Magazine article District Administration

Escaping Monolingualism: Audio Translation Websites and Tools Enhance Language Learning

Magazine article District Administration

Escaping Monolingualism: Audio Translation Websites and Tools Enhance Language Learning

Article excerpt

Growing up in a bilingual home near New York City, where my brother and I were the only ones who spoke Norwegian in our elementary school, I remember being asked to translate for newly-arrived Scandinavian students whose parents were assigned to the UN. Our school had no teaching resources in other languages back then, let alone in Norwegian, but I credit the staff for using local resources to get non-English speaking students off on the right foot (it may also have been my first teaching opportunity!).

Years later, I was amazed when I encountered websites such as Bing Translator (bing.com/translator), FreeTranslation.com- and BabelFish.com where anyone could essentially do the same work without knowing the language. For example, a click of a mouse at FreeTranslation will tell you that "How high is the moon?" in English is "Hvordan hoy er manen?" in Norwegian. It will also translate web pages to and from more than 30 different languages, including French, German, and Spanish, but also Hausa, Hindi, and Urdu (try it out on the DA site www.districtadministration.com).

There are now more than 4 million English Language Learners (ELL) nationwide, representing more than 180 languages, so it is impossible for administrators to hire enough bilingual staff members and prepare programs to support all those diverse groups, and it is becoming essential to turn to technology. In fact, while it is easy to think of the internet as an American English-speaking phenomenon, this is far from reality, and the fastest-growing online languages are Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Portuguese, and Spanish, respectively. The search engines Google and Yahoo offer interfaces in scores of languages, which make it easier for "English as a second language" learners to use web resources and follow events in their native countries.

Evolving Language Tools

Language and translation tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated, such as proficiency solutions from Rosetta Stone, while the interest in audible technologies is exploding. …

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