Language students routinely turn to the web to do their translating and there’s not much better than Google Translate. It effortlessly handless data and will translate into different scripts like Arabic and Russian, it can even translate some idiomatic phrases. It’s still a long way from being perfect, however and it gets a lot wrong.
I wanted to see if my human students could do better that the automated, super fast machine that is Google Translate. Here’s what I did.
1. I found a simple story, wrote it out in English and then pasted it into Google translate. I then translated it into the languages that my ESOL students can speak, Swahili, Arabic, Polish, Russian, Latvian, Hungarian and French.
2. In class, I handed students a copy of the story in their language and asked them to try and translate it into English. If there were two students, I asked them to team up and try to translate the story together. I told them where I got the translations and that there might be some mistakes in, but they should try to translate it the best they can. Also, before they started I pre-taught the word ‘worth’ and gave them some example sentences, this word is the key to the whole story.
3. As a group, I now asked them to shout out their translations, sentence by sentence before I showed them a copy of the real story in English.
Here’s the story I used and a link at the bottom to the translations from Google Translate.
Joe and the rich man
Here’s the link to the translated versions: https://chrisspeck.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/the-google-translate-challenge.doc