Saturday, January 24, 2015

Language teachers need to embrace, instead of fear Google translate.

Just recently Google Translate has released new, and exciting updates. The app can now translate written words by hovering the phone over the text. The app can also now listen and type out a translation to a conversation. Both of these features are incredible to witness and if you have not tried them out yet, you really should. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that this app will only continue to improve and innovate. As a language teacher I do not fear the app making language teachers irrelevant. Instead I see it as a way to make us more productive and increase how much our students can learn each class.  Instead of looking at the negative aspects of the App such as it's limitations with translating whole documents correctly and with colloquial phrases, here are some of the huge positives.

First of all language teachers should be rejoicing that we no longer have to carry around dictionaries for our students.  Dictionaries are an incredible tool to learn new vocabulary, but Google Translate gives you that and more. While I have very fond memories traveling around Valencia, Spain with my Spanish-English dictionary, I am well aware that I could have done so much more if I had my Google Translate app with me.  The app is far superior to your basic dictionary in so many ways.  It exists on my smartphone which means I carry it all the time and it weighs much less than a dictionary.  It allows you to save and star all important words for easy reference later on.  You also can hear back words or speak the word which allows you to practice your pronunciation as well as listening.

The App and web form allows students to access it in any classroom with internet access.  1:1 or BYOD settings now provide each and every student with a free dictionary to use at no extra cost.

The app teaches students how to use the latest translating technology as a resource to improve their learning.  If students use the app correctly for translating single words they can expand their vocabulary at a rapid pace.  Students can check their spelling, find out where accents go, as well as get a list of similar words all by using the app.

A quick dictionary, spelling, and thesaurus all in one app can now free class time up to more language practice.  Teachers have to adapt to how they can now use this extra time saved in class to expand on vocabulary and further challenge students.  The reality is that students are using the app, and they are going to continue to keep using it no matter how often we tell them "it makes mistakes."  Instead I believe the focus needs to be turned to how to effectively teach students how to use Google Translate as the incredible resource it is, one that can really benefit learners of a new language, and one that is not about to make language teachers irrelevant.  

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