Facing the Competition: How to Deal with Online Translation Tools

Most students today are savvy Internet users. Sometimes they discover online resources before their teachers do.  Why pretend that online translators don’t exist? Chances are some students already use them. It might be best to acknowledge these tools and state best practices for their use. We don’t want students to rely on them too heavily, so a demonstration of the limitations of an online tool, such as Google Translate, might be in order.

  • You could share a sample translation into English and together as a class revise the text, which would show that accuracy and clarity result from a human touch. It may be possible for you to select a short paragraph from a news article written in a language no student is familiar with. In the case of some phrases, you may have questions about the author’s meaning, in which case you’ll have to form conclusions as a class.


  • You could demonstrate the translation process into students’ native language(s) for them to judge how accurate the tool is. For example, try statements with idiomatic expressions: I want to make my mark on the world. / I want to leave my mark on the world. Or you can plug in a line from a tale like The Three Little Pigs: “The first little pig built his house out of straw because it was the easiest thing to do.” You’ll find the translations in need of editing.


Additional ideas are offered by blogger Kenneth Beare.


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