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Showing posts from March, 2015

20 ways of doing translation into the target language

In my last blog I looked at ways of practising translation into English. This time I'm going to suggest ways of approaching translation into the second language. Translation from L1 to L2 is what we might call an "output activity". It does not provide much meaningful input, but focuses on grammatical form and knowledge of vocabulary. It does a supply a small amount of input in the sense that the final product is in the target language. It is also reasonable to assume that it does help embed a command of vocabulary, morphology and syntax. Many pupils find it hard and it will feature in future GCSE exams in England and Wales (20% of writing marks). There is a really good Slideshare presentation about this topic: What variations can we find on translation into the TL? If you read the last blog you'll see some of these are mirror images! Teacher-led sessions where sentences or a passage are transl

20 ways of doing translation into English

If you look at my blog regularly you'll know that I am not a massive fan of using translation in lessons. I lean towards a "comprehensible input" or "structured direct method" approach, if you like (they are not the same), more than the "let's compare with English", cognitive/analytical approach, as much as possible. That's my bias, which stems from my own lessons at school and the training I received at the University of London back in 1979-80. That's not to say I never used translation. If I did so, it was for variety, because it was in the exam (at A-level) or because I thought it might help fix grammatical accuracy. With advanced students I also knew they saw translating into English as a good mental challenge. But I never really thought it was the best way to build much fluency or comprehension. Now, of course, translation is back in GCSE from June 2017. There will be some TL to English translation (minimum 90 words) and there will

Review of Studio for Key Stage 3 French

This is the third of my blogs looking at popular KS3 courses for French in England and Wales. Many departments will be looking at their courses this summer as the new curriculum takes hold, with its slightly greater emphasis on grammar, literary texts, translation and "spontaneous" talk. Studio, by Anneli McLachlan and Clive Bell , has been around for about five years, but has been updated to take account of these changes. I never used this course but have heard positive comments about the package, which includes the online interactive  Active Learn and front-of-class teacher's resources (formerly known as Active Teach ) .  I thought I would take a close look at the online evaluation site which is here . The first thing which strikes me about the pupil books is their bright and very clear layout. Visuals are a little bolder, more flashy than the rivals' and the whole effect is superficially more impressive. Exercise instructions are explanations are more i

A review of Allez Book 1

O.U.P. sent me an evaluation pack of their course Allez (Book 1) to review. I should point out that they do not pay me to do this, but it is of professional interest to me to look at courses and from Oxford's point of view they may feel that any publicity is good! Allez is written by Corinne Dzuilka-Heywood, Yvonne Kennedy and Katie Smith with help from Geneviève Talon. It is designed to be suitable for teaching the new KS3 curriculum, with its greater emphasis on grammar, literary texts and translation. I'm having a look at the pupil book, Teacher Handbook sample, Kerboodle sample and Grammar and Skills Workbook by Michael Spencer and Liz Black. There are many aspects you need to consider when weighing up a new course. I listed my own criteria for assessing courses here . Ideally you would like to be able to see all the books over a key stage to see how content, progress and revision are catered for, but the rushed nature of curriculum reform means that we get to see

The 2014-15 Language Trends survey

For thirteen years there has been an annual Language Trends survey which "charts the health of language teaching and learning in England". It is currently administered by  the CfBT Education Trust and British Council. As a Head of Department I used to dutifully complete its questionnaire every year. This year a total of 648 primary schools, 529 state-funded secondary schools, and 128 independent secondary schools responded to the survey, published yesterday, yielding response rates of 22, 27 and 26 per cent respectively. The survey revealed a couple of significant trends. Most notably, perhaps, is the fact that the policy of compulsory languages in primary schools is having the desired immediate impact. The report found that 99% of the schools who responded now offer languages in some form, with 12% saying they began this academic year. That's the good news. The not so good news is the fact that, unsurprisingly, there is a larger percentage of primary teachers who h

Va-t-on interdire l'embauche des mannequins ultra-minces?

Here is a text I wrote today, loosely based on a piece in The Guardian who apparently sourced the story from Le Parisien . I did an initial translation using Google Translate (good time saver), which I corrected where necessary, adapted and simplified to work with AS level students. The theme is the French government's intention to introduce a bill to prevent fashion houses and modelling agencies from employing very thin models. Paris, I have heard, has a particular reputation for doing this. On I added a range of tasks for discussion and translation. Here is the piece: Selon le ministre de la Santé le gouvernement français compte soutenir un projet de loi interdisant les mannequins trop minces. Les agences de mannequins et maisons de mode risqueraient des amendes et les agents eux-mêmes à la prison pourraient aller en prison. La France, soucieuse de son style, ses industries de mode et de luxe valant des dizaines de milliards d'euros, se joindron

Fun Learning Activities for MFL

This is a review of Jake Hunton's book Fun Learning Activities for Modern Foreign Languages (Crown House Publishing Ltd, £19.99 inc. CD Rom). I am grateful to him for having a copy sent to me. This idea-filled 250 page book with accompanying CD Rom (containing pictures pdfs for display) has eight chapters: 1. An introduction explaining the philosophy behind Jake's ideas - how he came to formulate his activities. He explains how, through experience, he evolved sets of activities which engage pupils and allow them to retain much more language than they had with traditional methods he had previously been using. How could he get children to remember more words for the exam? He sees vocabulary knowledge as fundamental to proficiency. He draws on Hattie's Visible Learning research and the theory of spaced practice and introduces the reader to his two key acronyms: VFLAs (Vocabulary Fun Learning Activities) and FLAs (Fun Learning Activities). 2. In Chapter 2 Jake write

