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Arabic workshop with Year 5: Alice Guthrie

Title: Translating an Arabic children’s book with Year 5
To identify key principles of translation and apply these in producing a nuanced translation of a children’s book
Age group:
Year 5 (age 9–10)
Participants: Six EAL (English as an Additional Language) students with six different mother tongues and ethnic origins
1 hour 10 minutes

What we did

We began with a gentle warm-up to allow the students to get to know me and I them, creating a safe playful learning space, then we moved on to make our visual language maps with colours and much discussion and concentration. Once it was clear we were all multilingual and moving in a multilingual world we had a lively discussion of what translation is and how stories move across languages complete with accents and slang: the children offered plentiful examples of their role as translators in the community and got excited about the possibility of this being formalised as an adult career – they were inspired! From there we moved on to beginning our rough translation of an Arabic children’s book called My Donkey Is Lost, initially working from the pictures only, then progressing to a glossary and a transliteration of the Arabic until finally producing a collective version of the story. Along the way many hilarious and surreal versions of the donkey’s life were posited, and some really subtle word choices and edits were made by the students.

What we got out of it

Some of the children were so inspired by all this they were almost hysterical: there was a level of enthusiasm from them I simply hadn’t anticipated. As this was one in a series of workshops I offered the same little group, we were able to build on this over the following weeks by delving into subtitling and dubbing and learning tiny bits of each other’s languages. It seemed to be the first time these bright students had been celebrated for their success as multilingual people rather than identifying with the many daily failures of being EAL in an English medium school, and they visibly shone with the dose of confidence and novelty it afforded them. And of course they also learnt some new English words and discovered different uses for them in written work. Final feedback from the school was overwhelmingly positive.