Translation Apps: Increasing Communication with Dual Language Learners

  • Vickie E. Lake
  • Amber H. BeislyEmail author


Dual language learners (DLLs) represent one of the fastest growing populations in classrooms, and yet many teachers are monolingual and not trained in English as a Second Language. Many teachers strive to create an anti-bias classroom that puts goals of diversity and equity at the center of all that they do, but are unsure of effective strategies for communicating with all students. By supporting the home language, teachers show their DLLs and native English speakers that every child’s home language is important and welcome in the classroom. Using translation apps can help teachers talk to their students, build relationships with children and families, and support bilingualism. Once teachers and children can communicate successfully, DLLs can increase their understanding of content, engagement, motivation, communication, and sense of self-esteem. The three apps discussed in this article, Speak and Translate, Microsoft Translator, and Google Translate have been shown to be helpful in facilitating interactions with children in their home language. Additional information is provided on using these apps, as well as their potential benefits and drawbacks.


Dual language learners Translation apps Technology Anti-bias curriculum 



  1. Andrei, E. (2017). Technology in teaching English language learners: The case of three middle school teachers. TESOL Journal, 8(2), 409–431.Google Scholar
  2. Apalon. (n.d.). Retrieved from:
  3. Association for Childhood Education International (2006). ACEI global guidelines assessment. Retrieved from:
  4. Bakir, N. (2016). Technology and teacher education: A brief glimpse of the research and practice that have shaped the field. TechTrends, 60(1), 21–29.Google Scholar
  5. Beare, K. (2018). How many people learn English? Retrieved from
  6. Bentley, J. (2014). Report from TESOL 2014: 1.5 Billion English learners worldwide. Retrieved from
  7. Brown, C. P., Englehardt, J., & Mathers, H. (2016). Examining preservice teachers’ conceptual and practical understanding of adopting iPads into their teaching of young children. Teaching and Teacher Education, 60, 179–190.Google Scholar
  8. Brown-Jeffy, S., & Cooper, J. E. (2011). Toward a conceptual framework of culturally relevant pedagogy: An overview of the conceptual and theoretical literature. Teacher Education Quarterly, 38(1), 65–84.Google Scholar
  9. Burden, K., & Hopkins, P. (2016). Barriers and challenges facing pre-service teachers use of mobile technologies for teaching and learning. International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning (IJMBL), 8(2), 1–20.Google Scholar
  10. Carlo, M. S., August, D., McLaughlin, B., Snow, C., Dressler, C., Lippman, D., et al. (2009). Closing the gap: Addressing the vocabulary needs of English-language learners in bilingual and mainstream classrooms. Journal of Education, 189(1–2), 57–76.Google Scholar
  11. de Souza, M. (2017). Understanding Mexican immigrant students in American schools: A case study of two Preparatorias in México. Cogent Education. Scholar
  12. Derman-Sparks, L., & Edwards, J. O. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.Google Scholar
  13. Derman-Sparks, L., LeeKeenan, D., & Nimmo, J. (2015). Leading anti-bias early childhood programs: A guide for change. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.Google Scholar
  14. Division for Early Childhood/National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2009). Early childhood inclusion: A joint position statement of the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Retrieved from:
  15. Dixon, K. (2018). Seven reasons for teacher to welcome home languages in education. Retrieved from:
  16. Ertmer, P. A., & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. T. (2010). Teacher technology change: How knowledge, confidence, beliefs, and culture intersect. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 42(3), 255–284.Google Scholar
  17. Frederick, R., Donnor, J. K., & Hatley, L. (2009). Culturally responsive applications of computer technologies in education: Examples of best practice. Educational Technology, 49(6), 9–13.Google Scholar
  18. Gitsaki, C., Robby, M. A., Priest, T., Hamdan, K., & Ben-Chabane, Y. (2013). A research agenda for the UAE iPad initiative. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Gulf Perspectives, 10(2), 1–15.Google Scholar
  19. Goodwin, A. P., & Jiménez, R. (2016). Translate. The Reading Teacher, 69(6), 621–625.Google Scholar
  20. Hammer, C. S., Davidson, M. D., Lawrence, F. R., & Miccio, A. W. (2009). The effect of maternal language on bilingual children’s vocabulary and emergent literacy development during Head Start and kindergarten. Scientific Studies of Reading, 13(2), 99–121.Google Scholar
  21. Ivanova, I., & Costa, A. (2008). Does bilingualism hamper lexical access in speech production? Acta Psychologica, 127, 277–288.Google Scholar
  22. Kaufman, D., & Ireland, A. (2016). Enhancing teacher education with simulations. TechTrends, 60(3), 260–267.Google Scholar
