Online Translators

Someone asked me a question today about online translators. They got a really silly answer out of one of them and wanted to know why. They tried to translate the word “Korean” into English through a Japanese online translator, and the online translator gave them the word “moth.” I think they were wondering if it was a cultural thing, but probably not. When I first found online translators, I was thrilled thinking they would make my life and everyone else’s so much easier. I even gave a website to one of my old bosses who needed things translated into Korean occasionally, but it was a mistake. I shouldn’t have bothered sharing the website with her, and if she used it, she probably looked silly.

When I write in Japanese on a computer, I type in the English letters, and then the Japanese letters come up on the screen. The computer gives me the choice of hiragana or kanji, and sometimes, there are several kanji there, and I need to choose which kanji . If I don’t know which kanji, the computer can’t tell me. The computer con’t do everything we wish it could. I have to know some Japanese already to use a Japanese keyboard even though I am supposed to type English letters in. ///Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

I use on online English/Romanian dictionary to get my brain thinking Romanian sometimes, but very rarely use what I see there. I speak Romanian better than the online dictionary. They give me some really silly answers often. I have tried several of them, and they are all the same. You can occasionally get a word translated correctly, but often, you get something silly like the person who got “moth” when the put in “Korean.” If I totally relied on the online English/Romanian dictionary I use and didn’t already speak Romanian, the song translations I send out everyday wouldn’t make any sense in Romanian and be downright silly. When you are translating something like a song, often you wonder if there is a better word than what you have thought off, but they don’t give me better words. Sometimes they give they the word I thought of already. Sometimes they give me a good translation, and sometimes I wonder why they are even on the computer because what they put up there doesn’t mean what they say it does at all. The online dictionaries should not be taken as authorities, but only as a help in other ways like looking for alternative translations or jogging your memory if you already speak the language.

Computers just can’t do everything we wish they could.

If you are translating texts with an online translator, just don’t. Those kinds of translators have no value at all. They don”t know grammar. It is not the person who made the website, but the computer. Computers don’t understand grammar. They destroy it. I have had Korean students who were studying English who I assigned a writing task in English. They went home, wrote it in Korean since it was their first language, and then put it through an online translator to get it into English, and then turned it into me. What they turned into me was gobeldy gook. It was a disaster! I couldn’t even understand it. I can always recognize when a student has put it through an online translator. I can either have mercy and ask them to do it again without the online translator or fail them because those are the only options. You need a human mind, a creative mine, to understand grammar, and computers are not creative. They are machines. Computers can’t do grammar. Human beings do grammar.

Language students who think they can use online translators and get a good grade are sadly mistaken. Can the computer do your Math problems for you? Maybe, but it can’t do your English for you.

Think about your spell check. If you think a word is wrong, all the computer can do for you is make suggestions. You are the one who has to choose what is right. The computer can’t. Spell checks help, but if you don’t already have an idea of how to spell a word, the computer can’t help you. It is just like the translating of a word. If I don’t already have an idea of what that word is in a foreign language, the computer may give me stupidity and I wouldn’t even know. For sure, the computer isn’t going to be able to do grammar. If you don’t already know that grammar, the computer program can’t tell you.

If you think you can speak a sentence into your smart phone and it will spit it out translated for you, you are sadly mistaken Those phones are making gobeldy gook.///Photo by Tracy Le Blanc on Pexels.com

Some of the dictionaries might help some, but a hard back or paper back dictionary in your hand is much better than the online dictionaries. If that person didn’t already speak English, they wouldn’t have known that “moth” is not how you say “Korean” in English. Sometimes those dictionaries can give you good words, but you have to be halfway familiar with the words in that language to begin with to know if what the computer spit out is worth while or not. Definitely, don’t put a paragraph, a letter, or an essay through the computer thinking it will come out written well in a foreign language because it just won’t. When a popup comes on my computer saying, “Translate this page?” I would never use it because it will just make a mess out of what I just typed. If you want to put something in a foreign language, you are just going to have to study. Computers can’t do all the thinking for us. They are not creative. Human beings are creative. In language, we learn facts, and then we have to be creative to put them together. I have had Koreans who don’t speak English see me coming and pull their smart phone out thinking they can say it in Korean into their phones and get it in English for me, but they just need to put those silly phones away because the phone gives gobeldy gook. They are going to have to get used to dumbing their Korean down to talk to foreigners in Korean or learn English if they want to talk to them.

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