How to use Free Software to learn Japanese, and more.

Should I put English translations on Bilingual TSCs?

November 30, 2022 — Tatsumoto Ren

On a bilingual TSC you'd normally have:

  1. Sentence.
  2. Target word.
  3. English definition of the target word.
  4. Audio and image, if necessary.

Reading just the definition of the target word should be enough to understand the entire sentence. If that's not the case, the sentence is not 1T. If the sentence is not 1T, it means there's something else you don't understand, and you shouldn't learn the card. Instead, you should save the card for later.

Never look at the English translation, ever. From a language learner's perspective, any Japanese sentence is always different from its English translation. Individual words don't translate literally. Word order and other nuances are often deliberately changed. English grammar and Japanese grammar have very little in common. Even in grammar guides where you have literal translations, the English and the Japanese sentences are not fully equivalent. Especially if you're watching something like anime with fansubs, the quality of translation is notoriously low. You definitely don't want to trust it. You know this first hand, otherwise you wouldn't be learning Japanese.

Often beginners say that they understand better after looking at a translation. This is a common misperception. Since the English translation and the original are separate, you might think that you understand the Japanese better by reading the translation, but in reality your understanding of the sentence in the target language hasn't changed, you simply understood the English version. Instead, try to understand in Japanese the first time. Learn to tolerate the ambiguity and let your mind clear it naturally over time.

Translations exist for people who don't speak the original language. They help catch the gist, transmit the meaning. If a translation is good, it is still not a language learning tool. Machine translation is even worse. Don't use Google Translate or anything like that.

Reading English sentences is acceptable in:

In these cases translations are made for language learners. They are aimed to increase understanding of the target language. Subtitles, especially fansubs, are made for casual audience.

Tags: faq