Homework Tips | Conseils pour les devoirs

Translation Cautions | Attention aux traductions!

As a student or parent, it is important to be very cautious when using translation tools. The accuracy of translations obtained through computer sites or other sources can be problematic. The translations should never be considered 100 percent accurate interpretations and should only be considered as possible helpful ways to obtain the general idea (gist) of information.

The problems arise when translations attempt to translate text, word for word. In such cases, some phrases, if translated literally, make no sense. Computer sites or translating tools do not have the ability to deal adequately with the various complexities of language (e.g., ambiguity, multiple word meanings, idioms, the influence of context and cultural nuances).

It takes a great deal of hard work to become truly proficient in a new language. Students may try to minimize their effort by using translation tools. Ideally, your child should be encouraged to initially think in French while completing homework. If he or she is struggling with word choice, proper vocabulary and sentence starters, only then should translation tools be integrated to help.

Although online translation tools are wonderful resources, there are a few rules and more effective strategies to consider before attempting to translate French material:

  • Use an online dictionary or software dictionaries if necessary and available
    • With modern technology, a dictionary is almost as fast as a translator.
    • When a word is entered, several choices are offered as possible translations of that word.
  • Use bilingual dictionaries for checking the meanings of new words
  • Use monolingual dictionaries to check the usage of the new words in the source language and in the target language
  • Use related encyclopedias or glossary lists for specialized terms
  • Refer to specialized magazines and journals to help you familiarize yourself with the text, particularly when it is a technical text.
  • Have a friend/relative who is a native speaker of that language help to translate
  • Use an online translator as a second opinion and/or to check work for simple phrases or a word or two
  •     • Avoid translating full sentences using a translation tool. The sentence will inevitably lose some of the
           information or meaning. Consult a guidebook for translating lengthy passages.
        • Use a reputable source. Try the Yahoo and Google sources first to see if the answers can be found.
          Anyone can set up a translator online.
  • Avoid translating word for word and remember to translate ideas and meaning