This study examines how upper secondary school students of French as a foreign language talk about language when such talk is triggered by machine-translated texts. It explores whether and how machine-translated texts can engage students in metalinguistic talk and help them adopt an analytical and critical perspective on language use. The students' discussions, which took place in small achievement-based groups, were audio-recorded and subsequently analysed with regard to the students' use of grammatical terms, comments about various error types and time spent in collaborative dialogue. The article concludes that the use of machine-translated texts to develop students' metalinguistic awareness has considerable potential, but training, scaffolding techniques and guidance from the teacher are of paramount importance, especially for low and medium achievers.