The Web as dictionary/Das Internet als Wörterbuch

Linguee is a site that is collecting a bilingual corpus of texts on the internet.

The idea is that you enter a German word and the site returns pairs of sentences containing that word in German and English.

I looked for a recent problem, Evidenzfall. It wasn’t there (unsurprisingly – the site is new).

I then looked for Evidenz. IMO Evidenz is not always evidence, but can have to do with things being plain or manifest. I translated Evidenzfall as case of a plainly void administrative act, and I came to this conclusion mainly with the help of German online definitions and in particular a textbook on German administrative law.

The hits I get with Linguee almost exclusively have Evidenz, bold, in the German half and evidence, bold, in the English half. ‘More results…’ produced more examples, without bold. I didn’t see any examples from administrative law.

One result was given three stars out of three (most had two):

Die Evidenz, dass auch Pflanzen Stammzellen haben müssen
The evidence that plants also have stem cells

Note, incidentally, that the translation omitted ‘müssen’ – probably OK here. But one obviously can’t rely on translations being good – when one searches the Web, it is more in a spirit of hope.

Certainly some of the translations were not good. ‘We will keep your application in evidence’? It rather looks to me as if the program is designed to look for ‘evidence’ when I enter ‘Evidenz’.

I’m oversimplifying it, because this problem arises only when I enter Evidenz. If I enter evidence, I get a very useful page giving a variety of equivalents, from which I can choose. And it’s not just English words this happens with – the same happens with Aufgabe. So perhaps my Evidenz is too obscure.

I do think, however, that the examples given have been collected and sorted in advance. This gives the service of LEO or It interposes a brain of some sort between me and the corpus, without the useful forum discussions found on other sites.

What impressions do other people have?

(Via Übersetzer-Logbuch – originally via Twitter)

21 thoughts on “The Web as dictionary/Das Internet als Wörterbuch

  1. Thanks for that great link!
    I love Linguee at first sight. Many times I just want to come up with a good formulation for something – by entering a set of two or three words I can find it now. Of course, as you say, you often have to take a look at the sources.

    I still hope that they will increase the size of their database in the future and the quality of their translations. Then it will be way better than leo or

    • Well, I can’t imagine their system envisages improving the quality of the translations, just increasing the number available.
      Normally I search for English equivalents, and by casting an eye over the Ghits, I see which are going to be more reliable. Or I select site:uk, to exclude a lot of non-native English sites.
      Here, I would have to click through to see where the sites are and what they are. First I am shown the translations, some of them bad, and later I get down to the basics. This is a bit too longwinded for me.

  2. It is another arrow to add to the quiver, alongside specialist dictionaries, EUR Lex, KudoZ term search, Google searching and others. On some terms it has helped me to find good equivalents, on some it draws a blank and sometimes the answers are from the wrong field, or not convincing enough.

    One possible drawback lies in its very design: it is a database of TRANSLATED texts, so there is always a risk of “translatorese”. It does little to help find the specialist monolingual texts by native speaker subject experts which are often so important.

    So I use it as an extra tool (and have even defined a short cut to call it up with IntelliWebSearch/IWS straight out of DejaVu or other programs), but like all such tools I take it with a pinch of salt.

    • I don’t use IWS – do have Leo and others as Firefox options.

      I think it will be better into German, because the Web is full of bad English, and I get shown the bad English – together with the good – as the first step.

    • Yes, I agree – and can one actually see which is the original and which the translation?
      When I try to find terms in Google, I get a page that gives me the URLs, and so I can see quickly which to home in on. Or, as I said, I choose site:uk.

      Admittedly, if I search for Evidenz or Evidenzfall, I’m being unfair, in that I would never use such a difficult term on a site like that. But it does show up the problems, as does your Aufwandsr

      • You can see the URL if you click on the little rectangular symbol with an embedded arrow to the right of the text – at least in Firefox the URL is then shown in the bar at the bottom of the Firefox window. If you click on this box, the source page opens (in my FF it opens in a new tab, so the results page is still available).

        • Yes, that’s clear, but it’s an extra step. I have to do some clicking on several links to compare the sources.

  3. yess! and I thought I was the only one to notice. just reading the German version made me cringe! hopefully they are doing better on any “real” translation job…:P

  4. This was written by one of our Summer marketing interns (not a translator) who, as mentioned in the post, had just spent some time studying abroad in Germany, and no, we didn’t have a professional spend time proofing it. We will now. My question is, are you always such an Arschloch?

    • I’ve been thinking about this, and I think it is a semantic question – it depends how you define Arschloch.

      When I post something I think would interest my readers, I do sometimes hold back, but you are a translation company, so I thought it was fair enough.

      Incidentally, not all the sentences were in bad German. But there was a second factor: some of them were jokes that may have worked in English, but would be unlikely to work in a foreign language. For example, ‘That

      • The errors you pointed out are certainly embarrassing, and I appreciate you pointing them out so that we can get the post proofed and fixed, but is it fair to trash the reputation of an organization for one example of sloppy content from an intern on it’s employee blog?

        ALTA rarely uses Beyond Words to promote our services (only when there is big news from one of our clients). Rather, the Beyond Words Blog is a fun outlet for our staff to contribute writing that reflects their interests and thoughts on language. The emphasis is on fun and interesting content, not self-promotion. Yes, the occasional intern will contribute something sloppy that we should have scrutinized better(FAIL), but ALTA is a well respected 30 year old LSP that has good relationships with over 3000 professional translators worldwide, and your comments, while accurate with regard to the quality of that particular employee blog post, should not be extended, as you chose to do, to the organization as a whole. That is not fair — it is snarky and mean spirited.

        • Dear “Beyond Words”, I must admit I am rather taken aback by your reaction (using insults in gutter language in response to justifiable bemusement at a blog post which is rather less than professional, to put it mildly).

          As Margaret points out, the corrected form of your blog removes the bad German, but loses the humour, so the casual visitor wonders why it is even there.

          Not to mention the enormous problems your blog raises in relation to morality, sexism, respect for the person etc.

        • A well-respected [sic], “professional” LSP does not resort to calling someone an asshole. I mean, really. This reflects much worse on your company than the original crappy blog entry. The only one coming across as snarky and mean-spirited is “Beyond Words” and I think your company might come to regret this exchange.

  5. Hi Margaret, long time no read… However you are a little bit off the right track: CJEU is the acronym of the Court of Justice of the European Union which encompasses the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the General Court (EGC) and the Civil Service Tribunal – which obviously does not yet merit an acronym ;-) So most of the times you will indeed have to refer to the ECJ.

    Kind regards Johannes

    • Hi Johannes – dear me, I even missed the change of name of the Court of First Instance to General Court. I obviously didn’t think this through properly. I have added a note which I hope makes it clearer. The abbreviation usage which has changed refers to the collective court only, as you say.

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