Making the most of online translators in foreign language classes by Charlene Polio. CLEAR News, volume 12, issue 2, Fall 2008
I laugh every time I see an assignment that used an online translator. Despite our warnings, there will always be some students who try to use the translator and get a way with it. They just think it is so much easier to just plug it in and paste it on the sheet. This is much less work than actually using their brains to think about it. This article does have a point in suggesting using this as a teachable moment. I do agree that if we go over these translated documents then the students would be able to see how they don't correlate. No one really listens when we tell them to not do something...It's better to let them to do it and then brainstorm together why it doesn't work!
It would definitely be a good activity to have different pieces of text to have them all take home and put in an online translator. Then have them post it on their blogs and have them comment on each other's translation to see if they figured out what the translated text means in English. It would be a good laugh to see how wrong this can be.
The article also talks about learning how to use the translator effectively. Simple sentences do work and they can use it to check certain things. So with the activity above, some of the text given to them to translate could be translated correctly via the translator. This way, the class can see how it is useful and when it is not.