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Google Translate – Its Limitations as an English Interpreter of Afrikaans

Updated on January 8, 2012
MartieCoetser profile image

Martie Coetser is a freelance writer from South Africa. She has a keen interest in a variety of topics.

Credit to photostock @ freedigitalphotos,net
Credit to photostock @ freedigitalphotos,net

Google Translate

What a wonderful privilege to have an interpreter permanently on duty in Cyberspace, named Google Translator. It is what they call a free statistical machine translator, provided by Google Inc.

Google Translator came into being on 28 April 2006, but was announced deprecated and to be ceased functioning on 1 December 2011. On June 3, 2011 Google announced that it is no longer to be terminated, but to be released also as a paid version.

Google admitted that the Translator, like any other automatic translation tool, has its limitations. But at least it helps the reader to understand the general content of a foreign language text. They boast about ‘a very good’ French to English translation, which I am not in the position to confirm as true. I can but only stress my strong concern for readers who are obliged to use the tool for translations from my native language – Afrikaans – to English.

To explain my concern I’m going to ask Google Translate to translate above paragraphs to Afrikaans.

Credit to Stuart Miles @ freedigitalphotos.net
Credit to Stuart Miles @ freedigitalphotos.net

In English it will be the following ridiculous script -

What an interpreter a wonderful privilege to permanently on duty in the cyberspace with the name Google Translator. This is what they call a freestatistics machine translator, provide by Google Inc.

Google Translator come to state on 28 April 2006, is anounced deprecated and to be on 1 Desember 2011 ceased functioning, announced because there no more end to be on 3 Junie 2011 and to also as a paid version released to be.


Google had admit that the translater, as any other automatic translate tool, has his limitations. But at least help the reader to the general content of a language text to understand. They boast about a very good "French in English” translation, which I not in the position to confirm as the truth. I can only but stress my strong concern for readers what oblige is to the instrument to use for translations out my native tongue – Afrikaans – in English.


To explain my concern what I’m going to a translation of mentioned paragraphs on the correct way to Afrikaans to do. Then go I to the translations to alter according the Afrikaans grammar rules and it with Google Translator back in Engels to translate.


This is Google’s English translation (of Afrikaans text).

Credit to Stuart Miles @ freedigitalphotos.net
Credit to Stuart Miles @ freedigitalphotos.net

A second experiment:

I’ve written above paragraphs in perfect Afrikaans, and coming up is an even worse translation in English by Google Translater -

Google Translation - What a wonderful privilege to be a translator, called GoogleTranslator, full time service in cyberspace. It is right to a statistical machine translation provided by Google Inc.. provided.

Google Translator came into effect on 28 April 2006. However, it is rejected and would be on 1 December 2011 at the end of its existence came. On June 3, 2011, Google announced that it will be withdrawn, and that even a version for sale will be presented.

Google acknowledged that the translator, like any other machine translators, many shortcomings. But at least it helps readers to the general content of a text written in a foreign language to understand. Google boasts an excellent French-to-English translator. I'm not in a position to not confirmed. I can only sympathize with my English language - Afrikaans - English to be translated.

To substantiate my sympathies go to Google Translator I ask my African paragraphs in English translation.


Conclusion

Google Translate not only brings disgrace to Google Inc., but also to all who are proud of their native language.

Nevertheless, it does give a reader an idea of the general content of a text written in a foreign language.


A tree pruned by giraffes in Klerksdorp, South Africa

Credit to Dave Williams
Credit to Dave Williams

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    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 4 years ago from South Africa

      Daven, you mean Google is a male? You know, that was exactly my guess - as good as yours :)

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 4 years ago from Sacramento, California

      No Niggie... Just male...

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 4 years ago from South Africa

      Oh gosh, Daven, you must be a Homo sapiens! Lol!

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 4 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Actually Martie... other people warned me and I didn't listen... :-)

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 4 years ago from South Africa

      Hi Daven! Good to see you in my corner! Don't ever say I did not warn you. Lol!

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 4 years ago from Sacramento, California

      so ... I will scratch my idea to build an empire of travel articles using google translator to translate each word into Afrikaans....

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 5 years ago from South Africa

      molometer – I don’t really fear a possible extinction of Afrikaans. As you know people realize what they had when they lose it, and there will always be fighters, ensuring the survival of anything worthwhile. Just look at the Welsh in Wales and the Jews in Israel – they have recovered their original languages. On the other hand, when we look at Latin, which was an international medium at a time....

      Anyway, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

      Thanks for returning with such an interesting comment and the link. I will spread it around.

