Edit: I'd like to clarify that I'm asking: Given a phrase or sentence that pops into my head in English, how can I find out how to say that in conversational Japanese? Sorry about the confusion. I didn't mean that I want to replace all learning channels with a machine translator or dictionary. I want a supplement for specific sentences.

I've been using Duolingo for a couple months. I'm beginning to want to know how to say things I haven't learned there yet. But Google Translate already seems to diverge from what I learned.

For example, Google Translate says...

enter image description here

...but I learned it on Duo as 日本語が話せます.

I get dropping the "I," but the が is different and also the し.

Is it because Duo is using vernacular? And either way, what online translator or translation method would help me find out a Japanese phrase or sentence, the way it's spoken between same-age groups and friends?

  • Wait, maybe that was a bad example. I see now that what I wrote means, "I can speak Japanese," which is indeed different. But my question still stands, since I wouldn't know how to tell: Where can I be sure that I'm learning conversational, non-over-formal Japanese? (Or is Google Translate good?) – Andrew Cheong Oct 30 at 7:41
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    You probably shouldn't try to learn Japanese using machine translation. – snailplane Oct 30 at 7:55
  • No, I'm going to continue Duolingo then look into finding a conversation partner. I'm just curious how to look things up though when I have something in mind I want to say. – Andrew Cheong Oct 30 at 7:58
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    Machine translation is a bad place to look for that. Machine translation is probably fine if you are traveling and "close enough" gets the job done. For anything else, asking someone who knows or using a reference book (textbook, dictionary, thesaurus, etc.) will be more reliable. – Leebo Oct 30 at 8:30
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    This sounds like a resource question to me. I'm voting to close. – istrasci Oct 30 at 16:41

The simple answer is that if you want to learn natural spoken Japanese, you need to focus more on authentic source materials like movies, podcasts, TV series, social media posts, or native-speaker-generated example sentences. These days, online translators use neural machine translation - it's definitely getting better and might eventually be able to approximate natural human language. But it's not there yet. Authentic sources are still a much more valuable resource than translators. Best of all is to try to speak with Japanese people or join a class where you can receive proper tuition and have a chance to use the language you are learning. Digital resources are useful tools, but they are no substitute for using language and integrating authentic learning materials into your studies.

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  • Edited my question, because I think I was unclear. Agree wholly with your advice though, thanks. – Andrew Cheong Oct 30 at 12:22
  • In that case, if I understand correctly, you are asking for a comparison between available translators, i.e. which translator produces more natural language than its competitors. – kandyman Oct 30 at 14:14
  • Yep, that's right. Though I'm open to more ways than translators too, e.g. if there are forums where people are happy to answer basic, repetitive questions. I wouldn't want to flood japanese.se with such questions. – Andrew Cheong Oct 30 at 16:34
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    I’d still recommend staying with natural language. An app like HiNative for example, where native speakers correct your language or offer translations. – kandyman Oct 30 at 16:55

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