What is “Simplified English”? What is it for?
For many people English is a difficult language. So we are trying to make this website readable in many languages. But it is slow and expensive to employ a lot of translators. So we must let the computer translate for us. That is a big problem.
Computers are very fast: but they do not really understand. They do not understand complex sentences. Some words have double meanings. But they do not know how to choose. They do not remember the context. So they make a lot of mistakes. Sometimes what they say is complete nonsense. It can even contradict the original meaning.
Humans are better at understanding languages than computers. But when people are learning English they also make mistakes. So simple sentences are best for beginners.
How is it different from ordinary English?
In every language, some phrases can be translated more easily than others. We are looking for phrases with these characteristics:
- The original meaning must be preserved.
- It should be easy to translate in most languages.
Which will be the best phrase? That can be very hard to predict.
- A question and answer may be better than a complex sentence. (See the above example.)
- Avoid idiomatic expressions.
- Negatives are often misunderstood. Especially double negatives.
- Different languages often put words in a different order. This can completely change the meaning.
- Try to avoid words with double meanings. A less common word with a clearer meaning is preferable.
- The simplest is not always the shortest. Sometimes additional explanations are needed to clarify complex ideas.
- Perfection is not possible. Most computer translations are clumsy. The most important question is, “Can the reader understand it?”
We must try many different ways of saying something. And we must test the translation using several very different languages. This is a slow process. But other translations are then faster and more reliable.
How do we test the translations?
If we do not understand a language, what do we do? How can we check the translation? We instruct the computer to translate back to English. (This is called ‘back-translation’.) Then we compare it with the original English text. If the meaning is similar to the original text, this is good. Two bad translations rarely produce a good result. But it can sometimes happen. For example, mistranslated double negatives can be a problem. So we cannot guarantee that such translations contain no serious errors. So to warn you of possible errors, each page will have an ‘Error Risk‘ rating.
Do all pages have a Simplified English version?
Unfortunately, no. This project has only just begun. It takes a long time to write any page using Simple English. Much more time is needed for complicated subjects. We have simplified all the summary pages for ‘Jesus Christ, the history-maker‘. Whenever possible, we will reserve time to simplify other pages. Ordinary English pages can still be translated. But they are more likely to contain serious errors.
Can you help with translation?
If you see an important error in your language, please tell us. Select the page where you found the error. Then, go to the comment form at the bottom. Here you can describe the error, and suggest a correction. In the future, we will be looking for volunteers to help translate. If you are interested in helping to translate a particular language, please let us know. You can do this using the comment form at the bottom of this page.