imtranslator

Check this out. It will be a regular part of my new routine:

www.imtranslator.com

I will publish an article about an expanded weekly schedule – one that takes more like two weeks to get through everything I want to do with a story – later, but basically instead of the Three Steps forming my weekly routine now, I have a schedule that could take up to two, even three weeks to get through. Here is the rough sequence I am working with right now:

  • PQA – with dictée mixed in as an option to give more practice in writing (not for level 1 classes)
  • Story – with artist’s drawing. Also the option to have the kids fill out the story script with their cute answers before the story to get ideas as per David Maust/Laurie Clarcq/Michele Whaley.
  • Reading – usually Reading Option A
  • Dictée – tried and true
  • imtranslator – put the text of the story and the machine reads it in the TL to the class. Good bc the kids hear the real French accent.
  • Freewrite based on the original three structures for this sequence
  • Textivate – various uses

(quizzes happen all through this sequence of activities)

That’s just a rough plan and is being tested now, but you can see how these other blue chip ideas we’ve been having, and now this new tool called imtranslator, really have to be integrated into the old schedule some of us have been following. The stuff like Textivate and imtranslator is just too good, and past level 1 we need to bring in these other programs that more aggressively address writing, etc.

What’s sweet about imtranslator is that the kids totally know the entire text of the story beforehand bc of all the basic three step listening and reading repetitions that have preceded its use. Not only that, but the first time we play the imtranslator version of the class story, we can play it really slowly, then speed it up, etc.

The combination of all the reps from the basic TPRS work we did earlier using the three steps and the ability to slow down and speed up what the kids are hearing from imtranslator will be a very very very powerful addition to our teaching repertoire. Not only that, we can use imtranslator to give a dictée, just by periodically hitting the stop button in the text box, thus saving our voices throughout the day.

The great advantage we have over teachers who don’t use CI is that our kids can understand complex texts in the imtranslator precisely because we use CI. It’s an awesome program for foreign language teachers that integrates seamlessly with comprehensible input and Krashen. It will only help our efforts to bring better and better CI based instruction to our kids.

One other huge point made by chill about the use of imtranslator when a kid is absent is this:

…if a kid is absent and they have an account, all they need to do is cut and paste and they can read and listen to the story they missed in class. You could also do some circling for a kid who was out for a longer absence….

That last point right there is gold!

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35 thoughts on “imtranslator”

  1. Home sick today so I have time to play with all of this. I have been forced to extend your ideal 5 day schedule since I have a weird schedule. With my French 1 and two classes, I am still doing the Brrr story with the reading and the embedded version, the two quizzes, but I still think I have not exhausted all of the possibilities like dictee and Laurie’s supported writing, essential sentences, and Robert’s story frames. In level two especially, I see an opportunity to purposefully re-enter old stuff. Looks interesting.

  2. If nothing else, they hear the story presented by another speaker, and at different speeds. That’s mainly what I’ll use imtranslator for.

    I agree that essential sentences and story frames could and should be included in this new, wider schedule, for the writing piece.

    Important thing to say here is that the three structures for the original story, and the story itself, form a strong glue, or foundation, for the other spin off work. Many teachers use technology and such without providing for the kids a sound base in a specific text, so it makes it very hard for them, since they haven’t acquired those new terms. How can a kid write unless they have acquired? How many kids these days think that it is a good and normal thing, even honorable, to plug a writing assignment into a translating program and submit it as their work?

  3. The reverse translator is supposed to be a double check of original text. I typed in Je m’appelle Carol. and got “I am Chantent joyeusement.” There are still some limitations on that kind of translation – the kind the kids like to use, but the voice thing works perfectly! This prolonged schedule should really let us feel the “kathunk”!

  4. I have just subscribed to this. The voice thing sounds like a real winner to me. Especially so they don’t have to keep hearing my voice all day. This will give our voices a rest and they get to hear an authentic voice. Sounds like it could be used for quizzes too maybe? Just have the quiz typed up and play the quiz and have kids answer on a piece of paper. This is good stuff! thanks Ben.

