In a French class, students are always at different levels of French proficiency. On one end of the spectrum, you have those who excel at everything, show cultural interest, and participate until you want to tape their hand to the desk. Ahem, that only happened to me once. On the other hand, you have those who cower from questions, never volunteer to read, and have poor speaking, writing, and listening skills.

The funny part is that when our teacher assigns a take-home writing assignment, the entire class is amazed when a French zero instantly becomes the next French J.K Rowling. It’s a little obvious, you’re not fooling anyone.

How do the teachers know?
From my experience with translators… they don’t provide me with reliable French sentences. Although you may get away with Google translating simple sentences, it really isn’t worth the trouble of copying down a wrong sentence? Plus, do you really learn anything from typing into a translator? If you didn’t speak French at all, and Google translated a sentence, you have no idea what you’re saying! Now, a Google Translation may help a little if you translated from French to English (then you try to decipher the broken English).

What’s the best way to translate a French sentence? Use common sentence constructions and try to use words that you know would work in a certain context. If you’re at a loss for a word (or maybe even a set of words), then use a French to English dictionary or try Word Reference. I find that the process of searching for the word allows me to better remember the word for future reference (more effort = more results). Right after you use the word, you should write it down on a piece of paper a few times with the definition to solidify it in your memory a little more. If you’re reading a French text and come across an unfamiliar word, try to guess it from the sentence’s context, then confirm your assumption with a dictionary.

By looking up words and avoiding Google Translate, you will actually learn new French words and produce nicer French sentences. So, what’s your experience with Google Translate?

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