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French workshop with Year 7: Anna Morvern

Title: Translating a French children’s book
To translate a French children’s book and document the experience of this process for a colourful wall display
Age group:
Year 7 (11–12 year olds)
21 + class teacher and teaching assistant
1 hour 30 minutes

What we did

As an ice-breaker, I showed the class word cards written in different scripts and they guessed which language each word came from and what it meant. I introduced the class to the French children’s book Bon appétit! Monsieur Lapin, reading it aloud to the class. We talked about the feel and tone of the book before splitting into five mixed-ability groups. After I had modelled a rough translation of the first page, each group worked with an A3 colour print-out of a double-page and “decoded” it using glossaries provided. We then shredded the glossaries to symbolize moving on to a more creative stage; each group received their neighbours’ rough translation in order to transform it into something more creative and idiomatic. There was a “guessing game” worksheet to complete for those who finished early, matching words from world languages with their translation and reading facts about different languages. Representatives from each group stood at the front of the class to read out their finished translations. The workshop concluded with a whole-class discussion of the challenges and rewards of translation and the usefulness of language studies, followed by a brief Q & A session on translation as a profession.

What we got out of it

The children had not studied French and did not know any other languages, except for a handful of words in Spanish, French and Irish and a few foreign words gleaned from karate. At the end of the workshop, the children volunteered lots of ways in which they considered languages could be valuable, both in their personal lives and professionally later on. They were enthusiastic to learn more about professional translation, asking what skills and qualifications it required, whether it led to global travel and wanting to know the longest word I had encountered! This introduction to languages seemed particularly worthwhile at this time, as the workshop took place just days after the government, as part of funding cuts, had scrapped the Primary Modern Languages Programme, which had enabled 413 schools across Northern Ireland, including Drumlins IPS, to have staff come in to teach Spanish, Irish or Polish.