Google Translate. The lazy person’s way to language. Full of errors, especially with non-Western languages. A waste of time for the serious student.

Well, anyway, that’s what I used to believe. Now, I don’t believe it so strongly.

(All the following is based on what I do in Android. I’m sure something similar can be done in iOS.)

Here’s what I currently do when I get a sentence from a Japanese person on HelloTalk that I can’t figure out. First of all, I copy and paste it into Jota+, because sometimes a really tiny Kanji that gets a bit bigger in my text editor suddenly becomes comprehensible.

If that didn’t help, then I paste the whole sentence into Aedict. I wrote about Aedict versus Akebi dictionaries before. The nice thing about Aedict is that it’s smart enough to parse the sentence into words, or at least what it thinks are words. Akebi just gives you a bunch of hiragana and kanji at the top of the screen, and that’s it.

I’m getting better at finding the translation I’m happy with at this point, but there are sentences that still don’t make sense to me. For those sentences, I turn to Google Translate, which has the advantage in that it sometimes recognizes Japanese language that isn’t the formal language taught in textbooks. Said formal language being the favourite thing of, well, dictionaries.

The resulting translation can still be off for some reason, but it’s usually close enough that I can figure it out. If I still can’t figure it out, I get very embarrassed about myself, and never post a reply. (Ok, if I’ve gotten to know them well, I will respond with すみません、分かりませんでした。)

(Is there an online Urban Dictionary for Japanese? I know there are a couple of books full of rude phrases that I’m going to buy and study after I can fully appreciate them.)

Anyhow, that’s how I currently use Google Translate. But honestly, my main goal is to be able to drop it entirely, and use Japanese to Japanese dictionaries. Which admittedly is a long way off, and until that day, Google Translate is just fine.

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