Tools and Tricks: Google Translate

“Wow, your kid goes to a Spanish school. You must speak Spanish, huh?” Um, no…I do not in fact speak Spanish. Prior to my son starting kindergarten, my Spanish knowledge was limited to what I picked up from Sesame Street in the mid-80s. I took 2 years of French in high school so could order a mean Croque Monsieur on our honeymoon in Paris but that isn’t going to do me much good now. Hey, I was better off than my husband and his high school Latin experience, but nevertheless, we were starting from scratch. Either way, we quickly learned we’d need some tools and tricks to help us help our son.

That’s when we found our biggest go-to tool. Behold the power of Google Translate. If you are an immersion parent and haven’t used Google Translate yet, you are missing out! It’s no secret Google seeks to make pretty much every aspect of our lives easier. It has literally transformed the way we learn and seek out new information. So long Encylopedia Britannica, Google is every students' go to now. So it was no surprise, Google has transformed the translation process and made Spanish much more accessible for us non-Spanish speaking parents. The Google Translate app is available for both Apple and Android based devices.

After downloading the app, you will have many translation options right at your fingertips. At the very top of the home screen, you have the option to choose between which languages to translate. We have not only utilized the option to translate from Spanish to English but also the other way around. This is a great way to check your child’s work and see if they are actually writing what they think they are writing. You can do this via live images, photos, hand written messages, live conversations and typed text. There are so many options!

More than any other, we use the live image translation option. After giving the app access to your camera and photos, you can simply hold your device over an image and it will translate it in real time! The possibilities with this are endless. I have found that while it is not perfect every time, it is a quick and easy way to check for meaning while reading with my son. Some words are off and may not translate exactly, but by hovering over the page, I can get the gist of it. My Spanish reading comprehension level is that of about a beginning 1st grader, so it is an easy way to do a quick check of the text as we work through my son’s more advanced second grade texts. No doubt, after this I’m nearly ready to translate War and Peace for sure…..

In addition to the live translation feature, we also like the scan feature. This feature allows you to take photo of something and then highlight what words you would like to translate. Not only is this helpful when working with Spanish books and homework, I think it could be helpful when visiting my son’s classroom. All those posters, the classroom rules and expectations, the daily schedule, I could easily take a photo of these next time I’m in the classroom, scan them and know exactly what is expected in the classroom. Nothing’s getting by this mama just because I don’t speak the language!

So immersion moms and dads, clear some space on your phones. If you’re like me, start by deleting the dozens of random photos your kids took of nothing at all. But regardless, Google Translate is a must have as you navigate the task of raising bilingual kids.


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