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Practical ideas I

14 Nov

Here, and in the other ‘Practical ideas’ section below, I am assuming a monolingual class where the teacher shares the students’ language. Guy Cook’s book (pp. 151-153) offers some very useful suggestions for adapting activities for contexts where classes are multilingual or where the teacher does not speak the students’ language.

  • Students are presented with a text in which they are asked to underline the passages which they think will be challenging to translate. They also have to explain why they have marked certain passages. Also, all necessary information relevant to the translation (i.e. information regarding specific local, cultural customs, traditions, etc.) is discussed and, if necessary, provided by the teacher. In the next step, small groups of three students translate the text. (Zojer, p.43)
  • Students have to translate a text, but key words are given in translation (without, perhaps, any indication of their referents in the other text).
  • And if you’re a native speaker, get the students to translate stuff that interests you – for you!
  • Students listen to a lecture and take notes in their own language.
  • A phrase is whispered to a student, who mentally translates it into L1 and says it in L1 to the next student who translates it into L2 and passes on to the next student, etc.
  • Students translate a text into L1. The texts collected in. They are redistributed another day, when they have to translate it back into English. They then compare their version with the original.
  • A good variation of ‘reverse translation’ (see the previous 2 bullet points) has been suggested to me by Roger Marshall. This technique is especially useful for students taking examinations. Take a model composition (these can often be found on the websites of the exam boards) for one of the writing tasks in an exam (e.g. FCE). Translate it into L1 and give this to the class. They work together at translating it into English, before being asked to compare their versions with the original. Another suggestion by Roger Marshall is to get students to write part (or all) of an examination writing task in L1, and then pass it on to other students for translation into English.
  • Students discuss word-for-word translations and mistranslations (hundreds of fun mistranslations can be found online: Google ‘Chinglish’)
  • Tell the students a lateral thinking puzzle. Students must ask yes / no questions to solve the puzzle. They can ask these Qs in MT (perhaps limit the number of MT Qs that can be asked), but someone, a stronger student, say, will translate these into English and write them on the board. (this activity is taken from Dellar & Rinvolucri, p.32)
  • Modify roleplays and other speaking activities by having one person speaking MT, and one person translating. (e.g. tourist / student as go-between)
  • In discussion tasks, sts work first in MT, before summarising their points, then translate them into English, and presenting their idea to other groups / sts. Or tell students to code-switch in the middle of an activity.
  • In speaking activities, one student has to write down anything that is said in MT. This is then worked on later.
  • Students compare two translations of the same text without seeing the original.
  • Give students two or more different syntactic translations (from MT into English) of a sentence from a text. Their task is to decide which is most appropriate.
  • Different groups work on translating the same short text. They then compare and decide which versions they prefer – perhaps compiling the versions to make one collectively improved version.

Web resources

25 Oct

[Translation] is learners’ ‘preferred strategy [and] an inevitable part of second language acquisition’ (Atkinson 1987).  In other words, like it or loathe it, it’s going to take place. At the same time,  our learners are going to be familiar with online short-cuts to translation (in fact, I’d argue that they need to have an informed opinion about the relative merits of online translation tools). Increasingly, they’ll have these available on their smart phones. We can do quite a lot with these tools in the classroom.

There are quite a lot of options available, but the starting point must be

Then, there is the Bing / Microsoft tool and Yahoo’s Babelfish (not such a wide choice of languages)

Compare them for yourself. Cut and paste the first paragraph of this post into one of these translating tools and decide which you prefer.