Accuracy of Translation

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How accurate will the new machine translation be? I have higher hopes for my letters to our Spanish-speaking children, but I'm especially concerned about the translation between English & Bengali. I have tried several online translation services and they all seem to butcher the meaning of my letters to our correspondent child in India -- sometimes saying the exact opposite of what I intend!

I enjoyed writing letters to my children previously, but I've been hesitant to continue. The translations I've received of my children's letters are already a little confusing & take work to decipher. I can't imagine what that must be like for a five, six or seven year old.

I love the idea of investing in our kids, but between taking away the capacity to send special hand-crafted items and this new online translation system, I'm losing heart. I'm hesitant to move forward until I know you're caught up and know the process is working effectively. If I send a sample letter to you, can you return the machine translation to me so I can see what is actually sent on to my kids?

Thanks for your help! I trust that Compassion is trying to make this process as streamlined and effective as possible.

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C Sanders

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Posted 4 years ago

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Photo of Emily


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Hi C Sanders! I definitely understand your concern because many free translators out there are pretty rough and are not accurate. I'm so sorry that this concern has been disheartening for you and made you hesitant to continue :(. Google translate is an example of that in that it does not account for slang, dialect, etc. Good news! We would not have gone to digital translation if we had concerns about it being accurate. We know how important these letters are to you and your children and how easily misunderstandings can happen and conversations go wrong if the translation is not accurate. 

Compassion invested in an intelligent and highly advanced software that will be translating our letters for us. This software is fluent in the language of every country in which Compassion works. It also learns as it goes! So if there's a word it doesn't know, our staff will enter it in when it's found in a letter and it will recognize it going forward! 

Rest assured that your letters are still being checked for quality by individuals who translated letters in the past :). So once they go through our system, a translator will read through it to make sure it's correct. So be encouraged that we've ensured this new way of translating your child's letters is efficient. Because they are finished in country and double checked after going through the system by individuals in country, I cannot do a sample letter for you. But your children will be able to read what you send and our tutors are also there to help them understand what you write in your letter.
Photo of Chantel


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I hope that once the kinks get worked out of the system, Compassion will continue to assess the accuracy/quality of the translations in letters. I went back on some of my old letters and translated some parts through Google Translate. Two of my girls have been calling me Godmother and not Sponsor in their greetings. This means a lot to me for a lot of reasons one being that I have shared with them the special relationship that I have with my Godchild. Another one of my girls has ended her letter with kisses and this was not translated. I hope as time goes on, these personal touches will get properly translated.
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In some languages, like French (and probably Spanish) godparent and sponsor actually have the same connotation! It describes someone who looks out for you and takes some responsibility for your spiritual development. So it's not necessarily a poor translation, just a different way of looking at things in English.
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I think in Spanish, the words padrina and padrino can actually be translated as either Godmother/Godfather or sponsor. On the letter closings, I know in a lot of Spanish speaking countries it’s common for letter closings to be more affectionate than what we’re used to here. I have a friend who’s from Mexico and he’s an engineer who travels around the country a lot and he emails me with accounting questions occasionally and he sometimes ends his emails with ‘un abrazo’ and sometimes he says ‘saludos’. Un abrazo means ‘a hug’ and saludos means ‘regards’. I think in both cases he means, as we would say, ‘your friend’ or ‘warm regards’, rather than the literal translation of ‘a hug’. So if the translators are used to seeing greetings like this, that may explain why they don’t always translate them literally because I don’t think they’re always meant literally in Spanish, but in the case with our kids I do think they should translate those closings literally because I like it when my kids say kisses and hugs to me too. :)

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Thanks Adam and Jennifer. The Godmother thing was from my children in Brazil so it was Portuguese. In my first couple of letters, they called me a P word which literally translated to Sponsor. The Godmother word starts with an M so I think they used it intentionally. My kisses came from a Spanish speaking child and the exact quote in English is "Kisses for you." The translation closing says Merry Christmas (which was also in the closing).

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