To Translate or Not To Translate it?
To Translate or Not To Translate it?
By Professor Frank
The translation is a great tool of learning, specially when it comes to acquire a second language; however, one must know when it starts blocking the flow of their English.
As a non-native English teacher and a Brazilian English learner, I have been collecting a variation of common mistakes in translations during my classes. Those "mistakes" are not that bad, specially when an educator takes into account that all errors are signs of progress, therefore, the learners are trying their best to get it right.
My job is to help them to perceive it as I have learned that the teacher's corrections per si don't help them effectively.
Nevertheless, I have collected a few phrases and their translations and I would like to invite you to look it trough.
Let's see two examples today; shall we?
1. "Eu vou trabalhar amanhã"
This sentence can lead a brazilian learner to a series of mistakes:
A) I go work tomorrowB) I go to work tomorrow C) I will go to work tomorrow
The best translation will be those three examples below:
A) I will work tomorrow ( if the learner is not sure about it)B) I am going to work tomorrow ( if the learner has a plan to do it)C) I am working tomorrow ( if the learner has no doubt about it)
As you see, the perfect translation will be according to the learner's point of view. However, the most important thing here is the mistakes. The question is: why the first three sentences are wrong?
" I go work tomorrow"
Over here, we have the classic brazilian mistake with future tenses. In Portuguese, it is quite common to say "eu vou ser" instead of "eu serei". This mistake will be transferred to English as "I go work" doesn't mean " I will work". The translation of "vou" to "go" is something that the learner will only correct if they realize it.
"I go to work tomorrow"
Over here, we have the same problem above with the inappropriate use of "to" from the infinitive form. Every time we use a modal ( will, would, can, could, etc) with another verb in English, we need to remove the "to" from the infinitive.
Without the "to" in this sentence, the phrase still falls into the previous mistake, the translation of "vou".
"I will go to work tomorrow"
At this sentence, the learner makes almost the same mistake of translating "vou" to "I will go". If the learners wants to use "I will go", they will have to give it an object.
Work can be an object as the same way as job:
I will go to work I will go to my job
Although we can understand that, the meaning of it will be slightly different from the original phrase. At the original one, the meaning is straightforward: eu vou trabalhar. If the learner keeps this translation, "I will go to work", the meaning will be: "eu vou pro trabalho " , but it doesn't mean that he will, in fact, work.
2. Ela tem 30 anos, mas ela não tem experiência em sua vida.This example might lead you to a very good study of Portuguese ( the main language) interfering and affecting the second language. Let's see some possible translations:
A) She has thirty years, but she doesn't have experience in her life.B) She is thirty years old, but she does´t have experience in her life.
"She has thirty years, but she doesn't have experience in her life."
The use of the verb "to have" can deceive most of the learners, specially when they are talking about age. The verb "to be" will work much better here. "She is thirty"
We can see this same problem, when one tries to translate the following:
Eu tenho certeza disso Eu tenho medo de algo
On those two cases, most basic (or not) learners would use "have".
I have sure about it I have afraid of it
Yet, " to be" will work much better to describe fear and certainty.
Returning to the sentence, changing to have for to be won't be enough as "she is thirty years" can also bring some misunderstanding here.
A mispronounced " years" can become " ears" with no effort.
Therefore, instead of understanding that somebody is thirty years old, your listener might hear: she has thirty ears (ela tem trinta orelhas). Needless to say that this example is not related to aliens.
The study of the second part of the sentence will be discussed within the example below:
"She is thirty years old, but she doesn't have experience in her life."
On this example, the first part of the phrase is ok, however, on the second one, the use of the present simple can indicate a fact though (she doesn't have experience at all), but it would be better to change the time tense and use the Present Perfect on it: she hasn't had experience in her life.
She is still alive, so if she didn't have experience before (in the past), she might acquire it as she learns.
Yes, the use of the Present Perfect is something that really annoys the Brazilians learners for it's complexity and oddness.
That's why, on the next newsletter, we will be studying it and another very usual mistake in brazilians translations: "Eu estou trabalhando aqui por cinco anos"
Try to translate this sentence and on the next newsletter we will discuss the difference between the present continuous and the present perfect continuous.
Does it sound hard?
Well, I am sure that after the next newsletter, you will never get confused with it again.
To be continued...
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