Thursday, 1 December 2016

Lost in translation?

Earlier this week there was a discussion in the Secondary MFL Matters Facebook group about the pitfalls of doing translations into English with Key Stage 3.  I found everyone's comments interesting to read, partly because I no longer teach KS3 and partly because I have been working on some new translation resources for Light Bulb Languages.

On hearing about the difficulties that people had encountered with their classes, I decided to give some translation a go with my Y6 Spanish class.  We have been working this term on places in town, saying what you can do in the places using se puede and infinitives, and building up complex sentences using conjunctions, intensifiers and adjectives.  I prepared three texts of different levels.  I explained to the class that I was giving them a challenge, partly to satisfy my own curiosity, because we do a lot of English-Spanish work but not so much Spanish-English, and partly to give them a taste of things they might do in Y7.  (Most of the class will transfer to the local secondary school where Spanish is the language taught.)

This student is in the top quarter of the class.  The translation was carried out unprepared and unseen, with no access to exercise books.  This student has not only translated very well the language that we are currently practising, but has also risen to the challenge of the language, such as opinions, that I have brought in from previous years and previous topics.  They have also considered the sense of the English that they are writing, with phrases such as "there is no school" and "I don't like the cafe much".

I found this a very interesting exercise.  It was useful to see which children were willing to take risks and make a decent attempt to make sense of something they weren't too sure about.  I could also see that there were certain structures - hay and se puede in particular - that the children are happy to use in Spanish sentences and which I thought were embedded, but which they can't tell me the meaning of.

I'm definitely going to have another go at translation with them in the new year, particularly after the chat I had with the Year 6 teacher this morning about how the same class have been talking about roots of words and linked words in their recent English lessons.  We are always making links between our new Spanish words and English, often with a view to enriching their vocabulary.

I've been collecting ideas for translation activities, which I will list here in case you too are after some ideas.  Of course I'd love to hear about any successes that you have had with translation!

  • Translate poems or song lyrics
  • Groups or pairs translate different sections of a text and then come together to connect them with suitable language
  • Match up English and the target language
  • Translate sentences or text into the target language using words provided, e.g. in a Wordle
  • Give the first letters of each word or a number of letters to support the answer
  • 5 in a row, where each player has to translate the text in their squares correctly to win them (example of 5 in a row)
  • Pelmanism
  • Dominoes
  • Fill in the missing words and then translate
  • Tarsia puzzles, joining up English and target language words and phrases
  • Follow-me speaking activity
  • Translate the sentences in the target language using a writing frame for support
  • Blue Numbers, where each square has a different sentence to translate
  • Pairs of sentences in English and the target language each have different parts missing, so you have to use one to translate the other, like this activity
  • Find the translation: students have a list of sentences.  Translations are posted around the room and they have to find them
  • Gapped text in the target language, with phrases at the bottom in English which have to be translated and inserted in the correct place
  • Translations with errors to correct
  • Crossword - write the clues
  • Parallel texts - put chunks of text in order
  • Re-order jumbled sentences in order to translate them correctly
Many thanks to members of the Secondary MFL Matters group for all the ideas!

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