Friday, March 26, 2010

computers translating Japanese to English

I got the cutest email from a former student this past week.

I saw her at graduation and we exchanged emails - if you're lucky as an ALT you'll have students like her that are eager to continue using their English and communicating with you even tho you are no longer their teacher.

But her email shows a little lack of confidence on her part in regards to her English ability. Many of my kids use an online translation program when sending me email, because they don't want to make mistakes in their English.
What they don't realize is how bad most translating programs are, as you'll see in a moment.

This example isn't actually that bad - I can read and understand what she was trying to say.

Here is the email:

Hi ! Jason !

It passed the high school.

I am very indebted to you.

Speaking with you was very happy.

Your smile was loved.

It never forgets.

Thank you for a lot of memories.

It is you bright and it will exist in the future.

You are loved.


Tennis works hard.

It assists in Jayson from Japan.

It doesn't forget.

Thank you up to now.

Moreover, it E-mails.


Knowing a little about Japanese, you can clearly see sentences where she wrote a typical Japanese sentence and the translation program turns it into readable but stiff English that no native speaker would ever say.

For example, a typical phrase used in messages of thanks is "ima made arigatou gozaimasu" which the computer turned into "Thank you up to now." Not bad, but my guess is most native speakers would say something more like "Thanks for all your help in the past" or "I really appreciate all the help you've given me."

And the computer often inserts "it" if the Japanese omits a subject such as I or me.

Anyway - it was a cute email, and students like this one are the reason I went back to see them all graduate.


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