Machine Translation

Exploring the role of translation in class

I have generally found translation into L2 to be an interesting challenge for students at all levels provided it was within their capabilities and focused on the application of language  being covered.  The research covering translation applications is worth noting and reviewing with students as discussed here.  This not only raises awareness of the fallibility of machine translation, but also increases student’s understanding of the subtleties in applying their learning.  It is also motivating for students to realise that they can out think a machine.

The use of machine translation to cheat

This topic is also of interest, given that students in my online courses are increasingly turning to machine translation.

This has led me to adopt a range of counter measures this year, which include using Turn it in, Google translate and screenshots for confirmation of use of machine translation, and general sleuthing. As this is a huge time cost, next year I am bringing in the following measures for online courses:

  • compulsory online pre-test for language competency
  • swap from Google sites to Google classroom
  • to facilitate weekly reading and grammar exercise completion and monitoring
  • specific deadlines for each writing piece and interaction
  • use of Google docs only allowed so I can track editing history
  • warning students that one instance of cheating will mean no resubmission and Not Achieved, and possible removal from course

With students in my OC classes, this is not a problem.  Students have been trained since Y9 to use Word Reference only, shown the mistakes arising from machine translation repeatedly, and been warned if any work reflects the use of this.  In addition to in class monitoring, the general effect is to ensure students steer well clear of Google translate.  I haven’t found it appropriate to explore it’s possibilities outside of course tasks, as we are focused on individual language acquisition, not translation per se.

Survey of Y8/9 Languages Students to shape option choices

Results of Y8 and Y9 Language Classes Option Survey 2015

280 students completed the survey, however only 100 results are shown here as we do not have professional version of Survey Monkey. Hence also the screen shots used here to show results.

graph 1

graph 3 graph 6 graph 7 graph2 graph4 graph5

graph 8

Analysis of results:


Only 50% of students felt learning a language was important, with the majority choosing not to continue, despite two thirds saying they enjoyed it.  Thus only 31% plan to carry on with this option choice through secondary school.


Less than half students (42%) feel that some subjects should be compulsory, with only 26% saying the four core subjects should be.  This indicates a need for change from the status quo and the desire from client students for more choice in their education.


Surprisingly, 34% would have chosen a language if it ws not compulsory at Y9, more or less the percentage that plan to continue studying language through college.  Most preferred the option of a half year course, while nearly one third expressed the desire for the choice of half or full year.  This would not be difficult to timetable – optional courses – but would need some rejigging of higher level courses to accommodate different levels of pre learning. This is not impossible, as motivation is the key rather than prerequisites, as shown by the Y11 student who began Japanese at Y11 in 2015 and consistently gained Excellence level grades.


The reasons rankings for learning another language are evenly spread, clearly demonstrating that students do understand the different benefits, but rate travel over career.  This reflects the national attitude that learning another language is not an essential, an attitude which fails to reflect the growing impact of globalization, immigration and TTPA agreements on New Zealand’s culture and economy.  We are failing if we cannot ensure that students are better equipped for an international workplace.

From this small number surveyed, the conclusion is that making language not compulsory at Y9 will have no impact on numbers, as the same number of students say they would choose it anyway as would choose to continue the option through college.  This would mean less Y9 classes to staff, enabling just one teacher to take Y9-13, and thus provide a better retention rate and more predictable class sizes for higher levels. Making language non compulsory at Y9 would also mean reducing three taster courses to one.


This should be considered in conjunction with the possiblity of combining the two remaining taster courses at Y7 and Y8, with students having one language taster over the two year period.  Y7 enthusiasm has too often disappeared by Y8 due to overexposure.  Bearing in mind that retention has steadily decreased from the time of induction of Y7 and 8 into the languages program, it is increasingly clear that it is important to manage taster courses to ensure they are effective.



Session 1 Morning PD Aligning class work and assessment at Y9 & 10

Professional Development SessionsTerm 3 2015

Languages Department Orewa College

Session 1

OBJECTIVE; To decide on a specific format for student work that suits our department for Middle School students.  NB Students need a system that allows them to store notes, classroom activities, and publish assessment tasks with video footage.

PD reading to be done before session:

Margaret Murray to demonstrate Showbie by getting us all to create and submit a document to her beforehand.

Digital options for submitting work for Middle School – Showbie, Youtube, Dropbox, Blogs, Wikispaces, Google Docs, CBB or other eBooks.

Paper options: Notebook provided by dept – kept in class? Ownership?

