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German workshop with Year 6: Rachel Ward

Title: Translating a German children’s book
Objective: To produce a piece of creative writing using one of four approaches to the translation of a children’s book from German to English
Age group: Year 6 (age 10–11)
Participants: 30
Duration: 1 hour 45 minutes

What we did

We began by discussing any languages that the children knew other than English. For a warm-up, the children worked in pairs to put a cut-up sentence into order. Then we used images to discuss what translation is, why we do it, why it matters, and how it can be hard yet fun and creative. After that we looked at the wordless illustrations of the book. They discussed what was happening then shared their ideas. I read the German text so that they could hear the rhythm and rhyme. Using glossaries, each pair translated two lines of the text and created logical English sentences. We shared these translations so they could hear the whole story. After break, we looked at ‘translation gone wrong’ to discuss the importance of checking, of proofreading by someone who knows both languages and of not relying on machines or dictionaries. After this we went beyond our rough translation to create something new. The children split into four groups: polished prose translation, freer rhyming translation, creatively ‘translating’ the illustrations and storyboarding using the pictures as a prompt. The children came back together and those who wanted to shared their work. Finally, I shared my own rhyming translation of the text.

What we got out of it

The children seemed to really enjoy the session. Many of them came up with very interesting and creative solutions to the challenges in the text, and some of the storyboarding children also produced extremely intricate drawings. Many of the children were keen to share what they had written and to talk about their experiences of other languages. The teachers were keen to keep the work and pictures the children had done to use as creative writing prompts and everyone appreciated the opportunity to do something outside the normal routine. I could see how what they wrote tied in with the work on synonyms on the classroom walls.