Tech Tips for Translanguaging - Digital Literacy Dover

Thursday 21 November 2019

Tech Tips for Translanguaging

We've been learning a great deal about Translanguaging, but what I'm particularly interested in is the transformative ways that tech can facilitate this, at home, at school, and in between. This post summarises some very effective tools to support translanguaging that are free, easy to use, and that work across a range of devices and platforms. 

At our school we use iPads and laptops, so the affordances differ depending on the device you use, so that's how I have structured this post: 

Google Translate for Translanguaging

Google Translate is the go to tool, and using this effectively is at the heart of effective translanguaging with tech, the effectiveness of this tool just gets better every year; the friendly face of the effective integration of artificial intelligence.  

Search using the home language

Using Google translate so that students can search Google in their home language and therefore get search results that are not translations but that are websites written in their home country by people who speak their home language. This can be tricky if you don't have a keyboard in your home language, or (for younger learners) don't know how to write in your home language, but you can speak it. Kids can type in a search term in English and have it translate into their home language, and then copy/paste that into a Google Search. Or speak the word in their home language and copy the text that appears to use for a search. For example a child researching dolphins: 

Now they can copy the search term, paste it into Google and search for Dolphins in Japanese, including videos: 


... et cetera

Search sites in the home country 

Search Google using the operator site: so that students can find sources from their home country, like this: 

This has the added advantage of providing a perspective on the topic being searched that is more reflective of their home country, although if the browser/device is set to English then the results are likely to be sites from their home country that have been translated (by people not machines) into English. That said, as the site is based in their home country, there will often be an option to switch the site to their home language on the main menu. 

Last and definitely least: Translate

Machines are far inferior to humans when it comes to translation, particularly when it comes to passages of text, as opposed to words, and short sentences, but even a machine translation is better than nothing. Sometimes students will have no choice but to work with a text that is not in their home language, and Google Translate works for that, just bear in mind that it is far from ideal. On laptops in the Chrome Browser, the Google Chrome extension is really handy for translating pages with a click. On iPads this is not an option, but students can paste text into the Google Translate app instead... 

This is particularly useful for parents who need to translate school documentation that may not be available in their home language, then can translate with a click: 

Rewordify works on all devices and interestingly attempts to interpret or paraphrase rather than relying on a direct translation. This can make technical or complex English language more accessible, for example: 

Notice how less accessible, lower frequency words are expanded to make them easier to understand... 


Supporting home languages using iOS is very easy, just press and hold on the emoji icon, and choose Keyboard Settings. From there they can choose their home language, now they can switch keyboard very easily whenever they want to work in their home language. But what makes it very clever is that the dictation tool as smart enough to realise that when this keyboard is selected, you can dictate,  and search in that language as well. So a Google search can be typed or spoken in the home language without needing to use Google Translate at all. 

General Tips 


Use screen recordings so that students can use their home language to narrate artefacts that are created in English. 

Home language browser

For older students (13 and up) they can set up an add a second, personal Google account that is in their home language including all menu commands so they can effectively switch between home language and English with a 4 finger swipe of the trackpad in Google Chrome, one browser in English, one in their home language. 

Home language search settings

Students can configuring the search commands in Google Chrome to operate in their home language instead of English, although this can make it difficult for teachers to support them with their search if they can't read the home language. From in the bottom right corner, they can open up search settings > Languages > Choose their home language and save... 

Google Tools

Google Docs have several features that are not designed with translanguaging in mind, but that are really useful. For example being able to use the Explore and Define options to visualise/define key vocabulary. Not to mention the option to translate an entire Google Doc into their home language as a separate copy.... (Tools > Translate)

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