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Google translator

Don Doehla, MA, NBCT Co-Director East Bay WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center

See the Discussion strand on Changing the Community name to World Languages for the context of this discussion...

Re: Google Translator...

I wonder if any of our readers can confirm the quality and accuracy of the Chinese translation which Allen posted in the other discussion? It has been my experience with Google's translator (based on how my students have tried to use it and it not doing the job...), that the service seems to promise much more than it can produce yet. I mean no disrespect to our friends at Google, but it isn't perfected yet. It is improving all the time, however!

For example, taking Allen's text, when I translate into French, what I get is not bad, but it is not completely correct. It is correct enough to get the gist, and even more. Clearly it is a work in progress, well on the way, and useful for much. Anyway, I am curious how accurate the Chinese translation is, just to compare notes.

In the meantime, for all of us who teach World Languages, how are you using Google translator? Or, if you aren't, why not? How are you directing students to use or not use this on-line tool? Personally, I have been asking students to use on-line dictionaries rather than translators. I like that the students can engage in thinking critically about which words to use based on the definitions and examples which are not so readily apparent in on-line translators. What do you think?

This is one of the great things about the on-line community forum here at Edutopia. Please contribute your thoughts and ideas! I love to hear what you all are doing and your creative ideas. Thanks again to Allen for his posting.

Don
On Twitter - @dr_dmd

Comments (16)

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World Languages Tutor

teachers say 'no translators'

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As a professional tutor I support the policies that the teachers have, and all of them clearly state 'no on-line translators.' My students have not told me if they ever have a chance to find out 'why' (if their teachers have explained to them that on-line translators are still limited, and non-human translations are detectable by teachers), however, this site is an excellent tool for doing just that :

http://www.cheatingtranslators.com/bad-translator

put a short paragraph in the box, select to translate 50 times, and chuckle at the results. This makes it obvious to the students that what they intended to say and what they are saying in the TL just does not make sense when they use an on-line translator.

Yet I do not hesitate to show my students www.wordreference.com and review with them all the nuances of each word they want to look up (I am not a dictionary ;-) though I still have plenty of those on my desk too).

ETA an amusing example of the Bad Translator with part of the paragraph above :

Original text:

"As a professional tutor I support policies that teachers have, and all of them clearly state no on-line translators. My students have not told me if they ever have a chance to find out 'why' or if their teachers have explained the poor results."

...50 translations later :

"Teachers can be leaders and citizens and politicians, of course. The teacher asked me, I explained that I do not understand why."

;-)
Shelley
on twitter : @worldlanguages

Co-Director East Bay WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center

@ Shelley

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Thanks for the tips! Your point is spot on. I like how you have engaged your students in a process to see what results in using the translators. I will try that out as well.

I have enjoyed our collaboration on Twitter as well - thanks for engaging in the discussions. Our continued connections make us better equipped to meet the ever-changing needs we seek to address in our classes. Here's to on-going connetions!

all the best,
Don

10th-12th French

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I would forbid online translators for beginners and recommend thorough dictionaries at that level.
For level 3 students, online solution that offer result alternatives like Google translator are fine with me. Students definitely need to have a strong enough base before they mess with online translator.

Andy
www.languagecomics.com

Spanish Teacher, Curriculum Leader, High School, Florida

Teacher

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This is a familiar discussion. The cyber-translators may one day be close to ‘accurate’, but language is a living thing not just a tool. In the Renaissance, they had a popular expression in the literati circles: traduttore, traditore. TRANSLATOR=TRAITOR.

World Languages Tutor

This article will be of

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This article will be of interest to teachers and translators ...

'Economic Burden' Google Can No Longer Bear http://t.co/wFcfLQT

Co-Director East Bay WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center

Jorge snd Shelley, thanks for

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Jorge snd Shelley, thanks for your comments and resources. It helps when we speak to our students with one voice on the issue, but even better is to cite third party references since they lend credence to our concerns and support our stance.

Happy summer!
Don

My students always have a day

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My students always have a day where we focus on Google Translator. For homework, I have them fill out a worksheet that guides them through experimenting with Google Translator. When they come back, more often than not, they find the results humorous and unreliable. We also discuss how using the translator does not help them build their language skills, as it just gives them an (inaccurate) answer. For good measure and humor, we also watch this video (edited) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1XuK_8qaDM

High School Spanish 2

Great idea, EEH

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I watched the YouTube reference you cited. What a great example. I'm planning an assignment using this, with a disclaimer for some PG-13 language. I want students to try the experiment of re-translating using Google Translator like the people in the video did. Then they can re-translate using only English-Spanish-English to see just how many differences can come from two steps of translation. Hopefully this will make them aware and wary of shortcutting translations.

Co-Director East Bay WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center

Good tips!

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Great tips, y'all! Well done. Good approach to this problem by engaging kids with using the translator and connecting to pop culture. The point is made and should stick as well.

Director of Studies at City School of Languages, Swansea, UK

A word from a (human) translator

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One of the first things I learned about translation - and the first thing I teach my translation students - is that you never translate "word for word", but "effect for effect". The meaning of the communication is the effect, the response you get.
And that, sadly, is something Google translator (or any machine tool) cannot give. Sure, it will make things quicker and easier - but learning shouldn't always be about the quick and the easy...
Anyway, not sure if I'm contributing something here or just ranting because I feel translating machines breathing down my back :)

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