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Why not do automatic Thai translation?

Thai2English helps you translate from, well, Thai to English, but it’s an assisted translation rather than automatic. That means the results take some interpreting on your behalf too, you’ll have to read the meaning of the words and come to your own conclusion as to overall meaning.

Why do we do this, when Google Translate and Facebook already automatically translate Thai to English?

Principally it’s because thai2english has a different purpose to them — while they will translate for you, we want to help you learn and become able to translate for yourself.

So we’ll try and explain ambiguities, cultural references, the subtle connotations of words that can’t be directly translated, show you other examples of how a particular word is used in context and so on.

Is Thai a difficult language for automatic translation?

Very. Words do not have spaces in them for a start, and the compound nature of the words means it’s hard to even define exactly what a word is in Thai is. Working out where to insert spaces automatically is far from easy then, but if it goes wrong, the rest of the translation is basically doomed from the start.

There’s more too. Many common words have a multitude of different meanings, pronouns are usually ambiguous if they’re used at all, common words are used as people’s names, long and/or foreign words are aggressively abbreviated as much as possible, common ‘particles’ have no direct meaning themselves but convey a certain feeling, and pretty much any word that could be inferred from the context is dropped and left to you to figure out.

The nature of how FB and Google translation works mean they’re good at generating a  grammatically correct English translation, but how accurate that translation is can vary dramatically.  My experience is it ranges from impressively good to incomprehensible, or worse still, flat-out misleading.

Is thai2english any better then?

It’s different rather than better. You’ll have to work harder to get to the meaning, but you’ll learn in the process and it’s much less likely to mislead you. If the text you enter can’t be successfully understood by thai2english, that’s going to be immediately clear instead of showing a realistic looking but utterly wrong translation.

I find all the different systems have their own strengths and weaknesses in different situations, and so they’re actually complementary. Try them all out and see what works best for you (and if you’ve got any suggestions, we want to know!)

Regardless of what you prefer, you’ll get the best results if you’re able to make sure the text you enter is suitable for an automatic system. There’s not much we or anyone else can do with text that’s full of spelling mistakes, slang or highly specific technical terms, for instance.