In one of the recent lessons, I decided to combine my favourite literature genre (inspirational quotes) with a not so popular method of learning/teaching a foreign language (translation).
First things first. Last year, I got this wonderful hand-made present from a friend of mine – a jar full of inspirational quotes. In the jar, there were precisely 364 colourful slips of paper – one quote for each day of 2018. Since most of them were in English, I thought it would be cool to bring them to school toward the end of this year and share them with my students.
As far as quotes are concerned, I described one way of using them in English lessons here. In this particular case, the teacher works with one quote only and gradually builds the whole lesson around it.
This time, however, I focused on quantity (we used as many quotes as there were students in the class). Also, in this particular lesson, I primarily wanted to check my students’ ability to deal with the translation of a literary genre. I guess that other than that there were no other linguistic aims.
So, each student picked a quote from the jar. I gave them some time to read it silently and let it sink in. Then a random student read their quote out loud. I waited a few moments. Then I picked a different student and asked them to translate the quote into Czech. I encouraged them to divert from the literal translation if necessary. I reminded them of Google Translate and what it sometimes does. The student who had translated their peer’s quote then read theirs, etc. This was a good strategy because it made the students pay attention more than if they had just had to focus on their slip of paper. Sometimes, the quote had to be read several times, often in small chunks, to make it possible for the other student to translate it. This inconvenience was partially caused by the fact that the interpreter couldn’t see the text.
All in all, despite being an English teacher, I was totally impressed by my students’ ability to produce beautiful Czech utterances. Honestly, I was a bit surprised too because we don’t practice L2 > L1 translation a lot in class. Also, since students constantly immerse themselves in English (movies, music, computer games), I sort of supposed they had partially lost their ability to produce decent Czech. 🙂 I was wrong. They only struggled with a couple of individual English words, which was quite natural given that some of the language was way above the B1 level, but overall, they did very well.
This gives me some hope. The German Department at our school takes part in various translation competitions which we, the English Department, usually avoid. We justify this arguing that we teach communicatively, so our students don’t get enough exposure to translation techniques. But again, we may be wrong. Perhaps it’s not just about extensive translation practice but merely about the students’ knowledge of L2 and L1 combined with life experience.