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Spanish workshop with Year 5: Lucy Greaves

Title: Translating a Spanish children’s book
To translate a Spanish children’s book into English and publish the translation in school
Age group:
Year 5 (age 9–10)
4 x 1 hour

What we did

We produced a lively English translation of a Spanish picture book, El señor Ramón y la señora Ramona by Beatriz Montero and Leire Salaberria. We began by discussing the animals in the book and the noises they make in Spanish, English and other languages spoken by children in the class. I asked the class to come up with potential titles for the book based on what they had worked out about the story before having access to much of the language. I then provided pupils with a glossary and in twos or threes they worked on translations of individual pages, acting as language detectives to crack the code (Spanish). The class voted, with much excitement, on the title, new names for the characters and the final version of the translation: this was very much a collaborative, democratic process. We read each section of text aloud so we could pick up on any words of phrases that didn’t quite work in English, a simple but effective technique used by many ‘real’ translators of books. After the final session the class teacher took the group to the ICT room to produce their own English storybook, which was published for the whole school to see.

What we got out of it

When I announced to the class that the book didn’t exist yet in English, so they were going to produce a translation that would be published for the first time, their reaction was one of disbelief and excitement. This turned to pride as they saw their book take shape. The group have fortnightly Spanish lessons, and these translation workshops reinforced the language they had previously learnt as well as enabling them to learn some new vocabulary and concepts; we even had a conversation about why adjectives come after nouns in Spanish but before nouns in English. The class teacher commented that the workshops were successful in introducing pupils to the translation process, by making them realise how much they could infer using the pictures before words were even brought into the equation, and empowered them to produce a book that their peers or siblings would want to read.