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Using Electronic Translators


Electronic Translators have a lot of value if we understand their limitations and strengths.  They are up and running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The free ones, like we offer here, can be used without fear of running up a huge bill. They can help you begin communicating both in writing and in speech. And, an important benefit you can receive from using these tools is to be able to use and understand Russian grammar without having to memorize the grammatical rules that formulate Russian syntax. I will explain how, once I have provided you with some of the limitations along with an overview of Russian grammar in a very simplistic form.


Limitations of Electronic or Online Translators

To begin with, Electronic or Online Translators will be limited to small and grammatically correct sentences with the use of very simple words. What this means is complicated phrasing and sentence structure will not produce a proper interpreted result. This is because complex structure can and will lead to too many potential outcomes and meanings, and thus confuse and lead to ambiguity, which in turn produces literally junk output. You will see for yourself, once you start learning how to effectively use these important tools. Before getting into how to use these tools, you will need some Russian grammar fundamentals.


Russian Grammar-Broad Overview

Russian grammar, as you would expect, is quite different from English grammar. But exactly how Russian differs you may not expect. I will highlight some main differences here so that you know what to look for in order to effectively use Online Translation tools. To start, keep in mind we did not learn English grammar as a foundation to learning to communicate effectively in English, at least not in obvious ways. Neither should you expect to need to learn Russian grammar in order to communicate in Russian effectively.

In English grammar we are entirely dependant on context to understand how the words in a sentence function together to express thoughts and ideas. Example:

“Anna loves John.” (Анна любит Джона) 


If we change the order of the words the meaning changes:

“John loves Anna.” (Джон любит Анну.)     Notice the changes in the Russian name spellings.


By exchanging the order of John with Anna we changed the function of those two nouns. One noun is acting on (expressing emotion for) the other noun while the other noun is the object of that emotion. As can be expected, Russian grammar can express the same ideas. However, the order of the words in a Russian sentence has no affect on the function of those words. In other words, you could exchange those exact same nouns in Russian and the meaning would remain exactly the same. The natural question then is how can they know which noun performs the service for which, if the word order has no affect? The fundamental answer is that word endings are individually changed rather than the order of those words. By so doing, those changes dictate the function of each word in relationship to the other words in the phrase or sentence. How does this work?


Changing Word Endings—Not Word Order ---- To Define Function

Nouns and Adjectives in Russian are Declined and Gendered while Verbs are Conjugated. Although English bears some resemblance to declining when we see words change such as her, she; him, he and so forth, in Russian this is a very pronounced feature and has several more forms. Only rarely in English do we see genders used, such as a ship described as; “she” sailed off into the sunset. In Russian this is done in every phrase with every noun, pronoun and adjective. We conjugate a little in English; “he ran; they run; they are running” and so on. In Russian this is with every verb of a phase and in many more situations.

This is the overview you will need for now. Therefore, word endings are the key to how words function in Russian and this concept is what you need to understand. Now, armed with this information, rather than get caught in the grammar squirrel-cage, learn by doing and seeing. Russian grammar is just as complicated as English grammar. And just like English grammar you could spend a lifetime trying to study it, and yet not be able to communicate. Remember, as children we never learned grammar until after we spoke functional  English. Instead of dreaming that you will somehow find some quick-hit key to unlock the ability to instantly speak Russian, try following what you did as young child, by using Russian and learning as you go along. This is where you can get great benefit out of using Online Translating tools.


How to Properly Use Online Translators for Highest Learning Impact

As was pointed out earlier, Online Translators will be limited to small and grammatically correct sentences with the use of very simple words. It is best to cut and paste words into these tools rather than trying to type them in directly. This is because some of the short cuts you may have the habit of using may not function in ways you have come to expect. For example, they usually do not have  powerful spell and grammar checkers, as in modern word processing programs.

Use these Online Translating tools to provide you with interpreting of small compact sentences so you can get a basic result to jump start ideas you intend to communicate. Don’t expect these to be the final draft. Often these small sentences will need some adjustments before a release version can be obtained. How can you know what the outcome is, in order to judge whether you have received the proper result? Try receiving what is called a “Back” translation.

What is a Back translation? One of the Online Translating tools we have provided from PROMPT has an “Original text” window and below it a “Translated by PROMT” window. The top window is where you will paste in the text that you want translated. The bottom window is where the translated result will appear. You will notice that to activate this translating, just below the top window, on the right side there is a button to be pushed named: “Translate”. To the left of that button are several selection possibilities: a drop-down box that shows from what language to translate and to which language to translate the text. To the left is a direction button represented by two opposing arrows which switches between those already selected languages. And just to the left of that is a check box named: “back”.

When this “back” check box has been checked, after you push the Translate button, a small dialog window will appear called: “Back Translation – Web page Dialog”. Contained therein will be the result of taking the Russian output and now re-translating that Russian output back into English. This is a fabulous feature because it allows you a meaningful way to verify that you have just translated is what you expect is being interpreted into Russian. Sometimes you will be shocked at what comes back. But by performing this extra step, this will often enable you to get the sense of what is going to be communicated in Russian. (You will probably need to disable your browser’s pop-up blocker to use this feature)

Once you have refined the English that you place into the Original text window and finally see what you want communicated in the “Back Translation – Web page Dialog”, then you will just select all of the text from the bottom “Translated by PROMT” window and copy that text into your email or word processor. Those are some very powerful features to have available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and all for free. These tools are even more powerful if you know how to apply an effective strategy for learning and understanding basic Russian grammar.


How Can You Learn Grammar With Online Translating Tools?

To gain the most benefit in your quest to learn Russian watch how these Online Translators change word-endings. How this is done is by constructing sentences with these in mind: translate them and observe how the Online Translators change word endings to represent word functions and relationships. Therefore, make up basic sentences with only one phrase. Then target certain words within that sentence that you will watch for word ending changes. The words that will not change are those nouns of a phrase that represent the subject. All other nouns will change. Verbs will nearly always change unless they are being used as a noun that represents the subject.

What you are working towards is observing how words work together. Hence, you want to understand how you make a word function in an English sentence first. Understand the nature of that function, then label it with something meaningful to you so that you can identify it each time you construct test sentences. This is your laboratory and as such, you must apply constants so that change can be recognized across words.

This is how you will begin to recognize the Russian Language Pattern (RLP). We learn language by pattern, not by a bunch of memorized rules. It is pattern that allows us the ability in English to take a word never encountered or known before and then correctly use that word in speech and writing in various functions. That is all you are attempting to do here with Russian using Online or Electronic Translators.


What’s To Come!

We hope to begin to introduce various structures and phrases for you that you can use, test and observe word endings. As we introduce new ones we will place these to the right of the Online Translators we provide to you. All of the newest ones will appear at the top while those already introduced will appear in first to last order. So please feel free to return again and take advantage of these tools and strategies so that you may make the best use of your time while learning to communicate in this beautiful Russian language.

Dan Bauer 

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