What kind of translation should I provide?

I have started adding some translations to my lessons, starting from the couple of Sofia lessons for beginners I have written so far.
I’m wondering if these translations should look correct in the target language or if they should just be word-for-word translations meant to help the beginner student understand the meaning of the single words.
An example from the English translation I have just provided: should I translate “ho 27 anni” with “I am 27 years old” (correct in English but not letting the student learn this use of verb “avere”, to have, in Italian) or “(I) have 27 years”, which is more helpful for absolute beginners, although incorrect in English?
I realise that this kind of question may sound strange to most of you who haven’t studied translation theory… :slight_smile:
Thanks for any advice,


It’s good to see that you’re so meticulous in your translation :slight_smile:
My opinion is that it’s better to translate the meaning of the sentence rather than the literal meaning of the words. On LingQ, they can see the definition of the individual words by looking at user hints and dictionaries, but it’s often the meaning of the sentence that eludes them.

Thanks for your advice, Alex. I have already provided the English, French and German translation for the first of these lessons and will add Spanish (and maybe Portuguese) later. However, after saving and opening the lesson, I only see the English translation available. Why?

Rest assured that the translations are there. The reason you’re not seeing them is that only certain languages appear, based on your settings. I assume that you don’t have German as your interface language or French as your native language :wink:
The system is set up this way so that you’re not overwhelmed with translations in all sorts of different languages, but only ones that will (for most people, at least) be useful to you.

Alex, your suppositions are correct, but English isn’t my interface or dictionary language either.

Ah, perhaps I should’ve been more clear. It’s based on your settings, but regardless of your settings English will show. This is because we anticipate the most resources will be in English and therefore people such as yourself will not be at a disadvantage in not being able to see English resources. Thanks for catching my mistake :slight_smile:

As to what kind of translation to provide, I have opted for a word-for-word translation for my beginners’ texts.
I think it helps native speakers to get the hang of the structure of the other language better.

I agree that for more advanced lessons a ‘normal’ translation is appropriate.

Thanks for your feedback, Susanne, even if it made me even more confused.
Maybe it’s easier to provide a word-for-word English translation for German lessons, because the two languages are closer to each other than Italian and English are.
Anyone else’s experience?

I have shared the same lessons in the English and German libraries, so the translation proper is there. To provide a literal translation in both languages is, no doubt, easier than it would be for, say, Italian.

Nevertheless, the structure of German has marked differences to that of English and these differences show up well in a word-for-word translation. I also have provided additional notes (which take much longer to prepare than both the lessons and translations together!)

There are varying theories about the kind of translation that is most helpful for learners. One theory is that a word for word translation is more helpful for beginners.

The advantage at LingQ is that different tutors or providers can provide translations and help however they want. We will look forward to reactions and feedback from our learners.

Sure, the construction of sentences in German and in English is very different, but some structures are the same, like:
to be hungry, thirsty = hungrig, durstig sein
to be 20 years old = 20 Jahre alt sein
avere fame, sete (to have hunger, thirst) in Italian
avere 20 anni (to have 20 years)

It would take a long time before I can translate all my Sofia lessons into other languages, even if it would be great to do it. So, until I do it, students will have to make do with the translations in the “Resources” field. That’s why I’m asking what kind of translation would be more appropriate.

I understand the idea of having a word-for-word translation and I think it is helpful to understand the structure of a language. As Mark has explained people can get the word by word translation hoovering over the words. I think that is something newcomers easily figure out.

That is the reason why I prefer translations of the meaning of the sentence rather than a literal translation. Additional, sometimes a word by word translation makes no sense because the phrase means something different.

With a word-for-word people can see both translation, and more easily figure out the meaning.

Example: I sometimes use Google translate to read posts on LingQ that are written in a foreign language, and the results are often very poor. It is often like a word-for-word translation. I often have to guess what the correct meaning is.

I have now added the literal translation of all the English sentences in the first lesson of "Un italiano a Sofia (per principianti) after each sentence, in brackets.
Let me know what you think of this solution.

Sorry. I wrote "With a word-for-word people can see both translation, and more easily figure out the meaning. " —> should be "With a translation of the meaning people can see both translation, and more easily figure out the meaning. "

This is what the translation looks like now:

"Who am I? Where am I living? What am I doing here?
[LIT. Who (I) am? Where (I) live? What (I) do here?]

My name is Michele. I am 27 years old. I am Italian.
[(I) me call Michele. (I) have 27 years. (I) am Italian.]"

What do you think? Should I continue this way?

I would find it very helpful. Other people learn differently. As I said above, I provide both sorts of translations. Perhaps you could do the same for English, at least, in the translation field under Resources?

To me the translation is a slight help, a momentary crutch. It really does not matter too much if it is word for word or natural, or even has the odd mistake. It is just a temporary crutch. Ultimately the learner has to piece the meaning together from the text in the target language, looking up words, reading and reading again, and then listening and listening again.

It ma not be until weeks or months later, when going back over a lesson, that the learner fully understands it. If the translation is taken too seriously, the learner may miss the benefit of working through the text on his or her own.

In my view, any translation will do. But that is only my view.