Ever needed example sentences translated into lots and lots of languages? Here you go. Tatoeba (http://tatoeba.org/) is a database of sentences translated into many (over 40) languages. It’s in beta, which means that some of the features (like audio pronunciations of example sentences) are woefully underdone. But there’s still material for language lovers.
The front page does have a random sentence function, but the search box is at the top of the page. Specify from what language to what language you want to search, and any keywords you want to include. I searched from English to Any and searched for the keyword Hello. I got 58 results, from Hello? Are you still here? to Hello, it’s me, Nancy! I must say some of these sentences had plenty of personality (“Hello, what’s that? Somebody doing street theatre or something?”) so play around with your keywords.
Search results include the from language you’re searching, and then the sentence in all the other languages available. Some sentences had just the English version and one other version (usually Japanese or French.) Other sentences had results in French, German, Polish, Vietnamese, Czech, Arabic, Portuguese… each sentence has its own standalone page, where you can (if you’re registered) post a comment. (Registration also allows you to contribute to the Tatoeba site.) There’s also a log of changes to the sentence. Sometimes you’ll see that sentences are also “owned” by people. If sentences are not owned, you can “adopt” them and make changes yourself.
You’ll notice that most sentences have an audio icon next to them and in almost all cases that icon is marked with a red slash. That’s because while there is audio pronunciation on the site, it is at the moment extremely limited, so for the most part you will not see it as an available option for the sentences.
I liked the idea of a database like this — languages broken down into simple sentences, with many available — but I didn’t have a lot of hope for the sentences themselves. I am happy to report I was wrong; I love a database that has sentences like “Math is like love – a simple idea, but it can get complicated.” Or the vaguely sinister Bring everything to ruin. I found that the search engine was the most useful way to explore the site, but you might like the lists of topical sentences created by users or even, if you just want to browse, the random sentence option.
Of course I’m looking forward to the audio but the site has a lot to offer already.