Saturday, January 2, 2010

Using translation services in the classroom to help teach/learn science. Example: Pollution in the Arctic? Let me translate that and see....

Students can use newspapers in a language they know to supplement their coursework in another language. Here is the opening of a French article as an example. In Boston there are many Haitian students, for example, who speak French and Haitian Creole, and some English. If their reading level is higher in French or Creole, they can supplement their learning by reading in their best known language.

L'environnement unique et fragile de l'Arctique est soumis à de multiples pollutions, qui, pour beaucoup, proviennent de l'extérieur : réchauffement climatique, substances toxiques transportées par les courants atmosphériques et océaniques vers le pôle...
Source: Accessed 1-1-2010.

Using a translator like Babel Fish ( one gets:
L' single and fragile environment of l' The Arctic is subjected to multiple pollution, which, for much, comes from l' outside: climate warming, toxic substances transported by the airstreams and oceanic towards the pole...

The L's we can guess mean, "the." And touching it up with high school French or best guesses, we get something like:
The singular and fragile arctic environment is subjected to multiple sources of external pollution: global warming, wind- and ocean-transported toxins which move toward the pole....
It might not be the best translation, and, perhaps might not even be accurate, however, a foreign student can perhaps get a better idea and learn some vocabulary in the language in which the class is being taught.

If students have a group activity where they share news articles on science, some articles coming in with different languages and different perspectives than from our own countries can enhance our critical thinking and knowledge base. You will be happily surprised at the results of student discussions from science sources in different languages. Often, the science words are the same, or nearly so, and the students don't feel lost as a result. They realize students are learning the science words in the language of the classroom, too. They are not behind on these words. They and the native speakers are learning the science words together.

Students can also use translators to help them comprehend directions for assignments and teachers and parents might develop better communication skills with them.

If the translators are needed on a regular basis, talk to your school's computer professional to ensure that you are following laws and regulations concerning the translation software use.

Web pages are also translatable at the touch of a button in many cases. Use your search engine. Here is an example from a Google search:

Consensus Scientifique sur le Changement climatique dans l'Arctique

[ Translate this page ] Ce Dossier est un résumé fidèle du rapport scientifique de consensus produit en 2004 par l'Evaluation de l'impact du changement climatique dans l'Arctique ... - Cached - Similar -
Source: Accessed 01-01-2010.

You might also look at a few foreign language journal articles and see the same, "lab report format," or review articles covering several experiments which are reported in the journals in, "lab report format," in the foreign (and own country's) journals. That similar format among nations' research articles helps students from other places feel included in the class. I find it amazing, but, I have heard more than a few students say they didn't know they had scientists in their own countries. It is a confidence builder when they see their own people doing science. They feel they can do it, too.

Here is a link to a French article, for example:

Another follows here:

I have seen students of different languages make great progress in comprehending science topics when this, "International Approach," is used.

(c) 2010 J S Shipman

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