Please, Don't Answer If You're Not Sure Of What You Say

Discussion in 'Comments and Suggestions' started by kitus, Sep 22, 2005.

  1. kitus Member

    Spain Spanish and Catalan
    Hello guys,

    I know that people don't do what I'm about to say on purpose but please don't answer a topic unless you are totally sure of the answer you're giving... It really puzzles me seing people keeping on translating literally from Spanish to English without being sure at all...

    Please guys, don't get me wrong I know that you do it with your best intention but usually the literal translation is not the best solution at all and might confuse us... please refrain yourself from answering if you are not 100% sure.

    I wanted to quote here the case (it is not any of the topics I've started; it's something I found randomly) that has made me decide to post this topic but it wouldn't be fair to mention just one; thanks to god that a native mended it later.

    Cheers guys,


    P.S.: Again, don't get me wrong :( :( :(
  2. DDT

    DDT Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Italy - Italian
    Thanks for your clever suggestion.

    You see, basically WR is open to everyone's contribution. Which also means that your suggestions are welcome like everyone else's, please don't hesitate to post more (no need to specify "don't get me wrong" as you did ;) )

    IMHO what is important is that people point out whenever they're not sure about their own statements. Personally I adopt different verbs/words in order to distinguish between what I am aware of (because related to my mother tongue) and what I know according to my studies/direct experience (when posting about foreign languages). Moreover I prefer to avoid guessings

  3. VenusEnvy

    VenusEnvy Senior Member

    Maryland, USA
    English, United States
    Well, personally, I post answers without being 100% sure. Who's ever 100% sure? I usually give an attempted answer. Afterall, how can one learn if they don't at least try?

    I also find that providing a wrong answer leaves room for others to correct you, which is great if you're learning. A variety of answers (right or wrong) is better, I think, than those that are simply 100% sure.
  4. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Many thanks Kitus.

    You raise an important point. Often, a forero leaves a question without sufficient context or a full example of the usage they are asking about.

    In that situation, we need to apply our knowledge and experience and logic in attempting an answer. We cannot have absolute certainty. This is quite distinct from just taking a guess.
    The most important thing is to label our answers, if we feel there is some uncertainty.

    Example: "Given the lack of context, and the ambiguity of the phrase....this is my best guess:...." or, "I'm not sure, but this is a possibility:..."
    What is wrong is to use nothing but a quote from a dictionary, when the writer has no direct experience with the word. This is often both incorrect and misleading, especially to other language learners.

    Thanks again for raising the issue.

    Un saludo,
  5. Papalote Senior Member

    Quebec, Canada
    Spanish, English, French
    And, in view of the distinct terminology used in every country ;) , one might use a term specific to one´s country which might seem wrong to other speakers of the language who come from a different region/country/generation :D .

  6. Antartic Senior Member

    I agree. But I try to be very careful when I'm responding. If I have made a mistake I suppose that other members see and check the threads and fix the errors.
    And to add something that 'concerns me' :), from some time to now, the number of members has increased heavily :tick:, this causes that when I see the threads almost all the time they are already answered by someone with a correct answer so there's nothing more to add :(, I've got the feeling that I'm always late, which leads me to another concern: I guess some members are so excited to participate that simply post the same correct answers of other members but in their own words, I think that this can fill unnecessarily the head of the person asking a simple question or can take the foreros or mods to check again the same thread, wasting their valuable and unpaid time:p.
  7. VenusEnvy

    VenusEnvy Senior Member

    Maryland, USA
    English, United States
    Is this wrong? It's the same thing, said differently. Personally, as a learner, I like to hear more than one correct version of how to say one thing.

    Moreover, more than one correct answer does serve a purpose: it confirms or validates ones previously given.
  8. Swettenham

    Swettenham Senior Member

    Good point, Nicole. If several native speakers give me the same answer, then I can be pretty sure that I have been given the best information. It's like the scientific method: the hypothesis is verified when it holds true through repeated tests. It's also like democracy: we want a majority vote.

