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Tool #1: Online Translator

Welcome! If you’re just joining the conversation about tools, I suggest you check out the intro post for this series that provides a frame for all these tools.

Without further ado… We’re going to discuss perhaps the most important and also the most underrated tool in my toolset - you’ve guessed it - it’s Google Translate!

You may think it’s quite obvious and - in a way - it is! But there are some key tips for how to use this tool in a way that really enhances your language learning.

But - before we get into the specifics - it’s worth noting that the platform matters! The experience of using Google Translate on the browser is quite different from the mobile app.

As with everything in life, it’s all about the intention behind what we’re doing.

It is my experience, and that of my students, that using Google Translate on the browser is far superior than the mobile app. There are a few reasons for this - and we’ll get into those at a later time. For the purposes of this post, we will focus on the use of Google Translate on a browser running on your desktop / laptop computer.

So - if our intention is language learning - few tools are as powerful and versatile as Google Translate. The way we can leverage the tool to enhance our learning is by using it in the following way:

  1. First of all, before going to Google, try to put together the sentence for what you want to say on your own.

    1. Depending on your familiarity with the language, you might be able to put together the frame of the sentence with only needing to look up some of the specific vocabulary words

    2. I find that putting together sentences is where we really start to flex our muscles and putting into practice all the stuff we’ve been learning elsewhere

  2. Once you have something - a guess - even if you’re sure it’s wrong - you can go into Google Translate to check

    1. You can look up specific words to test if you got them right

    2. You can type in the full sentence in English and see how that’s different from the sentence you would have put together using just some words

  3. Be proud of yourself!!

    1. As with any skill, language learning is an incremental process that builds over time and exposure - so the fact that you’re going through the exercise is already helping you advance

    2. When you find that you got it wrong - be glad! This is where we learn the most!

  4. Be curious!

    1. This is an optional step for those of us who like to find out the behind the scenes and also to check out other options for saying the same thing

    2. You can also check if what you’re trying to say is actually an “idiom” in your language - which means there might be a similar idiom in the target language - we’ll talk about how to find these in our next post.

At first, this might look like too many steps!! But you’ll be surprised how quickly you get into the habit of doing this. I tell my students to always keep a Google Translate window open on the side as a way to unconsciously give yourself permission to check.

“There’s no shame in using a translator”

What about you? Do you like using Google Translate or any other translators?

Let me know if you try using these tips and how they worked for you.

You can comment below and/or join the Translator thread in the forum.

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