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The Problem With Using Translation Programs

By Edited Jul 22, 2015 0 1

There are a lot of people who try to learn a second language by translating their words and phrases from their primary language into the second languages. Generally this presents a problem. Translation programs are not designed to account for certain factors that are mentioned below, therefore they are only good as an aid and not a complete solution.

The first problem is that translation programs try to translate one language into another language directly. In many cases this is troublesome especially when translating Eastern and Western languages. This is not always possible and people should be careful know that what they get from the translation program may not be correct.

Many times words and phrases cannot be translated from one language to another. Either the word or phrase do not exist in the second language or are not easily translated. An example of this would be 'good day'. 'Good day' does not have an equivalent phrase in Chinese and many attempts by different translators usually come up with something that is not acceptable by native Chinese speakers. Plus I am sure that people who have friends with a different primary language have said at one time or another that they didn't know how to say something in English.

Another thing that translations programs do not take into account are customs and traditions of either language and the people that speak them. In English the most common greeting is 'hello'. This greeting is used by almost everybody and almost nobody knows the meaning of the word, but just simply accept it as a greeting. There are several possible origins of the word 'hello'. The two most common is to call attention to something or a request for one to identify oneself as they approach. When translating 'hello' to Chinese the most common Chinese greeting is selected and then it is defined as 'hello'. The truth is the most common greeting is  你好 (ni hao). The meaning of 你好 is 'you good' and can be translated as 'how are you'. Obviously the two greetings have two different meanings and just because they are the most common used greeting in their respective language do not mean they mean the same.

The customs and the traditions of a language play an important part in learning a second language. For instance, Koreans have more honorifics in its language than English does.. Many times you find close friends greeting each other as if they were family members (big sister, big brother, aunt, uncle, mother, father) depending on the closeness of the relationship and the generation of the people conversing. Also adding a suffix increases the degree of respect one is showing another. For instance, 형아 (hyeonga) means elder brother and is used by males when addressing an elder brother or a close elder male friend. Some organizations conform to this when addressing senior male colleagues. Adding the suffix 'nim' is an honorific that means most respected.

This are just a few things that makes the use of a translation program as an unsuitable primary tool to learn a second language. There are other more suitable programs for learning such as actual learning programs and people whose native language is the language one wishes to learn as a second language.



Jun 7, 2012 3:50pm
Some very valid points. It's simply not feasible to use a translation tool as your primary method of ;learning a new language , , ,
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