Let It Go in 25 Languages

Disney’s animated movie Frozen was released in 25 languages, and you can hear all of them in this version of the film’s most popular song.  From Dutch to Japanese to Hungarian, from Catalan to Mandarin to Serbian, each language gets a lyric or two.  Can you hear the difference between Castillian Spanish and Latin American Spanish? Between French and Canadian French?

Which part of the song did you like the best?

Gerunds vs infinitives: Quick English grammar explanation

gerunds vs infinitivesTo learn or learning?  To eat or eating?  To dream or dreaming?  The difference between gerunds and infinitives is one of those things that comes naturally for native speakers but can be a nightmare for English Language Learners.  Here’s a simple explanation and four quick examples to help you keep them straight.

A verb is an action word. In English, if a verb starts with the word “to,” it is an infinitive. If a verb ends with “ing,” it is a gerund. Verbs can be either gerunds or infinitives, but they can’t be both! 

When two verbs are together in a sentence, the first verb agrees with the subject. The second verb can be either a gerund or an infinitive. The first verb determines whether the second verb should be a gerund or an infinitive. 

These verbs need to be followed by gerunds:
Think about
Give up
Feel like
(Can’t) help
(Can’t) stand
(Don’t) mind

You can’t say, “I enjoy to drive.” You have to say, “I enjoy driving.”

Read a longer list of verbs that require gerunds here.

These verbs need to be followed by infinitives:
Would like

You can’t say, “She promises studying.”  You have to say, “She promises to study.”

Read a longer list of verbs that require infinitives here.

Some verbs can be followed by either a gerund or an infinitive. Here are a few:

These verbs can be followed by a gerund or a noun/infinitive combo.
These verbs can have either gerunds or infinitives, but the meaning of the sentence changes.

How do you know when to use a gerund and when to use an infinitive? You have to learn the verbs. You could memorize the list of verbs above. However, native English speakers don’t usually learn them like that. Just pick a few verbs at a time and practice using them correctly until you know what sounds correct and what sounds wrong.

Play this Battleship game to practice using gerunds and infinitives correctly.

Example 1:
Watch this short educational video by a student from the University of Oregon:

Example 2:

Maroon 5

Look for the girl with the broken smile,
ask her if she wants to stay awhile. Maroon 5 (Photo credit: trashpaintedgold)

Can you complete these song lyrics with gerunds or infinitives?

1. I can’t help __ in love with you. (fall)

2. I don’t mind ___ every day out on your corner in the pouring rain. (stand)

3. I want __ free, I want __ free, I want __ free from your lies, you’re so self-satisfied, I don’t need you. (break / break / break)

4. Today I don’t feel like __ anything, I just want to stay in my bed. (do)

5. I hate __ up out of the blue uninvited but I couldn’t stay away, I couldn’t hide it, I had hoped you’d see my face and be reminded that for me it isn’t over.  (turn)

6. So I cross my heart and I hope __ that I’ll only stay with you one more night. (die)

7. I don’t need __ to control you, look into my eyes and I’ll own you with them moves like Jagger. (try)

8. Stop __, stop __, I don’t want to think anymore. I left my head and my heart on the dance floor. (call / call)

9. Hey Jude, don’t let me down, you have found her, now go and get her. Remember __ her into your heart, then you can start __ it better. (let / make)

Check your answers here. The songs are not in the same order as the questions, so pay attention!

Example 3:

Here’s another set of song lyrics. Fill in the blanks with gerunds or infinitives.

1. You make me feel like __, I want __ the night away. (dance / dance)

2. A wise man said only fools rush in, but I can’t help ___ in love with you. (fall)

3. I forgot __ __ her, I can’t seem to get her off my mind. (remember / forget)

4. I guess you’d call it cowardice, but I’m not prepared to go on line this. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand ___, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand ___, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand ___ you. (lose / lose / lose)

5. You gave me a reason to believe in myself, just when I’d given up ___. (dream)

6. My soul starts spinning again, I can’t stop ___ no I won’t stop ___. (feel / feel)

Watch the video to check your answers. The songs are in order.


Example 4:
Check out this rap between two characters, Mike (Mr. Infinitive), and Paul (Mr. Gerund).

Want more single-serving grammar? Click here for more Four quick examples grammar explanations.
Need more examples? Here’s another explanation with practice exercises for gerunds and infinitives.

