Jun 13, 2008

to translate or not to translate

Step one in TPRS is to establish meaning. One of the things that originally sold me on TPR was the lack of translation. In TPR, meaning is established through pictures, realia, gestures and actions. There is no English used. The wonderful thing about this is that it creates a "map" in the brain directly from the target language to the meaning and completely bypasses the first language. Even though TPRS developed from TPR, the method now encourages translation to establish meaning. I have to admit this has been one of the hardest things for me to "buy into"

At the conference I went to in February, I went up to Blaine during the break and asked him how the method had radically switched on this point. I later asked Bryce and Ben Slavic the same question. The response I got was that by translating we eliminate confusion over terms and meanings and we allow faster processing because students are not left guessing.

Back in the beginning of the whole storytelling experiment (before the conference) I tried teaching a fable about a cat and several rats. One of the words in the story was "log" and although I drew it on the board and had that labelled drawing up for the entire story, most of my students never did figure that out. The whole story was ambiguous bescause students did not understand several primary vocabulary words. (The other mistake I made was trying to get through the story in script format rather than developing the idea of the story. But I think a lot of us tend to treat text as somewhat sacred.)

In April I decided to teach the song Ojalá que llueva café. I had an extensive vocabulary list on the board - with translations! (You try figuring out a gesture or drawing for crop, or sun-dried bacon, or...) And students grasped the song wonderfully.

So, I am not altogether a convert for translation yet. But I do see the usefulness. I think I will still lean towards the gestures, realia, drawings for simple, concrete terms and then add translation when the terms are more abstract or complex.

1 comment:

  1. I can't agree with you more about translating. Sometimes it is necessary and despite feeling like the big bad Spanish teacher I have an antire lesson around translating. I pair up with the English department and we read Pablo Neruda's, "Oda al tomate." I have the students translate as best they can. When we are done we have a variety of interpretations proving that translation is not exact...then they read the published English translation in English class.


Gifted Education 2.0 Ning