A Note About Cheating, Plagiarism, and the Use of Translation Tools

Online translation tools are not permitted for use in class.

Why?  One of the most important objectives of Foreign Languages courses is that students will be able to present oral and written ideas and information in the target language.  In order to achieve this objective, students must express themselves with their own language skills and ability.  Therefore, work that shows evidence of help from a native Spanish speaker will not be accepted.  Plagiarism and/or copying paragraphs and/or sentences with no or very few changes will not be accepted.  The use of electronic translation tools (such as Google Translate) ARE NOT permitted for any assignment for the following reasons:

1.   It is not the student’s own work.

2.   Translation tools are often not correct (in a twisted, comical way, usually  ).

3.   Translation tools do not understand idiomatic expressions, context, or registers of language, which results in inauthentic language.

4.  Although students may occasionally be allowed to use a dictionary or other resource for writing, these resources are simply that – resources.  Students are still required to demonstrate their language proficiency through writing and speaking.  Translation tools do all of the thinking and writing, and therefore, the student is not completing the performance activity nor demonstrating his/her language proficiency. 

5.  On a practical level, may or may not be available as one travels throughout the world.  One needs to rely on and build one’s own knowledge and ability to express oneself.


I find it necessary to stress this heavily when teaching Spanish, not necessarily  because students trying to cheat is an issue.  Rather, over the years I have learned that students don’t think about the difference between an online dictionary sites and online translation sites.  I have also realized that students don’t think about the difference between translating a single word, and translating phrases or whole sentences (which includes grammatical structures).  Technology has made it equally effortless to do both, and until they are shown the difference, students aren’t aware of it.  And this is a HUGE complication when it comes to student learning and comprehension. 

So I will talk about this in great detail in the classroom, and will help students get familiar with the site Wordreference.  This is the only site I approve of students using as a dictionary site.  Students will be clear on how to use the site properly, and on what is and is not allowed. Of course it is a given that copying others work and plagiarism is cheating. 

Consequences- An assignment which exhibits any of the above will be considered to be plagiarized.  Students will adhere to a strict policy of academic integrity.  Student work should be his/her own.  This includes all tests, quizzes, homework assignments, and projects.  Collaborative work is only permitted with the teacher’s permission.  Work which violates this policy will be given a grade of *zero.

*Depending on the nature of the assignment, the student may be required to complete the work again for partial credit. This will be determined by Sra. Miller.


For an idea of how online translation sites can result in more comedy than clarity, watch A Wicked Deception.

For text a little close to home, watch Jimmy Fallon and Idris Elba sing the Google Translate versions of Baby Got Back (Baby Escaped) , Baby One More Time Meet My Kids), and I'll Make Love to You (I'll Place Kindness on You).