Things I learned from The Story of Spanish

The Story of Spanish is the biography of a language, 394 pages (plus bibliography and index) of history, sociology, and analysis of a language from its beginnings on the Iberian Peninsula to all the forms of Spanish that exist around the world today. This book, by Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, is a trove of information, sometimes subjective but full of random facts; there are plenty of interesting tidbits to teach even the most seasoned scholar of Spanish language and literature a few things. Here are facts about the Spanish language and Hispanic culture (and a few facts about other languages, too) that I learned from The Story of Spanish.

    • Klipdas (Hyrax) op Mount Kenya. De foto is gen...

      Klipdas (Hyrax) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      Spain may be also known as “the land of the rabbits,” but the name of the place comes from the Phonecian for “land of the hyraxes.”  The Phonecians had never seen rabbits before so they named the Peninsula after the most similar small mammal they knew from home.

    • The verb ir (to go) is irregular because it is actually a combination of two latin verbs- ire and vadere.
    • San Isidro de Sevilla is the patron saint of the internet. (He, too, was into random facts.)
    • La noria meant waterwheel before it meant ferris wheel, and it came from Arabic.
    • The word español comes, ironically, from French.
    • El Cid comes from the Arabic word Al-sayyid (lord and master) and Campeador comes from Latin campi doctor (champion).
    • Tempura is not originally a Japanese word; it comes from Portuguese.
    • The first Castillian grammar book was published in 1492; before that the letters u, v, i, and j, were basically interchangeable.
    • In chapter 14 I finally got the answer to the question of why Spanish colonizers had lots of babies with native women and created a huge mestizo population in Mexico, but English colonizers in New England didn’t. It was because the Spanish didn’t bring any women with them from Spain.
    • Cover of the first edition of Foundation and s...

      Cover of the first edition of Foundation and statutes of the Royal Spanish Academy (1715) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      The five US states with Spanish names are Florida, California, Nevada, Colorado, and Montana. The four with Hispanicized indigenous names are Texas, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona. The word Texas (Tejas) comes from chechas which meant “friendly” in the language of the native Caddos people.

    • The oldest written records of US history (before it was the US) were written in Spanish by conquistadores and missionaries.
    • During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Spanish pronunciation changed rapidly, resulting in confusion over the letters x and j because of differences in the way words were pronounced in Northern versus Southern Spain. The two letters were used interchangeably for a while. Eventually writers began to use the letter x only for the ks sound in terms derived from Greek or Latin.
    • After the letter x began to take on a unique pronunciation, writers and lexicographers in Spain changed their spelling accordingly. But Mexico is still spelled with an x that is pronounced like a j. That’s because writers in Mexico were not as dilligent about adopting the new spelling conventions, so place-names like Mexico, Texas, and Oaxaca were not updated. The letter x is important in the native Nauhuatl language, but it is pronounced with a sh sound. During the 1600s, Spaniards started saying MeHIco and TeHas, but Mexicans retained the Nauhuatl MeSHico and TeSHas. This answers the question often asked by foreigners visiting central Mexico, “If x sounds like an sh in Nauhuatl words, and the name for the native people (before they came to be called Aztecas) was Mexica (prounounced Meshica), why is the country called Mejico and not Meshico?” The answer: it used to be called Meshico, and since Spaniards started pronouncing x differently from j they have been mispronouncing it ever since.
    • The word chicano also comes from the 1600s when “texicanos” was pronounced “teshicanos.”
    • The French letter ç came from Spanish; interestingly enough, the French adopted the letter at about the same time that the Spanish stopped using it.
    • Eighty percent of the population of Paraguay is bilingual.
    • Spanish used to have a letter ss before the Real Academia Española’s Diccionario de autoridades did away with it.
    • In 1803, the Academia gave the letters x, j, and g the sounds they have in (Spain) Spanish today, and made ch and ñ their own letters. The upside-down punctuation marks to begin questions and exclamations became official in 1764, and are the reason Spanish sentences and paragrahps can be longer than English.
    • The actual Real Academia Española (the building, not the group) is across the street from the Prado Museum.
    • Argentina takes its name from the French word for silver. Before deciding on Estados Unidos Mexicanos, Mexico briefly considered calling itself Anahuac.
    • Life size bronze of Rip Van Winkle sculpted by...

      Life size bronze of Rip Van Winkle sculpted by Richard Masloski, copyright 2000. Located between the Town Hall and the Main Street School. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      The word tango originally meant slave music. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a Spanish professor at Harvard. He didn’t like teaching but he translated Rip Van Winkle and called it Andrés Gazul.

