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Spanish workshop with Year 11: Katrina Barnes

Title: Translation: a taste of reality
To introduce students to the world of professional translation and to explore how translation as an interdisciplinary, creative skill can aid them in their language learning
Age group:
Year 11 (age 15–16)
Participants: Three groups of 12–25 students
1 hour 45 minutes per session

What we did

We began the session with a lively discussion about what students already knew about translation, translators and how translation features in their everyday lives. This included defining the differences between translators and interpreters, and other subcategories such as transcription and subtitling. We then did a group brainstorm of all of the considerations a translator must take into account when presented with a new text, such as target audience, author vs reader loyalty, register, text type and purpose.

Next the class was presented with a series of particularly comical real-life mistranslations taken from Facebook and the wider web. They worked together to figure out what had gone wrong in each case, and how they would correct them. Students were given an authentic translator’s brief with details such as the client, the deadline and the rate of pay, along with a Spanish advert for translation. We revisited the considerations from the opening discussion and matched these with the requirements stated on the translator’s brief. Once the students had become familiar with the text, they were split into groups and given a section each to translate, using dictionaries and glossaries to help them. Finally, I compiled all sections together on the whiteboard and we discussed what we thought of the end product: would this be an effective advert in English? Would we be able to guess it had been translated? What were the trickiest parts to translate and why? Had all the translator’s considerations been taken into account? What could be done differently?

The final version was published in the school newspaper as testament to the students’ hard work.

What we got out of it

The workshop showed students that language learning does not have to occur in a vacuum; through the activities, they got an insight into how they can apply their language learning to real-life scenarios, and how translation can be seen as the ‘missing link’ between their language classes and other subjects such as English or Business Studies. The workshop also gave students a new level of confidence with their foreign language learning, as they realised that they could use a language that they had already mastered (English) to tap into another language. Many students also reported a new-found interest in the translation profession, and therefore a new practical incentive to continue with their language studies.

Some student feedback:

“The session gave me confidence. When I first saw the translation I thought I’d never be able to do it. But there was a big sense of achievement at the end.”

“Translation definitely helps with learning Spanish, and also with being aware of writing in different ways.”

“I had no idea what translation really was before the session. It wouldn’t have occurred to me as a career option, but am now really interested.”