Problem: too many students use Google Translate when studying, during class, when doing homework. Sure, Google Translate is convenient, but depending on the context not always exact and far from the ideal study tool. It’s a fluffy dog that might cozily fall asleep on your lap, but turn your back and he’ll have left some dark-hued heaps for you on your Persian carpet. If you’re a bit lost with that metaphor, that’s fine, just remember to avoid using Google Translate when studying. It pretty much says it in the title anyway.
1. IT’S NOT A STUDY OR RESOURCE TOOL
Google Translate is a translation software developed for basic translations. It’s not developed or conceived as a study tool so better not use it as such.
2. THERE’S NO WHY
Let’s face it: dicionaries are a great thing when you know how to use them. In my opinion, the problem is often that students don’t know how to use a dictionary properly and then fall back on Google Translate instead. Google Translate, unlike a dictionary, will never really explain to you the exact meaning of a word nor its usage. At least not in the same way that a dictionary would do. Tip when using a dictionary: check, in as far as possible, whether the word you’re looking for is a noun, verb, adjective or preposition in your own language. Then search in the dictionary for the corresponding usage accordingly.
Sure, Google Translate could function for translating very basic words like “strawberries” or “closet” but as soon as it gets more abstract, it’ll become more and more difficult to use it efficiently. Plus, you won’t really learn anything about the meaning of the word. And learning is kind of the whole point why we’re all gathered here, no? Better to get used to the concept of a dictionary from the beginning.
3. THE PROBLEMS OF CONTEXT-BASED TRANSLATION…
Google Translate might be relatively accurate when it comes to translating sentences. Sure, that might be convenient for you but it ultimately won’t help you very much when it comes to using the language independently. It does all of the work for you.
Then there’s the issue of what to do when it comes to translating individual words. Especially words that have multiple meanings. There are dozens of false friends and multiple meanings between English / German / French or Portuguese as a source language and Dutch as a target language. Plus, Google Translate might give you plenty of options when it comes to Dutch vs. English but as soon as you move to (relatively) minor languages such as Portuguese, it becomes less and less indicative and usable.
Two examples: the Portuguese verb “ficar” which depending on the context or usage can mean “to stay”, “to be located in”, “to become” or “to be situated in”. There’s no way that Google Translate could ever convey the different meanings and contexts of this individual word. That’s because it relies on the context to give you the correct translation.
Exhibit B: the word “zijn”, which depending on the context can either mean the verb “to be” or “are” (plural form) or “his” (possessive pronoun). How should you ever understand that all of these meanings come together in the same word in Dutch? Oh and again, when translating “zijn” to Portuguese, it only gives me “são” which means “they are”. Yeah. No context, no exactness.
WHEN TO USE IT
I’ve heard that other people use Google Translate as a study tool. Yes, granted, it’s convenient in the way that you can see how sentences would change according to added words or sentence parts. Also, you can mark certain words, expressions or sentences with a star. You can then export your “starred” list to an excel document for study purposes. There’s no denying that it’s convenient, but word of warning though. This method would mostly be convenient for experienced language students or higher level students who know what they’re doing.
ONLINE DICTIONARIES: RECOMMENDATIONS & TIPS FOR YOUR LEVEL
In order to prevent you from using Google Translate ever again, I’ve compiled the following guide to which online dictionary you could use according to your level and needs. In follow-up blog posts, I’ll give you more information and explain how to use them.
|for students learning Dutch (from the Netherlands or without any specific accent in mind) with English or German as a source language||Use this free dictionary:|
|for students learning Dutch (from the Netherlands or without any specific accent in mind) with another source language||Use this free dictionary:|
|for students specifically learning Flemish Dutch||Use the combination of |
1. the paying Van Dale translation dictionaries (either French, English, German or Spanish , 4.99€ / year) and since these dictionaries don’t have the pronunciation of the word in Dutch, combine it with
2. the monolingual Van Dale NT2 online Dutch dictionary for Dutch students (3.99€ / year) where you can hear the pronunciation in Flemish Dutch as well
|Use the combination of |
1. the paying Van Dale translation dictionaries (either French, English, German or Spanish , 4.99€ / year) and combine it with
2. the monolingual Van Dale NT2 online Dutch dictionary (3.99€ / year). That way you can switch between the translation and the Dutch, simplified description of the word.
|As much as possible, try to use the Van Dale NT2 online dictionary for Dutch students only.|