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私は、大学の先生になって15年間になる。だから、日本人の英語能力は相当わかってきている。どんなに文法がめっちゃくちゃになっていても、なんとく言いたいことはわかる。夫のリズは私のこの才能にいつもビックリする。時々、リズは日本人が書いた英語の文章や手紙を読んで、書いた人の言いたいことが、わからないから私に見せる。「ね、この人は何を言いたいと思う?」私は、その問題だらけの英語を見ると、すぐ言いたいことがわかる。学生の英語がわかるけど、インターネット翻訳を使った学生の英語はマジわからん。インターネット翻訳はスラングとか俗語を全然わからんけん、わけわからない翻訳になる。

 

 I have been teaching English to Japanese university students for almost 15 years, so I have gotten pretty good at understanding their English. No matter how bad their grammar is, I can almost always figure out what they are trying to say. This unique skill amazes my husband. Every now and then he shows me a paper or a letter written by a Japanese person, and he cannot for the life of him deduce what he is trying to say. I look at it, and within a few seconds have it figured out. I can understand my students' English, but when they use internet translation, it is a whole different story. Because internet translation can't process slang and idioms, random messes of English often come out of that translation device. 

 

毎年学生にうるさくて言っていることは、「インターネット翻訳を使ったらダメやん!!すぐバレるやん!あなたの間違いだらけの英語のほうがわかりやすいから、自分の英語で書きなさい!!」と言っているけど、必ず誰かが使ってしまう。学生は6年間英語を勉強してきたから、英語の文法の土台がなんとなく、できている。やけん、どんなに間違えていても、言いたいことは通じる。私は間違えた文章を添削して、書き直してもらう。インターネット翻訳を使った文章は直す方法がない。誰が、何を、どこでかが不明。直したくても直せないやん!だから添削しないままで返して、自分の言葉でもう一回書いてもらう。

 

I tell my students every year not to use internet translation until I am blue in the face. I tell them that I will bust them faster than I can eat a jar of peanut butter, but still, there are always students who use it anyway. Because all university students have studied English for at least six years, they have at least a shaky English foundation. As as a result, I can almost always understand their writing. So I correct it, give it back, and ask them to do it again. But when they use internet translation, there is no correcting to be done.  Why is that? Well, I have absolutely no idea what they are trying to say, so their is no way to fix it. Who? What? Where? The grammar is beyond repair, so even if I wanted to fix it, I can't. So I give it back and tell them to stop cheating and do it themselves. 

 

インターネット翻訳の特徴は、あまり代名詞がないことだ。それと、前にも言ったように、スラングがわからない。例えば、もし「今日、私は早く起きたから、朝ご飯を食べる時間があった。ご飯を食べ終わってから、学校に行って、授業を受けた」という日本語を言いたかったら、翻訳は、「Today, it woke up fast therefore, it could eat breakfast. When breakfast is over, it went to school and it had class.」 もちろん、私は "it" じゃなくて、"I"と訳しないと。もう一つは、スラング。"My teacher is cool" と言う文章を入れたら、「私の先生は冷静です。」と出てくる。この文章の "cool" は 「冷静」じゃなくて、「かっこいい」だ。「冷静」の意味もあるけど、この文章には使わない。アンちゃん先生は、間違えなく、かっこいやん!あまり冷静じゃないかも。

 

One of the characteristics of internet translation is the limited pronoun vocabulary. It seems to love to use the word "it." For example, "Today, it woke up fast, so it could eat breakfast. When breakfast is over, it went to school and it had class. Of course, human beings are not "it" but "I." Another probably it has is with slang. If you input "My teacher is cool" into the internet translation engine, it will say, "Watashi no sensei wa reisei desu."  Of course, the usage of the English word "cool" is not reisei, but kakkoi. I am definitely way cooler than I am calm.

 

Facebookの翻訳もバリ怪しい。昨日、私は死ぬほど疲れた」 と言う文章をあげた。日本語がわからん、アンちゃんのお母さんは翻訳のボタンを押したら、こういう英語の文章が出てきた。I'm tired of dying. つまり、「死ぬことに飽き飽きした] あの翻訳の機能は、「疲れる」 の tired と、「飽きている」 の tired of を区別できんね。もっと勉強をさせないと!

 

Facebook's translation function is funny at best and sketchy at worst. Yesterday, I uploaded some pictures with a description and wrote shinu hodo tsukareta which means, "I was utterly exhausted," or "I'm dead tired." Anyway, my Mom, who can't speak Japanese at all, pushed the translation button. Out came this English gem of a sentence. "I'm tired of dying." Yeah, apparently Facebook's translator can't tell the difference between the English words "tired" and "tired of." They gotta work on that!

