Teachers Relying on Google Translate to Set Work for Students Who Can’t Speak English

David Jones/PA Wire URN:21969286/AP
File Photo: David Jones/PA Wire URN:21969286/AP

British teachers are having to deal with so many immigrant children that they have to use Google Translate to plan lessons, a union conference has heard.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers was told schools are struggling to cope with high numbers of children who cannot speak English, with students across the country speaking up to 300 different first languages.

Speaking to delegates at the association’s conference, Oxfordshire teacher Joy Wilson said that although schools are having to cope with an ever rising number of “EAL pupils” [students who speak English as a foreign language], teachers have little training in how to deal with them.

She said: “There are now 300 different languages and this is a challenge as we are experiencing growing numbers, and areas of previously no [bilingual] students now have them for the first time.” It can take some students up to seven years to become proficient English, she added, and those with learning difficulties can be even harder to deal with.

The Daily Mail reports that Diane Wilson, who is also from Oxfordshire, told the conference that she was once up until midnight writing lessons for three students who speak English as a second language. She had to make individual instructions for the students in Hungarian and Portuguese using Google Translate.

“Without the appropriate funding, the EAL students do not get the specialist support staff they need,” she said, adding: “The non-EAL students do not get a fair share of the teacher’s time. The stress levels of the teacher go through the roof.”

Heather Emerson from Salford said that she had to learn rudimentary Urdu, Persian, Spanish and Arabic in order to support her students, while Malcolm St John-Smith from Wakefield said that students were not developing their English-language skills at home.

Mr St John-Smith said: “Unless we do something to actively encourage parents to be a part and recognise that they are a part of this problem, it is still going to go on.

“I know of schools where there are over 30 different languages being spoken. How do we expect to be able to cope with that unless we have support from everywhere?”

The proportion of students in British schools who do not speak English as a first language is rising, with official statistics from 2014 showing a rise from 18.1 percent to 18.7 percent in a year in primary schools, with secondary schools experiencing a rise from 13.6 percent to 14.3 percent in the same period.