Why IELTS students should avoid electronic dictionaries or translators

While training one of my students to use complex vocabulary in IELTS Speaking, I have noticed that she was relying quite heavily on using an electronic dictionary/translator to come up with various sentences. Unfortunately, much of what she was saying was rather confusing, as she had translated without considering whether or not the expressions used were appropriate to the contexts they were in. For example, while talking about her past, these were what she mentioned:

I could have great reminiscent about my home.
When I was adolescent, I had a lot of friends.

What she had meant to say was:

I had great memories about my home.
When I was a teenager, I had a lot of friends.

Now, electronic dictionaries or translators can be good value for money when you need immediate translations when visiting a new country and do not know the exact word or expression to describe what you want to say. However, this may fall short if you are considering long-term language learning.

Complete reliance on a gadget or a dictionary/translator is especially dangerous in IELTS Writing. Oftentimes, I have come across student texts that turn out to be just gobbledygook, similar to this example here:

I they haven’t declared to commander still. I need to fulfil with to program counsellor soon.

which has been translated from:

I haven’t declared a major yet. I need to meet with a program counsellor soon.

Some problems  with electronic dictionaries/translators. They tend to:

  • translate at word level instead of phrase level
  • confuse homophones or homographs
  • be unable to translate idioms or non-literal language

IELTS students cannot dream of becoming good writers or speakers if they rely solely on using dictionaries or translators to convert sentences from their first language to English word-for-word. True, you will make mistakes in your speech or writing but this is how you learn; not by literal translations. When submitting your IELTS writing, teachers are usually equipped to handle the type of language mistakes that writers make. However, we simply do not have the tools to correct unnatural mistakes or completely garbled sentences, such as:

When the drinks working towards outside, someone they will have to function to the department store or warehouse.

So, it would be best to avoid translations altogether and consider reading extensively in English to be familiar with how ideas are transformed into sentences. There is no short-cut to improving your vocabulary bank and grammar structures but if students are thinking of developing their language skills, then reading, writing, and listening to English as much as possible would help you do this.

Source: http://www.personal.kent.edu/~jcardune/why-not-use-e-translators.htm

Craig M100
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Until next time!
The IELTS Tutor | IELTS Examiner since 2002

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