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hello Martie,

      Sorry about the delay in getting back to you on this topic of the Google translation problems.

      I never received a notification that you had replied to my comment.

      Anyway to get back to the point. I have many friends and family in South Africa and they have also suggested that the need for an Afrikaans version was not needed. Just seems sad to lose such an important part of that countries heritage (albeit relatively recent history).

      Thank you for your suggestions and hope you have a lovely holiday season.

      The site is getting very popular with schools and we are managing to give away more of the maths programs to school.

      We made a plan. Every copy that is sold to a UK school is matched and donated to a South African school. For Free

      If you know any schools that would like a copy just send them the link. It is a fully automated website and very easy to use.

      Thanks again.

      http://lmnsoftware.yolasite.com/

    • htodd profile image

      htodd 5 years ago from United States

      Sometimes it works great but sometimes it does not..

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      Hi Debbi, I hope some genius will develop a more 'human-like' translator. Because Google's makes my beautiful and precious native-language sounds like a language for retards. Really. But as long as we know the shortcomings of the translator, we know what to expect.

      I appreciate your compliments tremendously. I've promised myself to be completely myself in Cyberspace - come hell or high water, so your comment inspires me to continue on the same track. Thanks.

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 6 years ago

      Martie ~ I've also been frustrated with the reliability of Google Translation results. I especially like when I select, "Detect Language" and who knows what gobbly-gook ends up in the translation.

      On the other hand, in a pinch, it helps me to recognize if someone speaks vile or courteously when interacting with strangers on the internet.

      I am also in awe of all your talents and activities, much mentioned by others in the Hubpages community. Blessings, Debby

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      My dearest molometer, I'm so sorry to tell you that 90% of the translated sentences make absolutely no sense in Afrikaans. One has no idea what the writer is saying or not saying. 10% of the sentences are perfect. I have come to the conclusion that a machine is not able to translate one language to another. It translates word for word, while it should translate sentence for sentence and even by doing this it will not be 100% sufficient. A machine as translator can only give the reader an idea what the topic of the discussion is.

      I must add, I like that website of yours. You know all there is to know about South Africa's education system, which was pathetic in the OBE-system. But they've changed back - sort of - to the old system. But we have certainly lost an entire generation. Take care!

      Oh, if there was a need to translate your pages to Afrikaans, I would have offered to do it for you... but there is no need... at this stage. All our (intelligent) children can understand and speak English. My granddaughter is now 7 and she can converse in English like a thoroughbred Rooinek... actually since the age of 4-5. Thanks to English movies (for children). Since babyhood she loves movies and listening to stories.... and now she can even read them all by herself. Take care!

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Martie, I was wondering if you would take a look at a site for me and let me know what you think of the Afrikaans translator. http://lmnsoftware.yolasite.com/

      I will reference you as the arbiter of the translation, if it works of course.

      Thanks Martie.

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      Hi molo! HubPages' notifications will drive you crazy, so just let it 'vrot'. Following the Feed is more interesting. I'm on my way to see what's cooking in your corner :)))

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Martie sorry about the delay in replying but my notifications have gone frot lol

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      prasetio30 – So nice to see you in my corner. Can you imagine this world without a universal language medium? Your translation of ‘thank you very much’ is perfect. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, my friend, and ‘baie dankie vir jou kuiertjie, dit is altyd lekker om met jou te kommunikeer’.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      English is one of universal language. At least we can speak and write a little about this language to communicate with International people. Of course, we can't use this if we travel in special place where the people speak with their own language. Back to topic. I love google translate and it help me to understand about difficult word. Thank you very much for share with google translate. baie dankie, Martie. Sorry I use "afrikaans" with google translate to say "thank you very much" to you. Is it right? Have a nice weekend!

      Prasetio

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      Eiddwen – My special friend is a Welshman living in England. Since we’ve met, and especially after his visit, he has no choice but to translate the Afrikaans discussions between me and my friends/relatives in Facebook to English. He likes to contribute with an Afrikaans comment, and sometimes it is so cute/hilarious we feel like hugging him to pieces. Unfortunately the pathetic translator is able to cause hurtful misunderstandings. Easy to clear between me and Dave, but I’m afraid that others (all my cyber friends), may prefer to belief the translator instead of asking me to clear the misunderstanding. On the other hand, it must be easy to identify a possible mis-interpretation and people who really want me as a friend will ask me to clear it, don’t you agree? I’m not the kind of person who doesn’t give a damn when people misunderstand me. It is important for me to be correctly understood.

