When students used online translation tools in their projects and writing assignments

In the ACTFL discussion forum for language educators, a question such as this one (in the subject line) was posted and the responses varied from treating using translation tools as academic dishonesty to welcoming translation tools as technology-aided learning.

A response by William Wood provided helpful and sensible suggestions in the context

  • 1. Using in class activity to train students in critical assessment of the online translationt tool: one paragraph original text, followed by the translated text (online too), followed by teacher’s version of the translation. Students compare these versions and see drawbacks of machine translation. (My thoughts: I think we should try to avoid having the machine do the composing. The exercise may be modified by using sentences rather than paragraphs. Depending on the students’ level, I may omit appending a teacher’s version. Students, working in pairs, may enjoy doctoring the online translation and rendering it natural-sounding.)
  • 2. having students peer-review each other’s project/paper drafts. A process he calls “think, pair, share.” All drafts bear the peer’s endorsing signature. The peer-review process accounts for 30 percent of the grade.

Two notes that I added:

  • 1. help students be aware that online translation tools are “tools”, useful, but only to be used as a tool. (students should begin composing on their own and use online tools for lexical level aid.)
  • 2.make sure assignments draw on structures/vocabulary/expressions covered in class

In cases you suspect the work is entirely or largely plagiarized or aided, you can ask:

  • 1) in a nonassusitory but inquisitive manner, ask the student where the text came from. (Mr. Wood’s point)
  • 2) ask the student to explain the text (Mr. Wood’s point)
  • 3) see gaps between the essay and the language points covered in class. (my addition)
  • 4) the teacher can try google-translate and likely the text came up the same. (my addition)

One Comment to “When students used online translation tools in their projects and writing assignments”

  1. Hello 🙂 I’ve translated your post into Russia, because I found this topic is up to date and quite burning! Hope you don’t mind.

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