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Looking for digitial translation online has never been more easy these days. If you are fluent in at least 2 languages, you will find the free translation services from Google, Yahoo or MSN highly useful. However, there are many reasons to avoid using services online if you desire to become proficient in learning a language.

Reason No. 1

Digital translation does not give meaning for meaning results. Here’s a look at my twitter updates on this:

# 找不到,只好自打字。想和认为, 不是同一个意思。 about 2 hours ago from web

# Why can’t I find the exact translation to ‘thinking’? 认为 is ‘feel’, ‘think’ but not in the sense of ‘I am thinking.’ urggh..Frustrating. about 2 hours ago from web

# Translation site not suitable for beginners who cannot understand structure of Mandarin language. Will check out babel fish for comparison. about 2 hours ago from web

As you can see, it took me 2 hours to do the next obvious thing. I consulted my better self, and typed in the ‘transliteration’ of the word ‘think’ in Mandarin to get to the character I wanted which was ‘想’ not ‘认为’.

Translating online is time wasting and for the uninitiated very frustrating.

Reason No. 2

Based on the reason no. 1 above, there will be no prompting from the translator that your sentence has been poorly translated even the original text or sentence is perfect correct. Which means if you decide to go ahead to communicate the translated version, you have to be fully confident that the meaning is not lost in translation.

Reason No. 3:

For the same word translated, you may end up with not one but many different ways of saying it. For instance, the word ‘you’ in English is defined as:

A surname (rare: 1 in 100000 families; popularity rank in the U.S.: #14139)
Source: Definition of you.

You: the one or ones being addressed —used as the pronoun of the second person singular or plural in any grammatical relation except that of a possessive Source:you:merriam webster

In Spanish, the word ‘you’ has a greater use. I quote an explanation from a fellow Spanish learner:

There are several pronouns for you in spanish depending on whether you are speaking formally, informally, singular, plural, directly or indirectly. Some are tú, vosotros, usted, or ustedes. Eres is an informal form of the verb Ser which means To Be . Literally Eres means You were. In spanish the personal pronoun is not always required when a verb is conjugated, because the conjugated verb includes the person spoken to or about. It is confusing to know which goes where and when, but it comes with studying and practice. I find studying a new language overwhelming at times. Since you already know four languages, It might be easier for you. Porque ya sabes cuatro idiomas, podría ser más fácil para ti.


I am glad that Mandarin has only one way to describe you. Singular you is 你 , Plural you is 你们. (You will not get it translated as plural pronoun in Mandarin, because there is no other plural to ‘you’ except ‘you’.)

Other Reasons:

  1. It is not intellectually challenging to translate online;
  2. It does not empower the human potentials with hands-to-brain experience like how the dictionary, pen and paper would.
  3. It does not enrich the potential sensibilities to learning;
  4. One can only hope that the reader understands the context of the original message when it gets translated.


Well, if you insist on learning using the digital translator services (it comes free, so why not?), this is what you have to do. Do keep a dictionary, pen and paper around you at all times.

  1. Single out the verb in your sentence.
  2. Most verb are used to describe either a passive or active action.
  3. Then pick out any nouns (name of person or persons) and the pronouns in the sentence.
  4. Make connection betwen the verb and noun or verb and pronoun.

Here’s the trick: Use the translator and SWAP the meaning at least once! If you see no difference in the translation after swapping, you are safe.

Here’s a sentence I did try to translate: English-Spanish-English

English-Spanish: “I do not know either men?” translates to “No sé bien los hombres?”
Spanish-English: “No sé bien los hombres?” translates to “I do not know good men?
Note: The word either is translated as cualquiera. I do not see it being used in the sentence translated.

Enjoy! Translate with Success.