Case studies

Back to list of all case studies

Spanish poetry workshop with Year 4: Shazea Quraishi

Title: Translating a poem from Spanish
Objective: To identify key principles of translation and apply these in producing a nuanced translation of a poem by García Lorca
Age group: Year 4 (age 8–9)
Participants: 29
Duration: 1 hour 40 minutes

What we did

In this session a Year 4 class with three Spanish-speakers translated a short poem by the Spanish poet García Lorca. We began with some translation games to set the tone and introduce ideas of translation, and then brainstormed ‘what is a poem?’ to consider form and the decisions that needed to be made.

I first read the poem in Spanish and asked for any ideas about meanings – surprisingly, the non-Spanish speakers had more ideas than the Spanish speakers, who were shy. I read the poem again accompanied by PDF images and we shared more possible meanings. Students then worked in groups, using glossaries to guide their translations. To begin with, students were uncertain and wanted a lot of help – but while waiting, they often discovered they could work it out. Some worked as a group of four, whilst others ended up working in pairs within the group. Some of the challenges of the poem involved rhyme, repetition, invented words and lack of clarity; however, the students tackled these problems with resourcefulness and imagination, enjoying the puzzle-like aspect of it. We finished by hearing the translations read out loud. Due to the short timeframe, some were works in progress, though more than half of them were complete.

What we got out of it

The children produced 13 unique translations which displayed an intuitive understanding of the varied possibilities of translation. Translations ranged from literal translations to imaginative ‘versions’ of the poem. Unlike adults, they were undaunted by a poem by Lorca and approached it like a puzzle. Given more time they might have been more creative and put more of an individual stamp on their translation.

The teacher felt the workshop was successful in introducing the fundamentals of translation to his students.