    Posting when you're not sure helps you the poster learn, and everyone is here to learn, not just the person who asked the question. As others have said, it is important to indicate that you are not sure. That's my MO. :)
  9. Philippa

    Philippa Senior Member

    Britain - English
    Interesting point, kitus!!
    I agree with Venus. I'm never 100% sure of anything, so I would hardly post answers if I did what you suggest. I'd rather try if I'm reasonably sure and be corrected.
    Cuchu, I've just looked through my recent subscribed threads to find these examples of when I look something up, that I had no previous experience of and 'have a go' at answering. Would you say these were a bad idea? I often google for the word or phrase if it doesn't seem to ring true. I know I'm not sure, but I always say so or quote where the information comes from.

    Better whizz off to Spanish :) :) :)
  10. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Hola Philippa,

    I'll have a look at the threads, but you have already made the critical point..
    What works badly is a dictionary citation with no disclaimer. Anyone can copy and paste a dictionary entry, but without some additional thoughts and words of caution, this is potentially misleading. If dictionary entries alone were sufficient, all posts would say nothing more than "Look it up in the dictionary".

    I'll get back to you after I review the threads.

    Un saludo,
  11. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Ok...just looked at all the threads. You properly indicated your sources, expressed doubts where they existed, and didn't 'proclaim' that your answers were perfect. Rather, you offered contributions to a discussion. That's just right.

    Sometimes I see other members citing a dictionary entry, and presenting it as if that were the ineluctable truth, even when the definition given doesn't fit with the context or usage in the original question. That's when it gets dangerous.

    Dictionary contributions to a translation discussion are obviouly useful, if presented with a little care.

    Thanks for doing it so well,
  12. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    At the risk of repeating what was said by others...;)

    I think it's completely fine to "take a stab at it," as long as you make it crystal clear that one of the following is the case:

    1.) you are guessing
    2.) you are basing your answer on limited knowledge/experience
    3.) you would need more context to offer a more definitive reply
    4.) you are suggesting only one possible answer (of which you may or may not be sure - which should also be specified)
    5.) your proficiency in the respective language is not native - so you might always err without realizing it (although profiles, when filled out properly so as not to include non-native languages without indicating that, can help in that area)
    6.) you are just plain not sure

    Also, even the way you introduce your reply makes a huge difference. Instead of "This is the translation," it wouldn't hurt any of us to use one of the following instead:

    1.) Here's my suggestion
    2.) Here's my attempt
    3.) Here's my attempted translation
    4.) My two cents

    If the original poster is insistent on demanding a black-and-white answer, i.e. are you absolutely sure that is the only correct translation?, he should indicate that in a subsequent post. Intelligent, insightful contributions are inevitable as the responder attempts to pinpoint his degree of certainty and other members chime in. The conclusion may be that the responder was not at all sure, at which point those with greater competence are welcome to clarify any doubts and offer their two cents.

    Of course, some issues are more definitive than others. "The cats eats" is definitely incorrect in standard, written English. Is "Everyone ate their apple"? Take a look at the slew of threads dedicated to the issue and please let me know if there's a definitive answer.

    Regarding repeated posts, I think it's a question of moderation. It's ok the first three or four times, when members confirm their agreement with previous suggestions - especially considering the fact that cross-posting is disproportionately more frequent in the case of young threads. Sixty-seven posts later, though, when lengthy discussions have ensued and - in some cases - the thread has not been touched for five months, it is quite pointless to jump in and duplicate post #2.

    In any case, I usually try to offer some sort of alternative - situation permitting, of course - even when I am simply agreeing with a previous poster.

    My two cents. ;) :D
  13. lauranazario

    lauranazario Moderatrix

    Puerto Rico
    Español puertorriqueño & US English
    I completely agree with the premise of Kitus' thread title: "Please, Don't Answer If You're Not Sure Of What You Say".

    I believe that people who are kind enough to provide answers are also kind enough to avoid providing misleading or half-baked replies.

