While looking over the statistics for my VirtEd accessible educational websites, I noticed references to visitors from links not related to those linked within the sites. Upon further review, I found out that the site pages are being accessed via Google Translate in countries around the world in a wide variety of languages. I have now even included links in several languages such as Spanish, French and Italian on the main VirtEd site page.
There is no question that Google Translate is a powerful tool but that has limitations as far as its ability to translate some idioms or local, regional or national nuances assigned to certain words or phrases. However, it is valuable when used with non-fiction content reading in such subjects as science, social studies, math and some language arts areas.
Where this has great potential is in providing an option for teachers who have English speakers of other languages in their classrooms. Links to classroom and reference materials can be keyed in as well as the instructors own text. Given the number of students speaking multiple languages educators have to deal with, particularly in the nation's large, urban school districts, this can literally be a bridge technology to be utilized until ESL students have a better grasp of English.
This is also a valuable tool for parent communications. A teacher could input a message to be e-mailed or written to a parent into Google Translate and then copy and paste it into the desired document. Once again, it is important to avoid slang or idiomatic phrases to minimize confusion. The parent could do likewise in response to the teacher. If the parent doesn't have access to the appropriate technology, the parent information could be keyed in at the school.
Of course, Google Translate has applicability for students and instructors in the foreign language sphere - some of them perhaps not desirable as students could use the site to assist with foreign language homework assignments. However, fair warning from the instructor about the pitfalls of doing this would help forestall this practice. However, as with technologies such as calculators and software that can be used to check math and science assignments, Google Translate can be a useful tool in this area as well.