EBEFL asks: should we use translation software?

I was recently presented with an almost flawless piece of writing from a students whose English level precluded her producing such an almost flawless piece of writing. Initially I thought, “oh no…we have to have *that* conversation”…

In her tutorial the student guilty confessed to using translation software. I told her I was surprised because google translate famously produces awful translations from Japanese to English. “ah” she said, “I didn’t use google”.

She directed me to a site called DeepL. I threw a bit of Japanese in from Wikipedia and this is what I got out.


Now this isn’t perfect but it’s pretty damn good. For good measure I threw it into google translate and got a pretty good rendering too.

google translate

I was quite surprised at how good the Google Translate version was. But I shouldn’t have been . Sure, it was an endless source of comedy in 2004 when it produced weird and wacky sentences, but that was 15 years ago and technology moves on (in 2004 no one thought computers would beat humans at Go any time soon, that happened in 2015. There is an excellent documentary about it online). Google translate switched to using “Neural Machine Translation” around 2017 and this has reportedly led to much better quality translations.

So, is there any point in banning students from using translation software to write their essays anymore, particularly in EAP contexts? We wouldn’t mind them using dictionaries to translate words, and rather than just banning them, perhaps we could focus on getting them to use this tool more effectively? It certainly beats receiving a paid for or plagiarised submission.

Let me know your thoughts.


So after 8 years I have decided to move to WordPress. There are a few reasons for this but I won’t bore you with the details.

You have probably noticed that the name has changed slightly. I did this because although I don’t see anything wrong with the term “Evidence based teaching”, some people do and can get a bit stuck on the idea that evidence based means “dictated by the evidence only”. I don’t see it that way but I also don’t think it is an important enough hill to die on. My twitter account will remain EBEFL, but the blog name has changed.

All of the content from the previous site should still be here but a lot of the hyperlinks no longer work. If you see one that isn’t working and draw my attention to it then I will fix it. There are over 150 posts so it could take me a while to sort this all out!