Anyone who has listened to Google Translate sing knows that translation tools can be very inaccurate. Language teachers today face the question of whether or not it is appropriate to allow their students to use translation apps. Here at CORE Languages, we value our language instructors and welcome their expertise to our blog. Paula is a seasoned English language instructor who has faced this very question many times. Paula's approach to the question of the use of translation apps by language learners comes down to what the learner's motivation for using the apps is.
"When I first started teaching English, it was to EFL students. EFL (English as a Foreign Language) students do not need to understand all the details of living in a new country. Although the students need to understand the culture of the language being learned, it is not necessary for them to learn all the details of living in a different area. Eventually, my teaching expanded, and I started teaching ESL students. ESL (English as a Second Language) students have a greater need to understand not only the language but also many other details that will help them live in their new location. So, for the next few entries, I will be discussing topics that have helped my ESL students adjust to their new homes.
I volunteer for an organization that teaches English to ex-pats living in our area. Many of our students are new to this country, are working many hours, and have limited English speaking skills. Through my interactions with them, I have learned about some of the frustrations of living in a place where you don’t know the language or the nuances of a different area. These frustrations can lead to a negative transition for the students. One of the very first things that I show them is how to use a translation app. Translation apps can help a student communicate their needs quickly. Using a translation app does not replace the need to learn the native language but can help students and their families communicate needs and avoid frustration. In this age of modern conveniences, this is a fantastic tool to use. Many people know of translation apps’ availability, but there are also many that do not realize that tools like this are easily accessible with zero cost to them.
By having access to a translation app your students will be able to transition with fewer frustrations. They will be able to use the tool to clarify important questions that they have about rent, purchasing products, work hours, medical information, governmental procedures, schooling, or other pertinent concerns."
So, Paula says yes to translation apps! Having the ability to instantly communicate their needs in high stakes environments will give your students a sense of control as they enter the unknown that a new country brings. Translation apps can be very necessary in the world outside of the classroom. Inside the classroom, you as the language instructor should always strive to create a safe low stakes environment in which the student can freely interact with content and express their thoughts at their current language level.