Incorrect Translations

For the most part, I like the functionality of the site; though some of it is a little clunky.

That being said, why would I pay money for a site with incorrect translations? In “Who Is She Part 3” German, the translation of “Kennst du seine Freundin?” is “Who lives with my brother?.” My elementary knowledge of German leads me to believe the correct translation is “Do you know his girlfriend?” This is just one example. The subsequent sentence in the same lesson is also incorrect.


@SteveMac - Thanks for your feedback. The translations are provided as a convenience for some lessons, but most lessons on the site don’t offer translations. We don’t encourage learners to rely on direct translations when studying a language, as it often creates a reliance on one’s native language instead of building a familiarity with the language that is being learned.

With regard to this specific course, the translations are all taken from the versions available in other languages. This allows us to offer relatively accurate cross translations in 11 different languages. The versions can vary slightly, and we encouraged the translators to use natural language rather than trying to match the original English exactly, as we felt this would provide better lesson material for learners. This would also explain why the translations may not match 100% in some cases. We did add a disclaimer along these lines in the course description.

What you pay for with an upgraded membership on LingQ is not the content, which you can see is available for free to all users, but rather for the premium features and a removal of limits on your account. This also allows you to import as much content from other sites as you like to study in your LingQ account. I hope this helps to explain things a bit better!

If you have any questions or have any more feedback for us be sure to let us know!

Thanks, Alex.

(…) “Kennst du seine Freundin?” is “Who lives with my brother?.” (…)

While I do understand the general approach pursued by Lingq and as explained by Alex in his response, this example sentence simply is completely wrong and I don’t see how the translation provided would be of any use to a learner of German. In these cases it would probably be better to not provide any translation at all. Especially for beginners correct content is vital in my opinion.

(…) We don’t encourage learners to rely on direct translations when studying a language, as it often creates a reliance on one’s native language instead of building a familiarity with the language that is being learned. (…)

I do understand where you are coming from Alex, but Lingq does use translations as well, doesn’t it? I mean you have included dictionaries (which I think is a great feature). Unless you are actually in a situation of total immersion with ample opportunities to directly interact with real people I don’t think you can do without translations and if translations are provided they ought to be correct. Avoiding literal translations is one thing, providing a completely incorrect one (as in the example given) is something totally different.

I would be just as surprised as Steve if I were a learner of German.

I would like to add something to what Robert said. Having an incorrect translation looks really bad to newcomers who are just testing out the website for the first time. One of the problems LingQ has is attracting newbies to the site, and I think this is partly because it is a somewhat unique system that does not conform to people’s expectations for what language learning software should be like. When a newbie comes to the site to try it out, they are understandably going to be suspicious of it, and if they come across an incorrect translation like this, it is going to look really bad. I think things like this could deter potential paying members.

I remember first trying LingQ after reading Benny’s review of it late last year. I was initially impressed by the interface, but was completely put-off when I saw the user hints because they looked cheap and untrustworthy. After trying it again a little later, I realised that actually they are not so bad, but a lot of people would not have come back to try again.

@lovelanguagesII, ColinPhilipJohnstone - Thanks for the feedback on this.

We had a decision to make with the translations for these courses. Either provide no translations for any of the lessons in these courses, or provide more or less accurate translations for all of them. Because there are minor differences between the translations, fixing the translations would require someone familiar with all different languages pairs to be able to fix the spots that don’t exactly line up. What I mean here is that if the German version is slightly different, then we would need to fix the translation in all languages for the German version. If the Japanese version is slightly different then we are required to make all new changes for all translations for the course in this language. As you can see, it is not an insignificant amount of work to ensure the cross-translation is accurate for all language pairs (11 language versions X 10 translations each X 48 lessons (Who is She, Eating Out, Greetings and Goodbyes) = >5000). In the end, while it isn’t perfect, we decided that it was better to provide these translations with some hiccups rather than leave them all out.

Regarding LingQ using translations, we at LingQ don’t create any standardized user hints, but these are instead taken from the most popular hints that other users have created.

By the way, we always welcome help from members in this regard, which is why we set up editors. This way, if editors come across any errors in the text, translation, etc., they can go in and fix it for the next person who comes along. If anyone is interested in becoming an editor, please let us know and we would be happy to enable editor access for your account.

This in a nutshell is exactly why I have adamantly avoided ever going near the “Who is She” and the other LingQ series such as “Greetings and Goodbyes” in any language whatsoever.

When I joined two years ago, I read numerous forum posts relating to incorrect translations where different examples in different languages kept cropping up on a regular basis.

The forum is literally littered with such posts and most unfortunately, two years later, the situation remains exactly the same.

I know it’s easier to take shortcuts and depend upon the users to spot errors and edit the content themselves.

But really, here is an example of where once and for all, LingQ should bite the bullet and invest in correct translations.

While it might hurt financially in the short term you would reap the benefits in the long term.

Consider it a sound financial investment :wink:

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Just out of interest, how is the new system of flagging user hints going? How many have been deleted so far? I have been flagging hints that have been in the wrong language like crazy since it was introduced, but I don’t know if it is making a difference since, as I understand it, a hint needs to be flagged three times to be deleted.

@2Maria - Good points, and thanks for your feedback on this. We talked this over and decided to take a look into how we can improve the translations for these three beginner courses.

@ColinPhilipJohnstone - It’s going well, though we encourage you to continue flagging incorrect hints! While it does take three people to flag a hint for it to be deleted, once a hint has been flagged once the flag will appear next to it, and we hope that this alone will be enough to deter some users from continuing to take this hint while others review the flagged word.

That’s why I wonder how effective the flagging that I have been doing has been sofar. I almost never come across previously flagged hints. Of course it will take time for this to work, but i do wonder if 3 flags is too much. Why not just allow users to delete hints straight up? I guess there is always the danger that some very dedicated troll might decide to delete all of them, but this would take him years.

Mostly I just flag hints that are in the wrong language, but sometimes I do sometimes come across incorrect hints that I flag. Yesterday I did one that seemed to me to be miles off, but had been used 40 times I think. These is a problem though. In order to flag an incorrect hint, I need to know it is incorrect by checking the dictionary, but by doing this, I create the LingQ, and therefore, to flag the incorrect hint, I need to delete the LingQ, reselect the word, then select a different word, and the finally reselect the word again so that I can see the user hints. If one could flag user hints after creating the LingQ, in the big list that is available in the dock, this would be a lot easier.

Just another comment. It may not be necessary to improve every single translation. If you know which language combinations (e.g. English speakers learning German in this case) are the most used, then maybe it is enough just to concentrate on them.

@CPJ - I think we just have to trust that some other members are flagging incorrect hints and that we will eventually come across some. Also, we can be happy that those coming behind us will be warned about incorrect hints until they are eventually removed. Like you, I mostly flag hints in incorrect languages. I also agree that a way to flag hints from inside the LingQ would be good. I’ll add that to the wishlist.

Deleting a hint after only one flag could be too soon if the flaggers were newbies in the language and/or to language learning. There’s always the possibility that the word does mean something like the mistaken hint in another context. Just imagine an English learner reading the sentence, “The child was playing in the yard.” Learner looks at the hint for “yard” and sees that it means “36 inches”. That doesn’t make sense in the context so out goes the hint!

I guess what is best depends on whether it is better to delete some good hints for the sake of getting rid of some rubbish ones, or to leave the good hints at the expense of leaving some rubbish ones. However, I also suspect that flagged hints are useless and might as well be deleted since nobody is going to trust them anyway. What is he point in keeping a flagged hint in the system if people are going to have to look up the word themselves anyway when they see that it is flagged?