    As I see it, "guessing" is not really helpful... and it goes to show that you didn't even bother to check up on your "guess" before hitting the submit button. IMO, that is rather inconsiderate towards the language learner.
    If you're not sure, please allow someone else to provide a reply!

    Backing up your posts with an informative resource link (when applicable) is also helpful... as is citing the source when you are quoting a dictionary or glossary entry.

    I don't happen to agree with Cuchuflete when he says
    I don't believe it's indispensable to "color" a quote from a dictionary with additional (and sometimes superfluous) personal comments. When Foreros are kind enough to provide dictionary entries, these are for the sole consideration of the person posting the original question (as are ALL other posts), since he/she ultimately decides which term is more convenient for his/her regional needs. I think both types of posts are valid and useful... just different in their approach. :)

  14. Antartic Senior Member

    Well, I see the things in a different form. I assume that other foreros check regularly the threads and if they find something wrong in the answers they will post some kind of correction or will enhance it (which is very important), if not, I suppose that the original response is right and end of story.
    But, on the other side, I know that some people like to read as many opinions as possible and that's right too, however I don't know in which threads I should follow this standpoint.
  15. kitus Member

    Spain Spanish and Catalan
    I do understand people it is a common practice to translate their thoughts and everything surrounding them to the language desired to be learned. I'm still learning English and of course I keep on doing it. That's perfect and it really helps a lot... but it should be kept in secret!!! :)

    The main aim of my post was to avoid situations like this fiction situation (it happens the same the other way around) the other way around :


    "Hey guys, how would you translate to spanish: are you laughing at me?? COME ON, DON'T PULL MY LEG!!!"


    "Hey, what's up??? I would say it should be something like: Os reis de mi? va, NO ME ESTIRES DE LA PIERNA!!!"

    I've been using wordreference for one year now and I really love it B U T I've noticed recently that the first thing I do when reading answers is to check which is the country where who gives the answer comes from and as soon as I realize he is not native, I skip his answer... It may sound quite rude but after several non-senses, I've automatically got myself used to it eventhough I may miss a correct answer... mmmm, actually I don't skip them, I read them but don't rely much on them...

    Even If I start a topic, Spanish set phrases are totally different in south america than in spain and even when speaking the same language (Castellano) we/they might not get the meaning of it, if it is not an already settled set phrase in our/their language.

    So i might be a fault of who posts something for non metioning that what he/she is asking is a set phrase, but it really puzzles me when someone comes up with "NO ME ESTIRES DE LA PIERNA!!".


    again guys, don't take me wrong!!!


  16. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo moderator

    American English
    Great idea for a thread, kitus!:thumbsup:
    I also look to see if there is a native language, but I don't discount the non-natives' anwers... sometimes, they have better insight than I do about English matters! But "caveat lector" should definitely be the rule of thumb for the forums.

    I agree that more right answers are always better... especially because so many questions are open to interpretation or have various possible translations.

    I think that those of us who know how to cite our sources and to qualify our educated guesses should continue to do so and set a good example. Others will follow.

    The thing that bothers me is not the quality of the responses, rather the quality of the questions... especially now that schools are back in session :warn: ... Why do people post contextless queries? (thread, thread) :mad: Why don't people know how to use the search function, and how can we motivate them to use it? (edit: I couldn't find a thread in this C&S forum about people not searching before posting a new thread)
  17. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Hi FP,

    Be just a little more patient. As soon as VBulletin 3.5 is up, we will use a thread starter form that will strongly encourage people to give context.

    Have a look at the Spanish ST forums for an idea of what it might be like, without the regional codes.

    In the meantime, feel free to copy and use these little guys down below.

  18. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo moderator

    American English
    Thanks, cuchu! Love the smilies! :thumbsup: :D

    I know and like the forms in the Spanish Terminology forum, and figured that, sooner or later, they would migrate into the rest of WR. :)

    But why won't they have regional codes? Like I said, I think more information is usually better... and sometimes those clues can help find the most desired translation with less running in circles and second guessing.

