Number one for English language teachers

Lost in translation

A selection of your classroom anecdotes involving misunderstandings with translation.

Related resources

  • Anecdote: A case for concern

    Author: Tara Kenway Type: Anecdote

    Luckily, Tara Kenway’s student didn’t expose anything more than a lack of English vocabulary!

  • Anecdote: A crow

    Author: Danute Jankauskiene Type: Anecdote

    Danute Jankauskiene wins the Teacher anecdotes competition with this tale of misunderstanding and accidently insulting a student.

  • Anecdote: A tart comment

    Author: Mark Wand Type: Anecdote

    This month's winning anecdote comes from Mark Wand, who is lost in translation in France.

  • Anecdote: Billiard tables

    Author: Sheila Miller Type: Anecdote

    The students, a nice mixture from all over the world, were introducing themselves to each other at the start of a new year. Raquel from Navarra told us about herself and her family and then said that her area was famous for the production of billiard tables.   The students all looked at me for a translation.  I leant over the desk in true Steve Davies fashion, ample bottom in the air, feet apart, positioned my imaginary cue and took a few practice aims before hitting the ...

  • Anecdote: Dangerous pronouns

    Author: Bontia Treinen Type: Anecdote

    I'm sure we've all come across the problem of 'false friends' - words that sound similar in English and the students' native language, but have very different meanings. By far my most embarrassing example of that took place in Thailand, as I was teaching a group of young learners of about 8 years old. I was trying to teach them the pronouns HE and SHE by pointing at each student and labelling them as either HE or SHE. As I pointed at each boy and said 'he', the boy would emphatically ...

  • Anecdote: Dining out with Chinese students

    Author: Tim Foster Type: Anecdote

    One day, we were doing some role playing in class and pairs of students were practicing how to order breakfast in a restaurant. They had to play the role of customer and waiter or waitress. I was going around the room checking on the progress of all the students. I decided to join a pair of students and began to play the role of the waiter. "Hello sir," I said to my student. "Would you care to order?"

  • Anecdote: Gender problems

    Author: Frank Moody Type: Anecdote

    Many years ago during the great exodus from Vietnam, we had many students that were far past middle aged. In one class a teacher was trying to help them to fill out government forms. Each item was carefully explained and then the next one taken up. 

  • Anecdote: I could eat a horse

    Author: Vincent Bastick Type: Anecdote

    A few months after arriving in Japan, I found myself at the training centre of a major company, teaching four guys a 3-day intensive course. At the end of the first day, one of the students announced that they'd like to take me out for dinner. I was delighted, and when asked what type of food I'd prefer, I asked them to decide, but admitted that I was so hungry, I could eat a horse. The students nodded in understanding and I left them enthusiastically discussing options amongst themselves ...

  • Anecdote: Mind your French

    Author: Helen Bowden Type: Anecdote

    Helen Bowden takes an impolite greeting rather well in another classic case of 'lost in translation' ...

  • Anecdote: Miss Italy

    Author: Roger Phillips Type: Anecdote

    I was doing a warm-up activity with a group of mixed nationalities, all mostly beginners - some Swiss German, Swiss French, Italian and Spanish. We were still at an early stage so conversation was - well, basic.

  • Anecdote: Spanglish

    Author: Jimena Lizalde Type: Anecdote

    You know how students experiment with language and invent words when they want to say something but don’t know the right words to do it.

  • Anecdote: Spelling mistake

    Author: Angus McFarlane Type: Anecdote

    While teaching in an international school in Jeddah, I asked my students to write a few descriptive paragraphs using lots of adjectives. One boy tried to write; "When he entered the room he saw some rough matting on the floor."However, he had written 'matting' with only one 't'.

  • Anecdote: Tapping into British humour

    Author: Terry Ridgley Type: Anecdote

    British humour should never be introduced into the classroom. I know. I've heard this dozens of times before - it just doesn't translate. But we all like a good pun or witty comment don't we? Sometimes you just can't help yourself.

  • Anecdote: Teaching with two names

    Author: Marcella Banchetti Type: Anecdote

    I have been teaching for over 30 years now, and when I started teaching the "Direct method" was in fashion. We were not allowed to speak the student's language during lessons. How did we manage?

  • Anecdote: Toy story

    Author: Nora Soto del Canto Type: Anecdote

    Nora Soto del Canto had to hastily correct her Chilean students when a spot of child’s play unwittingly turned into adult entertainment.

  • Anecdote: Using L1 makes life easier?

    Author: Mark McGowen Type: Anecdote

    Quite a lot of our students don't hear the difference between 'Where' and 'When'. On one occasion I was teaching a slow elementary student one-to-one and asked him, 'When were you born?' to which he replied, 'I was born in Normandy.'

  • Share

Powered by Webstructure.NET

Access denied popup