Google Translate & Julius Caesar

I wanted my students to read Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Civil Wars for homework.

It was too hard for some of the students, and they faded out. They had no interest in reading it because they didn’t understand it at all.

Thanks to Google Translate, we’ve gone around the problem of the English being too difficult for the international students in our school.  The original text is a public-domain text from the English version of Project Gutenberg.  We stripped the carriage returns, and loaded it into a wiki page.   Then we ran blocks of text through Google Translate.  That produced our text in four languages now, and we’re working on a fifth — Simplified Chinese, Korean, Spanish and English (with Japanese on the way). I’m even thinking that by next year, I want to have a parallel Latin translation.

Nor are the English-speaking students left out. We’re building a dictionary, too.  Every kid has a few paragraphs to review, and any unfamiliar words (or words that their classmates are likely to have problems with), are getting links to definition pages.  And we’re creating a mini-wikipedia of short biographies of the major characters in the book.

You might ask why we’re duplicating all this effort on the school’s website, behind our firewall, when it’s probably been done (and done better, likely) at places like Project Perseus.  The answer is, they need to learn how to use the tools.  And we’re finding that there are all sorts of parallel projects that can be done — providing audio of the different sections of the text, and including photographs and maps.

Speaking of which — does anyone know of a place where you can produce close-in digital maps of various parts of the world?  Yes, I know that Google Earth gives you the ability to zoom-in and look at satellite photos, but that’s not what I mean.  I want to produce maps that show Caesar’s line of march, and places where battles were fought, and so on, that don’t look like crudely-drawn and scanned maps.  I want digital maps.

Anyone know where we can go?

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