Word for word translation for beginners

I am trying to figure out what kind of help is most useful for beginners in a language. I wonder if word for word translations, easily accessible from the lesson page would be useful. Here is what is looks like for Russian and French. Others could do the same into their own language. I have added a little video as well which might also help newcomers feel more comfortable. I welcome comments.


Russian nouns, pronouns, verbs and adjectives all change their form often, But at first do not worry about it. Just try to understand the meaning. After a while you can start worrying more about how and why the forms change. Just relax and try to understand.

Here is a word for word translation that my help you.

Привет. Что я могу сделать для тебя?

Hello. What I can do for you?

Меня зовут Наташа.

Me (they) call Natasha.

Как дела? Приятно познакомиться.

How (are) things? Pleasant (to) meet.

Также приятно познакомиться.

Also pleasant (to) meet.

Как зовут твою подругу?

How (they) call your friend (girl)?

Мою подругу зовут Света.

My friend (girl) (they) call Sveta.

Привет, Наташа. Привет, Света.

Hi Natasha. Hi Sveta.

Приятно познакомиться с вами обеими.

Pleasant (to) meet with both (of) you.

Here is a video to go with it. The objective is to get learners to relax and enjoy the language and not to worry about trying to nail anything down. If they can focus on the meaning, and get the language in them, they can go back to the structures of the language, and all the (oh so forgettable) rules later on.

Is this helpful?



PAUL : Bonjour. Que puis-je faire pour vous ?
Good day. What can I do for you
BEATRICE : Je m’appelle Béatrice.
I call myself Beatrice
PAUL : Comment allez-vous ? Enchanté de faire votre connaissance.
How go you? Delighted to make your acquaintance.
BEATRICE : Je suis également enchantée de vous connaître.
I am equally delighted to you know.
PAUL : Quel est le nom de votre amie ?
What is the name of your friend?
BEATRICE : Mon amie s’appelle Isabelle.
My friend calls herself Isabelle
PAUL : Bonjour Béatrice. Bonjour Isabelle. Ravi de vous rencontrer toutes les deux.
Good day Beatrice. Good day Isabelle. Delighted to you meet all the two.

Video: http://bit.ly/bsgYZG

Now I would find that really useful, it really helps me to understand the way sentences are formed in a language. It is also great as it allows you to pick out why certain situations seem to have different forms of verbs e.g. for me I just couldn’t get my head around why for to tell/say you had сказат, говорить, рассказать, рассказывать etc. Then when translated they all meant to tell. O_o. I think it would really help people process how a language works which in turn will hopefully lead to more people paying for membership here. Maybe if this was done for the beginner series in each language people could ‘buy’ or use their points to purchase translations of other series in the library for a nominal fee. I know I would be happy to do so if I knew it had already improved my grasp of the language.

Martialartsdude, we are looking at different things to help the beginners. Give us a few weeks. then we will be looking for lots of feedback.

Now here is my effort to do the same for Asian languages. This is just an experiment at this stage. We also intend to offer beginners other kinds of help including phonetic script where required and more. The learner can also ask grammar questions on our forum as now. What is more I expect that most learners will also consult grammar resources on the web or in a grammar book.

However, I prefer to focus on the meaning of what I am listening to and reading, and not to be too distracted by lots of explanations. The key is to help learners focus on meaning so that they start to get a feel for the language.

What I am trying to create here is a series of simple word for word inter-spaced translations and a short video that will overcome the initial nervousness of the learner and hopefully encourage him or her to dive into the meaning of the content.

Your comments are welcome. I hope, if we can get this off the ground that others will also try their hand at this kind of thing, so that we can all help each other. I am sure that many of you can do a better job than I did.


你好 。 需要 帮忙 吗 ?
You good? Need help ma?

谢谢 , 我 叫 李洁 。
Thank thank,I call Lijie

你好 , 李洁 。 你 的 朋友 叫 什么 名字 ?
You good Lijie. You 's friend call what name?

我 的 朋友 叫 刘莉 。
My 's friend call Liuli.