    Also, is there any way that new-thread posters could be prompted or reminded to use the dictionary and search first?
    with links to each tool above the "Submit" button?
  19. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Regional codes? Hmmmm we might make them available, but not obligatory for the general language forums.
    The dictionary and search link ideas is splendid!

    Goodness is where you find it, so I'll be happy to promote that recommendation as if it were my very own:)
    The feathers will be a dead giveaway of the source, anyhow.

    Thanks FP,
  20. duder Senior Member

    I agree with Kitus and Lauranazario on this one; I have seen too many threads where less-than-proficient foreros have offered inaccurate translations that are distracting at best and downright misleading at worst. I understand that the desire to continue learning and improving often leads one to try to give an attempt at the risk of being wrong, and Elroy makes some good suggestions about how this can be done in the right manner. In the end, however, I think that just as much can learned by keeping one's guesses to oneself and reading and digesting responses that reflect more experience with the language.

    I think everyone wants to help, and so it is tempting to compose a reply and be one of the first to contribute to a thread despite not having enough background to provide a good answer. Part of this is compounded by poorly phrased questions lacking in context or examples, but in general keeping this thread's title in mind is not a bad idea.
  21. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I would just like to point out the fundamental contradiction in that attitude. The title of your thread specifies that it is uncertainty that should stop a would-be poster from posting, not native/non-native status.

    Sometimes a non-native is in fact certain about something; depending on the particular question, a native may not be entirely sure. That's why I said that the crucial element that should always be present is a clear and unambiguous declaration of how certain the poster is.

    Your remarks aren't rude at all; your habit is just quite illogical.
  22. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I definitely don't think an uncertain member should post out of a desire to learn. After all, the risky nature of the post, by definition, could lead to more confusion than benefit.

    If a potential poster who is uncertain about a particular issue would like to learn more about it himself, he should either wait quietly until someone more experienced/knowledgeable comes along, or start a new thread specifically delineating the source of his particular uncertainty.
  23. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo moderator

    American English
    Here is an example of such an inaccuracy, but that contradicts duder and the others who believe that inaccuracy is the enemy. (thread) :eek:

    It proves the point that a native speaker can think he knows the answer :idea: , but it turns out that he is wrong :thumbsdown: ; and when he is corrected by several more-knowledgeable foreros, everybody learns something. :)

    The only confusion that results from inaccurate answers is when:
    a) nobody corrects the inaccuracy, or :confused:
    b) people who view the thread don't read it carefully. :(

    I think somebody famous once said something profound about learning from one's mistakes.

    edit: I'm not being hard on myself... In fact, I still think I am right! :D
  24. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    A perfect case in point that nicely supports my earlier point that native status should not be the single deciding factor when evaluating a post (not to mention the fact that, unless you think someone's deliberately trying to mislead you, it's rather inconsiderate to ignore the time, effort, and energy dedicated to answering your question - no matter how incorrect it may be!).

    PS - Don't be too hard on yourself. I wasn't familiar with the expression at all. :)
  25. leenico

    leenico Senior Member

    U.S.A. english
    What too many people forget, is that a person being fluent in his/her own language, does not necessarily mean that they are fluent in the language they are attemping to translate to. Who's to say that their translation is accurate. I have seen this so often that I tend to agree with Venus's approach. I think what is imporant, is the exposure. With time, you can sort out the differences, and become more proficient.

  26. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    That goes without saying, Leenico.

    Nevertheless, if everyone waited until they could confidently translate every sentence without a doubt,...

    For example, I can confidently translate something like "The apple is red" into French, but might have some trouble translating "The primary effects of constant exposure to sunlight can manifest themselves in various ways." Were I to attempt such a formidable translation, however, I would make it crystal clear that I was not certain.

