The Google Translate Experiment

Two teens from Italy in Portland, ME over the summer.  One teen librarian.
What the heck is gonna bring them together?

It’s not a mind blowing idea.  But I will tell you this…it works.  Here’s our simple story about how we bonded thanks to some technology.

For the first two days, our interaction was limited to “computer” and “yes”.  They wanted the computer and I was happy to provide them with access.  It seemed to be the one bright point in their time at the library.  They could log onto to Facebook and chat with their friends back home.  Smiles erupted from their faces and for a brief moment, I was happy that I could give them that little bit of happiness.  But the librarian in me kept on brainstorming.  How can I extend their happiness?  There’s got to be more to America for these teens than just one hour of talking with their friends on the computer.

Enter Google Translate.  It started with one simple message:

Ti prego di perdonarmi. Non parlo italiano, ma spero che se io uso questo strumento posso parlare con voi.

Their first response?  They decided to forgo the Italian and communicate with me through a smile that went from ear to ear.

Their first use for the Google Translate came to me in the form of a question:

Una grande idea! Puoi aiutarci a imparare l’inglese?

Perfect.   I was able to see that the teens really wanted something more out of their trip than just some time in the states over the summer.  They wanted to learn English.  While I could not be their full time tutor, I could give them a start.  We exchanged some basic words and phrases in person, which we then went over using Google Translate to help us understand them a bit better.  Ciao, posso aiutarti con qualcosa oggi? was my first attempt at Italian and it has stuck in my head.  So, I guess this works…

Flash forward to a few weeks later.  The teens are regulars at the library a few times a week.  We learn some phrases each time they come in, but thanks to another librarian at my library the teens now have a tutor who speaks fluent Italian and teaches them English in the library.  Cool stuff.  Thank you Google Translate.

La biblioteca … la lingua universale

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor