Reading english websites in russian to practice russian
July 10, 2012 9:07 PM   Subscribe

Is it a good idea to practice russian by reading english websites translated into russian via google translate?

Or would the flaws in the translation be too much? I'd be reading all the sites I normally visit, including MeFi, Reddit, WSJ, random news sites and some forums. I was thinking that even though the translation may be error-prone or awkward, just having the exposure to that much vocabulary would be beneficial.
posted by mnemonic to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you ever read a Russian site translated into English by Google Translate? Think that would help a Russian learn English?

As good as it is now, computer language translation is still rather miserable. It wouldn't be good for you to use the way youu say.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:12 PM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Another test: take an English language original and translate it into Russian. Then take that and translate it back into English, and see just how badly it's gotten distorted.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:13 PM on July 10, 2012

It's going to be fairly inauthentic - better to read things written in Russian initially. The Voice of America and BBC both have Russian language content, for instance. Also, and the Kremlin Twitter feed are highly entertaining.
posted by SMPA at 9:14 PM on July 10, 2012

I can't speak for Translate's ability with Russian, but if my experiences with learning other languages is to go by the answer is a resounding no.

Perhaps - perhaps - as a vocabulary building activity, however I think the formal structure of a language is far more challenging to learn and execute correctly than mere lists of words, and you would be left utterly deficient in that regard.

If you went of that, no one would be able to understand anything you said, and your ability to understand anything that was said to you - and much of what was written in Cyrillic - would be non-existent in the first two counts, and not even small-child level on the last one.

Also, I think you would find it unbearably frustrating and boring and the temptation to read the English verson hiding behind the curtain would be too much. No. There are great resources for learning languages like Russian, use them instead. :)
posted by smoke at 9:15 PM on July 10, 2012

Definitely do turn on the Russian interface for Facebook, Tumblr, etc., BTW. And try searching for terms using Yandex, and use the Russian version of Google News.
posted by SMPA at 9:16 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is a huge opportunity to learn about things from a Russian (or Kazakh, or another national) perspective! Think about what you're interested in, go out and find where Russian-speakers are writing about it, then 1) try to read it in Russian, 2) look up specific words you don't know, 3) then translate in into English. You might even use a straight Russian-only dictionary to look up the fancy words you don't know explained in simpler Russian words you do know.

The Internet is awesome not only for language practice, but for actually getting to the information you wanted in the first place when you decided to learn a new language.

You can also find a Russian correspondent who wants to learn language -- look for language exchange web sites -- and practice that way. It's very compelling to actually communicate with a person!
posted by amtho at 9:18 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Why not read Russian websites (in Russian) and then feed them into googletranslate to puzzle out anything you don't understand? Then the Russian will be authentic, but you will have the benefit of the translator to help you with vocabulary. Not too much help for grammar, but hopefully the context and help with vocab will allow the Russian itself to instruct on grammar.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 9:19 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

sorry - missed amtho's answer on preview...
posted by Tandem Affinity at 9:20 PM on July 10, 2012

As a native Russian speaker who often uses Google Translate: no, it's not nearly accurate enough for that. I have to correct it constantly to translate either way. It's a useful tool, certainly, but not for the purposes of learning the language by the method you descrbe.
posted by griphus at 9:34 PM on July 10, 2012

nthing the resounding no, as machine translation just isn't up to the mark yet. Do read Russian sites, forums and Russian versions of the sites you use, but using Google translate for anything more than catching a vague drift of meaning, is useless.
posted by Senza Volto at 9:36 PM on July 10, 2012

Also, exposure to the vocabulary doesn't help when it starts tripping up on idioms and homonyms, which it often does.
posted by griphus at 9:41 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you have a gmail account, a facebook account, etc, you can change the language away from English if you want. You can even change your desktop to another language if you want. Since it's all set commands, the translation is generally better than Google translate translating MeFi, for example. And I'm learning German, not Russian, but I've found the switch in gmail to be particularly helpful, because gmail is always telling you "message is being sent" or "message has been sent" which has helped drill the basic passive forms into my head.
posted by colfax at 1:12 AM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not a ridiculous idea. The translation is - as said above - not perfect but surprisingly good for something that's done automagically. Given the sometimes fractured sentences it generates, it would help mainly with vocabulary. Probably best to think of it as a useful aid rather than you main method.
posted by outlier at 2:09 AM on July 11, 2012

You would be much better off reading things written natively in Russian and using Google Translate to translate that into English to figure out the meaning of words you don't know.
posted by alidarbac at 3:26 AM on July 11, 2012

I learned English in this way, so frankly I recommend it to all your friends, including you. I am no one ever fixes, and I concluded that this method is infallible.
posted by Nomyte at 6:38 AM on July 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

I learned Russian using a similar principle: watching English-language TV dubbed into Russian. The Russians left the English track on low volume, so I could hear the English being spoken "under" the Russian. Listening to both languages at once was surprisingly not too difficult, and very effective. I watched shows that used simple language, like Santa Barbara, and shows I'd already watched in English before, like Twin Peaks. I had access to Russian TV channels at the time, but I bet Russian YouTube channels would offer something similar.
posted by Mila at 11:31 AM on July 11, 2012

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