  5. Dude the quiz. Nice. Why not? We could even have the Quiz Writer in a level 2 or above class send to us via email as an attachment the quiz they created in the TL during the story and we could quickly fix any errors, plop it into IMT and have the quiz ready to go with the next day reading.

  6. If a kid is absent and they have an account, all they need to do is cut and paste and they can read and listen to the story they missed in class. You could also do some circling for a kid who was out for a longer absence.

  7. I just checked it out and I like the voice. I think I would just use it for the voice and having students hear the story again for now. A technology question for the group. What do you have in your classrooms to facilitate this or textivate. Do all the students have laptops or ipads? I have very few opportunities to have all the students on computers in during my class. Just wondering.
    Charlotte

    1. Personally I normally project textivate up on to the smartboard (I just really use the projector not any of the smart features), so that we can do it as a class. However, I do have somewhat regular access to a laptop cart and have the kids od it on their own as well.

      As a sub-plan I have reserved the laptops and had the kids work on textivate and playing the video-games on the Sr. Wooley site (spanish only!) which I absolutely love. Of course this is after we have done it a number of times in class together.

    2. I have nothing. The best I can do is to have my laptop and hook it up to a flat screen TV that is sometimes available. I technically could also borrow a projector, but I don’t really have space to project anything on the walls, so I have to use the window shades. But the windows are not centrally located.

      Internet in our school goes down daily, so it is always stressful to plan anything that relies on being online bc half the time it doesn’t work.

      But yeah, we are supposed to be adding all this technology. I still have not tried the textivate thing yet. Maybe over Feb. break I can test it out, and also this new thing. I would love to be able to use an alternate voice!

  8. I just run it through my LCD. The file that I paste into imtranslator is too small to be seen on the screen, so I just minimize the IMT window and open up the original Word file of the story and project that.

  9. How do you all deal with the fact that the voice pauses at the wrong times (unless that is only an issue with German) in a sentence, or rather doesn’t pause between the end of one sentence and the beginning of another. It is especially noticeable if there is dialogue in the story.
    Other than that, terrific tool (much like voki, but you can have a longer text).

    1. The punctuation is there – actually, I had to go in and fix some of it manually because it added some random question marks, etc. So, I guess it’s because it’s a machine. Anyway, I’ll keep playing around with it, maybe adding some periods where there shouldn’t be any just to improve the intonation. It’s definitely worth it!

    2. There were a few little glitches in the voice and it actually read “point d’exclamation” as part of the story. I am going to try taking out the quotation marks to see if it makes a difference. Even with the occaisional hitches, it’s a great tool.

  10. I’m glad I read your comments before I tried it. I know Mvskoke isn’t going to be there. I also don’t have much time to waste on technology. What I have done is have some of the stories we’ve written read by a master speaker into my tune-sucker (digital recorder). Then I’ve put those on a CD and sent it home with my students so they can listen in their cars and before bed.

    Parents get a new understanding of how hard their child is working to get a sense of Mvskoke since we have few cognates. They have been really supportive as their child translates for them.

  11. I’m glad I read this thread. Thanks for the learning sequence, Ben. There is truly beauty in simplicity

    I’m not finding the importance of essential sentences so much when teaching levels 1 and 2 since we are only reading class stories. The class stories have a plot, but no real essential sentences.

    I love IMTranslator in that it’s another voice. I can tell, however, that kids get kinda frustrated with it. It’s just that there’s nothing like a human voice speaking WITH you. Facial expressions and things… a calm and caring demeanor… are so important to convey meaning.

    1. Sean, I use the Essential Sentences format in levels 1 and 2 as training for later reading (and to meet the requirement that we do “higher level thinking skills”). As I explained to my class recently, they already know the story they created, so they can concentrate on learning the procedure rather than having to process procedure and content at the same time. I also told them that not every text deserves closer scrutiny; a lot of reading is just for fun, so read and enjoy it. BTW, there are Essential Sentences in the class stories. These are the sentences that you absolutely have to have to tell the story – i.e. the target structures with their “wrapping”, so getting students to “analyze” the story and copy down the Essential Sentences is really just another way to give them more comprehensible input.

  12. Ben, the sequence I was referring to is what you have at the top of this article:

    “PQA – with dictée mixed in as an option to give more practice in writing (not for level 1 classes)

    Story – with artist’s drawing. Also the option to have the kids fill out the story script with their cute answers before the story to get ideas as per David Maust/Laurie Clarcq/Michele Whaley.

    Reading – usually Reading Option A

    Dictée – tried and true

    imtranslator – put the text of the story and the machine reads it in the TL to the class. Good bc the kids hear the real French accent.

    Freewrite based on the original three structures for this sequence

    Textivate – various uses

    (quizzes happen all through this sequence of activities)”

  13. Robert, thank you for the persuasive argument on Essential Sentences. I think I’m getting it.

    “These are the sentences that you absolutely have to have to tell the story.”

    The truth is that I’ve only had my students identify Essential Sentences once or twice this year (drawing an interpretation as well, as you suggested, Robert). I need to include them on a more regular basis.

  14. Plunking around on my MacBook Pro, I recently discovered Apple’s Dictation & Speech feature. It works better than IMTranslator.

    1. (I would like to give more info but I keep getting an “Access Denied” notice when I try to post…)

      If you have a MacBook, go to System Preferences –> Dictation & Speech, and look at how you can have a lovely voice in your L2 read your story for you as you leave the story in a Word doc on the screen for the class. It’s much easier to use than IMTranslator.

      1. Wow! That’s awesome!
        On my Mac, if I click the FUNCTION key twice I can then speak and the computer types for me! Up to 30 seconds at a time. You have to say the punctuation you want.
        You can add a L2 voice and hold OPTION + ESC to have the computer read the text.
        I need more space on my computer to add an L2 voice.

          1. I had plenty of space on my computer to download 2 Colombian voices, 2 Spanish voices, and 3 Mexican voices. I didn’t know my computer was so cool.

      2. Thank you for sharing this! The voices can be adjusted for speed, too. It seems like the slowest or nearly slowest speed might be ok, as long as there are pauses for students to process what they hear. We’ll see. Ting-Ting sounds great in the test voice, and Mei-Jia is still downloading. It was a HUGE 1.3 Gig download for 2 voices, but so far seems to be enough space.

        Something to give the amount of reading aloud in class another voice, literally, would be nice.

        1. I totally agree with you, Diane, that the reading speed is not slow enough. Just more proof that no technology can beat us living, breathing teachers.

  15. Ting-Ting is PRC Chinese, and she just announced the time (you can tell it to speak the time every 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or just on the hour). But she said the numbers in Chinese & the rest in Chinese-accented English! Back to the settings window!

    Mei-Jia is Taiwanese. Slightly less nasal-sounding voice; I don’t know if it’s set up so they can both read any Chinese text, or if I’m going to need to pick Ting-Ting for simplified script and Mei-Jia for traditional script. (For any other Chinese teachers who may read this, that’s one of the problems with Voki.com animated characters; you can’t get the Hong Kong or Taiwanese voices to read simplified script.)

    1. Ok, today I still can’t get Ting-Ting to stop saying things like, “Eetss BA o’clockeh” (where BA means eight in Chinese) and instead tell me “Xianzai ba dian zhong.” (“It’s 8 o’clock” in Chinese.)

      Eric, Sean, have you attempted to make your computer clock speak L2 on the hour? Can you figure out how to get entirely L2 and not accented L1 + number in L2? Meanwhile, I’ve turned off the clock voice. I tested the reading voices: they’re ok, and both Chinese voices can read simplified script correctly. One drawback is at a slower speed, they sound more mechanical/distorted.

      We’ll see what the students think.

  16. I would love to see how this all works! What a boon for crazy elementary teacher schedules – 39 classes a week!!
    When I go to system preferences on my MacBook Pro [is that the problem?], there’s a “Language and Text” button under “personal” and a microphone labeled “Speech” under ‘System.’ There are only a few gringo names including ‘Alex’ and when I ‘see more names’ they are not Spanish speakers’ names…where do I need to add the Spanish language so that I can get Pedro to read to me?

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