How To Use One Language To Learn Another

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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Author: Yearlyglot
I'll lead you through a 12 month journey from knowing absolutely nothing about a language to having professional fluency.

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  • Doesn't Google translate go *via English* when translating between certain non-English languages? In that case the conjugation would be lost; in fact by translating twice you may be damaging the end result even more!Even if it is direct, as explained in the video here: https://googlesystem.blogspo... they simply don't have enough material in some cases, and Russian to Turkish may be one of those cases, to provide accurate translations, and that is likely to include conjugating verbs wrongly.The from-Russian translation may actually be much worse because of this. I really think you should put both into Lang-8 to compare and get a human's opinion! Even if you don't produce it yourself, Lang-8 could be worthwhile to use on Google translations..?But I like the point about learning via another language in general. I'm a big fan of Assimil's "de poche" series, and learn many languages via French! Even now in Tagalog, learning positional pronouns, it's more convenient for me to remember them via Portuguese aqui, ai, lá, since English has no equivalent of "there (near you)" vs "there (far from both of us)"

  • I would not rely *too much* on Google Translate, but I must confess, I use it extensively when writing in French, pretty much the same way as you do.

  • If you are interested, you could download the google toolbar. It has a function where you hover over a word and it translates it for you.

  • "since English has no equivalent of "there (near you)" vs "there (far from both of us)"Sure it does. They're just expressed with two words instead of one. "Right there" and "Over there"But yeah, if it's easier to remember from another source, then by all means.

  • Perhaps that works in other dialects of English, but to me "right there" is being precise as you indicate somewhere (usually with your finger) and "over there" is somewhere more distant than simply "there" and neither are influenced by the position of the person you are speaking to.

  • I love that sort of Sherlock-Holmes-ish deductive-based reasoning, even if there's an easier way to get the information there isn't a more fun one than that :DAlso, I never thought about another language that conjugates verbs getting a more accurate translation, thanks for the tip, I'll likely use that at some point.Cheers,
    Andrew

  • Ya, like Benny, I had heard that Google Translate did everything via English, so maybe this is a case of it picking a different route through English to get to Turkish.I've found that one of the most useful things to do with Google Translate is to take a big batch of text in my target language and translate that into the Yoda-English that GT outputs...that way I can still understand my text because the result is "good enough", which then allows me to learn more from the native L2 text by reading it directly.This way, I'm gathering my L2 input from a pure source, using Yoda-English, rather than learning Yoda-Turkish from pure English (or Russian).

  • Are you still using flash cards Randy?

  • The best way to start learning Language would make a manual in Language and begin to drill on vocabulary. This possibility is not usually the best choice. Without hearing the spoken language, you can not develop a natural accent or learn to perform a natural conversation.

  • Yeah, even for stupid things like remembering my own name. I use flashcards for cooking, and for driving... In fact, when I read a book, I rip out all the pages and read them as flashcards. I'm the only programmer I know who still uses decks of cards... while others are typing modern syntax into a keyboard, I feeding flashcards directly into a card reader.

  • I would be foolish to rely on Google Translate as a sole tool for learning a language. Everyone who's disagreeing with this post has completely missed the point.Its somehow as if I never wrote anything else all month.

  • Thanks!

  • I'm actually not interested in any word-by-word translation.

  • The idea that I might "rely too much on Google" ignores every other post I've written.

  • If you highlight a phrase or sentence, it will translate that as well. It's worth having a look but is annoying when I'm on English sites and forget to turn it off.

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