Skip to main content

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:

http://www.slideshare.net/richpemberton/l1-use-in-the-l2-classroom

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 translated with hands up, or no hands up. This is very traditional and has merit. Pupils are subject to a high level of modelling and get to think like the teacher. The downside is that only one pupil talks at a time (a good thing?!) and there is no guarantee that all students are paying attention. Make sure they write material down so they are active and use whatever techniques you have in your armoury to get all students thinking (deadly stares, eyebrows up, jokes, no hands up, repeat the previous answer etc.) Make sure pupils get enough thinking time and that the quickest do not dominate. This can be done "in rough" in class, then written up at home.
  • "Running translation". I mentioned this in the last blog. This time the fetcher finds the English from the classroom wall where you have stuck up the texts and the scribe (maybe with fetcher's help) translates. Make it a race.
  • "Find the translation" - give students a list of quite hard sentences, short paragraphs or even individual words for beginners. Post translations around the classroom (or hide them) for them to find individually or in teams. Make it a race.
  • Allow pupils to use Google Translate to see how well it does and to make corrections where they see fit. They will learn something from the process and, let's face it, if they get the chance, many will use it anyway.
  • Work in groups. each group does a different section of text. then bring it all together. Add a competitive element with a time limit or race.
  • Produce gapped passages in the TL, with phrases at the bottom in English to be translated and inserted where appropriate. This has the added merit of providing some TL input and focus on meaning.
  • Get students to sign up for a forum like Wordreference. Give them specific words or phrases to research.
  • Give them phrases to research using Linguee (linguee.com).
  • Do "real life" tasks such as menus and recipes to translate from English. This can include elements of design if you want it to. 
  • Dictation-translation. The teacher just reads sentences in English for pupils individually or in pairs to translate. Best answers could be rewarded.
  • Paired or grouped translation. Each pair or group does a different section of a passage, then the others hear the solutions with extra modelling by the teacher.
  • Whole class pelmanism. You provide each pupil with a sentence either in English or TL. Pupils hold up their cards. You could adapt this in a number of ways.
  • "Pick the best translation". Give a paragraph in English with three TL versions of it. Pupils choose the best one. You can make them as hard as you want.
  • Role playing with cues in English (like the old GCSE and maybe the new one!).
  • Guided composition writing with detailed cues in English. This ends up being akin to translation. "Transfer of meaning", if you like.
  • Use parallel texts to model effective translation.
  • Explain why you are doing it. Tell them it's mainly about knowing vocabulary and getting grammatically accurate. Warn them, of course, that a word-for-word approach only works sometimes.
  • Give out faulty translations of sentences or a passage and get pupils to correct individually or in pairs. You could make it a race. They come up and show you their corrected versions.
  • English/TL dialogues - one line in English, one in TL. Pupils translate the English either orally or in writing, or maybe orally, then in writing for reinforcement. Can be done in pairs or individually.
  • Get excellent pupils to be the teacher of a small group. They then can play act and model good answers. Class control would need to be tip-top for this, but it could be good fun and very productive.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Delayed dictation

What is “delayed dictation”?

Instead of getting students to transcribe immediately what you say, or what a partner says, you can enforce a 10 second delay so that students have to keep running over in their heads what they have heard. Some teachers have even used the delay time to try to distract students with music.

It’s an added challenge for students but has significant value, I think. It reminds me of a phenomenon in music called audiation. I use it frequently as a singer and I bet you do too.

Audiation is thought to be the foundation of musicianship. It takes place when we hear and comprehend music for which the sound is no longer or may never have been present. You can audiate when listening to music, performing from notation, playing “by ear,” improvising, composing, or notating music. When we have a song going round in our mind we are audiating. When we are deliberately learning a song we are audiating.

In our language teaching case, though, the earworm is a word, chunk of l…

Responsive teaching

Dylan Wiliam, the academic most associated with Assessment for Learning (AfL), aka formative assessment, has stated that these labels have not been the most helpful to teachers. He believes that they have been partly responsible for poor implementation of AfL and the fact that AfL has not led to the improved outcomes originally intended.

Wiliam wrote on Twitter in 2013:

“Example of really big mistake: calling formative assessment formative assessment rather than something like "responsive teaching".”

For the record he subsequently added:

“The point I was making—years ago now—is that it would have been much easier if we had called formative assessment "responsive teaching". However, I now realize that this wouldn't have helped since it would have given many people the idea that it was all about the teacher's role.”

I suspect he’s right about the appellation and its consequences. As a teacher I found it hard to get my head around the terms AfL and formative assess…

Sentence Stealers with a twist

Sentence Stealers is a reading aloud game invented by Gianfranco Conti. I'll describe the game to you, then suggest an extension of it which goes a bit further than reading aloud. By the way, I shouldn't need to justify the usefulness of reading aloud, but just in case, we are talking here about matching sounds to spellings, practising listening, pronunciation and intonation and repeating/recycling high frequency language patterns.

This is how it works:

Display around 15 sentences on the board, preferably ones which show language patterns you have been working on recently or some time ago.Hand out four cards or slips of paper to each student.On each card students must secretly write a sentence from the displayed list.Students then circulate around the class, approaching their classmates and reading a sentence from the displayed list. If the other person has that sentence on one of their cards, they must hand over the card. The other person then does the same, choosing a sentenc…

The age factor in language learning

This post draws on a section from Chapter 5 of Jack C. Richards' splendid handbook Key Issues in Language Teaching (2015). I'm going to summarise what Richards writes about how age factors affect language learning, then add my own comments about how this might influence classroom teaching.

It's often said that children seem to learn languages so much more quickly and effectively than adults. Yet adults do have some advantages of their own, as we'll see.

In the 1970s it was theorised that children's success was down to the notion that there is a critical period for language learning (pre-puberty). Once learners pass this period changes in the brain make it harder to learn new languages. Many took this critical period hypothesis to mean that we should get children to start learning other languages at an earlier stage. (The claim is still picked up today by decision-makers arguing for the teaching of languages in primary schools.)

Unfortunately, large amounts of rese…

Dissecting a lesson: teaching an intermediate written text

This post is a beginner’s guide about how you might go about working with a written text with low-intermediate or intermediate students (Y10-11 in England). I must emphasise that this is not what you SHOULD do, just one approach based on my own experience and keeping in mind what we know about learning and language learning in particular. Experienced teachers may find it interesting to compare this sequence with what you do yourself.

You can adapt the sequence below to the class, context and your own preferred style. I’m going to assume that the text is chosen for relevance, interest and comprehensibility. The research suggests that the best texts are at the very least 90% understandable, i.e. you would need to gloss no more than 10% of the words or phrases. The text could be authentic, or more likely adapted authentic from a text book, or teacher written. It would likely be fairly short so you have time to exploit it intensively, recycling as much useful language as possible.

So here w…