drunk.

Sa fatigue est extrême= His tiredness is extreme.

EDIT: Note that I'm not suggesting that either of these are grammatically incorrect. However, the first seems to be a point of confusion for many English speakers, and that can distract from learning French. If this was "Il dort après qu'il a mangé," people would be less likely to get distracted by the past participle, and perhaps get the distinction that après que doesn't require the subjunctive.

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/TomatoGrower

I've read similar comments on the Spanish tree. I think it's because some dialects of English use "has drank" rather than "has drunk", so the first sounds odd to them.

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Nebelung1

I'm not a native English speaker, but I rarely hear English people use the past participle "have/has drunk".

It's supposedly the correct form, but for some reason people seem to shy away from using it.

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

Nevertheless, it is correct. People may talk about the subject using other expressions. Such as, "He sleeps after he has been drinking", and thereby avoid the unfamiliar past participle "drunk". It should be noted that the Passé composé (il a bu) does not translate to "have been" + present participle.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/pir_anha

It's correct and common in Canada, but it is one which quite a few people avoid because they're not sure, yes. Quite possibly also because there's the word "drunken" as well, which might muddy the waters.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Luscinda

There's nothing wrong with that. Drunk is the past participle, not drank, which is the past tense.

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/TomatoGrower

Often, what sounds like an awful sentence to one English speaker can sound perfecty fine to another. I've read many comments on the Spanish tree where people have said "No English speaker would ever say that", when I do say it like that.

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

That's why I have asked native English speakers to let me know so I can have a look. At first glance, some of the sentences that people report as "never say that" are simply outside their own preferred speech pattern. Seeing all the regional variations enables us to include them, as appropriate, but there are some which are genuinely, truly, honestly awful. As I mentioned to curlymopsmum (above), take the sentence "J'ai peur de devoir partir maintenant". "Peur" (n fear) can be translated as 1) afraid, 2) scared, 3) fearful, 4) frightened, in the context of "J'ai peur..." But when the reason for the fear is that I have to leave now (that is to say the reason for the so-called "fear" is given: I have to leave now). There is nothing that says "I'm afraid to leave...because there is a group of thugs waiting for me outside). Which is why one would not say "I'm frightened/scared/fearful of having to leave now" (even though those words would generally by considered synonyms of "afraid"), whereas "I'm afraid I have to leave now" is idiomatic English and perfectly acceptable. Nevertheless, this is exactly the kind of translation that a non-native speaker could easily make, unaware that even though they mean virtually the same thing, these words are not always interchangeable. Very often, absurd translations can be justified on the pretext of some obscure and fantastic pretense which one is required to imagine for the sentence to make sense. If you have to imagine a gang of vicious thugs waiting for you outside, I grant that it would indeed be a frightening proposition to have to go out there right now.

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

Il est avant sa femme = He is before his wife.

In English, "before" in this case without any context would be interpreted as dominance, control, or superiority. Does it mean that in French? My interpretation of the French is that it might mean "he arrives before his wife does' or something to that effect.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

"Avant" has a number of meanings so it doesn't automatically mean superiority. It can be temporal, spatial, or figurative. Context will tell you which. There are also variations when it is used in combination with other words. For "Il est avant sa femme", it may be as simple as "He is earlier than his wife". "Before" is ambiguous. "Il est en avant de sa femme" = He is in front of his wife. You might say "Ma femme passe avant ma carrière" = My wife comes before (is more important than) my career. http://www.wordreference.com/fren/avant

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

One of my concerns is that some Duo sentences don't have a lot of context, so it makes it difficult to learn different ways that a word can be used (or not).

Based on what I had learned previously, I thought that "devant" was spatial and translated to "in front of." And I thought that "avant" could be either temporal and figurative. Now I'm not so sure based on your message. Is my understanding incorrect or perhaps incomplete?

If there were more specific examples of when to use "avant" and when to use "devant," it would help to understand it better. If the Duo sentence was "Il arrive en avant de sa femme" rather than "Il est avant sa femme" that would better help understand the nuances of which word to use when.

Duo can't cover all possible meanings of every word, but it would be nice to have examples that clearly illustrate different very common usages of a particular word. I know that your intention at the moment is to address the low-hanging fruit, but it's something to consider for the future.

Finally, I would like to thank you for all your help and the work that you put into the Duo community. Hopefully, I haven't created a lot of extra work for you. Duo French has been enormously helpful. I finally had the courage to sign up for some B1/B2 French classes again, and I finished a novel in French (albeit an easy one) for the first time in 25 years and I'm now able to watch some French movies without subtitles (although I'm still scared to try Jules et Jim again).

p.s. I noticed yesterday that au hazard is no longer translating to fate, so I'm happy about that.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

I regret to say that not all the somewhat odd sentences may be eliminated. DL tends to focus on teaching more toward grammar exercises rather than worrying as much about whether it sounds "right" (i.e., idiomatic) in English. I maintain that good French should translate into good English and not be forced into awkward literal translations where good French is translated into bad English. Trying to create examples to present a good spread of exposure can sometimes lead to creating sentences for the sake of the exercise rather than paying attention to how realistic or practical it is. It will never be perfect but we can clean up the roughest edges. As to avant vs. devant. It works like this: Avant means "before". It can be temporal, spatial, or figurative. "Devant" = in front of, or you can say "en avant" for "in front of". You are right that DL can never teach all the meanings of the words. Truth be told, it's not at all a clinically precise process. Good job with the novel. That way you know you're reading French more like it is actually used rather than as a grammatical exercise. News articles are also great sources, enabling you to learn topical vocabulary and see French in action. I cannot address everyone's problem, but there are plenty of opportunities to clean up the worst ones. Thanks for your input.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

I'm actually quite fond of some of the odd sentences, or "Duoisms" as I like to call them. My favorite is "It is necessary to feel the wave." Even those that made me scratch my head at first have often been helpful because I then looked into better understanding what it meant further.

