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Translation Technology: Why We Need It in Teacher Preparation?

Author: Samantha Goldman;

Alleviating Language Barriers

Have you ever found an article or a blog post that you were interested in learning more about but were unable to understand the language it was written in? A recent study was conducted where students in the United States and Brazil explored the global and technological competencies of pre-service teachers, looking specifically into how they communicate when they speak different languages. The beauty of global collaboration and research-sharing is that we can learn about educational challenges and opportunities all over the world. The downfall is that, sometimes, language can be a roadblock.

Resources to Support Translation

There are several free resources that can be used to help alleviate the language barrier. It is important to note that these are suggested solutions to help navigate situations where language is a roadblock. Translation supports are helpful but are not always perfect. We’ll talk more about what to do when the translation just doesn’t make sense in the next section.

Google Translate is a widely used translation tool, but it is not the only tool. Microsoft Translator and DeepL Translate are both free options that you can check out too. In a recent article, Lake and Beisly compared the positive features and limitations of Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, and Speak and Translate. Based on the findings, the authors suggested that it may be necessary to use all three at different times depending on the features needed.

Translation Isn’t Always Perfect

Language is complex, with idioms, multiple meaning words, and slang. Some phrases just don't translate into another language. What do you do when you are trying to communicate with someone who speaks a different language, and Google Translate output just doesn’t make sense? Try this: 

  • Consult a different tool. Each tool may have a slight difference in how it translates the phrase. If the first tool you try doesn’t work, try a different tool from the list above. Maybe you search that specific phrase and see if it has been translated a different way. 
  • Embrace the beauty of language. Odds are, the person you are communicating with is also experiencing some language barriers. If the translation app you are using isn’t clear, ask for clarification. You aren’t expected to speak that language perfectly.

Importance for Teacher Preparation

Using technology for translation supports learner variability because it reinforces the understanding that each and every student brings value to the classroom community. The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Guidelines provide guidance as to how to do this in checkpoint 2.4. For example, this checkpoint recommends that vocabulary and key information be provided in first languages for learners with limited-English proficiency or in sign languages for students who are deaf. Thus, bringing the concept of translation into pre-service teacher preparation courses supports those teacher candidates from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds. 

Additionally, using translation technology with pre-service teachers to promote understanding across languages also aligns with high leverage practices that are centered around collaboration. These strategies can be used to support collaboration with professionals around the globe and families from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds. Modeling the use of translation technologies mentioned above, combined with pedagogies and instructional practices, has the potential to support pre-service teachers in implementing similar strategies and tools for their own students in their own classrooms.

Try It and Share It Out!

Continue the conversation in our CIDDL Community and share how challenges with lanugage translation that you have had. Maybe we can come up with a solution!