    • The two non-Hispanic countries where the most people are learning Spanish are the United States and Brazil. In fact, Brazil has a law that says all students must learn Spanish.
      Meanwhile, a lot (comparitively) of French people study Spanish, but that’s probably because they are required to learn two foreign languages. And you thought your high school or university language requirement was a drag.

Practice your Spanish: as easy as pressing play

escuchaListening is easy. If we can hear, we can listen, and we are always doing it, whether we want to or not. When you were a baby (and even before you were born) you listened to sounds and your brain learned about language, even when you couldn’t speak yourself. Listening is one of the easiest ways to practice a language, because if the language is going in your ears, your brain is doing something with it. Here are some resources to listen to Spanish on a regular basis and help your pronunciation, vocabulary, and language skills improve.

Passive listening is also called listening for the main idea. With passive listening, you don’t worry about understanding everything, or even knowing specific words. Passive listening is about understanding the gist of a passage, the idea of a song, hearing the way words are pronounced and being exposed to different accents. Even if you can’t understand anything you hear, your brain will pick out certain sounds and remember them when you hear them later.

For beginners:
News in slow Spanish: http://www.newsinslowspanish.com/ Just as the title says, it’s the news, in Spanish that is much slower than the speed people normally speak. Each episode starts out with a brief (but slow) recap of the week’s news. Then there is a short grammar lesson and discussion of a Spanish idiom. On the website you can also read transcripts of the episodes and do other interactive activities.

Intermediate and advanced:

What do you like to listen to? Whether it’s the news, sportscasts, music, TV, or movies, there is something in Spanish out there for you.

Maratón musicalMusic: July is our favorite month for Spanish-language music here at Bilinguish. We publish our Maratón Musical, with a new Spanish-language song plus activities or suggestions for ways to listen with friends, with a new song every Tuesday and Thursday.  Check out the 2012 Maratón Musical songs here: Maratón Musical 2012.

Click here for all the music videos we have posted recently on Bilinguish: música.  And don’t forget to check back every Tuesday and Thursday for a new Spanish-language music video.

Culture: La Semana Santa en México, El medio ambiente en México, Un trabajo en el mercado

Listen, Understand, Act

Listen, Understand, Act (Photo credit: highersights)

News and sports:

Noticiero Univisión

Univisión Deportes

BBCMundo Video y Fotos

Radio Naciones Unidas

Radio Nuevos Horizontes

Radio Caracol (Colombia)

TV and movies: If your TV provider has a Spanish channel, check it out. You can probably find comedias or telenovelas (soap operas) in prime time, movies dubbed in Spanish, and variety shows.  Depending on where you live, you can also stream TV clips or episodes online from these channels: MTV Latinoamérica, El Trece (Argentina), TV Azteca (México), TeleMedellín (Colombia), La Sexta (España), or look through this list of TV stations from Latin America, this list of TV Stations in Spain, or watch the TV station in Guinea Ecuatorial (yes, it’s in Spanish!).

Active listening is also called listening for specific information. These are some listening activities you can do to practice your Spanish. They usually involve listening to a short conversation and answering questions about it. With active listening, your goal is to pick out and understand specific words to meet a small goal.

For beginners:
The National Spanish Exam is a contest for students of Spanish in the United States. The NSE website has online practice exercises for all levels. You listen to ten short audio clips and answer a question about each one, then get your score.
NSE Level 1 Practice Exercises
NSE Level 2 Practice Exercises

The University of Texas at Austin has a collection of listening comprehension exercises organized by level and by topic. You can watch videos, download audio for your MP3 player, or listen to the podcast.
Beginning Spanish proficiency exercises from the University of Texas at Austin

Audioclíps Bilinguish: En el restaurante, Ojalá que, La alfombra roja, Hablando con el soporte técnico, Las actividades de hoy, En el aeropuerto, ¿Cómo se escribe?, ¿Cuál es tu número de teléfono?

For intermediate learners:
Intermediate Spanish proficiency exercises from the University of Texas at Austin

Audiria.com is a website with a variety of audioclips and some videoclips for Spanish students. The activities are labeled by level, but even the beginning ones are fairly complex, more suitable for intermediate learners.