    After all, this isn't Askjeeves. This is a forum - and a forum, by definition, is an avenue for discussion, debate, and mutual learning. :)
  27. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    People use different ways of expressing themselves in their posts.
    Often, it is very clear that they are giving a personal opinion - or that they are quoting from a reference work of some kind. That is very helpful indeed, especially if they include information about the source. For difficult issues, a range of different opinions is often very helpful in coming to a sensible conclusion. If nothing else, it is interesting.

    Sometimes they say "that is wrong", "that is right", "here is the answer", without qualification. That can be difficult to interpret - although experience in these forums of their previous "form" is a big help.

    Sometimes they assertively quote dictionary definitions - resulting, from time to time, in a battle of the dictionaries. Especially as many of these are available online, this doesn't always contribute a lot.

    Sometimes they express reservations even when they are quite - or completely - sure the answer is right. Sorry, you are just going to have to learn to live with my gentle and non-assertive personality:D

    Unfortunately, sometimes they mix statements of personal opinion with statements of certainty - this can be very misleading, especially when the statements of certainty turn out to be wrong.

    Guessing completely blind is surely not going to be any more help than machine translation. At best, it confuses; at worst it can be seriously misleading.

    My view on the topic of the thread?
    Taken literally, I couldn't agree.
    But I would agree with WR Forums Rule #11:
    The difficulty, of course, lies in the poster's understanding of "If you are unsure of the accuracy.....":eek:
  28. sergio11 Senior Member

    Los Angeles and Buenos Aires
    Spanish (lunfardo)
    That would be good, Kitus, if someone could be a native of both languages, the one from which he is translating and the one to which he is translating. But in practical situations, most people are natives of only one language. So, which one are you going to trust? The translation "from" the native language, or the one "to" the native language?

    Another issue is the character of the forum. What are we doing in the forum? Are we just discussing linguistics in a light spirit and having fun with issues of language? Which, by the way, is what I have always done and still am doing, or trying to make this an official resource for registered licensed public translators? I think if you want to make it the latter, you need a private forum with a fee to join and a fee to remain a member and allow only the membership of licensed translators, who, with all due love and respect, also may make mistakes. Of course, this is not something for us to decide, because it falls exclusively within the jurisdiction of our great and fearless leader Mike McKellogg, but at least we can express our wishes, and mine are that it may remain a semi-formal, fun and free reference forum where one can have entertaining discussions and debates about all issues relating to words, languages, usages, and sometimes make side comments about a marginal issue, however unrelated it may be. In summary, I like it just the way it is!

    And our moderators are doing a great job at keeping it more or less in line. Congratulations to all our great moderators!
  29. kitus Member

    Spain Spanish and Catalan
    Hi everybody,

    it looks like I was wrong... After this huge number of answers I think I got the point. The idea of my post was to stop a kind of bad habbit, answering with a literal answer when this literal answer can be usually found in a dictionary...

    If you are looking for something funny or you wanna lose sometime reading incorrect answers, I've totally misunderstood the idea of wordreference. After finding some threads I just got fed up with finding incorrect answers to them, and it really made up my mind to post this topic. I still don't really and won't really understand how someone dares to translate a set phrase to/from his/her non-native language, but if you agree and want that, that's fine with me guys...

    I just wanted to contribute, revealing what to me was a problem and if possible, settling a handful of rules when posting a new thread that could help in avoiding random answers specifying that what it's being asked is a set phrase, the source language and so on...

    but hey, fine with me...
  30. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    kitus: I think you are very nearly right:tick:

    Posts that sound authoritative but are way off target are extremely misleading.

    I've come across threads in different forums where an apparently-authoritative post, often based on partial understanding of the question, has led to an entirely fruitless exchange.

    Speaking for myself, I have learned so much about the different ways words are used across the world that much of what I believed to be truth turns out only to be truth in my context. On many issues regional, national and contextual variations mean that no matter how certain I am that my answer is right, it may still be wrong. So I have learned to be cautious in my few months here.

