Verbling - Why Blindly Translating Actually Makes Learning English Har
Jun 12, 2014 English as a Foreign Language (EFL) 2919 Views
English just doesn’t make sense sometimes. There are so many idioms and words that are counter intuitive to what they should be. One famous example is that you park in a driveway and you drive on a parkway. Translating word for word might make learning English harder in most situations. There are two ways this could occur:
The first is that many words in the English language have many different definitions. Buffalo is a great example of this. Buffalo could be an animal, a city in New York, or a verb (meaning “to intimidate”) which leads to this strange but grammatically correct sentence) : Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. Even me, being a native English speaker, have to stare at this for a while before it makes sense. The phrase translates to: “Bison from Buffalo, New York, who are intimidated by other bison in their community, also intimidate other bison in their community.” (mental floss)
The other problem that could occur is an idiom or common expression can lead you to not understanding the meaning correctly. A great example of this would be if you were to be reading a book and you saw this: Just as Jenny was going to take the stage to perform in her senior recital, Andre gave her a thumbs up and said, “Break a leg!” Reading this by blindly translating would give a different meaning than intended. You might think that Andre wished ill or even threatened Jenny however for performers (actors and musicians) ‘break a leg‘ means good luck. When reading look for other clues to help you decipher what was written. The same thing can be said about listening to people. If someone says to you, “Hey! Look at that huge elephant,” if you didn’t know what the word elephant means, you would be stuck. However, maybe they pointed to some big grey animal, or a picture on the wall, if you took that hint in as well and heard, “Hey! Look at that huge ____” you could infer what an elephant is.
Blindly translating can lead to so many errors it is amazing that people rely on it so heavily. It should be used only as a hail mary. Google Translate is an amazing resource that can benefit anyone trying to learn a language but be wary that you only use it for single words and not whole sentences or paragraphs. If you have trouble with those, ask a teacher or friends.