Notebook provided by student

What works in terms of:


Feedback/feed forward

Providing students coherent notes they can use for revision

Motivating students towards a positive digital footprint

Ease of use for both teacher/students

Ensuring editing process is recorded

Minutes Term 4 Language department

Hui start 0820                                                                        Agenda: See above

Present – OL, WL, Btn, My, Sko , TLR                                     Apologies- No apologies

Minutes  – Singa Broughton

Note taking

  • Do we need notes where students can access any topic on the Internet now?
  • What is the best format/platform/app, to use now that we are digital?
  • Should a note- taking book go on stationery list?
  • Could we begin each term with a mini task requiring students to create a [language] folder on their device for notes?
  • Where is the best place to keep notes ie: device or notebook and  the theoretical advantages and disadvantages
  • Students taking photos of teachers whiteboard notes

Had to leave the Note taking discussion to allow time for the next topic on the Agenda

Showbie: Margaret Murray

  • initial problems occured on iPad with a ‘Teacher’ trying to join the class as a Student but was solved
  • A general feeling is that Showbie has similar functions to other platforms such as GoogleDocs but seems to be a lot more personalised
  • Showbie has the capability to  embed videos but we ran out of time to pursue the comparisons between showbie and blogs such as WordPress


Hui ended  – 9 am BUT,  we feel as a department that we didnt  really acchieve what we wanted in the short amount of time… The Department feels  a whole day Department meeting would be more beneficial…

HOD Report on Morning PD #1 Languages Department

A       Notetaking in general

Teachers found readings useful and they sparked off a good discussion on what is note taking, what notes a student might need in languages, note taking skills and their relevance in today’s digital classroom and the latest research on best practice involving learning and notation.

  1. Some notes are useful – verbs, grammar structures, words that come up in class, explanations given by teacher, and in particular, the processing that goes on when students transfer information from one format to another, or put things in their own words, decided us. This is an important aspect of learning not linked to creating, but to memory and processing – the preliminary stages.
  2. Students generally find the time needed to open ipad/laptop, login, wait for Pages to load, or login again to Ultranet and navigate to the appropriate class and folder, or open a search engine and search for the information a poor investment, and resist doing it, so they don’t revisit important information repeatedly as they need to.
  3. Although they need filing skills on their devices, note taking by hand can be a useful adjunct to their digital environment – another tool for our toolbox.
  4. Gillian had trialled with Y9 and Sorrel with Y10 a notebook system last term, with success.

Conclusion: As a department we will consider issuing small 3B1 notebooks to each student in Y9/10 and direct them to process gathered material to produce effective notes. Students who continue a language at  y10will be reissued with these notebooks the following year as a personal revision device.  This is to be revisited at next dept meeting after we have had a time to explore Showbie and evernote  as an option.  If this is a successful initiative in 2016, we will add it to stationery lists for 2017.  Estimated cost at .05c per student @approx 500 students = $25

B          Aligning assessment and note/coursework options for Languages Dept

Showbie, Edublogs were the only two that we had time to discuss. Margaret showcased Showbie, getting us to join a class and we all explored the possibilities.  With Showbie students can join a class and have an individualised folder, like Dropbox, but more visible and therefore more like a virtual class.  Students can submit images, written or video tasks using iPads – not so easy with laptops. Teachers can annotate the work in color for feedback and add voice commentary. We ran out of time to effectively compare options and come to a conclusion.

Conclusion: We would have needed at least 3 hours to effectively compare the two main options and come to a decision as to which suited student, teacher needs and aligned with school goals best.


Select comment SñraOleary
Submitted on 2015/07/30 at 4:46 am

This interaction is at an achieved level, possibly high achieved. If you want to aim for Merit, which I think you should, you need to think in the conditional, future and include past tenses with more developed phrases, even the odd set phrase or modismo in the next interactions!
Los espanoles … como podrian hacer cosas asi…has oido de la manera en que los espanoles se desayunan…Una vez nos dijo nuestro profe que en Espana….
Adonde iras…porque has elegido esta parte de Espana? Que haras aca? Que podras ver? Que te gustaria logar durante tu estancia? etc

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Level 3 Spanish AS91570 Interaction Submission 1: El Dia de San Valentin
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Select comment SñraOleary
Submitted on 2015/06/27 at 6:58 am

Some simple phases would help you here – en comparacion con for example
Good use of interactive strategies – agreement, clarification,
I think with the phrase El otro dia you need to add I heard that
Practice needed – what about that conversation class I mentioned at the beginning of the year?

Level 3 Spanish AS91570 Interact Submission 3: Los espanoles Tori Mcgahon
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Select comment SñraOleary
Submitted on 2015/06/27 at 6:55 am

Good use of future tense througout and good cultural knowledge of Rioja shown. This would be a good piece for submission, instead of the conversation on this topic as you can’t submit the same material for different standards.
Quick edit tips
the future tense uses just the main verb generally – me quedare instead of estare quedandome
Aunque at the start of a sentence
there is/there are = hay, there will be = habra
antes de + infinitive ALWAYS
generally use the infinitive in Spanish instead of the gerund

Level 3 Spanish AS91572 Writing Portfolio Submission 2: Una carta con planes
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Select comment SñraOleary
Submitted on 2015/06/25 at 4:31 am

Excellent use made of model, with good development of each point. One thing you could do is extend each of your intro phrases a bit: Probaras panecillo de queso/podras probar panecillo de queso

Quick edit tips:
It is absolutely esssential to go over this with a fine tooth comb for matching nouns with their articles, nouns with adjectives and finally, verbs with subjects: Una parte de la isla sur es las panecillos de queso. SON iconicos y deberas probarlos.
These errors are consistent and bringing your mark DOWN.
Reminder – venir is irregular in the present.