Monday, November 26, 2012

The Wikipedia Method

Here is how I do the bulk of my reading and translation as part of my process to learn a foreign language:  I use the Wikipedia method.

My Wikipedia method works this way:  First, I will go to the Wikipedia page of the language that I want to study.  For the Polish language, I go to Wikipedia Polski, and pick an article in a subject that interests me.  Of course, I open it in Google Chrome.  Then I open another tab with the same article, and Chrome will ask me if I want to translate it from Polish to English, and I will translate it.  Then I open another tab with Google Translate, set to translate from Polish to English, so I can translate individual words if needed.  Note also that I have added a link to a random article on Polish Wikipedia at the bottom of my blog.

I'll read through the article, and if I come to word(s) that I don't know, then I'll look at the version translated from the target language into English (this is better than looking at the same article in English Wikipedia, because usually that article is completely different, and the translated version is somewhat word-for-word).  Since the translation is sometimes a little off-kilter, if what I see doesn't make sense to me, then I'll go to Google Translate and enter the words one by one.  I have yet to encounter something that is so idiomatic and peculiar that I can't figure out what it means.

It's not as useful to translate from the source language to the target language (for example, if your native language is English, don't use the Chrome browser to translate from English to Polish [or whatever the target language is]). The reason is that the translation will be weird and your native language skills will be better at understanding a strange translation in your native language than in the language you are trying to learn.  Also, you want to look at grammatical and syntactical constructions (as well as translations) that are correct, and even though humans make mistakes, the version written by the person will be more correct than the version that is translated.

But, really, my Wikipedia method could be used with any source material that is in the Polish language.  I use it with Wikipedia the most because then I can learn about cool and interesting stuff too.  News sites and blogs in Polish on subjects that interest you might be particularly suited to this type of endeavor.  The only things that are really important are: 1) that the source code on the page of the site you are translating is not so whacked-out that it won't allow for a translation, or 2) that the site is not heavily dependent on images that deliver text.

1 comment:

  1. Today I was reading the article on Scott Joplin in Italian Wikipedia.