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Using an online translator - help pls!

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by FrenchFlower, Mar 22, 2012.

  1. FrenchFlower

    FrenchFlower New commenter

    Hi All,

    I once came upon a fantastic resource on the TES as to why never to use google translate. It used things like humpty dumpty as examples.

    It doesn't seem to be on the resources anymore, can anyone help?

    Merci en avance!
     
  2. FrenchFlower

    FrenchFlower New commenter

    Hi All,

    I once came upon a fantastic resource on the TES as to why never to use google translate. It used things like humpty dumpty as examples.

    It doesn't seem to be on the resources anymore, can anyone help?

    Merci en avance!
     
  3. whapbapboogy

    whapbapboogy New commenter

    MFLSunderland has a great one, of 'Humpty Dumpty' etc translated in and out.
     
  4. You'll find suitable examples on the first few pages of my "Translation bloopers" document:
    http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk/docs/Bloopers.doc
    The original resource may have disappeared because Google Translate now restricts its use and does not allow it to be used in applications that use it in the way you have described, so you can no longer execute the Humpty Dumpty trick automatically. I did it manually to produce my examples.
    Read my blog post, "Google Translate: friend or foe?"
    http://ictforlanguageteachers.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/google-translate-friend-or-foe.html
    I point out some of the pitfalls of using Google Translate, but I also make the point that it has now improved immensely as a translation package - and, because of the way in which it now executes translation using a statistical approach rather than attempting to parse the source language, it keeps getting better. Essentially, it translates by searching the Web for sentences that match the sentences you input and then looks for existing translations that have been carried out by human beings. As the number of source and target texts on the Web increases Google will keep improving as a translator. This is a bit scary! In my blog post I refer to another blog that suggests the time has come to set different types of exercises that get round the problem of using Google Translate.
    Regards
    Graham Davies
     
  5. steveglover

    steveglover New commenter

    That's a useful update on Google Translate Graham. Maybe the time would be ripe to see how using a translator could be more integrated into the process of teaching a language. In the light of your description of how the product is improving as the corpus of language it is using increases it is clearly not going to go away as an issue.
    Maybe young people would be interested in the use of translation devices as an end in itself. My brother works for a multinational company which fields technology problems via email all the time and uses google translate as a matter of course. He used to contact me to check out something he thought was ambiguous but that has now stopped.
    I guess if used judiciously the online translator could be used to plan ahead what you were going to say in a conversation, in much the same way that we rehearse what we're going to say in our own language. This would then mean that we would be looking at making sure kids were trained to read aloud/learn/memorise and of course they could listen to the translation through a voice synthesizer which are also much better these days.
    In my life outside teaching I have certainly seen lots of examples of people in business situations who are pretty appalling at presenting/coping with spontaneous situations in their own language yet as MFL teachers we beat ourselves up about whether things are over rehearsed or not in the unnatural situation of a stressful oral examination.
    Maybe we should be saying, look you've got this fantastic tool you can use and you can soon be up and running saying stuff nearly at the level of your own language and by the way:-
    You'll need to be really good at your own language so you don't mis-spell stuff (improving English)
    • You need to anticipate in advance what kind of things you are likely to have to say (planning)
    • You're going to need to know different tenses (grammatical knowledge)
    • You're going to have to learn memorisation strategies
    If other language speakers can claim that you can get by with a minimum vocab of 1000 words of English (what ever words means) our learners could maybe pick up three languages in the time it takes to learn one?
    You can tell I've been out of the classroom a long time now can't you? :)



     
  6. I tend to agree with this approach. I think that the correct use of online translator should be taught. It is not as if students are not going to use them.
    In the last couple of years I have studied Welsh and Italian with the OU and used Google translate. Its use was much more successful and productive for the Italian course. The reason was my knowledge of Italian was much greater and knowing French and Spanish helped me to predict what the translation should be. I used it to check on my translation rather than as a primary tool for translating. It was a quick way of checking spelling as well.
    Naturally as mentioned before if your English spelling and grammar are poor so will the translation be. If you put **** in, that is what you get out!
    When it came to Welsh, it was a whole different ball game. I was a complete beginner and I had none of the pre knowledge necessary to predict outcome. If I used the online translator I was at its mercy. I was continuously aware that I risked churning out nonsense. It was of much less use to me.
    So I think that its use should be taught, butt discouraged for at least KS3. The Humpty Dumpty type exercises are ideal for this.
     
  7. I'm with you all the way with this - and have been training my Yr9s to use online tools - I'd rather they became discerning in their use than just used them - badly - because they can. We've talked about using good English to input, and doing short chunks at a time, not long passages, and retranslating the result back to English to see if it makes sense - and if it doesn't, we change how we've put the English in to something simpler.
    I find myself teaching one language I'm really out of practice with, and one I have a GCSE in from 20 years ago, so I find GT really handy for odd words of vocab here and there (there aren't always dictionaries to hand in the rooms I have). Fortunately I can usually tell if it's a good translation or not!
     
  8. That is such a useful skill for any MFL student. It also just helps you dealing with people whose English is poor. A tremendously useful thing to learn.
     
  9. It is clear that online translators will not go away. I know the instinct of many language teachers is to ban their use or punish students for using them. This won't work in the long term, and it does not make sense in view of the fact that automatic translation tools (known as "translation memory" systems) are now widely used as an aid by professional translators, for example within the European Commission. I know of one university that gives its students training in a system known as TRADOS in order to assist their chances of employment as translators. TRADOS is produced by SDL, a business that is located close to where I live I have seen it in use at SDL's HQ, and I was very impressed. Apparently, it can speed up the output of a professional translator by up to 80%. See http://www.sdl.com/en/
    I used to teach German-English translation in HE. Way back in the mid-1980s we became aware of the growth in machine-assisted translation software, so we decided to make our students aware of how it worked and to give them some experience of using it. We bought a package produced by a company called Weidner. It worked best for technical translation and was in use at the time by a company called Perkins that produced diesel engines. Google Translate is miles ahead of the Weidner system.
    I am not suggesting that very young students should be encouraged to use Google Translate, but there is a point when students are mature enough to understand how it can be used as a tool and can be made aware of its strengths and weaknesses. I regularly use it as a tool myself. I have several Polish friends on Facebook. They usually post in English but sometimes in Polish. I often paste their Polish texts into Google Translate, which gives me a good idea of what they are talking about - and then I can reply to them. I also use Google Translate when I am writing in Italian or Spanish. I don't know either of these languages all that well, but I know enough to be able to spot obvious errors. The resulting output is rarely perfect, but the recipients always seem to understand what I am saying.
    Regards
    Graham Davies
     

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