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.