Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Google Translate...NEVER

I am sure that many other language teachers face the same battle every day....Students that think Google Translate is a great tool to use in class. I acknowledge that if you are totally lost, it can help, but Google Translate is not a dictionary. It is not the omnipotent being that can make all foreign languages make sense. I forbid its use, but they still try, and I can tell every time. A fellow teacher recently shared this YouTube video with me and I can't wait to share it with my students.

Here is the link for you too.

I am always looking for any other suggestions to help kids stay away from translators. If you have any good ones, please comment on this post and share your ideas!


  1. I do agree with you that Google translate can be misleading but I don't think that the answer is to forbid students to use it (because they will no matter how). This video is great for showing them that you cannot rely on it. Besides, students don't know how to use a dictionary either (how many just copy a verb from it without conjugating it?). To my opinion, we should train students how to use Google translate wisely.

    1. I do work hard to teach students how to use the dictionary. I agree that many just grab the first word, they don't actually read further to choose the RIGHT word.

      I acknowledge that the students use Google Translate, but although I know how to teach students to use a dictionary properly, I am at a loss as to how to do this with GT. Ideas??

  2. I'm with Alice! Furthermore, though I love this video, it is an exaggeration of how much translators butcher language, as the lyrics were sent translated from one language to another to another before being translated back each time.

    Me, I'd like to find a way to make use of translators because, frankly, it's a losing battle to fight them. For class, I insist that students use dictionaries rather than translators, so they can CHOOSE the right word (If I see "Yo voluntad ir" one more time...). However, to imagine that we can keep kids from using translators if they're out in the world, well that's just disengenous.

    So how could we teach them to use them for good (communciation) and not evil (cheating)?

    1. I agree that this video is a bit much, but sometimes that is what is necessary to get the point across, especially with students. In level 1 and 2, students must use dictionaries, but in my 3 and 4 classes I allow them to use dictionary apps like Word Reference. I agree it is unreasonable to expect students not to use these tools, because they are very effective.

      If someone has ideas as to how we can teach the use of Google Translate, I am definately interested!

  3. I'm not sure at what level exactly I'd tackle the use of Google Translate. I do believe it should be taught at some point, but I have reservations about teaching it even in high school. (Maybe just in AP courses???) Just thinking out loud here... one must have a certain level of comprehension, and know how to cross-check your translation with another resource in order to think critically enough about the translation achieved from an online translator.

    That's why professional translators DO use computer aided translation, and then edit as necessary. They have the skill level required to nit-pick the intricacies and nuances of the languages with which they work.

    I did recently post a blog article on my anti-Google-translate stance, but unfortunately I don't really have solid ideas around how to teach second language learners to use it effectively (yet!)

    Mme Aiello

  4. There used to be a PowerPoint file for sale on the TeachersPayTeachers web site that contained the lyrics of songs translated from Englsih into Spanish & back. It was GREAT! Since I teach French, I made my own version rather than buying that one. I would link to it for you, but I cannot find it right now (perhaps the author made it inactive to make some adjustments to it)

    I did find:
    1) that it took a lot of work to select songs which were appropriate for the students to be reading and which were garbled enough to make the learning goal clearly
    2) over time, that darn Google translate did a better & better job of staying pretty true to the original message! But other online translators... look out! Terrible job!

    In the versions I've made for classes, I made sure to use a variety of online translators to send the message that I'm in-the-know about how to search for such tools as well.

    It was always a pretty successful lesson! (Kids LOVED that I played the song after they tried to guess each set of lyrics!)

    Mme Aiello
    Teaching FSL

  5. All your comments made me think about a way to get students to use GT properly and I wrote a post about it on my blog:
    I don't have any real answers yet there are some ideas which could be used in class. I do also agree with Mme Aiello about the difference between a dictionary and a translator. Students should get the difference.