22 January 2010

How to Use the Google Translator to Build your Filipino Vocabulary

Google Translator is a powerful translation tool that can translate from one language to another. Students who are learning the Filipino language can use it to build their Filipino vocabulary. It is most useful when used as word translator but it can translate simple sentences fairly well. As long as there is no hidden meaning to the words in the source language, the translation manages to impart a sense of the meaning of the sentence.

Google Translator performs very well as a word translator but can easily get lost if provided with sentences that are arranged in unusual ways. When you have built a sufficiently large Filipino vocabulary, you can use it to translate simple phrases and finally you can use it to translate simple sentences.

When used as a word translator, Google Translator provides a lot of synonyms in the target language making it a really wonderful tool for enlarging your Filipino vocabulary. It is also a growing concern where you can add a meaning or a better translation of the word from the source language. Google also offers a translator toolkit where you can upload a document in a source language and let Google Translator help you translate the source document into the target language that you choose.

When you are comfortable enough in using the Filipino language, you can let Google Translator translate a passage and have someone who knows how to speak in Filipino correct the machine translation made by Google Translator. You will gain a lot of insight if you will observe how the native Filipino speaker corrects the machine translation. By looking at the machine translation and the corrected translation made by a human being, you will gain a deeper understanding of the workings of the target language.

What Google Translator does is a literal translation of the words and not what we might call a lexical translation. It's a word for word translation and the sentence is built by just joining the equivalent word in the target language together. The result is a grammatically incorrect sentence but the essence of the thought is there and one who knows the target language can easily decipher what the meaning of the sentence is.

I submitted the above paragraph to Google Translator and the following is how it translated the text:

Ano ang Google ay Translator ay isang literal na pagsasalin ng mga salita at hindi kung ano ang maaari naming tawagan ang isang leksiko ng pagsasalin. Ito ay isang salita para sa pagsasalin ng salita at ang pangungusap ay binuo lamang sa pamamagitan ng pagsali sa katumbas na salita sa wika target na sama-sama. Ang resulta ay isang pamamagitan ng Balarila maling pangungusap ngunit ang diwa ng pag-iisip ay may at ang isa ay nakakaalam ng target na wika ay madaling unawain kung ano ang kahulugan ng pangungusap ay.

So it cannot be really useful when it comes to translating a fairly complex text. There are nuances in a word's meaning that only a human speaker understands. And in some languages, the meaning of the words is totally dependent on the context of the sentence. And if you put the use of idiomatic expression into the equation, then the resulting output can really be outrageous.

Google translator would be of good use to human translators who want to work very fast. What they can do is read the source text, let Google Translator translate the text, edit the text to correct grammatical errors and then add or replace words that will give the sentences the right context.

A good writing exercise would be to craft a passage in the source language that Google Translator can translate accurately. This means that the source text will not be using any idiomatic expression or words that can be interpreted in many ways depending on the context of the sentence. Here below I tried to tweak a passage from Max Ehrmann's Desiderata to achieve the closest meaning in Filipino:

"You are a child of the universe, not less than the trees and heaven, you have a right to stay here. And whether it is clear to you or not, no doubt the universe opens as it should happen."

And here is how Google Translator translated it:

"Ikaw ay isang anak ng sansinukob, hindi mas mababa kaysa sa puno at langit, may karapatan kayong manatili dito. At kung ito man ay malinaw sa iyo o hindi, walang alinlangan ang sansinukob ay bubukas na ito ay dapat mangyari."

Now let's reverse the procedure and put back the Filipino translation and have Google Translator translate the passage back to English. Here below is the result:

"You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and sky, have the right to stay. And if it be clear to you or not, obviously the universe opens it should happen." Not bad at all. But it still needs some tweaking to streamline the thought.

So that is how you can use Google Translator mainly to build up your Filipino vocabulary and maybe later on to help you build Filipino sentences. You should however understand the limitations of machine translation and should ask the help of native speakers of the target language to correct the translation made by the machine. But as a word translator and a dictionary tool, Google Translator could prove to be a helpful tool in building your Filipino vocabulary.

Read my article on how you can use the Google Translator Toolkit to jump start your translation work at: http://hinagapnikaure.blogspot.com/2010/01/use-google-translator-toolkit-to-jump.html.