Use of Automated Translation Printers in Public Schools


Translation Associations Address the Use of Automated Translation Printers in Public Schools


The American Association of Interpreters and Translators in Education (AAITE), together with the American Translators Association (ATA) and the National Association of Educational Translators and Interpreters of Spoken Languages (NAETISL), warns that the use of automated translation printers in schools could undermine effective communication between parents, teachers, and students, jeopardize meaningful language access, and ultimately impact student success.

Translation machines (which are hardware-based and use technology including machine translation, which is software-based), like the recently publicized “translation station,” may appear to serve multiple purposes, from translating classroom content into the native languages of newly arrived non-English speaking students to providing translated materials for families with limited or no English proficiency. However, while technology may offer rapid solutions, they are not necessarily effective ones. The potential unintended consequences associated with these tools must be carefully considered:

  • Loss of linguistic nuance: Automated systems may not capture cultural references, idiomatic expressions, subtle shifts in emphasis, and other linguistic nuances. This can result in inaccurate translations and misunderstandings between students, families, and educators.
  • Limited ability to adapt language style: Unlike human translators, who adapt their communication style to suit the circumstances, automated systems offer limited customization options, potentially alienating students or families who require tailored language support.
  • Inability to identify errors: If the original text contains errors, such as typos, incorrect grammar, inadvertent homonyms (two words with the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings), or inaccurate statements, a human translator can make an informed decision regarding the appropriate action. This may include consulting with the original author of the text, when possible. A translation machine lacks that ability and will process the text “as is,” with results that may be incomprehensible.
  • Inability to edit finished translations: After the automated translation process is completed, there is no opportunity to correct errors in the translation before the translated text is printed or delivered to families/school staff.
  • Privacy and security concerns: Automated translation machines may raise concerns regarding data privacy and security, especially in educational settings where information governed by HIPAA and FERPA is exchanged on a regular basis.
  • Discrimination and unequal treatment: Students and families with limited English proficiency may ultimately receive incorrect communications, be less informed about the American education system and how they fit into it, and any measures that are put in place to ensure greater student success. This means that families may be receiving unequal treatment based on national origin, which is protected under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The efforts being made to overcome language barriers in education are commendable. AAITE, ATA and NAETISL advocate, however, for a balanced approach to language access and services in schools, one that integrates technology as a tool rather than an oversold solution. By sending out foreign-language materials that have not been vetted by a professional linguist, schools may also risk being held liable for messages they did not mean to send.

The deep understanding of cultural and linguistic nuance offered by human translators, their ability to adapt language to the specific need and setting, to recognize errors in the original and correct errors in the translation, and to ethically handle the confidential information to which they are privy, makes them the best solution and the most effective partners when facing language barriers. To learn more about professional translation and interpreting services or to find a provider in your area, visit the AAITEATA, and NAETISL websites.



The American Association of Interpreters and Translators in Education (AAITE) is a nonprofit professional association for interpreters and translators who work in educational settings, along with interested stakeholders and other allies. AAITE promotes the highest standards for interpreting and translation in educational settings. AAITE is laying a true foundation for a bona fide specialization in educational interpreting and translation.

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