Making use of Google Translate

Google translate is the language learner equivalent of a calculator.

Picture I was conducting a workshop a while ago when a teacher pointed out that Google Translate was an issue in her classroom, due to the fact that her students use it to complete homework tasks. Rightfully so she was worried that Google Translate was hurting the language development of her students, as they were starting to rely on it too much.

In the sharing session that followed, we brainstormed ways in which we could put Google Translate to good use.

1. Flip how you thinkWe’ve all heard of flipping the classroom, which actually means flipping how the class is delivered. We came to the conclusion that for some new technologies, we would need to flip what we thought about them. When blackboards were first introduced, they were frowned upon by teachers and professors as, at that time, it was believed that information was best transmitted from the mouth to pencil. Therefore, when a teacher started to write information on a blackboard, many saw this as a move against teaching best practices.

In the training session we discussed how Google Translate could actually benefit learners. At first it was difficult to see it as a use, until however, someone pointed out that Google Translate was essentially a calculator for language students. Mathematics students have been making use of calculators for many years now, and I’m sure that at first they were seen as affecting the learning process for the worse.

As soon as we had made this comparison, Google Translate, didn’t seem so bad after all. In fact, it started to seem better and better. I mean, why not let learners have access to it? Does it really harm their language development? Dictionaries are good; however, they usually provide only word translation whereas Google Translate offers whole sentence. Of course there are disadvantages to it, such as accuracy of translation, so it should be used with caution, and learners should be made aware that there are discrepancies with it. Google Translate may best utilised, though, by beginner students who need more language support, or who find themselves in a language classroom where there are few that share their language. For these students Google Translate could act as a teacher to help them more through the early stages of learning a language.

2. Assess itOne of the issues raised with Google Translate is over dependence. Whereas it may be used by beginner learners to support them in the early stages, there is a need to ween more proficient students off it. Assessment is a key aspect of all learning as it ultimately decides what constitutes as learning. Therefore, including Google Translate in the assessment rubrics may show learners that it is a learning tool. The rubrics below illustrates how it could be integrated into the assessment process.


Instead of banning the use of Google Translate out right, which rarely ever works, the rubrics puts it directly into the learning process. The rubrics is to be used as a self-assessment carried out by the learners (for more information on self-assessment

click here

). Self-assessment (SA) has been seen to be remarkably accurate and allows the learners great autonomy and say in how they learn. Instead of shunning these tools like early professors did with the blackboard, we can create new assessment procedures that include them in the learning process. Assessment is quite literally the bridge between teaching and learning, so flipping how we think about modern day tools, and assessing them as part of the learning process may help to create a more accessible classroom.

3. Know the learnersUltimately we have to consider why a learner may use Google Translate in the first place. Of course we could claim that the student is lazy; however, much of the time it may simply be because the learner is not ready for the task that has been set. It is important to get feedback from learners on which tasks are at the right level to discover whether it is too easy, or beyond their current ability. When the latter is the case, learners will have no option but to seek the help of an external tool, especially when they have no other support network.

The sharing session proved to be mind opening for all the participants, as it helped us all to see Google Translate in a new light. No longer is it the source of badly written sentences, as we now have a better idea of how to integrate it into classroom activities and assess it.

If you have used Google Translate in your classroom, or include it in your assessment, I’d love to hear from you!



Marco Gonzalez

1/3/2015 09:08:52 am

Hello, best wishes for ’15. It is a brilliant idea. I think I’m going to use it because I totally agree with you


1/3/2015 11:52:34 am

Thanks, you too! Let me know how it goes!

Google traslate is so bad !!! If you want to traslate a long paragrapg ,and you know a little bit of English, you’ll find a lot of mistakes!!!


1/3/2015 12:54:10 pm

It’s true. But students are going to use it. So this post reflects on how we can make use of it instead of simply dismissing it. I’m sure that we can all find some positive uses for it, cause it isn’t gonna go away easily.


9/27/2017 09:54:29 am

Beatriz, realmente si tu escritura en Español no es buena, la traducción al Ingles usando Google translate tampoco va a ser buena. Sin ofender, por favor. A veces escribimos muy rápido sin realmente pensar lo que queremos decir y al final estamos trabajando con una maquina super inteligentísima pero no para los errores en otros idiomas.

elena rozou

1/3/2015 02:19:13 pm

It’s a good idea I’ll try it to see how it works!!!!


1/3/2015 03:18:32 pm

Let me know how it goes : ) I mean, our students are going to use it anyway, right? So let’s embrace it instead of fighting it.


1/3/2015 08:26:02 pm

one thing we can do:
1) give a text to be translated on Google Translate and ask students to correct the translated document (good for advanced students). This way we could see how well their English is.

The way students translate is an area we have to bear in mind, whether with a dictionary or translation software. One way for students to realise how “iffy” their translation can be is to feed the Google translated sentence back to re-translate it. This raises awareness of ambiguities.


1/3/2015 03:20:37 pm

That’s a great point you have raised. I’ll definitely keep that in mind. Thanks a lot.


1/3/2015 08:28:07 pm

very smart ! I like it!


1/3/2015 02:55:23 pm

i have many ethnicities in my classroom. I often use Google Translate to reinforce our community. I will choose a phrase that is appropriate to the class (from Merry Christmas to Today is Monday) and write it in all the languages in the class. The students often get involved by correcting the translation.


1/3/2015 03:19:40 pm

That sounds like a great way to utilise Google Translate. I’m going to try and do the same thing. Thanks!


1/3/2015 03:57:53 pm

Hi I am mexican and I use Google translate in my homework for listening the correct pronunciation and sometimes it gives me ideas for write my essays c: . I love it

Lily Pham

9/19/2019 11:40:15 am

Hi Danny! I am currently working on a research of how GGT can help English learners self-learn English skills. Can you give me some insights of how you use GGT for your learning and what are the achievements you have made so far? Thanks a lot!


12/10/2019 10:13:20 pm

Great post in general and topic worth understanding better! @Lily Pham, if you have any research links to share, I’d be VERY interested!

I think google trnslate is a useful tool. I always use it. It both help me understand some words that i dont know and understand some big texts. In this last case of course it makes mistakes, mas in the general it hepls me to understand more complex sentenses that i couldn´t understand alone.
It’s my opinion.
good luck with it

Paulo Eduardo

1/3/2015 07:45:01 pm

Let’s use it and check how it works.
“I think a very useful tool because it helps in the proper use of words according to the communicative context . Learn specific words. I can write in English, but I made sure to use the translator to see how it would be translated .”
I wrote it in Portuguese and, as I always say, it must be checked. I think it could be an interesting task for students.

I show my students how Google translate works and we laugh at some of the bad translations. Then, we go over better online dictionaries for phrases and words that may help them more effectively.

I use Google translate as a tool for teaching grammar and translation. I give the students a short text in their native language and ask them to run it through Google translate. Then I ask them to copy the entire text and correct all the mistakes. And then I ask them to explain what they corrected, with proper grammatical terms, and why they did it. This is for fairly advanced learners, and they usually enjoy this assignment, because it “proves” that they’re smarter than Google 😉

Google traslate a means to translate the foreign sentence, but sometimes translated sentence is not in accordance with the rules

Pengertian Guru Menurut Agus Wibowo


3/8/2018 08:05:31 pm

Thank you for this! I teach secondary school Spanish, and, it’s a losing battle. Students *are* going to use online translators – no matter what. So, why not teach them *how* to use them, and, when they do, hold them accountable for using it.

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