 

インターネットのFacebook翻訳だけじゃなくて、辞書も信用ができん。私の人生の2つのエピソードを使って、説明させてね。大学院生の時に、図書館の前で大勢の留学生と話していた。当時のアンちゃんと夫のリズは、他のアメリカ人と同じくらいイチャイチャしていた。やけん、留学生一人は、辞書をひいて、冗談っぽく 「Anne and Riz are always making love in front of us.」 と言った。ちょっと待って。えぇ?なんと言いよった?穴があったら入りたいくらい恥ずかしかったバイ。なぜこんなに恥ずかしかったかというと、英語で、"make love" は、もうちょっとエロっぽい意味しかないからさ。

 

Not only the internet translation, but also the dictionary can be very untrustworthy. There are two stories from my life that I will use to illustrate this vividly. First, when I was in grad school, I was hanging out in front of the library with some international students. At that time, my husband Riz and I were pretty lovey dovey, and we would hold hands and snuggle a little in public. We were just an average American couple, young and in love. Anyway, one of the international students pulled out his dictionary and said, "Anne and Riz are always making love in front of us." Ok, hold on just one second there. What the heck? I was so embarassed I wanted to crawl into a hole. In English, the phrase "make love" has only one meaning--and it ain't what they thought it was.  And I am quite sure that we never did that in front of him or any other student for that matter. 

 

すぐ私は答えた。「そんなことは絶対にしていないやん!どこでそれを習ったと?」学生は辞書で「イチャイチャをする」と調べたら、そういう定義が出てきたらしい。私は辞書で調べてみたら、確かにそうだった。何、この辞書?どう見ても、イチャイチャするはそういう意味じゃなかろう?ちなみに、「イチャイチャ」の本当の定義はPDAだ。Public Display of Affectionの頭文字を取った略だ。意味は「公共の場所で愛情を見せる。」まぁ、それをしたかもしれんけど、絶対に人前で make love はしなかった。。。

 

So I quickly responded, "Hey, what the heck are you saying? And where did you come up with that phrase?" He told me that he put the Japanese word ichaicha suru into his electronic dictionary, and "make love" is what came out. When I searched for the term myself, sure enough he was right. What is wrong with this dictionary anyway? No matter how you look at it, there is no way that the Japanese ichaicha suru means "make love." By the way, the real way to say ichaicha suru is PDA. PDA is an abbreviation for Public Display of Affection. Yeah, Riz and I did this for sure but we definitely didn't do what the dictionary accused us of.

 

もう一つ。学生の自己紹介の授業で、一人はこの文章を言った。"I drowned when I was a child." ちょっと待って。何?英語でdrownedという単語は溺れて死んだと言う意味しかない。じゃ、子供の時、死んだのなら、どうやって20歳のあなたは、私の英語の授業で自己紹介ができたんだい?不思議。いろいろ調べた結果、日本語の「溺れる」は「死んだ」の意味が入っていない。学生は英語で「溺れた」を言いたかった。"Almost" drowned を言わないといけない。その almost はバリバリ大事バイ。意味が相当変わる。でも私は「溺れた」を辞書で調べてみたら、確かに、drown が書いてあった。

 

The other thing happened during my English class. A student was up in front doing his self-intro, and he said, "I drowned when I was a child." That got attention really quickly. Wait a minute. What? In English, the word "drowned" means to die in the water because the water drags you under, or you have some other distress. Anyway, you die. That's the only meaning it has. So, I wondered, how the heck is this kid here if he drowned when he was little? After I looked into it a bit, I learned that in Japanese the word oboreru means to be in distress and almost drown, but you end up being saved in the end. In English, that "almost" is crazy important because it obviously gives the kid a second chance at life. Leaving out that almost entirely changes the meaning of the sentence. But is you look up oboreru in the dictionary, it says "to drown."

 

こういうわけで、辞書は信じないほうがいい。嘘つきだ。でも、ネイティブの友達がいなければ辞書を使わざるを得ない。イヤ、そうでもない。アンちゃん先生に聞いてね。いつもでも質問を受付します。一番覚えてほしいのは、イチャイチャの英語を言う前に、マジ定義を確認してね。

 

So anyway, my conclusion is, you can't trust the internet or dictionaries at all. They are bold-faced liars. However, if you don't have a native speaking friend to ask, you are left with no choice but to trust the dictionary. No wait a minute! Ask me! I would love to take your questions. But the thing I want you to remember the most is, please, check the meaning of what you want to say to keep you from embarassing both yourself and your poor teacher.