European Escapades

Language Learning Technique or Poor Product?




I know it’s our blog, but that doesn’t stop us from asking you guys for feedback does it?

I am trying to think how I need to pose a question I have in my head and cannot seem to express myself very clearly, so I guess I will ramble a little and maybe in doing so I will in the end be able to form a comprehensible question around the issue I have.

When I first started learning Spanish 6 weeks ago, I started by buying BKYI deluxe 4 as a starter program as I like the flip card and picture association. But as I get better at Spanish, by listening to my growing collection of DVD’s Music CD and audio books and ANKI (Thank you for the pointer Ramses) as an immersion technique, I am finding issues with some of the translations within the BYKI program.

I know that the BYKI is an Americanised product so I can handle the issues such as having to change some of the English words from American English such as


But some of the sentences within the base product, I feel have a more fundamental issue with them.
Two example sentences I have chosen are

‘al otro lado’ BYKI  translates it to     ‘on the other side’ which makes sense to me and my limited Spanish.

In the same sentence list BYKI provides the following

‘al otro lado de la calle’ so in my mind we have my translation of this sentence as ‘on the other side of the street’

This is what I typed in as my first instant reaction to the quote only to be told I was incorrect and the actual BYKI required answer was     ‘across the street’

The other sentence I would highlight is this one

‘Esta carne está demasiado cruda para mí’ Not a phrase I’m likely to use as I like my steaks blue to rare. But my translation would be     ‘This meat is too rare for me’

BYKI translation is     ‘This is too rare for me’

Now I have heard from people that I shouldn’t be translating word for word, but to try and get the feel for sentences as I read them, In fact I am adjusting a lot of the BYKI word list to pictures only on the English side to get away from connecting the Spanish-English words. But now to my question.

When one is learning a language, surely these alterations in translation only serve to confuse the beginner. Or is this a deliberate tactic on behalf of BYKI and Transparent Software, and language tutors as a whole, as an aid to learning?

Or is it just another poorly put together translation list?

If you or anyone has thoughts or comments on this question I would like to hear it. I would post this on the BYKI forums but it seems that ‘Transparent Software’ has removed this feature from their website since I last downloaded one of their French language learning products.

Please note the sentence packs are part of the base pack supplied by ‘Transparent Software’ and not one of the contributed lists on their List Central site. I like the way I have audio and a Spanish speaker say the words as although I’m trying not to speak the phrases in question, I do get a mental image of how they sound as I type in the sentences into the program.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 18th, 2010 at 10:27 am and is filed under Spanish Language. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Language Learning Technique or Poor Product?”

  1. Dave Says:

    June 4th, 2010 at 8:27 am

    This was a reply comment from Dave at Rameses site

    @Steve – As a professional translator I thought I would comment. Ramses, I hope that is okay. There are literal translations (word for word), and translation of meaning (not word for word), but true to the source language. In addition to being faithful to the source language, which in this case is Spanish, a translator must also keep the target audience in mind. Your sentence example ‘al otro lado de la calle’ is a great example of the difference in word for word translation (the other side of the street) versus a translation of meaning (across the street). In this particular example both are correct so the translator must then look at the target audience and determine which translation best fits. When working with translations, even those in the dictionary, try to think of variations that you could use to say the same thing if your audience were to change. Also keep in mind that “proper Spanish” (normally found in dictionaries, and training materials) does not necessarily match 100% of the time with how people talk. Use your materials as tools but not as absolutes. Does that make sense?

    Steve, I hope you don’t mind that I stepped in and commented to your post. I hope, too, that was able to shed some light and not confuse the situation.

    P.S. I, too, am anxious for the next Newsletter.

  2. stephen Says:

    June 4th, 2010 at 8:28 am


    Thanks for the reply, I found in reading you comment a number of times that it helped clarify the question I had. Whist I understand from a translators point of view, the meaning and literal should be compared when deciding on any translation, I have purchased a language product to learn Spanish, not to be impressed by a translators immense vocabulary in my native language (in this case English) and their creative ability in using it.

    So my question really was is there a valid teaching methodology being used here,when a company uses different translations in the native language for the same target language sentence or is it a better teaching methodology to show consistency across a particular training product?

    Across different products, I understand I will come across various translations as the mind of the translator come through. But I hope that as I improve my Spanish from complete beginner to a more intermediate level, I will then be able to take account of this. ‘Use your materials as tools but not as absolutes.’ is a good quote. I also hope you don’t mind, but as I have also posed this question on my website I have copied your reply there as well. Any problem with that then let me know.


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