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Italian workshop with Years 3 and 4: Paola Napolitano

Title: Translating an Italian children’s book
To identify the key principles of translation and produce a nuanced translation of an Italian story
Age group:
Years 3 and 4 (age 7–9)
Participants: 26
1 hour 15 minutes

What we did

The introduction featured mis-translated items, demonstrating that translation requires an understanding of culture as well as of language. As a warm up exercise the children were given pages of an Italian book with the text blanked out. In their groups they had to sort the pages into a plausible order, which meant predicting and deducing the story. Each group was asked to provide thumbnails on each page, write their own version of the story and present it to the others. The book was then shown and read to them in Italian, which gave them an insight into the real story and allowed them to consider how accurate their interpretations had been. Using glossaries, they worked in pairs to make a rough translation and then compared their translations with those of other pairs to ensure that everyone had understood the text. After ripping up the glossaries, the pupils then embarked in groups on a final nuanced translation and discussed different options of register and style as well as some grammatical points that arose. The workshop ended with a riddle for them to solve later in class with their teacher.

What we got out of it

Pupils showed a clear interest in learning a foreign language, asking about details of Italian grammar and pronunciation while they were working in their groups. They enjoyed the creative aspect of writing their own stories and were visibly fascinated by the story, relishing the task of translating it. They quickly became aware of the difficulty of producing a fluent translated text and responded well to to prompt questions. At the end of the session, the children were keen to take away a copy of the book they had translated.