I have returned to Google Translate after several months. I was learning colloquial Arabic, and because it is very different from fusha, I did not have much use for Google Translate.
However, I just bought an Arabic anthology – Arabic Literature, Culture and Thought from Pre-Islamic Times to the Present by Bassam K. Frangieh — which is written entirely in fusha. I wanted to translate a couple of pieces from the book: a speech by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and a short story by Ghassan Kanafani. Using my usual method, I got out my Hans Wehr and Al-Mawrid dictionaries, and opened up Google Translate.
Since I last looked at the program back in December, Google has introduced a few new enhancements. First, there is an Arabic virtual keyboard built into the program. It’s not all that noticeable. If you look to the bottom right corner of the area where you enter Arabic text, there is a small keyboard icon. Click on the icon and the keyboard appears. I use an Arabic keyboard on my home machine, but this is helpful when using any PC in any location. As long as you can get to Google, you have a virtual keyboard at your disposal.
Another innovation is an editing function. It enables you to change Google’s translation choices on the fly. For example, try typing into Google Translate in Arabic, “This poetry is beautiful.” The English translation may appear as either “This poetry is beautiful” or “This hair is beautiful”. As I’ve written in a previous post, Google Translate is not perfect.
Whichever translation appears, hair or poetry, place the cursor over that word and a dropdown menu appears with several alternative choices. In the example above, Google Translate offers alternative translations of the Arabic word for “hair,” including “poetry” and “the hair.”
The editing function also works with English to Arabic translation. For this example, write in English, “This is a big town.” When you put the cursor over the Arabic word for town, several alternatives are offered. So if you are looking for Arabic synonyms, this is not a bad tool.
I am still playing with Google Translate, so I’ll have to see what other tricks are built into the program.