Google+ Google Translate: A Good Idea? | Toronto Teacher Mom

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Google Translate: A Good Idea?

On Friday, I attended the OMLTA Conference held right here in Toronto. While I was a little disappointed about the new setup and the apparent decrease in the number of exhibitors, I was lucky enough to attend a number of very interesting and informative workshops. One such workshop was called, "I know about the CEFR - now give me some strategies!!" This session was presented by Susanna Gojsic, Alfreda Le Donne and Carole Knezevic from my hometown of Hamilton. During the session, I learned some interesting strategies that I am excited to implement, one of which involves the use of videos. 


As a French teacher, I cringe each time a student prepares a written assignment in English and then plops it into Google Translate. They never seem to realize that the end result could be a completely erroneous interpretation. After watching the video below during the workshop, I think it would be great to show it to my students in the hopes that they will question whether or not Google Translate is a good idea. Kick up your feet and watch this Fresh Prince inspired video created by cdza:



So, is Google Translate a good idea? In my opinion, if you're using it to translate an entire block of text or even a simple sentence, you will likely end up with a translation where the context has been skewed. The reason may be that there are several ways to translate a single word depending on what you intend to say. How can Google Translate know exactly what you mean? Another reason could be that there are errors, either in spelling or grammar, in the original language that cannot be translated into the target language. Instead of translating lengthy text, try limiting it to one word or an expression. The best bet is to use a good, old-fashioned dictionary, refer to examples studied in class, use vocabulary sheets or seek support from your peers and your teacher.


16 comments:

  1. This is funny, and so true. What comes out of Google sometimes is so odd.

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    1. I agree. One common error is the lack of agreement between nouns and adjectives.

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  2. I admit to visiting Google Translate from time to time myself, but I think a GT-user needs to have a certain level of familiarity & fluency in the language to tell when the "all knowing computer" has completely messed up! Sometimes, I have no idea WHERE it got a particularly bad translation from... other times, it's so bang-on that it scares me!

    Mme Aiello @ Teaching FSL

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    1. You're exactly right. Plus, when translating large amounts of text, you risk losing your voice. You definitely need to have a level of understanding to ensure what you meant to say is what actually comes across in translation.

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  3. I agree google translate is horrible. It's not bad for individual words but between us we speak three different languages in our family and the results are often ridiculous.

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    1. I think it's gotten better over the years but I would still recommend it for individual words or short phrases. You still need to read it over but often students will submit as is, unfortunately.

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  4. This is funny, I remember using google translate because my french writing isn't so good, so I wrote my letter and then translated it to french. I knew that I would have to look it over and correct the way it was written.

    I started my letter by stating my name. Good day my name is Ginette Anger

    This is how it was translated, Bonjour je m'appelle Ginette de la colere..I laughed so hard that my co-worker in the next office came running over to see what was so funny..lol

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    1. Oh, now that is hilarious Ginette! It sure is a good thing that you looked it over. :)

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  5. I am a bit late on this one but I so agree with you. Google translate is a tool, among others, that you can use when you know the language and try to "speed things up". But I actually find it does not always speed things up, sometime when I am being sent something translated with Google, I realize I need more time trying to get myself out of this initial translation instead of doing it from scratch.
    A tool I really, really like and use almost every day, is Wordreference. I love the forums and how helpful people are. I often find my best recco for translations there, especially for idiomatic expressions.

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    1. Salut Elise! Google translate is definitely a handy tool for speeding things up but like you said, when you get something that has been uniquely translated via Google translate, I often find that my students will have difficulty trying to figure out what they meant themselves! I will definitely check out Wordreference. Thanks for the tip!

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    2. Voici les liens, j'aurais du les mettres dès le début:
      http://forum.wordreference.com/
      http://www.wordreference.com/

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  6. I showed this Fresh Prince/Google Translate video to my grade eight students and I think it really left an impression. Not only was it engaging and funny, but it also demonstrates that translation is more of an art than a science! Thanks for a good post. :)

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    1. Thanks, Laura! I think I need to show this one to my grade 8's tomorrow. :)

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  7. Crazy to see this. It's suprising to see people using Google Translate for word-to-word translation.

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    1. Google Translate has actually become surprisingly accurate but it's never 100%.

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  8. This is good to know since I always wondered if this were the case. I wish I could speak French.

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