So it appears the main barrier between me and Russian fluency is…

that I haven’t been told that google translate is a somewhat unreliable translation.

I’ve posted a few question on the Russian StackExchange. I get two things– pretty good answers from experts and cheap potshots from the commenters. The experts sound like the might have experience teaching a foreign language. The commenters are worse than useless and the moderators side with them.

Beginning language learners begin writing by a variety of means, I know I’ve tried.

Initially, you use what ever form of word you remember. “polu” — it means floor, what gender, what case, what number? Not sure, you hear this in the phrase, it fell on the floor. So you use the word as if it has only one form. A non teacher will try to teach you that each word has a half dozen forms. I already know that. Thanks, the sole thing between me and fluency was that I didn’t already know that Russian has morphology.

Then you have words you have never heard, so you look them up. Then people criticize you for using the dictionary form too often. Thanks again, the sole thing between me and Russian fluency is that I didn’t know that Russian has morphology.

So I try google translate. I can gauge the quality of the translation by looking at how well it does from Russian to English and I can generally see what is certainly wrong and what is dodgy. But that doesn’t mean I know how to write it better. So I go ask a question and all I get is “Oh! Don’t use google translate, it is worthless” (And instead they suggested I use just google! Whee, now I have a word used in a completely different context, wrong case, wrong number and you need to know what word to search for to google it.) If you are fluent bilingual and learned English from Mom and Russian from Dad and can decide the case of a noun by asking, “What word answers to Kovo?”– well, for you google translate is useless.

For you dictionary, google translate and learner-haters out there– I’m happy you are smart and bilingual, but I wish you just bugger off. You have an idealized idea of how to learn a language where everyone does it just the same way you did, they memorized all 600 pages of Dr. Smiths Grammar, you can rattle off all 2000 slots in the tables of word endings and do so in Cyrillic and English alphabetical order and you’ve already memorized the dictionary entries of the entire dictionary and can recited any page on demand just by someone naming the page number.

Good for you. Leave me alone.

And as for the Russian StackExchange, I will leave you alone, the same as it seems the rest of the internet is doing. The Master Russian forum (the main competitor in this space) lets people post translation requests– people post what google translate thought and they get… translations & help. (I’ll update later if I’m wrong about the general level of civility and acceptance of how language learners really are on the Master Russian forum.)

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