    That is also why Rules #11 & 12 (in particular for this issue) are so important to the value and integrity of these forums.
  31. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    I don't think it's ever come to that point. Anyway, my opinion is that we are doing this and that and everything else... And this is one of the things I like here.
    What I mean is this. If you ask me "how are we answering the questions ?" my answer would be "it all depends on the question".
    There are as many kinds of answers as there are of questions. The main thing is to carefully read each other's posts and adapt our replies accordingly.

    Surely that question
    doesn't need the same kind of answer as this one

    but I'm happy to answer both kinds of questions.
  32. El Estudiante

    El Estudiante Senior Member

    EEUU, english
    I know a few people who were born in the U.S.A. to parents who are bilingual (english/spanish). These people truly have two native languages. But the overwhelming majority of people have only one native language, no matter how fluent, knowledgeable and proficient they may be in other languages. I suspect that most simultaneous interpreters working at the U.N. only have one native language. I don't believe that this should disqualify them from being interpreters or translators. The standard that you are advocating is both illogical and counterproductive.
  33. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    I like the variety Jean-Michel highlights. We have serious translator questions in the Specialized Terminology forum, and more casual discussions elsewhere. For me, the key to the usefullness of an answer is not in the country of origin of the forero. At times a beginner may have a linguistic insight that is overlooked by a more qualified (!) person.

    It is, rather, the honesty of the reply. Uncertainty is not a defect, if it is clearly labelled. Little phrases such as "I'm not certain, but..." or even "I think that..." can help to avoid giving the impression that the writer is speaking authoritatively.

    What are most troubling are the wild guesses proffered as if they were obviously correct. These are as misleading as they are egotistical.
  34. moodywop Banned

    Southern Italy
    Italian - Italy

    You couldn't have put it any better - I agree with you completely.

    I would like to comment on your interesting remark about "marginal issues, however unrelated".

    I have sometimes been told that something I said - while trying to explain the more subtle nuances asssociated with a specific Italian word or phrase - really belonged in the Cultural Forum. I find this to be an extremely limiting/limited approach. Sometimes you just cannot convey the full semantic value of a word without even just a cursory reference to the culture behind it. I could give countless examples but I will spare you:)

    OK. Just a silly example. Staring is taboo in Britain, perfectly acceptable(sadly) in Italian(esp. Southern Italian) culture. When I lived in England I kept hearing mothers say "Don't stare! It's rude!". If you want me to believe an Italian mother would ever say that I'll demand you produce a recording:)

    So why do I have to be told off for digressing when I post comments like that - when all the foreros who PM me say they appreciate them.

    We were all taught in our Linguistics courses at college that language and culture are inextricably bound together. Why keep them artificially separate here?

    Oh and in response to Lee's post - you are dead right. Because of the very poor standards of language teaching in Italian schools(I'm a language teacher in a high school myself) most Italians barely reach a pre-intermediate level. Therefore we keep getting young new foreros providing misleading or totally incorrect translations. So you are right - a forero's native-speaker status is indeed no guarantee that his/her translations/explanations are correct.

    I'd very much welcome your feedback on the language/culture issue.

    Thank you

  35. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Picking up on this point ... some very rewarding threads come from exactly this kind of problem - but with a more interactive process.

    Here is a real example:

    Native English-speaker learning French has found a French saying and wants the best equivalent in English.
    Are you with me so far?
    Guessing won't work.
    Literal translation won't work.

    If there happens to be a truly bilingual French-English speaker then the answer will appear quickly - but probably the easy ones have all been done already.

    What really helps is if a native French-speaker with some knowledge of English has a go at giving a literal translation AND explains the actual meaning of the saying - in English.

    Then along comes a native English-speaker with some knowledge of French who can understand what the saying means and the literal translation.

    Now the native English-speaker has an excellent chance of identifyng the nearest equivalent in English.

    When it works, happy days.
    When it doesn't, we've all enjoyed the exercise and understood a lot more about each other's language and culture than we did before.
    It works as long as it is clear to the participants what each is bringing to the discussion.