NSE Level 3 Practice Exercises
NSE Level 4 Practice Exercises

For advanced learners:
Advanced Spanish proficiency exercises from the University of Texas at Austin

NSE Level 5 Practice Exercises
NSE Level 6 Practice Exercises

Las voces de las mujeres: entrevistas con mujeres en Guatemala, México, País Vasco, y la República Dominicana

Mi palabra favorita en español

¡Feliz Día del Español! Hoy es el Día E, un día para celebrar el idioma español. 

Aquí hay unas de las palabras y frases favoritas de los estudiantes en mis clases de español:

¿Cuál es tu palabra favorita?

¿Cuál es tu palabra favorita?

Y para añadir sus opiniones, aquí hay un video del Instituto Cervantes en que celebridades españoles y latinos hablan de su palabra favorita en español.

Otros sitios interesantes…

El Día E sitio oficial
Instituto Cervantes, creador del día E
El Día E en Nueva York
Los top tuits del Día E
Poll: Why do you like being bilingual?

How teachers catch you using a translator

13 - caged animal

Como se siente tu profesor cuando cometes plagio (Photo credit: tourist_on_earth)

En mi salón de clases hay un cartel que trata de los buenos y responsables usos de la tecnología. Entre otras cosas, diceno usaré traductores y fingir que es mi propio trabajo (I will not use translators and pretend it is my own work)”.  Los estudiantes preguntan ¿porqué sería malo usar un traductor? Tengo que explicar que cuando recibes una nota en la clase de español por tu trabajo escrito, es deshonesto (¡y plagio!) usar el trabajo de otro y decir que vino de tu cabeza. Recibes la nota por tu conocimiento del idioma, no por tu capacidad de usar Google Translate. Y los profesores siempre saben cuando lo usas. ¿Cómo saben? Aquí hay unos ejemplos. No voy a revelar todos los secretos aquí, pero éstas son las maneras más comunes de pillarles ‘con las manos en la masa’. Ojalá que esta lista les ayude a ser mejores estudiantes.

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is bilingual. Scroll down for the English translation, and click on this picture for other Spanish Friday posts around the web.

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is bilingual. Scroll down for the English translation, and click on this picture for other Spanish Friday posts around the web.

1. Porque saben lo que sabes.  Tu profesor o profesora te conoce bien. Sabe tu nivel del idioma y si lo superas, va a sospechar algo.  Si estás en tu primer año de la lengua, trabajando con los verbos en el presente, y entregas una composición con el presente perfecto y el pluscuamperfecto, tendrás problemas. Lo mejor que puedes esperar es que la profesora te diga, “tu nivel del idioma ha mejorado bastante, te voy a subir a la clase avanzada, y tendrás que usar esta gramática todo el tiempo.” Pero es más probable que reprobarás la tarea. Tu profesor también sabe cuánto tiempo necesitarás para completar una tarea. Si demoras en escribir una composición y le pides permiso de llevarla a casa para terminarla, el profesor pensará que tal vez quieres consultar con un amigo electrónico. Si tu profesor te da permiso escribir algo en casa, ten cuidado, tal vez quiere probar cuánta integridad tienes.

2. Porque los traductores no funcionan bien cuando escribes mal.  Si tienes mala ortografía en tu lengua nativa, confundes palabras comunes como “their” por “there” (o “they’re”), “our” por “are”, el traductor no te ayudará.  Te dará algo muy poco comprensible y sacarás una nota peor de lo que habrías sacado si hubieras usado el cerebro.

3. Porque dices cosas ridículas. Si usas vocabulario avanzado, dichos inusuales, o no puedes explicar que quiere decir lo que “escribiste,” se verá mal.  Los ingenieros que diseñan traductores automáticos trabajan continuamente para mejorarlos. Sin embargo, a veces los traductores te dan resultados inesperados. Por ejemplo, es muy común en la clase de español que te piden usar verbos reflexivos para escribir de tu rutina diaria. Si usas la cabeza para recordar que aprendiste la palabra “levantarse” para decir “get up,” podrás escribir bien. Pero si, en vez de pensarlo, pones una frase como, “my mother says to get my brother up,” en un traductor, recibirás este resultado: “Mi madre dice que mi hermano hasta.” (En inglés, “My mother says that my brother until.”)

Uno de mis ejemplos favoritos fue un estudiante estadounidense que tenía un amigo por correspondencia en México. En su primer correo electrónico al amigo, quería escribir “I want you to be my pen pal.” El traductor produjo la frase en español, “Quiero que sea mi media naranja.” Una media naranja es un dicho en español que significa “soulmate,” “alma gemela,” un término romántico. ¡Definitivamente no fue lo que mi alumno intentaba decir en su primera carta!

