Google Translate is a great calculator for EAL/ESL students and has its flaws but I find it a very useful tool to use in multilingual classrooms. I especially like the audio playback function which I use for the following activity: (All students will need to have an internet connected device)
- Students are given a text (example below) and identify target/key vocabulary. This could be any academic language, grammar structures, collocations, sentence clauses, connectors or just words that they think other students need to learn.
- Pair students with different home languages.
- Student 1 (S1) types one of the key words or phrases into Google Translate and uses the audio playback function to translate it into student 2’s (S2) home language. S2 should recognise it and tries to find and highlight that word or clause in the their text. Then students switch roles.
- As a reading comprehension exercise, S1 types a question about the text into Google Translate. S1 then uses playback to ask the question in S2’s home language. S2 then follows the same procedure to reply into S1’s home language.
As mentioned above, Google Translate isn’t always very accurate but mistakes are great learning opportunities. Sometimes, it will highlight the fact that many words have multiple meanings and/or you could always start a discussion about the reliability of Google Translate and other translating programmes.
Students absolutely love exercises like this in which they are able to connect their L1 with L2, communicate in a language they don’t speak and learn key vocabulary in a fun way. Try it out with your learners and please comment on this blog post with their and your feedback.