Is Google Translate cheating?

Recently, I came across the idea that a student should not use online translators because it is cheating. But, is it really?

I’m not a fan of online translators and can’t stress enough to my students (of all ages) that online translators are not always accurate. Therefore I encourage students to review their notes and use what they have learned rather than rely fully on online translators. The speech goes something like this “First of all I will notice right away and second of all, it will make no sense! Trust yourself and use what you know!”

HOWEVER, as a speaker of Spanish (first language) and English (second language) I often resort to online translators in lieu of dictionaries, as a quick way to check the meaning of a word or to simply verify the spelling. If I use it as a tool in the writing process, then, how can I ban my students from using it?

The problem that I see is when online translators (and dictionaries) are not used properly, whether because the student is in a rush to finish a writing assignment or because s/he doesn’t have enough confidence in his/her knowledge.

Another issue that I often find in classes is the constant “How do you say.. in English?” even when asked in the target language, it promotes translating, which we want to avoid. Therefore, I always have dictionaries available for students to use as needed.

Today, I took advantage of technology and incorporated the use of an IPad. I downloaded the Google Translate App and set up the Ipad on one of the tables. As students worked on their projects, they took turns in using the IPad to look up vocabulary words other than the ones learned in class. An easel pad sheet with vocabulary as well as a chart with word strips was displayed; yet having the opportunity to use the translator allowed them to work independently. They also checked with me to make sure the words chosen were accurate, as instructed. But overall, it was engaging and effective.

So, why not incorporate translators as another useful tool instead of banning them completely?

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Copyright © 2015 Ericka Collado
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