Tricolore - 5th edition review

Textbooks have come under fire from many quarters, whilst traditionalists implore schools to use them more. My view is that the argument is poorly framed. Textbooks are good when they are good and language teachers can save themselves a lot of time using them. Of course,  Tricolore  was always more than just a text book... Full disclosure: I taught using the Tricolore course from 1988 up to 2012. I saw it gradually metamorphose from Tricolore , into Encore Tricolore , Encore Tricolore (Nouvelle Edition) , then latterly Tricolore Total . Suffice it to say that I know the previous courses intimately which make my review well-informed, if somewhat biased. This latest fifth edition is just called Tricolore  (5e édition) and has been published to accompany the latest version of the National Curriculum. The fact that the Tricolore brand has survived so long and thrives in grammar schools, independents and upper sets of all ability schools, says something about its suitability for t

Method evangelists

I have been enjoying reading Barry Smith's blogs recently. Barry teaches French at the Michaela Community School in Brent, London. He is full of enthusiasm for his work in what is a brand new "free school". He is proud to be something of a maverick in that he rejects what he sees as the language teaching orthodoxy of the moment. I think I represent him correctly when I say that he rejects the use of single word target language teaching with pictures, avoidance of English and translation, traditional textbook grading of grammar and vocabulary (although he clearly believes in simplifying and selecting for clarity), textbooks, strict lesson plans, teaching "topics". He embraces close analysis of texts and the written word, use of parallel texts, learning useful set phrases, close translation, dictation, quick-fire target language question-answer, a teacher-led didactic approach. Barry sees the current "orthodoxy" as lacking challenge, patronising and fa

Practising "ce qui" and "ce que"

Ce qui and ce que are not the easiest to practise, but students who manage to use them spontaneously (see - I got the s word in there) usually have a good level of spoken proficiency. One little way to practise these in a natural, communicative way would be to get students to make a written list of things they love and hate in life. I thought of this after looking at some of those awful random hate comments you find on Twitter - it makes you despair sometimes, doesn't it? In pairs, or with you, they could then share their pet hates and likes, introducing them with these formulae: (Tu sais) ce que je déteste, c'est... Ce que j'aime le moins... Ce qui m'embête... (Tu sais) ce qui m'agace.. Ce qui me met en colère... Ce qui m'énerve ... Ce qui me fait chier (argot) ... Ce qui me fait plaisir, c'est... Ce que j'aime beaucoup... Ce qui me rend heureux... Ce qui me plaît beaucoup... Or even (if a bit forced? ) (Tu sais) ce dont j'ai hor

A-level revision links 2015

Here are this year's interactive and other for A2 Level French revision. I would not overload students with long lists of links. These are fine. With regard to listening, if you subscribe to already, you could make a stapled booklet of video listening worksheets. Students will prefer active listening to just general listening to the radio or websites. First stop (a mine of all sorts of material: essay planning, vocabulary and vocabulary) Interactive grammar Listening Reading

Lingu@net World Wide

The About page says:   Lingu@net World Wide is a multilingual, online resource centre for learning languages. In 2013-14, the Lingu@network project, funded by the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme, turned Lingu@net World Wide into a dynamic and interactive website in which users can participate actively by contributing with their resources and creating communities to exchange ideas and experiences about language teaching or particular areas of pedagogy across languages. Lingu@network is being carried out by a consortium of more than 30 partners led by The Languages Company, UK, and the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain. The main function of the site is to provide links to reputable language teaching resources worldwide. You can choose from a wide range of languages to navigate around the site, which is clear and unfussy in design. If you enter a search inquiry you are given a list of links, each of which you can select for more de

AS French level revision links 2015

It's that time of year again. Here is an updated list of revision links for students preparing for AS level French examinations in England and Wales, though I daresay it would be useful to students preparing for other assessments. I particularly recommend MFL Online from Jim Hall. Most of the links are free, but I have taken the liberty of including my own which are behind the £20 paywall. You can always omit these if you want to make a hand-out for free resources only. For reading the Languages Online material is good because students get instant answers. As far as listening is concerned my AS video listening worksheets are probably the most useful for students because they involve structured doing as well as listening. Teachers who subscribe could always hand these out as a booklet so students would not pay. Many have model answers. Grammar http://www.class.u

GCSE and IGCSE revision links 2015

It's that time of year again. In England and Wales, when those blessed GCSE controlled assessments are over, you can focus totally on comprehension and vocabulary building for the remaining exams. Here is a handy list of some good interactive revision links for this level. These links are also good for intermediate exams in Scotland, Ireland and other English-speaking countries. You could copy and paste this to print off for students. I do recommend the free print-off from (see Reading link below). I designed it for pupils working at the grade A-C level at GCSE. Good for individual work and students like the booklet format. As far as apps for students are concerned, I would suggest the Cramit one, Memrise and Learn French which is pretty good for vocabulary. For Android devices the French Vocabulary app is well reviewed. For listening, you could suggest Coffee Break French from Radio Lingua Network (iTunes podcasts). Listening http://www.b

Picking up a new language as an adult

My wife Elspeth Jones, herself a linguist and linguistics graduate, recently taught herself some Romanian whilst on a working trip with universities there. She reflects on the process of learning a new language from scratch as an adult. There may be one or two useful lessons for language teachers.... On a recent visit to Romania I was challenged to learn 100 words over the two weeks by Adrian Georgescu, one of my team members. For a linguist this shouldn’t be too difficult but it was a long time since I’d learned a new language from scratch and some of the first words I learned did not seem to relate to other languages, such as "mulțumesc" for thank you and "bună" dimineața, good morning. I have lived in several countries and speak a number of languages to various levels of fluency: Romance, Germanic, Slavic and Oriental. It turns out that Romanian has some unusual characteristics and influences from several language groups. A word one might expect to be easy such