  23. Kim, S. J., Song, A., Lee, G. L., & Bach, A. (2018). Using animated Folktales to teach cultural values: A case study with Korean-American Bilingual Kindergartners. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 32(3), 295–309.Google Scholar
  24. Kohnert, K., Yim, D., Nett, K., Kan, P. F., & Duran, K. (2005). Intervention with linguistically diverse preschool children: A focus on developing home language(s). Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 36, 251–263. Scholar
  25. Leseman, P. P. M., & Van den Boom, D. C. (1999). Effects of quantity and quality of home proximal processes on Dutch, Surinamese–Dutch and Turkish–Dutch preschoolers’ cognitive development. Infant and Child Development, 8, 19–38.Google Scholar
  26. Lin, M., Lake, V. E., & Rice, D. (2008). Teaching anti-bias curriculum in teacher education programs: What and how. Teacher Education Quarterly, 35(2), 187–200.Google Scholar
  27. Liu, M., Navarrete, C., & Wivagg, J. (2014). Potentials of mobile technology for K-12 Education: An investigation of iPod touch use for English language learners in the United States. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 17(2), 115–126.Google Scholar
  28. McDonald, J. (2014). Language travel tips: How to talk to someone who doesn’t speak much English. Retrieved from:
  29. Microsoft Translator. (2018). Retrieved from:
  30. Moeller, B., & Reitzes, T. (2011). Integrating technology with student-centered learning. A report to the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. Education Development Center, Inc.Google Scholar
  31. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2017). Promoting the educational success of children and youth learning English: Promising futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Retrieved from: Scholar
  32. Oller, D. K., & Eilers, R. E. (2002). Language and literacy in bilingual children. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  33. Páez, M. M., Tabors, P. O., & López, L. M. (2007). Dual language and literacy development of Spanish-speaking preschool children. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 28, 85–102.Google Scholar
  34. Park, M., O’Toole, A., & Katiaficas, G. (2017). Dual language learners: A national demographic and policy profile. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.Google Scholar
  35. Perozzi, J. A., & Sanchez, M. L. C. (1992). The effect of instruction in L1 on receptive acquisition of L2 for bilingual children with language delay. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 23(4), 348–352.Google Scholar
  36. Pilgrim, J., Bledsoe, C., & Reily, S. (2012). New technologies in the classroom. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 78(4), 16–22.Google Scholar
  37. Prince, J. (2017). English language learners in a digital classroom. CATESOL Journal, 29(1), 51–73.Google Scholar
  38. Rakes, G. C., Fields, V. S., & Cox, K. E. (2006). The influence of teachers’ technology use on instructional practices. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 38(4), 409–424.Google Scholar
  39. Robertson, K. (2007). Tips for successful parent-teacher conferences with bilingual families. Retrieved from
  40. Ryan, J., Scott, A., & Walsh, M. (2010). Pedagogy in the multimodal classroom: An analysis of the challenges and opportunities for teachers. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 16(4), 477–489.Google Scholar
  41. Suárez-Orozco, M. M. (2007). Learning in the global era: International perspectives on globalization and education. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  42. Subramony, D. (2004). Instructional technologists’ inattention to issues of cultural diversity among learners. Educational Technology, 44(4), 19–24.Google Scholar
  43. TESOL International Association. (n.d.). Mission and values. Retrieved from:
  44. Treffers-Daller, J., Özsoy, A. S., & van Hout, R. (2007). (In)complete acquisition of Turkish among Turkish-German bilinguals in Germany and Turkey: An analysis of complex embeddings in narratives. The International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 10(3), 248–276.Google Scholar
  45. Uccelli, P., & Páez, M. M. (2007). Narrative and vocabulary development of bilingual children from kindergarten to first grade: Developmental changes and associations among English and Spanish skills. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 38, 225–236.Google Scholar
  46. Yi, Y., & Choi, J. (2015). Teachers’ views of multimodal practices in K–12 classrooms: Voices from teachers in the United States. TESOL Quarterly, 49(4), 838–847.Google Scholar
  47. Young, P. (2002). Empowering minority students through tech talk. TechTrends, 46(2), 46–49.Google Scholar
  48. Zumwalt, K., & Craig, E. (2005). Teachers’ characteristics: Research on the demographic profile. In M. Cochran-Smith & K. M. Zeichner (Eds.), Studying teacher education: The report of the AERA Panel on research and teacher education (pp. 157–260). Washington DC: AERA.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OklahomaTulsaUSA

Personalised recommendations