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How can a Free Online Translator Help?

Currently, there are debates raging on internet educational forums on the topic of online translation.  How can an online translator help in translating from one language to another, or does it do more harm than good?

As in every good debate, there are two sides to every story.  Many foreign language teachers in the United States discourage their students from using online translators.  They say the translators don’t work properly, teaching their students bad grammar, incorrect meanings, and poor translation habits.  They would rather their students use a foreign language dictionary, plus apply the skills being learned in classes.

Some teachers though, look at the online translator as a tool to increase communication and goodwill throughout the world, while at the same time helping their students with translation. No matter what side of the debate you are on, the fact is that online translators are not going to go away. More importantly, they will improve with time and testing.

So with that debate behind us, let’s get back to the original question.  How can an online translator help?  Let’s look at some advantages of having free online translators.

  1. By translators being free, they become readily available to the general public and anyone on the internet, without regards to money.
  2. Online translators are space-saving and time-saving. People who seriously dabble in languages have a hard time with bookshelves being filled with dictionaries and reference books of every language they have ever experimented with. In addition, it is often easier to look up words and phrases online.
  3. Translators increase communication across different cultures.  Many Facebook users are talking to people on the other side of the world.  The new online friends are sharing their cultures with each other. Using the online translators as dictionaries and reference tools help make the conversations clearer.
  4. Online translators can also be a tool in making the learning of a new language easier. For the purpose of being a tool for learning a new language, the limits of the online translators need to be understood.  Programmed translators work by following the coded-in rules of a language, but as everyone has experienced, there are exceptions to rules. Irregular verbs, slang, idioms, and gender dependent words are sometimes not coded into the programs.

To take advantage of the free online translator’s benefits, some simple strategies should be utilized to make sure that the translated materials are correct.

First, when using the translator as a dictionary, stick to nouns, adjectives, and root verbs. Most teachers agree that when used as a noun dictionary, the translator is correct.

Second, translate short simple sentences.

Third, make it a practice to “double translate” all your material. Double translating refers to the process of taking the material that you first translated, and re-translating it back to the original language.  If by double translating, you don’t end up with the original wording or meaning, then you need to rework the original material into a new sentence and repeat the process. Double translating is very important in making sure that what you have translated will have the same meaning in the new translation, and thereby avoiding potentially embarrassing mistakes.

Whether or not you choose to use an online translator is your choice, but if you understand the limitations, then you can make this potentially valuable language learning tool work for you and help maximize your learning experience.


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