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Call for Abstracts - "Machine Translation & Language Education: Implications for Theory, Research, & Practice"

Guest Editors: Emily Hellmich (University of Arizona) & Kimberly Vinall (De Anza College)

Machine translation—the use of technology to automatically translate from one language to another—took root in the human imaginary in the late 1800s (Poibeau, 2017). Several decades and technological innovations later, machine translation software is increasingly present in our daily lives. These platforms (e.g., Google Translate, DeepL, Amazon Translate, Gengo) enable users to translate emails, web pages, menus, street signs, and even conversations in real time.

The world of language education is intimately implicated in the presence, use, and development of machine translation software at multiple levels. On a classroom level, students are increasingly using machine translation in the classroom and in the “real world,” through travel, study abroad, and work internships. On a professional level, the increased use of machine translation raises questions about the relevance of language education and its future role. Finally, on a societal level, we find ourselves implicated in broader conversations that touch on machine translation’s influence on meaning making, communication, and the very meaning of being human in a digital era.

In this special issue, we ask what is at stake in the use of machine translation for language classrooms, for language students, for language educators and researchers, for the language teaching profession, and for society at large. In doing so, we seek to extend earlier work on machine translation in language education (e.g., Clifford et al., 2013; Ducar & Schocket, 2018; Lee, 2020; Niño, 2009; Stapleton & Kin, 2019; Tsai, 2019) by both expanding the domain of inquiry and by providing detailed pedagogical examples of how language educators might explore the potential benefits of incorporating machine translation into their classrooms.


The special issue will include theoretical articles that explore the relationship between machine translation and different components of language education (language, language teaching, language learning) as well as empirical research articles on the intersection of machine translation and language education contexts. By “language education,” we mean any context in which additional languages are learned (e.g., second, foreign, heritage, etc). Contexts investigated may range in scale: from a single language classroom to institutional language programs to national/international language learning contexts (e.g., study abroad, work programs). Methodological frameworks may also range (e.g., discourse analysis, impact evaluation, case studies, ethnography, mixed methods, and experimental research).

The special issue will also include pedagogically-focused articles that provide concrete and detailed examples of how machine translation can be addressed in the language education classroom with empirically supported considerations of impact on learning. The exact classroom context for these pedagogically-focused articles is open.

Articles in this special issue, therefore, might explore:

1. Epistemology & Ontology of Language: How does machine translation impact what it means to know and learn a language? How does machine translation influence what we understand as language and communication? What is at stake in the rise of accuracy and use of machine translation technologies?

2. Beliefs & Identities: How do different players in the language learning ecology (e.g., department heads, industry employees, technology engineers) understand machine translation? How does machine translation influence the construction of different key players and their roles in language learning (e.g., instructors, students, administrators, etc.)?

3. Use: How do different types of language learners use machine translations of software? What impact does this use have on different aspects of the language learning process (e.g., learning, relationships with peers/instructors, investment in learning, etc.)? Does this use vary in its impact in relationship to levels of instruction, context of instruction, content of instruction, genre, among other considerations?

4. Teaching and Learning Practices: How can instructors incorporate or address machine translation in their classrooms? What strategies are effective in communicating with students about the use of machine translation?


Please submit a 200-300-word abstract to and by July 31, 2020. Inquiries can be directed to the same email addresses.


Authors will be notified of abstract acceptance by August 15, 2020 

Full manuscripts will be due January 15, 2021

Authors receive first-round reviews: March 31, 2021

Revised manuscripts due: July 15, 2021

Special Issue to be published: December 2021/January 2022


Clifford, J., Merschel, L., & Munné, J. (2013). Surveying the landscape: What is the role of machine translation in language learning? @Tic. Revista D’Innovació Educativa, 0(10), 108–121.

Ducar, C., & Schocket, D. H. (2018). Machine translation and the L2 classroom: Pedagogical solutions for making peace with Google translate. Foreign Language Annals, August, 779–795.

Lee, S. M. (2020). The impact of using machine translation on EFL students’ writing. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 33(3), 157–175.

Niño, A. (2009). Machine translation in foreign language learning: Language learners and tutors perceptions of its advantages and disadvantages. ReCALL, 21(2), 241–258.

Poibeau, T. (2017). Machine translation. MIT Press. 

Stapleton, P., & Kin, B. L. K. (2019). Assessing the accuracy and teachers’ impressions of Google Translate: A study of primary L2 writers in Hong Kong. English for Specific Purposes, 56, 18–34. 

Tsai, S. (2019). Using google translate in EFL drafts: a preliminary investigation. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 32(5–6), 510–526.