你好 刘莉 。
You good Liuli.

我们 正在 找 一个 人 。
We just at search one person.

你 在 找 谁 呢 ?
You at search who ne?

我 在 找 我 的 哥哥 。
I at search my 's older brother.

他 住 在 这儿 吗 ?
He live at here ma?

是的 , 我 想 我 哥哥 就 住 在 这栋 楼 里 。
Is de, I think I older brother just lives at this (counter) building inside.

你 哥哥 是 谁 ? 他 叫 什么 名字 ?
You older brother is who? He call what name?

我 的 哥哥 叫 李强
I 's older brother call Liqiang。

你 哥哥 比 你 大 几岁 ?
You older brother than you big how many years?

我 哥哥 比 我 大 五岁 , 他 是 我们 家 最大 的 孩子 。
I older brothers than I big 5 years. he is our family biggest de child.

你们 俩 谁 高 ? 你 还是 你 哥?
You both who tall? You or you brother?

我 哥哥 高 一些 。 在 我们 家 我 个头 是 最 矮 的 。 你 为什么 问 这个 呢 ?
I brother tall one bit. At our family I size most short de. You for what ask that ne?

The Chinese video: http://bit.ly/by9HtQ


こんにちは。 何かご用ですか?
Today wa. What ka (honourable) need is ka?

はじめまして。 私の名前はまりこです。
Was first time. I 's name wa Mariko is.


(Honourable) meet was able to happy is.

はじめまして. お友達の名前は何ですか?

Was first time. (Honourable) friend 's name wa what is ka?

She 's name wa yuki is.

こんにちは、まりこさん。 こんにちは、みゆきさん。 お二人にお会いできて嬉しいです。

Today wa, Mariko-san. Today wa, Miyuki-san. (Honourable) two people (honourable) meet was able to happy is.

The Japanese video: http://bit.ly/cxgRLn



Peace is.

안녕하세요. 저는 김은정이라고 합니다

Yes (nice) peace is. I neun Kim Eun Chong so called is.

네 반갑습니다

Yes(nice), happy is.

저도 반갑습니다

I too happy is.

이쪽 친구분은 성함이 어떻게 되세요?
This friend person eun name i how become?

이쪽 친구분은 이지혜에요
This friend person eun Yi Ji Hae is.

두분 다 반갑습니다

Two persons both happy is.

The Korean video: http://bit.ly/cpm03o

My personal opinion is that I find that translation of the meaning is more useful. Some people might find word by word translation useful and that is good for how they study but I find that you can be confused when things like grammar don’t translate well. Translation of the meaning better I think because when thinking in the language you try to understand what the meaning of a sentence is not just the word by word translation. This is why I like the “who is she” beginner content because I can refer to the english who is she to make sure I understood the context correctly.

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My personal opinion is that I find that translation of the meaning is more useful. Some people might find word by word translation useful and that is good for how they study but I find that you can be confused when things like grammar don’t translate well. Translation of the meaning is better I think because when thinking in the language you try to understand what the meaning of a sentence is not just the word by word translation. This is why I like the “who is she” beginner content because I can refer to the english who is she to make sure I understood the context correctly.

Andres, this does not replace the normal translation.It would just be an additional resource to help learners understand how the new language is structured.

Difficult to say since I haven’t tried it, but I could have…Two years ago I bouth a Czech-English book based on similar principle. I will give you an example how it is in the book>

My name is Jarda and I live in the Czech Republic. - Jmenuju se Jarda a žiju v České Republice.

So there are two columns. in the first column, there is English text and in the second column there is always natural sentence in Czech.¨
In addition, bellow each English word is Czech word for that, so:

My name is Jarda and I live in the Czech Republic.
Můj jméno je Jarda a já žít v Česká Republika.

As I mentioned, I havent tried to study by using this method. It can be good for someone, why not. Everyone has a different approach to study and everyone prefers somethng else. I think that LIngQ is cool since you can see each word by clicking the mouse on it.

The video is a great idea.

