O’Neill, Errol M.*
The University of Memphis, USA (email@example.com)
Online translators have become an ever-present component of language learning. Recent research has found that online translators are used for graded work at least sometimes by 87.7% of intermediate students learning Spanish and French (O’Neill, 2019). The same percentage of students self-reports using online dictionaries. Given how widespread these tools are, the impact of their usage needs to be explored. Although some research has looked into the effects of online translation on writing, no previous study has compared the composition scores of students using online translators with those using online dictionaries. This article reports the results of a study with over 1,000 compositions written by students in one of five groups: online translation use after training, online translation use with no training, online dictionary use after training, online dictionary use without training, and writing with the use of neither of these tools. The results (p < 0.05) show that students who used Google Translate after training scored the highest of all five groups on both experimental writing tasks, followed by those who used an online dictionary with prior training. The group that fared the least well was that which used neither tool. A posttest and delayed posttest however showed mixed results for online translators. Based on these findings, and given the difficulty of prohibiting the use of these tools on graded work outside the classroom, the author argues for training students in the responsible use of online dictionaries and translators for second language writing.
Keywords: online translation; online dictionaries; CALL; L2 writing; educational technology