It's Polish, in Italian!

The very first thing I learned about Turkish this year was actually an interesting revelation about languages and translation tools.

On New Year's Day, I commented on a friend's Facebook photo, and decided to do it in Turkish, since this is my Turkish year. However, since I began the year knowing no Turkish, the only way I could leave that comment was by first getting the words from Google Translate.

I first typed the phrase I wanted in English, and got a Turkish translation. But keeping in mind that all I know about Turkish is what I learned from a language profile last year, I couldn't feel confident in the translation. I also suspected that the grammar should be different.

So, I changed the source language from English to Russian and tried my query using Russian. Indeed, I got a much different result! This isn't particularly surprising to me, because English grammar is all based on context. For example, when you translate "can", how does the translator know if you mean "I can" or "you can" or "can it" or "tin can"?

Using a source language with conjugated verbs increases your chances of getting a good resulting translation. And using declined nouns increases those chances even further. Russian grammar is far more accurate. But even Spanish or French would get a more precise result than English.

The benefits don't stop there, of course. Doing translations this way can also be a helpful way to learn new words in the original second language — the one you already know — because your confidence in the language and grammar means that you can look up a verb and use it in Google Translate, and now you're learning this word in two languages at the same time!

Finally, when I got my translation from English and my translation from Russian, the results may have been different, but the main word had the same stem in both. So by doing this, I was able to deduce the stem of a verb, and also get a practical example of how endings change in use. See? Learning by discovery isn't so hard...



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