Your kids can find answers to everything online. If they need to find something out, they just Google it, and you do the same thing. Google (and other search engines) have made it a cinch to connect with the information we’re seeking. In literally seconds, we can be learning about anything at all.
Google in particular has a ton of products and services that make our lives easier. In our multicultural society, one of the more prominent ones is Google Translate. And if your kids are like most kids, they probably think Google Translate is sufficient enough for all their foreign language needs.
As a parent, you know Google Translate isn’t enough. It’s no substitute for really learning and understanding a language. It’s helpful, of course, but ain’t nothin’ like the real thing, baby. You know it, but how can you convince your kids of it? Here are some things you can tell them about the importance of actually learning a second (or third, or more) language.
Google Translate is Fast, but It Isn’t Always Fast Enough
You can put anything in English into Google Translate, and it will tell you how to say it in any language you choose. If you don’t understand something written in another language, put it in Google Translate and you’ll quickly find out what it says.
This is great for surfing the Internet and typing, but it just doesn’t work in a real, live conversation. If your kids want to communicate in person with someone who speaks another language, they can’t take the time to put every word and phrase into Google Translate before talking. While the Internet can do a lot of things for us, it can’t hold our conversations for us (yet).
Google Translate isn’t Perfect
Again, Google Translate is an amazing tool. I am not here to bash it or say it should never be used. I love Google Translate, and it has many practical applications. But just like most Internet-based programs, it’s not perfect.
It will not always know how to translate something, and it won’t always give you the correct translation. In particular, it can’t determine what is actually meant by what is said (typed). It has no context to draw upon, so sometimes words with more than one meaning will be used incorrectly. When it comes to getting it right or completing your language homework, Google Translate won’t guarantee an ‘A’.
Google Translate Won’t Expose You to Culture and New People
When you learn a language, you don’t just learn how to say things. You learn about a whole new culture and way of life. When you speak any second language, you can successfully communicate with more people in the world.
Experiencing new cultures and meeting new people are the real benefits of learning another language. Google Translate is no substitute for that. In order to fully appreciate and find value in another language, you have to learn it and use it for yourself. Let your kids know – they’ll probably enjoy it.
Gregory van Wiel is a dutch-born language expert who teaches accent classes to those trying to learn English. He is a huge advocate of the importance of language and loves to write about it.
Photo Credit: danielgamberg