ESL/ELL Aids: Google tools for ESL/ELL


If you have a student in the classroom who is learning to speak and read English, there are several tools and extensions/add-ons available in Google Chrome that can help.

To add extensions in Chrome, click on the Apps grid at the left side of the Chrome browser, then click on Web Store to search for and add extensions.

Google Docs Tools:

Translate & Voice Typing

Google Docs Translate and Voice Typing are built right into Google Docs so you don’t need to add an extension to use them.

Google Translate can translate a document in Google Docs from one language to another, allowing a non-English speaking student to read a document you have written in English, and allowing you to read in English what was created in another language. To use the tool, from the Google Docs menu, select Tools > Translate document…, then select the language you want the document translated into. Google offers more than 100 choices so it’s likely that your student’s language will be included.

If your student does not know how to read, use the Read&Write extension described below to help.

If you student cannot write, he or she can still communicate with you, because Google Docs allows voice typing and can also recognize non-English. To select a language, from the menu bar select File > Language and select the desired language. Then have the student select Tools > Voice Typing and click on the microphone to begin speech-to-text input, and again to stop. Then use the translate tool to put the document into English.


Read&Write is a text-to-speech extension which can read aloud PDFs, websites, and Google documents. The user can start and stop the voice. If desired, the user can select a section of text to be read. The program highlights each word as it is voiced.

Read&Write’s free version can read in a wide variety of non-English accents including French, Portugese, Spanish, and Dutch. Click on the purple arrow at the right and then click Options to find out more.
Read&Write also includes a Practice Reading Aloud feature which lets students record their reading and email it to teachers.
The paid version of Read&Write includes a dictionary, a picture dictionary, and a translator. See this link for paid features.

Google Translate for web pages

Many people are familiar with Google’s ability to translate foreign web pages into English. Google can also translate an English page into another language. To enable this, install the Google Translate extension on the student’s device.

To select a language, click on the Google Translate icon in the Chrome menu bar, then click on Extension Options. In the My primary language drop-down menu, select the student’s language, then click Save.

To translate a web page, click on the Google Translate extension, then click TRANSLATE THIS PAGE. You can also change the translation on the fly by clicking on the language drop-down menu and selecting a different language.

Google Dictionary

The Google Dictionary add-on allows students to select a word on a web page and see what it means. They can also type words in the Define field to see definitions. Similar to Google Translate, the Extension Options feature allows users to pick a language to see the results.

For ideas on how to use these tools in the classroom, see the EdSurge article, “Seven Ways to Use Google Docs to Support Biligual Student Writers.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *