Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My Job Just Got a Lot Harder

When Google casts its gaze on something, it does it twice as good for half the price. The same holds true with their new translation service. Holy Crap. It's bad enough that my students already try and sneak by using to translate their work, now I've got to contend with Google's new translation service (thanks to Dr. Amy George-Hirons for the link). Holy crud, it's powerful.

As a test, I went and entered these lyrics into babelfish:

There is a house in New Orleans,
they call the rising sun,
and it's been the ruin of many a poor boy
and God! I know, I'm one

Babelfish yielded this translation:

Hay una casa en New Orleans,
llaman el sol de levantamiento,
y se es la ruina de muchos al muchacho pobre,
y dios, sé, yo soy uno

A decent translation, but it has a few errors and missing words; levantamiento means "rising" as in "yeast," etc. Also, it reads like a Luis de Góngora poem. Google, on the other hand, gave forth this:

Hay una casa en Nueva Orleans,
que ellos llaman el sol naciente;
ha sido la ruina de muchos niños pobres,
Y Dios! Sé que soy uno

For those of you not gifted with the gift of tongues, not only is the Google translation syntactically correct, it even picked up on little things like "Nueva" with Orleans, because it's modifying "la ciudad de Nueva Orleans." The only thing missing really is "de ellos" from the end of the last line, which really isn't necessary other than to clarify what kind of "one" the singer is.

This is a great tool, but it's going to allow Spanish students to cheat at a level that will virtually make them beyond reproach. Ugh! As a Spanish teacher, this makes me very sad. I'm just glad I'm not teaching high school!


Ben and Carolyn said...

How funny that I found your blog today while you were lamenting the new translation deal. I think that you'll be touched by the irony of the reason that I googled you (and subsequently found your blog.) My email is and you can click on my name to find my blog. Send me your email, will ya?

Norman said...

Hey Mac,
Can't you just ask them to parse the words they're using? That should reveal pretty quickly who knows what they're doing and who's cheating. I would also advise you to make the penalties for the known cheaters very steep.

Susanna Williams said...


In-class essays! How do comp teachers know their students aren't plagarizing?