Learning Method: Why I use rough translations of texts from Google Translate

If any of you are wondering why I post these rough translations, it’s because I regularly use them to listen to and appreciate content beyond my level in Chinese while reading along in English and I like to have them connected to the text on LingQ, rather than having to retranslate them every time want to listen.

The fact that the translation is is rough and direct is of little concern, as I only use it to get the gist of the text anyway and I can follow along given that there’s at least one word in every sentence that I understand, not to mention that the direct translation helps raise my awareness about the different phraseology used in Chinese compared with English.

This method of simultaneous reading in your native language while listening in the foreign language can of course be used with any language and can be very gratifying for a beginner, as it allows you to appreciate longer texts that are well beyond your current level without having to look up every single word.

I also feel that it gives you a more holistic sense of what the text is about, especially in Chinese, as opposed to looking up the meanings of the individual words/characters and trying to piece together the meaning.

*…every time I want to listen.

*…the translation is rough (NOT is is rough)…


I think this is excellent advice. While we do have some parallel translated beginner texts, in many cases we do not have translations, which could help, especially for beginners.

I heartily endorse using Google translate if a text is very unclear.

I have tried this with Chinese and can only agree. It allows me to understand the gist of forum posts, profile descriptions, lessons etc. I’m sure it isn’t always correct; only sometimes it’s really surprising what it can offer (especially with phrases). Thank you, David, for this suggestion :))

Sounds interesting. I might do this when I get into Chinese more seriously. Would you suggest doing this only in the short-term and then going back to the traditional way of doing it once the basic profiency is there? Or do you think you would still do this at an advanced level, just to allow yourself a better understanding of a given text?

I’m also a frequent user of Google translate for Chinese. Since I’m not at all at the level where I can skim an article, I use the translation engine to get an idea of what it’s about. I still save words and phrases, but as I progress, I may want to edit the hint.

I don’t see any reason why you could’t use this method well into the advanced levels.

Look at it as the LingQ version of watching foreign films with subtitles - at the beginning you pay lots of attention to the subtitles, but as you progress, you read less and listen more intently because you can follow more just by listening.

Eventually you don’t need the subtitles at all, but I know for example that even when I’m watching a film I’ve seen in German and I understand everything being said I’ll sometimes still turn on the subtitles just to raise my awareness to certain words and phrases.

@ jeff and alleray

I think you both would benefit greatly from the accelerated character learning system used at www.smartfm.com

To see what smartfm is all about check out this video iKnow! by DMM英会話で英語。ちょっとの努力で、大きな成果を。 - iKnow!

Just sign up for an account and choose ‘Chinese’ as your goal, then choose Chinese Characters: Level 1 [Beginner] by TaipeiProgram.

Once you finish Level 1, you do a further 9 levels, each of which contains about 250 characters, for a total of the approximately 2500 most common characters.

An experiment with “Google translate”

I put the fist sentence in English into the left section on the Google translate page, and in the right section I got the second sentence in Japanese. Then I put the second sentence into the left section, and got the third sentence in English.
In the same way, I put the fist sentence in English into the left section, and got the forth sentence in German. Then I put the forth sentence into the left section, and got the fifth sentence in English.

  1. Talk about anything you like as long as you write in English!
  2. 話をしている限り、英語で書くように何も!
  3. As long as you talk, nothing to write in English!
  4. Sprechen Sie über was Sie wollen so lange wie Sie schreiben auf Englisch!
  5. Talk about what you want as long as you write in English!

The second sentence in Japanese does not make any sense, and the gap between the third sentence and the first sentence is very interesting. What do you think of the difference between the fist sentence in English and the fifth sentence in English? I think that they are very similar.

Thanks for the smartfm link, David. I’ll have a look at it right away.

@YutakeM: How thorough you are. It looks as if the Japanese function were the weakest, because sentences 4 and 5 are acceptable. While David seems to be quite aware of the standard and is using the translation as rough guides only, you might use your knowledge by using Google’s “Contribute to a better translation”. Think what a difference you could make!

@DavidMartin: Is there a way (or even a point) of putting all your hard work into a collection which you could share with everybody? I’m asking this because future users of the Chinese content will not be aware of your forum postings. In a way you would give them a leg up, so to speak, if you were publishing your Rough Guides with a brief raison d’etre (can’t find the French symbols, sorry) AND you could earn points.

Apologies, YutakaM ! My typing is getting worse.

In my last post in this thread ,“fist” should read “first.” ( I am sorry to interrupt the flow of the discussion here.)

I’ve never seen a good machine translation from English to Japanese. Is there one? I know that translators have been dreaming of such a machine for a long, long, time.


I would love to create new content like that, and now that I’m not on the road anymore I hope to create plenty!

Another experiment with “Google translate”

  1. 何でも好きなことを話し合うことができます。制約はただひとつ、日本語で書かなければならないということです。
  2. You can discuss anything they like. There is only one constraint is that they should write in Japanese.
  3. You can discuss anything you like. There is only one constraint. You should write in Japanese.

The first sentences are from the forum on LingQ. The second sentences are the result of “Google translate.” I corrected the second sentences, and the result is the third sentences. The function of Japanese-to-English translation is not so bad, but I think that making a good machine is very difficult, and making a complete machine is like creating a mature human being.

The last experiment with “Google translate”

  1. Talk about anything you like as long as you write in English!
  2. 談論任何?喜歡,只要?寫英語!
  3. Talk about anything you like, as long as you write in English!

The first sentence is from the forum on LingQ. The second sentence in Chinese is the result of “Google translate,” and I put it into the left section of the page. The third sentence in English is the result in the right section of the page. I was surprised that the first sentence and the third sentence are almost the same.

I think that Google translate is an excellent resource for language learning. The fact that some translations are clumsy does not matter. You get the gist, you get the words. Now you still have to put the effort into listening to and reading the language you are learning. Or if you want to use the translation, you now have to put the effort into fixing it up.

It all depends on what we expect of this resource.

I learned something from your post, YutakaM. Thank-you for posting the Japanese and Chinese.

I use Google for languages that I don’t know. Reverso is a better translator for some languages. It also pronounces words and short sentences (free version).

“Reverso translation”
( http://www.reverso.net/text_translation.asp?lang=EN )

I tried translation from English through Japanese to English. What do you think of the result of the process.
I think that “Reverso translation” is smarter than “Google translate” at least in this case. Thank you for telling me about Reverso, Maitee.

  1. Talk about anything you like as long as you write in English!
  2. あなたが英語で書く限り、あなたが好きである何かについて話をしてください!
  3. Please talk about something which you like as far as you write it in English!

I cannot enjoy reading “rough” sentences both in English and in Japanese. Moreover, I am afraid that they have a bad influence on my style. There are several good dictionaries I can consult. FOR MY PART, I prefer consulting dictionaries to using “automatic” translation software. I appreciate the posts in this thread because I was able to feel the development of machine translation technologies.