The Google Translate Challenge

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

Joe was in a bar when a rich man came up to him.The rich man looked very healthy and sun tanned. He wore an expensive black suit and a silk tie.  He looked at Joe with a frown.
“How much do think I’m worth?” said the richman.
“I don’t know,” said Joe.
“Come on, guess how much I’m worth.”
“Okay,” said Joe, “I think you’re worth $100”The rich man laughed.
“Ha, that’s just the priceof my suit.”
“I included that in my answer,” said Joe.

Here’s the link to the translated versions:

More Complete Lessons Using PowerPoint – Money and Banks


If you can’t be bothered to read the post then download the lesson here.

Here’s another Complete Lesson Using PowerPoint following on from what the two I’ve done already, Complete PowerPoint Lesson – Relationships, Complete PowerPoint Lesson – Technology

This time I’ve gone for Money and Banks. The lesson is aimed at Pre-intermediate to intermediate students and is pretty straightforward to run with the answers already embedded in the files.

You will need a projector or an interactive whiteboard to show the presentation but your students don’t need any text books and you don’t need any photocopied handouts – watch and follow the instructions for a great lesson. Download the lesson here

You can find more lessons like this and indeed more worksheets and ideas for teaching ESOL/ESL/IELTS and English at my trusty old website

Using Digital Cameras in the ESOL / ESL / IELTS classroom Part 2

Can’t be bothered to read the blog? Download the lesson here

This is the second time I’ve blogged about using digital cameras in the language classroom, so if you missed it, here’s a link to my first effort.

Last time I got students to take photos of different nouns, and also some abstract nouns like happiness and sadness. This worked well and generated lots of language between the students as they did the task as well as more  when they presented their pictures to the rest of the class via a slideshow on PowerPoint

This time I wanted students to really communicate with each other and try to tell a story using pictures and themselves as actors. This would generate huge and meaningful discussion as they did the task as a group and would also provide opportunities for presentation. I knew it would be hard for lots of students to understand a visualize what they had to do, so I found my own picture slide show for them to watch first.

Lesson Plan

I used this lesson with a group of older teenagers from various parts of the world.  To carry out the lesson we used: Digital Camera (many students used their phones), computers that we could upload the photos onto, an interactive whiteboard or projector so that students could show their work to the class. You also need a copy of the worksheet – which you cut up into four sections and distibute seperately: Get the worksheet here –

1. Ask students if they read comics or picture stories in the newspaper or anywhere else. Elicit their views on them, do they think they are good way to tell a story?

2. Show them the first comic slide show – snoopy and ask what them to tell each other the story.

3. Now pass them the second picture slide show. Ask them to tell the story to each other once again.

4. Explain that they are going to try and make their own picture story using digital cameras. Before they do this, it’s a good idea to go through the language section in Part 3 so that students are aware and have the tools to be able to make a story together.

5. Put students into groups and get them to do Activity 4. It might be tough for students who aren’t very creative but remind them that it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Indeed, this is an English class and not a photography or film class so the real task is not making a photo story but using English to do so.

6. Ask students to work in their groups, uploading their photos to software that will allow them to show their images and write some captions. Perhaps the easiest program to use is PowerPoint, but there many more avaliable including Picasa, Windows PhotoStory, Windows Moviemaker or even Flickr. They could also audio commentary.

7. Have students display their photo stories to the rest of the class. Encourage feedback and questions.

– When I did this lesson I was unsure whether students would ‘rise to the challenge’ and make a story, but they were very creative and surpassed my expectations.

Further Reading

21st Teaching has some good ideas on using photo stories