My students don't actually realise that I teach them a 'foreign' language through a 'foreign' language. As I am not English, speak with an accent and teach another language, they always assume that the language I teach must be my mother tongue.
So, once they find out that this is not the case, the questions start pouring in...
It is not just the students who are often in awe when they meet someone who speaks another language. Speaking another language is an amazing skill that will open the doors to new worlds and possibilities; it is impossible to deny that we experience the life and culture of another country on a completely different level when we speak its language and I always try to show this to my students even through my own experiences.
Before I moved to U.K and became a teacher, I actually worked as a translator and interpreter in fashion business. The art of translation is a careful act of balancing the character of original language and giving it a new life in the second language; trying to figure out what is meant in one language and then transferring this meaning into another language. This can be quite challenging at times, especially when it comes to little cultural nuances or idioms. No two translations will be always identical, especially when we are attempting to translate paragraphs. The way these are translated often depends on the ability, interpretation and creativity of the translator.
However, in the school environment, how can we teach translation skills to our students? I am sure you have encountered the same problem that I have. Students often try to translate the words or the text literally and in a linear way, basically thinking they can replace word from one language with a word from another language in the same way and order.
In my opinion we - teachers should not approach translation of more complex passages (similar to those assessed in the GCSE higher paper) with our students before students have thoroughly studied and understood the syntax of the target language - in other words, they have studied and understand the rules of how words and other elements of sentence structure are combined together to form grammatical sentences.
- read the sentence/paragraph
- highlight or underline what you can translate immediately
- check the tense / the person / the verb ending / the adjectival endings / the gender of nouns / plural / singular
- more complex sentences - break them down into chunks or two separate sentences
- translate each sentence individually checking the word order
- apply any rules you need to when connecting them together (conjugated verb at the end etc....)
- words you don't know - find a suitable synonym that will not impair the message being conveyed
- gaps - think of words which would logically fill them in