I read the Japanese word for word translation and it didn’t make much sense until I watched the video.

I’d prefer having a meaningful translation in the lesson notes, at least for Japanese. That way I’d have the choice of looking at it and/or doing my own structure analysis.

For the European languages, the word for word translation may be appropriate.

For how many lessons would these translation be provided? I’d be happy to work on the German content if needed.

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I don’t know who created this dialogue but it sounds in Russian like this:

Привет. Что я могу сделать для тебя?

Hi! What should I do with you? I don’t know, give me an idea.

Меня зовут Наташа.

Could you remember, idiot that my name is Natasha?

And so on… Suitable for a lunacy asylum.

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@ victor2: I quite like your version.

It is not exact. Just a version how it can be got. The first phrase is absolutly impossible. It can be said only as a reply to “Save me!” cry. The second phrase is unnatural because no Russian person will give you his or her name if you don’t ask him/her first. It is only possible in situation like “I am you boss (teacher, TV anchor, supervisor), my name is Maria Ivanovna.” The third flop is the question “How are you doing?” It is not a formal question as it would be in English. This can be said to a person you already know well and he/she can reply “OK” or retell you all his/her life.

Isn’t it to much for a short dialogue? The dialogue as I can guess had been written by a Russian who actually translated it from English without thinking much, just word for word.

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The beginner series like Who is She are not meant to be totally natural and gripping best seller fiction. They are meant to be more or less parallel in 11 languages. They get the learner started and in the total picture of any learner’s road to fluency they will be a small part of their exposure. I spent two months listening to Who is She in Russian. it got me going.

I would suggest both the word-by-word translation and the interpretation. For example, for the French phrase above the following might be more helpful:
BEATRICE : Mon amie s’appelle Isabelle.
My friend’s name is Isabelle (literally, “my friend calls herself Isabelle”)
The person who is learning French would know what he/she is literally saying. At the same time he/she would not get confused by the word-by-word translation.
Literal translations by themselves often make little sense and are confusing for learners who want to know the equivalents of the words/phrases they would say in their native language. Translations such as “You older brother than you big how many years?” do not sound natural or correct.

California Center for Translation & Interpretation
10940 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 1600
Los Angeles, CA 90024

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Literal translation is like the Birkenbihl method. It was discussed earlier on the forums: http://www.lingq.com/forum/46/2958/ You’ll find a lot of discussions with her name: Login - LingQ

I think both versions are helpful:

  1. A translation of the meaning (because literal translation sometimes makes no sense at all)
  2. A literal translation (named decoding in the Birkenbihl method)

Personally I think the LingQ reading interface offers version 2 automatically if there is a PROPER LingQ existing. Hovering over the words gives you an idea.

The problem is that I could only provide translations for German/English and probably German/French. I’ve already added a lot of translations into English to my beginner courses, but I’ve added translations of the meaning, not literal translations.

Steve, I have a course where I tried to add lots of help for absolute beginners. I’ve added not only a translation. I’ve also added lesson notes. I did this for a few lessons, because it turned out to be a lot of work (and LingQ is not my fulltime job):

PS. I got some feedback on the forum to these lessons: http://www.lingq.com/forum/12/11595/

Steve, what I really miss is that students can search the library for lessons with translations!

Turkish is a “backwards” language compared to my mother tongue, English. It’s also a lot more flexible in terms of word order. I learned the language as a beginner when I moved here, but never felt the need for such word order translations back then. I never looked at the language in that way.

I think giving such translations goes against the idea that learning useful phrases and structures as a whole, instead of dissecting and translating everything, is a healthier way to learn (though I accept that’s a topic for debate). When you see and hear such patterns over and over again, you absorb them anyway, without the need for such strange comparisons. At best I think this is a crutch that will help for only a very short time, before you internalise the patterns. It’s almost not worth it, because it distracts you from just going with the flow.

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I agree. Personally I prefer to learn phrases as a whole. But I accept that there are people who need other method. For me there is not only one way. We are all different, and so are the ways we learn.