Photo courtesy of PCMag
Once in your school life, you’ve probably had homework where you had to translate sentences from English to Filipino and vice versa. This should be a piece of cake for those of us who grew up speaking and learning both languages, but it's not always as easy. Sometimes, we find ourselves grasping for that translation that's on the tip of our tongue.
For kids who grew up with the internet, translating is done in a snap thanks to apps like Google Translate. But as easy as Google Translate makes things, it doesn't always work as well as we'd hope. There's even an old meme out there where translating the word "Pikachu" from Filipino to English results in "Batman." However, that was almost a decade ago and improvements have been happening based on user feedback. Google Translate has only learned to take words from one language into another better, but it's still not perfect.
In celebration of Buwan ng Wika, let's put Google Translate to the test and see how this tech fares in translating a few phrases and sentences from English to Filipino and back.
Ready, set, test!
Language is very nuanced. Artificial Intelligence like Google Translate sometimes makes direct translations that don't follow certain sentence structures that we're accustomed to. For instance, the basic sentence structure for English is subject-verb-object and directly following this structure for Filipino can sound a bit awkward.
For instance, typing in "she's beautiful" and "she is beautiful" yields different results.
The Filipino pronoun "siya," is a non-gendered word, but Google Translate has an odd way of deciding which pronoun to use for the English version. Sentences like "maganda siya," "sexy siya," and even "umiiyak siya," will use the "she" pronoun, suggesting that certain adjectives are feminine-coded.
Meanwhile, lines like "siya ang matapang kong kapatid" or "ang talino niya" will use "he" as default.
Now, let's test whether Google knows its "ng" vs. "nang"—something most of us struggle with, too. Disclaimer: I researched to check if the translations are correct, but here's a trick: "ng" is a preposition and "nang" is an adverb.
For the most part, Google gets 3/5 right.
Let's see some sentences we say, read, and hear everyday translated.
Some of these translations are good, but you won't hear them said that way in natural conversations.
Google Translate is a highly useful tool. It speaks serviceable Filipino, good enough for the basics (good job, Google!). Translations won't always sound natural, but it does the job. If you're gonna use it for homework or other tasks, make sure to read over everything and double-check to see if you can make the translation sound more pleasant to the ear.