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Sue.Bee

PLACES: Il est aux toilettes. = He is in the toilet.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/curlymopsmum

That's perfectly acceptable in British English although I would use the word "loo" for toilette, being southern middle class British. But DL didn't like loo the one time I tried

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

As curly points out, that may sound strange to US speakers but "les toilettes" (plural) is also used as bathroom/loo/WC and toilet (meaning the room, not the toilet itself). Good catch. Thanks Sue and Curly. It's fixed.

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Luscinda

I have lost count of the number of times that I have pointed out to Duolingo that 'loo' is the least controversial option for lavatory (and that a picture of a portaloo is not a visual cue for 'bath'!).

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

Of course we're not talking about "bath" but what people call "les toilettes". English speakers in different parts of the world use different terms. As common as "loo" is in the UK, it's "bathroom" in the US. Both should be included whenever "les toilettes" shows up. Another strange one is that some refer to the "loo" as the "toilet", whereas to others that means the actual fixture for taking care of business. As to the photo of a portaloo, it is "les toilettes" because that is the essence of what the term refers to. It is only in US and I suppose Canada that we use the term "bathroom" to refer to the place where the toilet is. If you're looking for one while on a walking tour of Paris, you aren't looking for a place to take a bath.

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Luscinda

'. Another strange one is that some refer to the "loo" as the "toilet", whereas to others that means the actual fixture for taking care of business.'

I don't think it's either/or - for anyone who uses 'loo' (or at least in British English generally), I think they are likely to mean both in any situation where the room is not a bathroom (i.e. there is neither bath nor shower present) - so downstairs 'cloakroom', public conveniences, portaloo etc.

[The Duo German course really does offer a portaloo as a visual for 'bath', as it favours Bad over Badezimmer.]

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

"I do not hire you."

Translation: Je ne vous embauche pas.

https://www.duolingo.com/comment/951393

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/scottpenrobert

Couverts = Silverware The translation for the english word 'cutlery' in English, is rendered as 'silverware' in French. 'Silverware' in English refers to utensils made of silver.
'Silverplate' refers to utensils coated in silver plating. All 'knives', 'forks', 'spoons' made of an metal or alloy other than silver, are referred to in English as 'cutlery'. Google translates 'couverts' as 'cutlery'

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

Good to know. When it began, I cannot tell you, but there are large segments of English-speakers who refer to cutlery as "silverware" even though it is neither silver, not silver-plated. It is a holdover from better days, I suppose. What you say is true and would be incorporated into the area of regional variations. I'll check on it. http://www.wordreference.com/fren/couverts

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/pir_anha

This is a regional thing. "Silverware" or "flatware" regardless of actual silver content is much more commonly used in the US than in Canada, where it's very old-fashioned. My partner's 85-year old mother in Ontario still says "silverware", and uses "flatware" when she buys a set for somebody's wedding. But my partner and all our friends (Canadians) say "cutlery". Brits also say cutlery IIRC, unless actual silver is involved.

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/curlymopsmum

This Brit says cutlery for everything regardless of its composition. I'd forgotten this one but it did briefly puzzle me

July 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

It's fixed. Thanks.

July 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Luscinda

'Silverware' is very unusual by comparison. Most of us wouldn't use it for anything that didn't actually involve silver. It's a bit Brideshead/fancy hotel. Likewise, I think 'flatware' is unusual and sounds like sales talk. Most of us would use 'crockery'.

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/curlymopsmum

Ah ha! So that's what flatware is. Crockery or china in this household

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Muzorewi1984

Ils font leur présentation après-demain = They present the day after tomorrow

I had that one in a multiple choice and all three proffered English answers made no sense, which made choosing one hard.

July 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

That one seems straightforward enough. As I translation, you could say "They make their presentation the day after tomorrow." More often than not, the multiple choice questions rely on a single outrageous word to see if you can pick out the good one(s). As you know, "faire" is used in a huge number of applications that are idiomatic in French and may take on a slightly different form in English.

July 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Muzorewi1984

Well, yes, but the above was given as the 'correct' translation, when it is clearly awful.

July 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

How would you translate it in idiomatic English then?

July 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/aspielman2

The future tense would be more natural here in English: 'they will be presenting the day after tomorrow' or 'they will be making/giving their presentation the day after tomorrow'

August 1, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/aspielman2

Or if you want to keep it in the present, it needs to be present continuous: 'they are making/doing/giving their presentation the day after tomorrow'.

August 1, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Luscinda

This is from the reverse tree, but I assume they cross-pollinate. And actually, it's even worse that it is in the reverse tree because you cannot assume the user will recognise the error.

Yesterday evening, I have listened to the radio.

July 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/n6zs
  • 1716

It is a formulaic translation of the Passé composé which disregards idiomatic English. In sentences like this, using the auxiliary verb in English sounds odd. For a francophone making the translation to English as a second language, the difference could easily be missed. Here we are focusing on the French-for-English-speakers course.

July 30, 2015
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