Not-quite translation: transforming L1 notes to L2 text

Today I read a blog post on the Language Teacher Toolkit blog by Steve Smith entitled "Google Translate beaters". 

(Here is a link to the blog post.

In it, Steve suggests a translation activity based on providing students with an L1 and L2 text, each with different words missing. (Think 2-part information gap, but with each text in a different language). The gaps in each text are dashed to indicate the number of letters required, so only the correct translation will fit. Steve suggests this as a way of providing 2-way translation which, because of the chopped up nature of each text and the dashed gaps, is practically impossible to complete using translation tools such as Google Translate. An excellent activity! :o)

Translation in textivate works in a similar way to Steve's example because it specifies the letter gaps to be completed. i.e. it will only accept the pre-defined translation. This makes it difficult to google translate because GT will only work as long as the GT translation matches the pre-defined L2 text provided by the teacher.

Textivate translation into the L2 is a useful activity to push students to practise particular language; particular words, chunks and expressions that we think they should be able to say / write. However, it occurred to me that we could make the activity slightly more challenging and even less google-translatable by providing L1 notes rather than the "Full English" (as it were...).

See the image at the top of this post for an example of this.

For this sort of activity to be successful, ideally we should make sure our resource complies with the following:

  • the L1 notes should be easy to understand
  • the L1 notes should be as close as possible to the order of the L2 text
  • the L2 text should consist of precisely the language items that your students should be familiar with, having been exposed to them consistently in prior lessons / teaching

Provided the above conditions are met, there is no reason why we shouldn't be able to use a whole range of translation-like tasks (such as many of those suggested in this blog post) with various levels of difficulty, using L1 notes as the stimulus rather than a full English L1 text.

If you can make the L1 notes include abbreviations etc that GT will not be able to translate, even better!

Try "no letters" (as shown above): no letters resources with 1 in 2 words affected

Try "jumbled words": put the words of each sentence in order

Try "next word": rebuild the text 3 words at a time

Try "no vowels": fill in all of the vowels

Try "no consonants": fill in all of the consonants

Try "initials": only initial letters are shown

Try "anagrams": 1 in 2 words affected

Try "space": click to insert the spaces in the text

Try "tiles 4x4": put the blocks of text in the correct order

Go the menu: from here you can try out all sorts of other activities