谷歌翻译

The first time I traveled to Brazil I was determined to learn the language, so I struggled with the words and phrases until I managed to make myself understood. It helped that Brazilians are enormously kind, and were generally delighted that I was trying to communicate. The first phrase I learned well was “Eu não falo português” (I do not speak Portuguese). My accent was passable enough that people would start laughing. “Sim,” they would argue, trying to be encouraging, “Sim fala!”

During that first trip I ran into a guy from Germany who was traveling around Brazil. He had a little portable electronic phrasebook, which he would use to communicate. “Why do you bother trying to learn a whole language?” he asked me. “All I need is this little device, and I can get around just fine.” I sensed a vast and unbridgeable gulf between us. As far as I was concerned, if you’re going to be in a place for a while, at least try to learn to speak the language.

Yesterday someone suggested to me that Google Translate, which is getting better and better, might replace learning other languages. Perhaps one day, when we are all seeing the world through our augmented reality contact lenses, and running nth generation versions of Siri and Google Translate, my belief that you’re supposed to at least try to learn other languages will come to seem hopelessly quaint.

Of course it won’t be as good as the real thing, but we all know that sometimes convenience trumps quality. After a while, we might just come to think of foreigners as people who speak our own language in a kind of Google-accented pidgin.

That would be sad on so many levels.

9 Responses to “谷歌翻译”

  1. Sharon says:

    Excellent title! Clearly it still has its uses :-)

  2. admin says:

    Oh, you caught that, didn’t you? Could be I snuck that in just because I knew you would be reading. :-)

  3. Sharon says:

    谢谢

    I imagine this could get embarrassing if Google Translate messes up ;-). I wonder if at some point, widespread use of automatic translators could affect languages. If a phrase gets automatically but incorrectly translated a particular way for enough people, maybe it will come to be considered acceptable even if it would not have been considered a proper translation by a human.

  4. zabador says:

    That would be sooo sad … I hope it doesn’t happen and that enough people realize there’s always something lost in translation …

  5. Dagmar says:

    At least Google Translate, doesn’t try to translate Google Translate into German. 😉

  6. Dagmar says:

    At times we are all “lost in translation” 😉

    Any language changes over the time through misuse, foreign influences and so on. Perhaps things will change faster now than in former times through technology.

    But what ever might happen until then we might still have some fun with this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=om7O0MFkmpw

  7. x says:

    What about words that are untranslatable such as these: http://bigthink.com/ideas/41152?page=1

  8. Rob Renaud says:

    I wish Google could help people transcend native languages and the barrier they impose on communication between people.

    Maybe it’s just some grand pacifist hippy delusion on my part, but I really do believe that language barriers make it easier for people to vilify entire ethnicities, religions, and countries.

  9. Everson says:

    But can you do the “ã”/”õ” sound properly? That’s where most non-native speakers have quite a problem =) That and getting the noun genders right.

    As someone who, I believe, share the same passion as you for learning new, different languages, I hope we won’t get to the point where we won’t be learning new languages. There’s a beauty, an intrinsic understanding that arises only from perceiving why and how some cultures, some people talk the way they talk. Languages carry much more than meaning, they carry culture and psychology. I think we would be missing a lot there.

    I also find it really nice when someone takes their time to learn at least a few words in my native language when visiting here. Portuguese isn’t exactly an easy language to learn, especially so when you come from a language with a completely different structural, phonetic and morpho-syntactic background background, like English. I try to do that, as well, as a sign of respect and, as I said before, to try and gleam some insight into a different culture.

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