    The thread in question is HERE.
    It didn't end with a solution, but I enjoyed it - I hope the others did too.
  36. Swettenham

    Swettenham Senior Member

    What you've described is a very human process, full of kinks and brilliance. That's what makes this forum work.

    If you want to take an algebraic approach to language, try your luck with a digital translator.
  37. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    The part in bold is very ambiguous, Kitus.

    Are you saying you have to be a native speaker of both languages in order to qualify as a credible, legitimate translator? Sergio made a good point: I daresay 90% of our members, if not more, are natives of one language, as are most people in the world.

    Nobody wants incorrect, systematic translations: that is quite exactly the opposite of the goal of these forums. I was not aware that the discussion was about mindlessly pasting dictionary entries: that is of course asinine and fruitless. The title of your thread is far broader than that, seeming to prohibit any and every instance that comes short of full and complete confidence in one's reply.

    With the proper signals, I believe such "educated guesses" are acceptable and in order.
  38. kitus Member

    Spain Spanish and Catalan
    I've just double checked what I said before and maybe it wasn't a clear approach... I'll try to make myself a little more clear. As you can appreciate, I'm just an spanish native, my english skills aren't ENOUGH FOR DEARING TO TRANSLATE an English set phrase guys... Recently I made out reading a book what "To kick the bucket" meant and of course I would never find the correct spanish translation if I would have tried to translate it by guess. What I wanted, and I mentioned it before was to find a method for asking the things making clear enough that what is being asked is a "coined phrase" (this is the name you give to them, right?). What If someone like me finds this expression and simply translates it to "chutar el cubo" and no one checks it over afterwards? I would totally mislead the one who asked to a huuuuuuge mistake, right?

    I think that would be really useful settling a kind of fast formular specifying the context, whether it is a set phrase or not, source language and so on...

    And so for the person that answers specifying as well the grade of security in what he/she answers. As you may have seen in other posts, The Spanish set phrases have sometimes nothing to do with the Mexican ones for instance...

    I'm not criticizing anybody guys, I just try to avoid having people aswering by guess using literal translations... I can OF COURSE translate it literally myself with wordreference or with any dictionary.


    P.S.: I'm totally sure that there are thousands of mistakes in my answers... Could someone correct me?? Please, pleaseeee..... :(

    P.S.2: Don't get my wrong, this is just something I propouse to improve this already amazing dictionary, forum...

  39. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Since you asked for corrections, here they are... :)

    I completely understand where you're coming from. It seems to me that you are annoyed at one particular nuisance: non-natives translating idiomatic phrases from another language literally into their own language. I think both a clarification on the part of the poster stating that he is aware of the literal translation but not the meaning in context, as well as a recognition on the part of the one who answers that he is not certain of his reply, can avoid a great deal of confusion. :)

    Thank you for bringing this important issue up!
  40. Swettenham

    Swettenham Senior Member

    Your English is excellent. There may be some mistakes, but there are constantly mistakes in my English, too! A person with your skills would be a real asset to this forum. :) I hope you will have some time to help us.
  41. leenico

    leenico Senior Member

    U.S.A. english
    I think if everyone waited for 100% sure answers, this forum would come to a standstill. :rolleyes:
  42. sergio11 Senior Member

    Los Angeles and Buenos Aires
    Spanish (lunfardo)
    First of all, let me tell you that your English seems better than mine. You don't need to apologize.

    You might be surprised to find out that "patear el balde" appears in the Dictionary of the RAE with exactly the same meaning. It was a surprise for me, too. I just found out a few minutes ago. I had never heard it in Spanish.

    I don't think anyone took it as a personal critcism, Kitus. We answered more in the hope of helping you lighten up and enjoy better your experiences in the forum. I hope we did.

    Anyway, you do have some very valid points and suggestions, and I don't want to deny the merit of your proposals. You are right in that anything that can be done to improve is worth the effort. This is truly an amazing and wonderful forum. However, we all have to keep in mind that it is from aficionados to aficionados, amateurs to amateurs, laypersons to laypersons, and none of us claims more authority than others.

