Translations are often misleading

Hi there!

Sorry if this is the wrong place or a duplicate.

I’m learning Italian from German, and I notice that a lot of translations are off. I correct them manually for myself and report them, but I’d say I report 10–20%. The problem is, as far as I understand, that they have been translated on Tatoeba via English as a pivot language, which is rather unfortunate, because in English, there is no polite form (or, depending on your analysis, it is opaque).

E.g., “La lasci lì!” → “Let it there” → “Lassen Sie es dort” (but not “Lasst …” or “Lass”, which are possible translations of the English sentence)
Or “Venite?” → “Are you coming?” → “Kommt ihr / Kommen Sie” (but not “Kommst du”)

The 2nd person singular ~ 3rd person singular ~ 2nd person plural can all get mixed up depending on context, so it affects a large portion of phrases and it’s a bit of a mess in the end.

I’ve brought this up before (for a specific sentence), and I understand it’s a non-trivial problem. But it’s still unresolved for me (more so, because now I see how many instances it affects).

I’m willing to contribute and I think I’m able to judge most sentences, so I wonder how you would recommend to go about this. I guess you don’t have the capacity to review all reports; Tatoeba wasn’t very welcoming to be, but if you say it would be best to correct it there, maybe I’ll have another try…

The immediate source of the problem is that, as @sindaco said in the discussion you linked to, someone at Clozemaster decided to import what is called an indirect translation at Tatoeba (a translation of a translation, with no guarantee that the final translation is a valid translation of the original) as if it were a direct translation. At Tatoeba, you can see that the sentence “La lasci lì!” has no marked direct translations into German. It was not translated via English as a pivot language – it was not translated at all.

The quickest thing you can do to see fewer errors, though I understand why you might not be excited about using this approach, is to switch to learning Italian from English rather than German. Where there are 24,851 Italian<->German pairs at Tatoeba, there are 553,925 Italian<->English pairs, so I wouldn’t be surprised if all the ones that were imported were direct translations.

Naturally, it’s easier and more straightforward to learn from your native language, and it can be frustrating to be forced to work in a different one, but you seem to be pretty comfortable in English.

You’re right, not very enthusiastic about that :sweat_smile: My understanding of language learning is that ideally it’s best to connect stuff in the language I’m learning to other stuff in that language (which cloze texts are perfect for). If translations are needed, I imagine my native tongue is “less intrusive”…

Thanks for explaining, I didn’t grasp that before. Do you know if they re-import from Tatoeba from time to time so that added first-hand translations would be picked up? (And I still wonder if reporting is of any use, but probably someone from Clozemaster would have to answer this.)

Yes, I’m sure that’s true.

I’ll tag @mike to see what he has to say.