Article Down the rabbit hole: Machine translation, metaphor, and instructor identity and agency

Vinall, Kimberly; Hellmich, Emily A.
Volume 02 - Issue 1
instructor identity; ecological theory; metaphor; machine translation; postsecondary language education
University of Hawaii National Foreign Language Resource Center; (co-sponsored by American Association of University of Supervisors and Coordinators; Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition; Center for Educational Reources in Culture, Language, and Literacy; Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning; Open Language Resource Center; Second Language Teaching and Resource Center)
Vinall, K., & Hellmich, E. A. (2021). Down the rabbit hole: Machine translation, metaphor, and instructor identity and agency. Second Language Research & Practice, 2(1), 99–118.
Full Record
While machine translation (MT) technologies have improved in profile and performance in recent years, there is still much to learn about the broad impact of these technologies on language educators. In this article, we investigate interactions between instructors’ beliefs about MT and their identity and agency in the language classroom through the lens of metaphor. Anchored in an ecological theoretical frame, the study examines in-depth interviews with 11 participants using open and inductive qualitative coding. Findings reveal that, to varying degrees and with differing outcomes, all the participants reported that MT had altered their roles and practices in the classroom. These were expressed through a range of metaphors (e.g., MT as a “crutch,” MT as a “bridge,” MT as a “prosthetic hand”). The cross-case analysis of these metaphors revealed three primary relationships between instructors, MT, and FL teaching/learning across participants: a) MT as destructive, b) MT as supportive, and c) MT as transformative. After chronicling these metaphors and relationships in detail, the article concludes with a discussion of major tensions evoked by the findings and their implications for language education at the postsecondary level.