      So regard this as an open invitation to ask me when you ever misunderstand a translated Afrikaans post of mine in Facebook. Unfortunately I cannot be all English in Facebook, I have to consider my Afrikaans friends and relatives who will feel uncomfortable when I ‘speak’ English to them. We are too proud of our native language to accept English as a medium of communication without a very good reason. Some of my fellow-Afrikaners even refuse to speak English; they demand to be served in Afrikaans wherever they go in our country.

      Thanks for the pleasant visit, Eiddwen. Forgive me for being such a chatterbox :)))) Oh my... lol!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      Thank you so much for sharing this gem Martie.

      I thoroughly enjoyed it and like you the true use of the English language is also very important to me.

      A definite vote up here and here's to many more to share on here.

      You are a great writer.

      Take care

      Eiddwen.

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      *** Nell Rose – Jip, eleven. So only a fool will not understand why English, the International language, was chosen as our official language medium.

      *** molometer – Yes, there were in the beginning more Malaysian slaves than Europeans in the Cape of Good Hope. So evidently their language (and food), mixed with Dutch, became Afrikaans. Thanks for your very interesting comment.

      *** Nellieanna – A Hug and another one and one more for you :)))). My heart is full of love for you.... (Half past midnight down here.)

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 6 years ago from TEXAS

      Hugs. I have read and relished your comments on my site.

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      You not going to believe it Martie but I have been getting tweets from Indonesians (Malay) about the Seli 1 shipwreck video of Blouberg Beach. I put on YouTube over 18 months ago; and Google translate is getting about 50% of it into English. The weird part is that Malay is a fundamental part of the original Afrikaans. What a weird/interesting coincidence?

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

      11 languages? Wow!

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      Nellieanna – Believe it or not, I’ve drawn you to my corner with telepathy. I’ve read your latest hub last night, but was too tired to leave a comment. So the entire afternoon I reminded myself to go there again and at last, on my way, I found you right here in my corner.

      I will definitely try the other translators as you can see Google’s translator is a clown. Personally I don’t need it. But David uses it to understand the interactions between me and my relatives/friends in Facebook – he often surprises us with an Afrikaans comment. Because I’ve also added many of my friends in HubPages, I need to emphasize the limitations of machine translators.

      Thanks for your informative comment, Nellieanne. I’m on my way to your corner.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 6 years ago from TEXAS

      Very interesting, Martie! And it makes me appreciate your excellent use of English all the more, realizing it's really a second language to you! Plus it's just a fun poke at Google services. hehe

      I don't know about Google's translator, having never used it, but for years before Google even got off the ground, I have used another site which offers both simple free translation - which, for complicated sentences, is jumbled in a similar way as your examples. But this site also offers, @ so much per word, professional "human" translation for documents and websites, etc. which is supposed to be smooth and more accurate. In any case, Google is not the only choice. They're rather a late-comer into this service, in fact.

      I've never needed to translate more than a few words, though, so I've only used the free versions. So I'm wondering - anyone ever tried the other, more sophisticated translations?

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      marcoujor – Being bilingual in SA is the order of the day. What really amazes me is the fact that most people in our country speak/understand more than two languages – English, Afrikaans plus their native-language as well as other languages similar to their native-language. Especially the blacks manage more than three languages. Perhaps not the current generation, as Afrikaans is no longer a compulsive second language. If English is not the medium of the school, it is the compulsory second language.

      Sadly the blacks are neglecting their own native-languages and, of course, they reject Afrikaans, which is regarded as the language of Apartheid. But I know there will come a time when they will realize this, and then they will fight like us (Afrikaners) for the preservation of their mother-tongues.

      Thanks so much for your compliment. I will always feel insecure when communicating in English, though I’m grateful for being at least able to express myself. Fortunately any incorrect grammar or idiomatic expressions are accepted and comprehended by the brain (though not always by the prejudice mind.)

      Thanks for your much appreciated friendship, marjoucor. You’ve managed to settle yourself deep in my heart.

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      thougtforce – I am concern because I have opened my Facebook account to all my friends on the Internet; I really don’t want them to misunderstand my Afrikaans comments and status updates. I’m walking stride-legged on a thin line. Some of my Afrikaans friends, and believe it or not, particularly writers, are painstaking patriots who refuse to speak/write English. I was confronted the other day because I’ve became too English for their liking. Of course I don’t take them to heart. Narrow-mindedness and any kind of snobbishness merely boggle my mind! Thanks for reading and commenting, Tina :)))

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      AliciaC – Thanks so much for coming over for the read. It is always nice to see you in my corner. Especially translation to English should be flawless, as it is the International medium of communication. Best wishes from me to you, Alicia :))

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      Nell Rose – I’ve learned a few Welsh words from David, but don’t know how to spell it. Sounds like ‘Agge vee!’ means something in the line of ‘oh, how yucky!’ I love the Welsh accent! I believe the language was neglected for a long time but is now flourishing again. This give me hope for my language, as English is SA’s language-medium since 1994 in spite of the fact that it is the native-language of the minority people in SA. We have eleven official languages down here, and they are all equally interesting. Thanks for the visit, Nell.