    And as Leenico said,
  43. kitus Member

    Spain Spanish and Catalan
    you are blushing me Swettenham... ;) Thank you for those support words I would be glad to help you guys just let me know what do I have to do... ;)

    My god elroy I think I should consider learning a new language and giving up learning this one!!! ;) hehehe I hope I made myself clearer enough though but tons of thanks for correcting me :)

    I would say I would use

    "preguntar las cosas" when you have already made up your mind... you already know what to ask (preguntar las cosas que he estado pensando).

    On the other hand, "preguntar cosas" is more general... you are not determining which things do you wanna ask

    Think of "preguntar nombres" and "preguntar los nombres"... ;)


  44. kitus Member

    Spain Spanish and Catalan
    Patear el balde??? No me jodas.... ;) heheheheh

    Hey, thank you Sergio11 I'm getting blushed again!!! It's nice to hear that after all, my efforts worked out... It is quite painful for an spanish speaker to talk in english moreover I 've unfortunatelly I didn't have up to now the posibility of spending some time in England or the States...

    Cheers Sergio11 and cheers everybody!!

  45. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    A few more corrections. :)

    One important one: "blush" is intransitive. You can say "I am blushing," "You are making me blush," etc. But a person does not blush you.

    As for "preguntar las cosas," I think you misunderstood my question. :) Of course I know the difference between "preguntar las cosas" and "preguntar cosas." What I meant was do you say "preguntar las cosas" to mean "hacer las preguntas." You had said "ask things," which I changed to "ask questions" - so I was wondering if your word choice had been influenced by Spanish. Your answer leads me to assume that you can indeed say "preguntar (las) cosas" in Spanish. :)

    By the way, I just noticed that you have less 30 posts! Such a new member, but such an impact!

    My commendations on spotting a weakness right away and not hesitating to comment on it!
  46. kitus Member

    Spain Spanish and Catalan
    hehehehe, we do say "preguntar cosas" ;) I didn't notice before how strange it sounds but hehehe indeed we use it ;)

    Yappppp, 30 posts but looking forward posting a thousand more and if possible even more transcendental ;)

    cheers Elroy and tons of thanks for your corrections,

    looking forward being corrected again

  47. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Two points. The first one will seem very silly but as it hasn't yet been mentionned...
    1. It sometimes happen that the literal translation is the correct translation.:) (to me, it's so much the better. Why then use a different one ?)

    The second one has already been discussed by Panjy. I guess I'm just summarizing it.
    2. For various reasons a literal translation is often useful as a temporary helper to find the best equivalent.

    That said, I partly agree with you, kitus, in that one shouldn't throw in any literal translation without any comment just for the sake of answering a question. But I guess we all agree on that.
  48. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I think your point #1 is excellent.

    All too often, translators overdo it with "free" translations: it's almost like there's a stigma associated with literal translations.

    Unless a literal translation distorts the meaning or renders the construction awkward, it should always be preferred over a "metaphorical" one that adds to or takes away from the intended meaning.

    Just to tie things together with our broader discussion, literal translations should be indicated as such. That way everyone's on the same page (not "sur la même page"! :D)
  49. me82 Senior Member

    oops... i just posted something and i said i wasn't sure at all... :-/ sorry about that.

    In the meantime, when i try to translate something and say i'm not sure, some persons might tell me if it is correct or not, so i can learn and the thread starter won't be confused.

    i hope i explain correctly.
  50. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Thanks Me82,

    You made me think of a possibly important detail that has not yet been mentioned. When you are very sure, even certain, that a translation is correct, it is useful to say so!

    If, for example, someone asks for a translation of perro SP=>EN, and I know that this means 'dog' and nothing else, it may be beneficial to say,

    Without any doubt, the translation is

    I have verified this in the WR dictionary and with three other sources.

    Of course this can still be misleading if no context was given and the original usage was figurative. :) But that would be the fault of the person stating the request...


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