Friday, January 18, 2013

Word Reference vs Google Translate

Do you let your students use an online translator, such as Google Translate or what was once the leader of the pack, Bablefish?  I don't. EVER. And I feel very strongly about this, in case you couldn't tell.

Some teachers that I work fairly closely with disagree with me on this point, and it irks me that students are excited to come visit me to proudly proclaim that another teacher gave them an A (or level 4) for a project that (s)he knew was done with a translator.

The dictionary that I recommend to my students is Word Reference.  But essentially I tell them if they see the word "TRANSLATE" anywhere on the web page, it's probably not a resource they ought to be using!

Aside from the ability to look up a word in French to find its English equivalent(s) and vice versa, there's a whole other aspect to WordReference that I just ADORE! I don't routinely show it to my core French students, but I introduce it to some that really strive to learn, as well as the type that will turn to a translator to express themselves given no other option. And I've definitely been showing it to my immersion students this year. At the bottom of any definition page, there are links that will show where in the forum the word you are searching has been discussed in a variety of settings.


The 'forum decorum' is that someone posing a question related to a particular usage has to try a translation themselves, and then others will pitch in to help them. I love that, because you know how I feel about collaboration in learning... I'm all for help, but love it when people are willing to try on their own, or to say "This is what I've got so far..." My goal is to leave them with some life-long skills for using their second language, even if it isn't perfect.

It's important to teach them how to use the forum links at the bottom of the page when they're looking up a word, for compound nouns as well as discussions. Too often, they look only for the first definition or two and stop there... students need modeling and opportunities to practice skimming the resource for the best match in the context they have.

I tell my French language learners that they need to search for a single word in a dictionary, and if it's part of a compound form or expression, to look below the standard definitions for that information.  This is typically true in paper dictionaries as well.

What's your favourite online dictionary for second language learners?



17 comments:

  1. I do the same thing! I love wordreference!

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    1. What grades do you teach, Hilary? If your students are old enough to be using hand-held devices, did you know that there's an app too? (I didn't until my girls told me last week!)

      Thanks for commenting!

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  2. Wordreference was the first online dico I showed my students. But, lately, I have been encouraging them to also TERMIUM PLUS, which is the site for the Bureau de la traduction du Gouvernement du Canada. Very well done, and it forces you to really read the different context, not just pick the first definition that comes up. And that is one the mistake our fsl students do.

    Tammy, now that you have mentioned it, I will for sure show my students the Forum. I know my eager students will explore that. Great post! Merci.
    AM:)

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    1. I'll have to check that out. Although the name is familiar, I haven't used it enough to picture it. Another go-to of mine for technical stuff and neologisms is le Grand Dictionnaire Terminologique which I *really* wish had a catchier name!!

      Do you use that one much?

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  4. I love wordreference. It is THE best online dictionary.

    If my students use google translate, I consider it cheating, and they get a zero and written up.

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    1. I'd like for that to be my approach too, but our newish assesment policy in Ontario includes some rather lenient terms around second chances, considering mitigating cicumstances, the "maturity level" of the student and prior instances.

      They KNOW I consider it cheating, in no uncertain terms, and yet it still happens from time to time.

      Thanks for the comment, Justin!

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  8. I really like Linguee also. It will allow them to type in a phrase to see the many contexts in which the phrase can be used.

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  9. Thanks Mme H! That is a cool one! I've used it before when I was reseaching idioms related to a particular topic, but had forgotten about it!

    I visited your TypePad page, but can't figure out how to subscibe.. the RSS feed link just gives me a bunch of html?!?

    Tammy

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    1. Thanks for all of your great posts! I'll have to see what the problem is with my RSS link feed. Thanks for letting me know. Bonne semaine!

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  10. Another video for you to help get your message across. I have a mini assignment that I do where they write in english about their summer vacation, then put in a couple translators and analyze the difference. They love seeing the funny results.
    http://pinterest.com/pin/497225615079292867/

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    1. That's great! Thanks for sharing.

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  11. I'm with you! WordReference for Spanish too! It does make it a little harder to detect cheating, in that even Spanish I kids can figure out how to say "was"...sort of. Still, it's cool when kids actually use the contextual examples to make connections!

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    1. I hear some foreign language teachers are disallowing dictionary usage altogether, but can't imagine myself doing that. The ability for kids to follow their curiosity and follow the contextual clues is really key in my opinion.

      Thanks so much for your comment!

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