Jeeves, currently seen when users go to uk.ask.com

You don’t talk like him, so why would you write that way? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4. Porque de repente empiezas a ser muy formal. En el salón de clases, los alumnos generalmente usan el lenguaje informal (como “tú” en vez de “usted” en español). Pero generalmente los traductores producen lenguaje formal, para que sean útiles para empresas.  Si no puedes hablar formalmente en clase, empezar a escribir formalmente de repente levantará sospechas.

5. Porque algo se ve raro. Los alumnos que son demasiado perezosos como para usar los cerebros al escribir, muchas veces también son demasiado perezosos para hacer más que copiar del traductor y pegar en un documento. Texto pegado de un traductor muchas veces aparece en una fuente diferente, o un poco más grande o pequeño del resto del texto, o con un fondo de un color diferente (Google Translate, por ejemplo, produce texto resaltado en gris ligero). Los números pueden ser diferentes. Hay otras señales también que los profesores buscan como evidencia del uso de un traductor.

Entonces, ¿siempre es malo usar un traductor?  Pues, no siempre.  Si mis alumnos están escribiendo a máquina, y les digo que pueden usar diccionarios, significa que podrían usar un traductor como diccionario: escribir una sola palabra y hacer clic en “translate.” Pero los traductores son malos diccionarios: no dan contexto ni categoría gramatical. Una vez pedí que mis alumnos buscaran “paint brush” en el diccionario. Todos los alumnos que usaron traductores automáticos dijeron “cepillo de pintura,” (literalmente, “brush of paint”.) Los que buscaron la palabra en un diccionario encontraron la palabra correcta: pincel. Si buscas “brush” en un buen diccionario ingles-español, encontrarás varias opciones: brocha, cepillo, pincel, escobilla, aplicar, cepillar, rozar… El diccionario te dirá cuales son sustantivos, cuales son verbos, y cual es para el cabello, cual es para limpiar, y cual es para la pintura.

Está bien usar un traductor para experimentar con traducciones diferentes. Quizás hay una frase gramatical quieres usar y que crees que sabes escribir, pero necesitas revisar. Está bien escribir diferentes variaciones de la misma frase en un traductor y comparar los resultados. No hay problema (y es divertido) trauducir una frase de un idioma a otro y de vuelta, para ver como ha cambiado. Pero si usas un traductor para aprender decir una frase nueva, tienes que escribirla tú mismo, no simplemente copies y pegues. Y, cuando tengas la oportunidad, pregunta a tu profesor para estar seguro que lo aprendido es correcto. (Y, realmente, hay otros sitios que puedes usar para darte una mejor explicación que un simple traductor automático.) El punto es que necesitas usar el cerebro, también.

La tecnología es una cosa maravillosa, y a muchos profesores les encanta usarla para hacer las clases más interesantes y más interactivas. A los alumnos que aprendan a usar la tecnología cuando sea apropiada y a usar sus cerebros cuando es necesario, será de gran ayuda. Pero recuerda tomar las tareas de escritura como oportunidades de practicar y aprender de tus propios errores, y no uses traductores de una manera deshonesta, porque tu profesor(a) sabrá.

Can you spot the reasons why this automatic translation failed? (Hint: it wasn't the translator's fault.)

Can you spot the reasons why this automatic translation failed? (Hint: it wasn’t Google’s fault.) Click to see the image larger.

In my classroom there is a poster about the correct and responsable way to use tecnology. It says, among other things, “no usaré traductores y fingir que es mi propio trabajo (I will not use translators and pretend it is my own work).”  My students ask why it would be bad to use a translator. I have to explain that when you’re being graded on your written work in Spanish class, it’s dishonest (and plaigarism!) to use someone (or something) else’s work and claim that it came from your brain. You are graded on your language ability and knowledge, not for your ability to use Google Translate. And teachers always know when you use it. How do they know?  Here are some examples. I won’t reveal all our secrets here, but these are some of the most common ways to catch students ‘in the act.’  Hopefully this list will help you be a better student.

