Issues with language pairings which both distinguish between singular, plural and formal "you"

I’m not quite sure where to place this topic, so feel free to let me know if there’s a better place to move it to. It’s not quite a “bug” as such, rather a limitation of using language pairings where the sentences come from “Translations of translations”, as will be the case for a lot of less common language pairings, where the main translations will have been done to and from an intermediary language like English or Spanish.

However, if English is the intermediary language, this can cause a lot of issues between language pairings which both distinguish between singular, plural and even formal “you”, which the intermediary English does not, leading to many incorrect and frankly quite confusing translations.

All the different tenses in Italian can be quite confusing and overwhelming at the best of times, and I feel like I’m finally starting to get a grip on most of them, but if the different “you” forms and their corresponding verbs are translated incorrectly in these kinds of language pairings which do distinguish between them, this will only make the overall process needlessly more confusing.

I was trying out a few things earlier today relating to a bug report raised here, and I don’t know why I thought I had to have a language pairing where I could level up to check it, in the end I could have just used my normal Italian from English pairing just the same, but anyway that led me to discover that as it stands, Italian from Dutch (and probably also Italian/Dutch/German/French/Spanish/etc. from German, French, Spanish, etc.?) is practically riddled with these kind of mistakes.

I’ve raised/commented on a few of them (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5), but out of the number of sentences played, which used “you”, the vast majority was translated incorrectly due to this, and I would say the language pairing might unfortunately currently be considered unplayable as a result of this. Though I myself currently don’t display translations by default, and as such wouldn’t be hugely impacted by it, I think for “beginners” it could definitely be a huge issue. I wasn’t quite an absolute beginner when starting out with Clozemaster, and yet I still didn’t start to mess around with not displaying translations until solving the cloze or hiding translations altogether until after some months.

I’m not sure if there is a straightforward solution, I’m going to have a bit of a think about it anyway. And perhaps I’ll have a look around some more language pairings to see if this is indeed a more common issue for other such pairings, as I suspect it might be. (For this poking around, it might again be useful to have the option of not bothering followers with level-ups for certain pairings/the first x levels/… as previously suggested by @morbrorper here :wink: - apologies for all my notifications from my experimentations today).


Thank you @sindaco, for investigating the issue!

Indirect translations can indeed have some funny side effects, depending on the intermediate language. If it happens to be Finnish, you can expect unexpected gender switches. Klingon is also a major obfuscator, I have gathered. And if it is Japanese, all bets are off!

I once requested Danish from Swedish, two closely related languages, but now I’m not so sure that it would be so great, due to the lack of direct translations. On the other hand, I am happy to say that Danish from Spanish is actually quite OK, only because there happens to be a Spanish-speaking Tatoeba contributor who is learning Danish and has made a lot of direct translations.

So in the short run I’m afraid it all comes down to whether somebody at Tatoeba has done the groundwork of not. In the long run, I think the problem can only be solved by Tatoeba having more contributors making the necessary connections. One can always dream…


Ciao sindaco. Read this with interest. I’m reasonably comfortable with the many Italian tenses but the formal “you” catches me out every time, especially when the sentence seems pretty informal. Now I answer “formal” every time, then scrutinise the whole thing to be see if the “informal” is required.

Ah, perhaps that’s it, Cloze being furbo and making us double double-check! A dopo…


This is only tangentially related, but this article I read recently gives some great examples of where Google Translate goes wrong with those sorts of issues.

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Thanks so much kadrian. An interesting read. I try to think Italian before resorting to a translator but it is tempting to over-use. In small doses one can learn from it but for me I find it better to “think” first. Have a good day!

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ì totally agree! I am studying Italian from Spanish and the formal/informal and singular/plural are completely interchangeable even though Spanish also disguishes between them. Lots of times I just have to guess and then I am not sure if the answer I chose at first is also correct or not. I think the website is great but this issue is almost enough and might be enough in the future to make me stop using it.


Hi Pauja. Welcome! “Is it tu or Lei or …” Unfortunately it happens on most sites, Duolingo, Busuu etc. I try to turn it into a positive in that at least I’m learning much more “Formal You” than I did before.

Hope you’re enjoying the Italian. I crossed over from Duo that seems now to be mainly for children and I’m so glad I did. Tanti auguri a te! (informal;-)

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Sorry to hear that this does indeed seem to be an issue in other language pairings too, but thanks for confirming. While I had noticed that Italian from Dutch is not a hugely popular language pairing anyway (having only 8 other people active this month), Italian from Spanish is definitely a much more practiced language pairing here on Clozemaster, with already over 60 people having been active this month.

Before giving up on Clozemaster altogether though, perhaps it’s best to consider this a kind of “bug” after all, and perhaps make @mike aware of it, since he might actually be able to come up with some sort of clever solution for the issue. I was hoping it might for instance at least be improved substantially by scraping or in some other way sourcing some nicely formatted conjugation tables and then using this to select the correct corresponding “translation of translation” pairings, but I haven’t been able to easily source them yet.

Just to illustrate also the issue in Italian from Spanish (please feel free to point out any mistakes in this, and provide better examples @Pauja) with a couple quick examples.

First, I searched for “Lei” (Italian formal “you”, 3rd person singular) and already in the first sentence noticed that the Spanish version seems to use the “informal” you (2nd person singular) in the translation:

Then I searched for “preferireste”, which is the 2nd person plural of the “condizionale”, but in the Spanish sentences again seem to correspond to 2nd person singular:


I have had a similar experience with Portuguese from Spanish: there is poor consistency between forms of address, number and person, and even between natural cognates. Therefore, it’s largely an exercise in guesswork, so I’m thinking of giving it up completely.

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