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Translations on frenchteacher

Anyone who follows my blog will know that I have reservations about translation in language teaching, largely because it takes valuable time away from activities which provide target language input, "comprehensible input" if you prefer.

However, with regard to translation into the target language, I have usually found that students enjoy the problem-solving aspect, the chance to fix grammar issues which have troubled them and the idea that that have a clearly defined task which they can complete with success. It seems likely to me that if you do translation into the target language students will, at the very least, improve their accuracy.

Translation from the TL provides good input, but, at a more advanced level, becomes a test of a student's English as much as their knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. It is really a specialised skill which should be left until later.

There is little "authentic" in either forms of translation - grammar and comprehension can be tested in ways which reflect real-life language situations.

It is also the case that the new GCSE exam, being taught from September 2016 will definitely feature some translation both ways and this is already changing practice in some schools. In England, and no doubt elsewhere, if you want to change classroom practice, change the exam.

On I have translations into French at GCSE/intermediate level and advanced level. In the Y10-11 section of the site I have two sets of translations which may be used at any time. As GCSE returns to a linear format, without controlled assessments, they might be best done in the last two terms. In due course I shall be adding more translation material for KS3 and 4.

The first set are at a simpler level, aimed at pupils who might realistically be aiming for grade B/C. Here is an example:

Hello.  My name is…..  I am 15 years old and I live in Ripon, a small town in the north of England, near York.  I have two sisters and one brother.  My brother is called David and my sisters are called Erika and Claire.  We live in a large house in the centre of town.  In our house there is a lounge, four bedrooms, a dining room,  a kitchen, two bathrooms and a garage.  We have a small garden behind the house.

In my bedroom there is a computer, a hi fi, a desk, two chairs, a wardrobe, a chest of drawers and, of course, a bed.  I spend a lot of time in my room.  For example, I do my homework, I listen to music, I talk to my friends on the computer and I practise my guitar.

In my spare time I play the guitar, I watch TV, I play football with my friends at school, I go out at the weekend and I like to read.  Sometimes I help my mother in the kitchen, but I don’t like working in the garden.

The second set is aimed at pupils aiming for A*/A grade. Here is an example:

I have just returned from my holidays in Spain.  We enjoyed ourselves very much.  We caught the plane from London on the 1st of August.  The flight took two and a half hours, too long for me as I am scared of flying!  When we arrived at Malaga the weather was superb; the sun was shining and the temperature was 30 degrees.

On the first day of our holiday we stayed at the hotel and spent the day next to the pool.  We drank a lot, swam, ate lunch in the hotel dining room and in the evening went into town to look at the shops.  Our room had a spectacular view of the sea.

On Sunday we hired a car and did a trip to Granada where there is a beautiful palace with magnificent gardens.  We had lunch in a lovely restaurant in the town centre.  I had paella and my mother had chicken with salad. After having lunch we entered the castle and did a guided tour.

The best moment of the holiday was when we visited the beautiful historic city of Seville.  What a fantastic place!  I took lots of photos, bought some souvenirs and visited two interesting museums.

Lastly, in the A-level section I have a few more testing translations adapted from literature, both French and English. Here is an example with helpful notes for students:

 The Great Glass Lift

“I’ve never seen anything like it!” [1] cried Mr Wonka.
“The children are disappearing like rabbits!  But you mustn’t worry about it! [2] They’ll all come out safely!” [3]

Mr Wonka looked at the little group that stood beside him in the corridor.  There were only two children left [4] now – Mike Teavee and Charlie Bucket. [5]  And there were three grown-ups, Mr and Mrs Teavea and Grandpa Joe.  “Shall we move on??” Mr Wonka asked.

“Oh yes!” cried Charlie and Grandpa Joe at the same time.

“My feet are getting tired,” said Mike Teavea.  “I want to watch television.”

“If you’re tired then we’d better [6] take the lift,” said Mr Wonka.  “It’s over here.  Come on!  In we go!”  He skipped across [7] the passage to a pair of doors.  The doors slid open [8].  The two children and the grown-ups went in.

“Now then,” cried Mr Wonka, “which button shall we press first?  Take your pick!”

Charlie Bucket stared around him in astonishment. [9]  This was the craziest lift he had ever seen [10].  There were buttons everywhere!  The walls, and even the ceiling, were covered with hundreds of rows of black buttons!  There must have been [11] a thousand of them on each wall, and another thousand on the ceiling!  And now Charlie noticed that every button had a tiny printed label [12] beside it telling you which room you would arrive at if you pressed [13] it.


1.      “rien de pareil”
2.      “s’inquiéter de” (so which pronoun?)
3.      “sains et saufs”
4.       Use “il ne restait que...”
5.       You could make up good French versions of these names
6.       Use “il vaut mieux...”
7.       Use “traverser à petits bonds”
8.       Say “opened, sliding” (same principle as note 7)
9.       Use “étonné”
10.     subjunctive after superlative, but which tense/
11.     Say  “il devait y avoir”
12.     “une étiquette imprimée”
13.     to press = appuyer sur, presser


  1. I don't think there is a better way to master the language than to do translations into the TL. I believe this used to be an integral part of the O-level, and is certainly a feature of the excellent grammar books by Whitmarsh that have been used by French teachers for decades. Would be interesting to crowdsource En>TL translations on a Google Doc maybe?

  2. I do not agree. I would argue that doing translation makes you a good translatore and will no doubt improve your knowledge, accuracy and comprehension of the written word. I think it is a poor way to improve listening skill and oral fluency.

    Thank you for commenting.

  3. My daughter gained a C grade at GCSE.....her friend at her new school gained an A* at her own private school. Guess which of the two can actually remember any French two years on!

  4. Hard to respond to that without any real context, but thank you for leaving a comment. Her own private school?


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