Many teachers feel their training has discouraged them from using translation in class. There is however a great deal of useful awareness-raising when learners compare English with their own tongue. Here are four great translation games - and they don’t even require you to speak the other language!
- Prepare about 15 cards, each with a short everyday phrase (e.g. “Could you spare a moment, please?”).
- Ask 7 learners to stand in a line at the front of the class.
- Take the first card and give it to the student at one end of the line who looks at the card and then whispers - once only - the message to student two. No-one else should hear the sentence.
- Student two now passes the message on in translation (e.g. in Spanish) to student three - who must whisper it on to the next student in English - and so on, the message going from language to language down the line.
- When the message reaches the end of the line, the first and last student say their messages out loud - and they can be compared.
- Often the confusions will be interesting and funny - and you can discuss if they are translation or listening errors. It may also be useful to hear what people said all along the line.
- When finished play the game again with the next card and so on. Make new lines to give more students a chance to take part.
- Learners stand in groups of four: two 'ambassadors' and two 'interpreters'.
One “ambassador' only speaks / understands English; the other only understands her mother tongue.
- The 'interpreters' (one working for each ambassador) understand both languages.
The ambassadors now meet at a 'party' and must have a conversation with each other about anything!
- The ambassadors whisper their communication to their interpreter and the interpreter must then communicate aloud (in translation) what their ambassador said to the other ambassador. (If you have a group of three, then only have one interpreter who does all the mediation.)
- Play the game as above but each interpreter must completely mistranslate ONE communication.
- At the end ambassadors should guess which messages came through wrongly.
- Prepare a pack of cards with everyday situations on them - especially ones in which a foreign tourist needs to do something in an English-speaking country - e.g. 'buying a ticket at the train station', 'asking what time the film starts', 'booking into a hotel' etc.
- In groups of three, one student is a foreign tourist (who doesn’t speak English and speaks only, for example, Portuguese).
- The other people are (i) the person they are talking to (e.g. a ticket seller who only speaks English) and (ii) their friend who speaks both languages.
- Each group picks one situation card from the pack. They read it together and decide exactly what the role-play will be.
- Then they then do it. The friend translates in both directions to help the tourist and the native speaker communicate.