For a couple of times I've come across this problem: when I ask the students to write a text in Chinese, they do it with the help of Google translator. So, they write either in Latvian or English and then the computer translates. It isn't a problem in itself, but since the students do not try to understand what Google writes for them (very often it's unreadable), such 'composition-writing' is useless. So I decided to show them what machine translators produce, whether to accept it and how to work with it.

I took the texts we read in our textbooks and wrote them in English for further translation by Google. And it was a difficult task for me, because I wanted to have these English texts as close as possible to the Chinese ones in order to get a maximally close translation, but in English they didn't sound natural. So, I wrote two versions in English, more or less the same, but with different word order or punctuation. Then Google translated them and I offered the students to read and compare the 3 versions of one text - 2 by Google and 1 from the textbook.

Then we analyzed the texts. We discussed not simply the difference or similarity of the original and the translations, but the acceptability of the sentences written by the computer. So, for the students it was an opportunity to practise reading characters, thinking about grammar, coming across synonyms and ways of Chinese morphology. So, my message to them was: either you use simple words in simple sentences but these will be your own sentences which you are sure of, or, use machine translation but analyze it, use a dictionary to translate it, edit it, and don't give a kind of unreadable rubbish to the teacher next time, because it's useless.

I did this task with all three grades of my students. Such kind of active reading is good because of a balanced mix of recognizing, evaluating, reconstructing grammar structures, using a dictionary (a pain in the neck for learners of Chinese), seeing other possible ways of saying the same things. I'm going to make Google-tasks a part of our routine.


# Alexander Sokol 2011-03-08 14:40
Marija, thanks. I like what you're sharing with us and this particular example is a good solution, I believe. However, I think you can make one more step. May I ask you to take a look at the guidelins for posting reflections on the site ( Do you think you could try to follow this structure when posting? I think it could help you reflect on what's going on in your classroom and also make your posts more compatible with other posts on the site.
# Marija Nikolajeva 2011-03-08 21:51
Ok, I think there's no problem in following the guidelines, hope next time I'll do in a more appropriate way :)
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