I had forgotten to post this tool on the resources page, but it really is nice and easy to use. I’ll add it to the resources after this post.
Linguee is a multilingual dictionary that also crawls the web for translated pages (such as different language versions of sites for multinational companies) and presents source and target translations side-by-side. Basically, it treats the web as a multilingual parallel corpus.
A student in class today had produced the expression “sum taste” in reference to food at a restaurant. She explained that her dictionary gave “sum” as a translation for the Japanese word “和” (wa). This is accurate. 和 does mean “sum”, as in “the sum of the triangle’s angles is 180”. However, 和 also has meanings of “harmony” and “Japanese (style)”, among others. Her dictionary lists those meanings, but it does not explain them. She assumed (not wholly illogically) that “sum” (a word she didn’t know) would fit her construction. Of course, a student could try to look the word up in a monolingual dictionary, but that’s an extra step and a hassle after already using a bilingual dictionary.
Enter Linguee. A search for 和 listed the same three meanings as her dictionary, but by scrolling down she was presented with a bunch of real-world translations. She was able to scan the Japanese text, compare it to English translations, and quickly ascertained that “sum” wasn’t right for her construction because it was used for topics like mathematics and computer science. After scanning a few more results she found one that seemed to have the sense of the word that she wanted, a sense related to food and/or cultural producs. Further scrolling revealed more translations that appropriate for the function she was seeking. In her revision, she settled on the expression “Japanese taste”.
In my experience this kind of error, where students make an improper word selection from a bilingual dictionary, is very common. Linguee is good for avoiding/correcting such errors while exposing students to authentic language. Plus, it has a simple interface so students should be able to feel comfortable using it on their own.
Now to go add it to the Resources page.