Making a Translation Program “Think”


  • Essential Question: What is involved in translating syntactics and semantics into a computer program and how can irregularities and inconsistencies in language rules affect the coding behind it?
  • Area(s) of Study: Linguistics/Computer Programming.
  •  Amount of credit earned: 6 Credits (Equivalent to 3 trimester courses.)
  • Community Partner: Linguistics Professor at the University of New Hampshire.


Content Specific Competencies

  • Algorithms and Programming
  • Data analysis and Representation
  • Linguistics

WHS School Wide Learning Expectations

  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Self- Direction

ELO Department Competencies

  • Research
  • Reflection
  • Product
  • Presentation

Student Activities (up to 10): This ELO took an entire school year to complete

Trimester 1

  1. Student started by spending 3 months diving into Linguistic Research and Translation Programming.  She consulted with the UNH Linguistics Professor as well as her Computer Programming Teacher to determine three major areas of research:
    1. Interlinguistics (the various methods of linguistic communications)
    2. Transfer-Based Machine translation (breaks translation into three steps: analysis of the source language text to determine its grammatical structure, transfer of the resulting structure to a structure suitable for generating text in the target language, and finally generation of this text.)
    3. Morphological analysis (the internal structure of words)

Trimester 2

  1. Learn new programming language – Python.  This student had previously taken an introductory course in computer programming that used Python.  For this ELO she expanded her knowledge of Python in the contexts of a translation program.
  2. Review French Language and Syntactic Patterns with WHS French teacher as well as on her own.

Trimester 3

  1. Develop coding for the translation program

(See the detailed ELO description for the full text of these competencies.)


Student was responsible for regularly checking in with her mentor teachers. Keeping track of the translation program build using screenshots and a journal. Completed a final reflection paper. The student was responsible for documenting the research she conducted as well as report on her findings both to her ELO mentors as well as during her presentation. The final product was designed to be a working translation program that would “think” when it translated from French to English.  The was able to produce a working program but didn’t have a completed translation program as originally expected. The student presented her research findings, her process for developing the program as well as demonstration to an audience of students, parents and WHS staff.