Using GarageBand, Explain Everything, Book Creator and Google Translate in Modern Foreign Languages
By Nick Acton
21 January, 2020 by
Using GarageBand, Explain Everything, Book Creator and Google Translate in Modern Foreign Languages
Nick Acton Music

It’s no secret. We’re not all brought up to be dual-lingual in England. Learning a language is not as integral to us as it may be in many other countries. Of course, English is an additional language for some and many schools do incredible work to help EAL pupils. However, grasping another language is simply not a necessity for many children. With that over riding fact ringing in their ears, some pupils do not place importance on indulging this area of the curriculum. This is coupled with the fact that most teachers have limited linguistic skills. The lack of enthusiasm from the children, mixed with a teacher’s own knowledge gaps can make MFL become MF-hell to teach.

This blog aims to tackle some of the issues I have just raised. Language learning has to be met with engaging and entertaining lesson objectives that include innovative approaches from the teacher. The iPad can be the perfect tool to employ when trying to achieve this high standard. Combining apps to enhance lingual learning can really bring multi-media MFL magic into the classroom. Smashing all sorts of language apps into the Book Creator app is just one way of doing this! I plan to create a ‘School Talk’ language book that translates key school resources and aspects of day-to-day education into French.

Google Translate

In order to collect my french and german words, I used a great free app called Google Translate. Google Translate is a great app that can make a huge impact on reading, writing, speaking and listening within Modern Foreign Languages. The app has four main sections. The first (and most obvious) section is the type translator. Here you can simply type in words or sentences and the app will translate it for you into whichever language you select. The second translation option is the camera. This feature enables you to point the iPad’s camera at a piece of word formatted writing and the app will translate the words in front of your very eyes. It is a really cool tool on this app and it can engage children at the start of a lesson. The third translation option is the microphone. This allows you to simply verbalise keywords and the app will analyse your voice to translate them. And finally, you can use the scribe tool. This element enables you to write freehand. The app will then identify the freehand text and convert it into whichever language you wish. This is all underpinned by a speaker icon. Tapping on this icon within any of the sections activates an automated voice that allows you to hear the correct pronunciation of each word. I used Google Translate to copy and paste my key translated words and I tapped on the speaker icon to gain a good understanding of each word’s pronunciation.


Once I had translated, read and listened to my keywords, I then looked to create some clear audio clips that differentiated the English language to French (in this case). The best app to do this with is definitely GarageBand. You can explore the depths of this Apple app and create some incredibly complex musical ideas. However, the simplest way to use it is by tapping on the first option that appears when you open the app. The microphone tool enables you to record audio and manipulate the way it sounds. I simply tapped on the big red recording button and spoke both the English and French words for ‘Pencil’. I then used the ‘telephone effect’ for the English language and the normal mic for the French. The result is a short audio clip that makes a clear distinction between the languages. I then saved my clip and opted to import my audio into ‘Explain Everything’ by selecting ‘Open In’.

Odoo • Text and Image
Odoo • Image and Text

Explain Everything

Utilising a tool like the app Explain Everything, means that you can pull on many different elements. The app itself is an interactive whiteboard application. Importing my audio onto a whiteboard screen meant that I could add a visual element to my work. Using the apps ‘Insert New Picture’ option enabled me to take a picture of a Pencil to go along with the audio. I also made use of the ‘Insert Text’ feature to copy and paste the French word for Pencil (Crayon) from Google Translate directly onto my whiteboard. 

To bring all of the elements everything together, I tapped on the recording function at the bottom of the screen. Tapping on this icon activates a feature that captures everything that is happening on your whiteboard. It also turns the microphone on within the iPad. Therefore it also captures audio. This enabled me to record a simple screen capture video that plays the sound clip (collected from GarageBand) and that displays a drawn arrow to highlight the translation even further. I was then able to export this video to my camera roll. 

Book Creator

At the face of it, Book Creator is an app for creating Books. However, it is much more than that. This is an app that we would describe as a core-cross-curricular tool. It is a great application to use within any subject and it has incredible inter-linking powers. All sorts of iPad work can be embedded into a Book Creator book through the camera roll and/or through simple copy and pasting. Before doing just that, I used Book Creator’s innovative and intuitive features to create an attractive digital book. I also took advantage of the apps multi-modal tools and added visual and audio elements to the book through the ‘Add Items’ options. Finally, I was able to embed my Explain Everything video into the book through the ‘Add Existing Images’ option. This enables me to access anything that is in my camera roll. Therefore, I can access my Google Translated words, recorded into GarageBand, embedded into Explain Everything and inserted into my Book. 

Odoo • Text and Image

I think that all of the tools I have used to offer a certain level of engagement. They are interesting and intuitive tools that can spice up an MFL lesson. Google Translate can provide a very positive lifeline to a child who is endeavouring to learn independently. Crucially, however, it can also help a teacher when they lose their way within Language teaching. GarageBand can encourage language speaking in a new way. Explain Everything caters for different types of learners by combing auditory, visual and kinaesthetic elements. Book Creator is an incredible place for all that learning to end up. Not only can it collate the app work that has been engaged with throughout an entire project, it can also enhance that work by bringing its own features to the table. Exploring these applications in the name of Modern Foreign Languages should keep enthusiasm at a high and provide a valuable linguistic backbone for a teacher to use whenever necessary.

Nick Acton is an Apple Curriculum Specialist at JTRS as well as being a part-time Computing and Music teacher. Through the creation of bespoke training, Nick specialises in empowering educators so they can embed Apple technologies into their day-to-day classroom practice.