Thursday, May 18, 2006

French, Spanish, What's the Diff?

A friend of mine, Don, teaches high school Spanish. I see him at the gym from time to time and today he told me this story. He assigned his class a short essay in Spanish--only about a page, but they moaned and groaned anyway. For help with vocabulary, he allowed the use of those hand-held translators so many students use these days. (I would have said that was his first mistake--cursory use of even a dictionary can result in dangerous translations, but I think he didn't realistically have a choice.) A girl turned in her essay and it was unintelligible--nearly every word was wrong. In conference, he discovered what she had done: her translator was set to English-French, not English-Spanish, and she hadn't noticed a problem. I can only hope that this girl has learned a valuable lesson--but I doubt it.