Tabouli the animate salad (tabouli) wrote in linguaphiles,

Word for word translation: URGENT!

Hi Linguaphiles, I'm trying to finish a handbook for teachers in which I help them understand the way their international students phrase things in English.

What I want to do is provide a word-for-word translation of the same sentence in Mandarin, Arabic and Indonesian, to illustrate how differently different languages organise information and phrase things. The sentence is:

"I've lost the book I bought yesterday at the university."

For example, a word for word translation into Mandarin would be something like this (I'm using pinyin with no tone indicators because I'm in a rush here!)

"Wo diu le zuotian zai daxue mai de shu"

="I lose (le) yesterday at university buy (de) book"

I'm not sure if this is correct (please correct it if not!), but this should illustrate what I mean.

Help me, Linguaphiles!
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December 16 2013, 10:07:56 UTC 4 months ago

I swear I just replied to this. Anyway according to a colleague the (Egyptian) Arabic would translate as:

Lost book+my that I bought yesterday at the university

...though it could be said in different ways too.


December 17 2013, 03:29:18 UTC 4 months ago

"bought it"

(relative clauses need an object pronoun)


December 16 2013, 13:58:31 UTC 4 months ago

Your English sentence is ambiguous. Did you buy the book at the university or did you lose it there? (On the basis of the Chinese, I'm assuming the former.)


December 16 2013, 14:06:33 UTC 4 months ago

Perhaps I am simply in a pessimistic mood this morning, but I don't believe this is a kind of skill you can teach somebody through a handbook. I'm not even sure if it's better than nothing, since the most likely way one could learn to understand English from foreigners is through exposure/experience.


December 16 2013, 16:27:23 UTC 4 months ago

I do believe there's inherent value in introducing naïve monolinguals to the idea that languages can organise equivalent utterances in strikingly different ways. A lot of Americans in particular seem to suffer from the misconception that learning a new language just means learning the foreign word for everything, with no sense that they will be ordered differently (or left out entirely). For people like that, the mistakes commonly made by non-native speakers must seem utterly baffling.


December 17 2013, 11:12:03 UTC 4 months ago