1. Because they know what you know.  Your teacher knows you well. He or she knows your language level, and if you exceed it, they’ll suspect something is wrong. If you’re in your first year of a language, working with present tense verbs, and you turn in a composition full of present perfect and pluperfect, you’ll be in trouble. The best you can hope for is that your teacher says, “your language level has improved a lot, I’m going to move you up to the honors class, and you’ll have to use this grammar all the time.”  But it’s more likely that you’ll just fail the assignment. Your teacher also knows how much time you would need to complete an assignment. If you delay and procrastinate while writing a composition in class and ask the teacher for permission to take it home to finish it, your teacher will think that maybe you want to consult with an electronic friend. If your teacher gives you permission to write something at home, be careful, maybe they are testing you to see how much integrity you have.

2. Because translators don’t work well when you write poorly. If you have bad spelling in your native language, you confuse common words like “their” with “there” (or “they’re”), “our” with “are,” the translator will not help you. It will give you something incomprehensible and you’ll get a worse grade than you would have gotten if you had just used your brain instead.

where exactly is my flight?

Sometimes the translator gives you a result about this comprehensible. (Photo credit: iLikeSpoons)

3. Because you say ridiculous things.  If you use advanced vocabulary, unusual idioms, or you can’t explain what you have “written,” it’ll look bad.  The engineers who design automatic translators are constantly working to improve them. However, sometimes translators give you very unexpected results. For example, it’s very common in Spanish class to be asked to use reflexive verbs to write about your daily routine.  If you use your brain to remember that you learned the word “levantarse” to say “get up,” you’ll be able to write well. But if, instead of thinking, you go straight to the translator and type in a sentence like “my mother says to get my brother up,” you’ll get this translation: “Mi madre dice que mi hermano hasta.” (Literally, “My mother says that my brother until.”)

One of my favorite example was a U.S. student who had a Mexican pen pal. In his first email to his pen pal, he tried to write, “I want you to be my pen pal.” The translator gave the Spanish sentence, “Quiero que sea mi media naranja.” A media naranja (half orange, in Spanish) is an idiom that means “soulmate.”  Definitely not what he meant to write in his first letter!

4. Because you suddenly start to be very formal. Students in the classroom tend to use informal language (like “tú” instead of “usted” in Spanish). But translators usually produce formal language so that they will be useful for businesses.  If you can’t speak formally in class, suddenly starting to write formally will look suspicious.

5. Because something looks weird. Students who are too lazy to use their brains when they’re writing are usually also too lazy to do anything beyond copying text from a translator and pasting it in a document. Text pasted from a translator many times appears in a different font, or a little larger or smaller than the rest of the text, or with a different color background (Google Translate, for example, produces text highlighted in light gray). Numbers can be different, too. There are other signs, as well, that teachers look for as evidence of translator-produced text.

So, is it always bad to use a translator? Well, not always. If my students are typing on computers, and I tell them that they are allowed to use dictionaries, that means that they could use a translator like a dictionary: write just one word and then click “translate.”  But translators are poor dictionaries: they don’t give context or parts of speech. Once I asked my students to look for the term “paint brush” in the dictionary. All the ones who used online translators said “cepillo de pintura,” (literally, “brush of paint”). The ones who looked it up in a dictionary found the correct word: pincel. If you look up “brush” in a good English-Spanish dictionary, you’l find various options: brocha, cepillo, pincel, escobilla, aplicar, cepillar, rozar… The dictionary will tell you which ones are nouns, which ones are verbs, which is a brush for your hair, which is for cleaning, and which is for painting.

It’s okay to use a translator to experiment with different translations. Maybe there’s a certain construction you want to use that you think you know how to write, but you want to check. It’s okay to type different variations on the same phrase into a translator and compare the results. It’s okay (and fun) to translate a phrase from one language to another and back, to see how it’s changed. But if you use a translator to learn how to say a new phrase, make sure you type or write it yourself, don’t just copy and paste. And, when you have the opportunity, check with your teacher to make sure what you learned is correct. (And, really, there are other websites you can use that will give you a more nuanced explanation than a simple automatic translator.) The point is that you need to be using your brain, too.

Technology is a wonderful thing, and many teachers love to use it to make class more interesting and more interactive. For students who learn to use technology when it’s appropriate and to use their brains when it’s necessary, it will be very helpful. But remember to take writing assignments as opportunities to practice and learn from your own mistakes, and don’t use translators dishonestly, because your teacher will know.

The Benefits of Being Bilingual

Check out this informative video that animates the many benefits, and few drawbacks, of being bilingual.

Want to know more? Find links to articles about the many benefits mentioned here.


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