Google Translate in the EFL Classroom

Taboo or Teaching Tool?


  • Jonathan Benda Northeastern University



English, ELT, Google translate, machine translation, second language writing, Chinese


While composition has become more open to issues of world Englishes and more aware of how English writing is taught and learned in countries other than the United States, one of the issues that needs further investigation concerns the influence of increasingly powerful and accessible technologies for translation on the teaching of English writing in places where English is not the language of local communication. The most widely available technology for translation, Google Translate, can quickly convert large amounts of text from one language to another, though it does it with varying amounts of accuracy. Despite its sometimes egregious mistakes, however, it is fast becoming a tool not only for people who want to read online texts written in another language, but for composing texts. How students of English as a foreign language (EFL) might use translation technologies such as Google’s translation function when composing is an important question because it stretches (perhaps uncomfortably) the boundaries of what it means to “write in English.” How should EFL writing teachers integrate the use of such technologies into their teaching? In this article, I will explore the context of Google translation use in one country where English is not a language of local communication. Finally, I will suggest ways to use this phenomenon to rethink the notion of what it means to teach EFL writing in an age of increasingly sophisticated machine translation.

Author Biography

Jonathan Benda, Northeastern University

Jonathan Benda teaches writing at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. Prior to coming to Boston, he taught English in Taiwan for 16 years. He received a Ph.d. in composition and cultural rhetoric from Syracuse University. He has published articles in Intercultural Communication Studies and Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies. His research interests include intercultural communication, second language writing, rhetorical history, and Taiwan studies.



How to Cite

Benda, J. (2014). Google Translate in the EFL Classroom: Taboo or Teaching Tool?. Writing and Pedagogy, 5(2), 317–332.



Reflections on Practice