Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Google translate is your friend...

Je ai une scarabée.*

* I have a beetle. 

"If google translate was any good, I'd be working at Starbucks." - Me. Last week to Year 10.

Always start with a couple of good quotes.

Right let's go....

In my experience, there are 2 types of student who use google translate:

Bad ones and good ones.

The former use it because they are lazy and think they are being clever and that you won't notice that they are using the imperfect subjunctive in year 7 after 15 lessons.

Or they write "Je suis appelé Jordanie" despite having been taught "Je m'appelle Jordan" and you can feel your blood pressure rising, a throbbing in your temples and smoke starts coming out of your ears.

The latter because they don't have the language skills or vocabulary to be able to convey their thoughts and opinions in the foreign language. (BTW, this isn't going to be another "pencil case" rant.)
Think of writing descriptions of people. They want to include much more detail than colour of eyes and length of hair. So they head for the translator...

They do it to please their teacher.

They aren't cheats.

They want to learn and have nowhere else to turn!

There are lots of resources available made by teachers designed to show the pitfalls of using online translators.

The TES has some here, here, and here.

They are good and I've even used a couple of them with my students.

There is even a thread on the forum dating back to 2009 dedicated to getting students not to use the dreaded translator.

However, I like google translate.

It helps me when I mark my students' work.

I know what they are trying to say and I change my planning accordingly.

It has also stopped me from buying one of these:

although I'm seriously considering investing in one of these:

Perhaps banning students from using online translators is not the way to go.

I know that if someone tells me I can't do something it makes me want to do it even more.

I'm a rebel.

Deal with it.

Perhaps, then, we should design tasks which prevent them from using translators at all.

I've already cut down on getting students to do written homework. Most homework set now is reading, listening or learning but even with reading homework the translator sometimes gets involved and starts to confuse the tenses:

I read the book - J'ai lu le livre or Je lis le livre ?

It's not a losing battle.

In fact in some ways, it's the teacher's fault for not preparing the students properly.

We need to teach them how to research properly: teach them the skills they need to progress, not lists of vocabulary.

Like many things, the online translator can be summed up like this:

Just because it's dangerous in the wrong hands doesn't mean we should ban it for everyone.


Sarah Graham said...

Hi Dom, I'm new to your blog & can't find your pencil case rant. Could you point me in the right direction, please? I'd like to compare it to my own pencil case rant! ¡Gracias!

Dom said...

Hi Sarah,
I rant all the time about pencil cases. I've mentioned it in passing on my blog here:
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
Dom :-)

Sarah Graham said...

Thanks, Dom. Your rant is my rant.

Dom said...

Cool! :-)