Translating Google Translate to the Language Classroom: Pitfalls and Possibilities Riitta-Liisa Valijärvi & Eszter Tarsoly The School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London Language Futures: Languages in Higher Education Conference 2012 Edinburgh 5-6 July 2012 Google Translate • http://translate.google.com/ Launched in 2006: • http://googleresearch.blogspot.co.uk/2006 /04/statistical-machine-translationlive.html#!/2006/04/statistical-machinetranslation-live.html Algorithms based on statistical analysis: • http://translate.google.com/about/ Background and aim • We want to explore the possible uses of Google Translate in the language classroom, in particular in advanced reading and translation classes, and on beginners’ courses; • Language instruction has embraced a variety of learning and teaching techniques as well as technologies over the past decade; • The use of Google Translate and similar widely available translation software and applications remains problematic and it is generally not addressed in the language class room; Background and aim • Our paper also illustrates the issues with lesser used/taught morphologically complex languages; • We propose ways of incorporating Google Translate into the language classroom in order to raise awareness among students of potential errors, which not only boosts their abilities as future translators but it also enhances their analytical skills, and makes them more competent users of Google Translate. Is Google Translate good? • “Just like all computerised translators, it does a job that is usually good enough to give you the gist of a document written in a language you don't understand, but nowhere near as good as a the results a professional translator would give you.” • “Its good most of the time. But I wouldn't rely on it completely. If you want a quick translation of something, then it does a fair job.” • “Yup I Use In My Coursework.” [sic] yahoo.answers.com Is Google Translate a good way to learn foreign languages? • “No, it gives you some words right, but it's not good when it comes to plurals and tenses with writing, and sometimes the words mean completely different thing when they do it. Just take a class, or all else fails, YouTube.” • “No, it's probably worse than memorising a dictionary. Get classes, talk with natives, watch movies with subtitles, read books, listen to spoken radio.” • “Individual words, yes. Complete sentences, no.” yahoo.answers.com Errors: Finnish and Hungarian Error in semantic mapping of elements from the two languages; Flaws in morpheme and word-form identification (morphology); Error in identification of noun-phrases and nonfinite forms (morpho-syntax); Error in verb and complement identification (morpho-syntax); Flaws in linking up clauses and other paragraph-level errors; Idiomatic language use and the degree of nativeness of the translation; Errors Semantic mapping error En. a compelling terrace > GT. kényszerítő terasz ‘forcing terrace’ Fi. kisajärjestäjät ‘games organisers’ > GT. kisajärjestäjät Semantic and morphological error Fi. kääntää selkä ‘turn (your) back’ > GT. translated into the back Errors Morphological error Fi. ongelmatonta ‘without trouble, trouble-free’ > GT. trouble Hu. házaba ‘to his house’ > GT. ‘if you escaped’ Morphosyntactic and lexical error Hu. az író háza ‘the writer’s house’ > GT. the home offices' Hu. az orvos háza ‘the doctor's house’ > GT the medical home' Errors Fi. kumarrattaessa ‘while bowing’ > GT. kumarrattaessa Clause-linking / textual error Fi. Bussikuskit taas ovat jo pitäneet yhden päivän mittaisen lakon ’bus drivers, on the other hand, have already been on strike for a day’ > GT. bus drivers communicate again have already held a one-day strike How to use Google Translate to teach English? Kenneth Beare: • http://esl.about.com/od/modernteachingtechniq ues/a/teach_english_google_translate.htm • Google Translate good when the students and the teacher do not have a language in common. Beare: Google Translate Translation in class • “Have students write short texts in English, and translate them into their original language. Using Google Translate for translation can help students catch grammatical errors by spotting these errors in the translations.” • “Use authentic resources, but provide the URL and have students translate the original into their target language. This will help out when it comes to difficult vocabulary. Make sure that students use Google Translate only after they have first read the article in English.” • “For beginners, ask students to first write short texts in their mother tongue. Have them translate into English and ask them to tweak the translation.” • “Provide your own short text and let Google Translate into the class' target language(s). Ask students to read the translation and then try to come up with the English original text.” • “If all else fails, use Google Translate as a bilingual dictionary.” Beare: Google Translate, Translated Search • “When stuck on a grammar point, search on the grammar term to provide explanations in learners' mother tongue(s).” • “Use Google Translate as a means to provide context in learners' mother tongue(s). This is especially useful if students aren't familiar with the topic area. They can become familiar with some of the ideas in their own language as well as in English to help strengthen the learning experience.” • “Use translated search to find pages on a particular topic. Cut and paste a few paragraphs out, have students then translate the text into English.” • “Google Translate translated search is fantastic for group projects. Often you'll find students don't have ideas, or are not sure where to begin. Sometimes, this is due to the fact that they aren't too familiar with the subject in English. Let them use translated search to get them started.” Beginners • Problem-based learning: students could use Google Translate to analyse morphologically complex forms of nouns and verbs into English creating their own grammar. Fi. autolla ‘by car’, päivällä ‘in the daytime’, pöydällä ‘on the table’, tytöllä on ‘the girl has’ • Varying sentences: change the verb which goes with noun or add one insignificant looking element to clause or phrase and its translation will be totally different (e.g. possessives in Hungarian). Intermediate • Error correction: give students Google Translations of texts that have already been translated with the traditional method and ask the student to explain where Google Translate gets it wrong. – Improves metalinguistic knowledge and critical thinking. • Essay writing with and without Google Translate: ask students to write an essay in the target language using Google Translate and then write one without using Google Translate to check how much the students have internalised. Advanced • Translation review/analysis: give students a Google Translation and a “proper translation” to compare at phrase, clause, sentence, or paragraphlevel. Students would have to pick which one is best and also say what is wrong what the one translated with Google Translate. • Listing problematic areas: ask students to spot problematic areas through comparison (e.g. case, colloquial, non-finite verb forms, possessives). – Highlights the limitations with the method. Google Translate: pros • Applications such as Google Translate help learners to experiment with the target language more freely than methods available through traditional dictionary-based translation; • Google Translate can save time; • Google Translate can add variety to classes; • Students can learn phrases and forms that have not been taught (cf. phrasal learning); • Students are using Google Translate anyway both when preparing for classes and later at work. Google Translate: cons • We feel that Google Translate hinders the development of analytical skills (e.g. in identifying morphemes, forms that are encountered, parts of speech or sentence, etc.) which is one of the key skills to be gained when learning a foreign language; • Mistranslation and misunderstanding is an issue, especially with morphologically complex “small” languages; • No Google Translate in traditional exams; • No Google Translate when talking to people. Conclusions and discussion • Google Translate is not perfect, especially with the morphologically rich smaller languages, like Finnish and Hungarian. • Teachers cannot ignore the existence of Google Translate. • Students need to be made aware of the issues with the tool through exercises in class. • Helpful tool for translators and professionals but perhaps not for language learners? • Rules vs. phrases? Accuracy vs. communication/understanding?