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      drbj – oh my, one can do something with a wino, like giving him a slap or three, but what on earth can we do with a Zippo? Lol! I just love your sense of humor. Thanks a lot for delighting me so often with your comments.

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      always exploring – the availability of translators on the Internet is absolutely essential, though we must realize their limitations in order to avoid fatal misunderstandings. Thanks for coming over for the read. (It is high time for another party, is it not?)

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Martie,

      I am in awe of your command of our language! Hats off to anyone who has mastered two languages, as I barely can keep up with one. This was well written and most informative to me-- thanks for sharing. Voted UP & UI.

      Hope you are having a happy weekend, mar.

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 6 years ago from Sweden

      So true Martie, Google translation has limitations! I only use it when I search for a special word if I am too lazy to pick up the dictionary. It can be useful if we are aware of the limitations and use it for what it is. You did a great job showing this but it is bit sad though. Imagine how easy it would have been otherwise....

      Tina

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      It would be wonderful to have a good translation program to help us all communicate with each other, but it seems like we're going to have to wait a while for this service! I've never used a translation program, but I'm going to try now that I've read your hub. Thanks for an interesting article, Martie.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

      Hi, Martie, I usually just go to Free translate, and pick the first one, but I do know what you mean, I was trying to be nosy the other day, and see what my sons ex girlfriend was saying in Welsh! ha ha it was hilarious! it sounded a bit like Yoda from star wars!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 6 years ago from south Florida

      Dankie, Martie, for the Google Translate warning. I had an inkling that translations were not absolutely dependable when I sent in my order to a South African zoo translated to Afrikaans.

      I ordered a rhino and a hippo. I received a wino and a Zippo. Wouldn't be so bad but neither one worked! :)

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Martie, There have been times when i wanted to know the meaning of a foreign word. I was unaware of a translater on Google, maybe someone will see the need and provide a reliable service. Interesting Article. Thank you....

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      Dearest David, liefling, you are using Google Translate effectively since the day we've met. I appreciate with all my heart all your (successful) efforts to communicate with me and my relatives in Afrikaans. I also know you are enjoying yourself, just as we enjoy your messages. Dankie, my skattebol. Ek is mal oor jou :)))

    • profile image

      Dave 6 years ago

      Yes Martie, Google Translator, is quite basic and it just gives one a rough idea what's been wrote, as i know this from experience Dave x

      Example:-Ja Martie, Google Translator, is baie basiese en dit gee net een 'n rowwe idee what's is geskryf het, as ek weet dit uit ervaring Dave x

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      stayingalivemoma – I think Google Translate is like the proverbial half an egg is better than an empty shell. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      molometer – Is it not funny? Really, I’ve written this hub all the way laughing. Hilarious! Considering Cape Town’s weather – all 4 seasons in one day, daily - you probably don’t miss SA so much? I’m going to have a look at Russian, though I realize there is no way one can get an idea of the beauty of a language through Google Translate. Take care!

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      shea duane – Nice to meet you. I wonder how Google is going to solve the problem – I do believe language cannot be interpreted by a machine.

    • MartieCoetser profile image
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      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      Sunnie Day – I thought this was necessary to explain, as I’ve opened my FB-account for all my friends in the world and I really don’t want them to get a negative impression of any of my Afrikaans writings in there. I also have an Afrikaans blog about the Coetser’s family tree and history, and heaven knows the English translation of that is absolutely pathetic. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Enjoy your peeps :)

    • stayingalivemoma profile image

      Valerie Washington 6 years ago from Tempe, Arizona

      I've never used Google translator before but its nice to know that we have someone to give us the facts from their own experience!

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Funny and true. I have just moved from Cape Town to England and I used the translator to talk to my family and friends in S.A. with similar results. I don't speak Afrikaans so you can imagine. We had a great laugh about it. you should try the Russian as well it's hysterical!

    • shea duane profile image

      shea duane 6 years ago from new jersey

      Great hub. I've used Google translator before, and you're right.

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 6 years ago

      Thank you Martie..This is kind of disturbing..They really need to update this or get a new way for translating..Thanks for bringing it to our attention..

      Sunnie

      PS Great hub :)