|Transliteration is a
word by word translation of a phrase or sentence. It is not
the same thing as translation. Translation completely converts
from your native syntax to the target syntax.
Languages vary in their syntax. For
example, in English the adjective comes before the noun while
in Spanish it comes after the noun. So, translating a string
of words one at a time in sequence results in a string of
words that have been translated one at a time but not
translated as a whole.
While it would be desirable to
translate, rather than transliterate, sentences, the ability
to do that increases the size, weight, complexity, and
cost of today's electronic translators by quite a bit. This is
why you find sentence translation on only some models (LUX, 900-series, iTravl, and Spanish X-5).
As a workaround to the sentence conundrum, translator designers
have developed phrasebooks. The phrases are key parts of
sentences. Using common phrases, you will get an exact
translation. It will just not be a complete sentence (in most
cases), and it won't have additional wording.
this sounds at first, it turns out to aid communication by
providing the exact message you want. Simpler is better. You
"cut to the chase" quickly, using phrases, and
communication is enhanced.
Direct translation of sentences sometimes
requires people to speak and write in ways they are not used
to. Most Americans have rejected Standard Written English (SWE)
in favor of a less structured way of using words. When
translated into another language, the result can be gobbledegook.
It's quite often that waybefore translation, which is why so many English speakers misunderstand each other though they speak the same language. For example, most
Americans misuse the word "only," by placing it in
the wrong place in a sentence. If you will observe where
"only" appears when people speak and write, you will
find they are nearly always saying something other than what
This is only (ha!) one example of the complexity involved
in sentence translation--even with a live person. An electronic device can't possibly
second guess you and try to figure out what you mean vs. what
you are saying. It doesn't have the
context. This same factor is why e-mails are so widely
misunderstood. English speakers rely more on context and other
factors than sentence construction to convey meaning.
It's the old "garbage in / garbage out"
rule catching up to you.
While sloppy speech may work fine within a
given culture--and that's debatable because misunderstandings
are so common--it completely undermines communication when
translating between languages.
So if you want to communicate accurately,
- Buy the best unit available.
- Give it "good English" to translate.