Category Archives: Language Learning context

Chinese-English collaborations 2019

TransCollaborate’s activities this year have brought us into contact with Melbourne’s many Chinese communities, including both migrant and international-student cohorts. We have found many ways to connect with these communities through collaborative translation.

Classroom collaborations

EAL students of the Australian Technical Management College in Melbourne Australia recently undertook collaborative translation with their trainer. The source texts are taken from a Chinese textbook featuring texts of 300+ words on a range of general topics. 

Translation 1

The first text to be translated covered the story of the historic satellite link between Shanghai and Toronto, Canada on the night of the new millennium, January 1st 2001.

You can find the translation here.

Translation 2

The next text was a magazine article about the Chinese lottery. The article investigates people’s expectations of winning the lottery, and what they would intend if they actually won.

You can find the translation here.

Translation 3

This text is an anecdote told by a father about attending a parent-teacher interview at his son’s school. From a cultural perspective, it is interesting to note that the father’s irreverent response to the rather strict attitude of the school skewers the many of the myths we may hold about parental expectations of student academic performance.

The translation itself was highly accurate in meaning, but it departed significantly from the semantic structure of the original text. This could be a sign that the collaboration has grown in confidence from its first attempts.

You can find the translation here.

Method and outcomes

The collaborations take place between a class of pre-intermediate students, all Chinese speakers, and their trainer, a native-English speaker. The translations take just under 90 minutes. The process is usually energetic, and it clearly activates the students, who otherwise may struggle to express themselves in the classroom. The translation offers multiple opportunities to teach and illustrate grammar and vocabulary. It also offers opportunities for cultural exchange, where collaborators can describe cultural practices of different times and places.

The feedback from these activities is positive, with all participants requesting copies of the completed translations, and with some asking if the exercise could be repeated in future classes.

This collaboration has confirmed or supported the following insights for TransCollaborate:

  • That collaborations with pre-intermediate students are possible, if the source text is sufficiently simple in grammar and vocabulary.
  • That collaborative translation is an excellent classroom activity for monolingual learner groups, as it productively integrates a range of language skills.
  • That an experienced target collaborator can collaboratively translate a text of around 300-400 words in a 90-minute session.

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Marco Polo workshops

One of our closest partners, the Marco Polo project, has been facilitating weekly language exchange workshops since 2011. These workshops match Chinese-English bilinguals, including international students and native English learners of Chinese, to translate prose texts from Chinese into English. We have been given the opportunity to run our own Marco Polo workshops, applying our own unique methodology.

Following in the spirit of our previous Emerging Writers Festival workshop, our Marco Polo workshops translate the “Ci” of Su Dong Po. Our workshops involve the participation of several “target collaborators” with little-to-no experience with Chinese, but who have experience in translating creative texts in various contexts. Each target collaborator facilitates a small group to translate a Ci, marshaling input from collaborators with different language backgrounds and creative skills.

One group’s translation can be found here.

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Warwick Italian Language Workshop: Roman words in “Roma Capoccia” by Antonello Venditti

Our #transcollaborator Martina Severin tells us about her experience of projecting and conducting an Italian language workshop within the ‘language learning’ strand of the collaborative translation project.

10th May 2017

martina

As an Italian Erasmus student, I decided to propose a project for a workshop that would represent my nationality, in particular the part of Italy from which I come from, in order to involve all my personal experience in this project. I proposed to analyse and work on a possible translation of the text and cultural significance into the English language of a popular Italian song, “Roma Capoccia“, by Antonello Venditti. As you can already see from the title, it seems to be a very challenging song for a non-native Italian speaker. I chose this text primarily for its cultural significance, Venditti wrote it with the aim of celebrating Rome, its landscapes, its historical places, its attractions. It is a piece of Italian culture. For the context of the #Transcollaborate project, this song presents many aspects of Roman accent, so it is a good example of the many difficulties that a language such as Italian can offer to translators. The workshop aim was to work on language learning, so our audience was varied – English and Italian speakers, from the first year to the last year of bachelor, Erasmus and PhD students; all of them with an intermediate-high level of knowledge of the Italian language.

The workshop started with the viewing and listening of the musical video of “Roma Capoccia” in order to identify the different pronunciation of the words in the Roman accent, and to contextualise the song. Later, I asked the participants to work in groups, to analyse two different pieces of the song, and to identify the main difficulties, the most curious, challenging or funny words, what attracts their attention, without focusing on finding a final translation, but on the transference of the meaning into English. The most challenging discussion arose from the title “Roma Capoccia”, what it might mean, what the cultural significance might be and how it can be translated into English; and these are some of the options we devised together:

  • Rome Caput Mundi : it is a Latin sentence that stands for “Rome capital of the world”;
  • Head of the Hills : because of the fact that Rome was built on seven hills, that are also cited in the song.

Other challenging sentences are:

  • quanno l’arancia rosseggia sui sette colli: which is a metaphor for an orange-coloured sun that spreads its red colour at sunset on the seven hills;
  • la santità der Cuppolone: which means the holiness of the Vatican, in fact “cuppolone” in Rome is used only in reference to the big cupola, part of the Papal Basilica of San Pietro in the Vatican city.

Do you have any other ideas or suggestions?

It was interesting how English native speakers could recognize and interpret a different spelling of a word and surprising that Italian speakers from different cities of Italy have difficulties in understanding, demonstrating the great variety in Italian language, and the different cultural experiences. Examples are:

  • quann’è quando è when is
  • so’ sono  are
  • er/der il/del the

These are only some of the interesting points we made, but, given that there is no official English translation for this song, it is a work in progress. It has been interesting looking together at the cultural significance of these words from the different cultural perspectives. The collaborative aspect of the workshop was successful: Italian and English speakers collaborated and integrated their different cultural background. When I introduced myself at the beginning of the workshop, I stressed that I am a student, as almost all the people who were attending, and this has allowed me to arrange it in a friendly way, making students feel comfortable (I hope!), and creating an informal, but very productive, atmosphere. The experience has been really challenging and exciting for me, for the first time I was “on the other side”, not a student attending the workshop but the organizer and facilitator of it, and I had to find interesting ways to keep the level of attention high, to get people involved, without making them bored. I have really enjoyed working with all the group, and I have to thank Gioia and Georgia of the University of Warwick for having given to me this amazing opportunity. Grazie di cuore!

Look forward to share and discuss this experience in Prato. See you soon!

Martina Severin

New article: ‘Focus on language sensitivity: collaborative translation in language class’

The article Focus sulla sensibilità linguistica: la traduzione collaborativa nella classe di lingua has been published on the last issue of the journal Italiano LinguaDue. It discusses the rationale behind the series of #Transcollaborate workshops held at Warwick  in 2016 and conducted by the two co-authors.

The full article (in Italian) can be downloaded from the journal website. The abstract is available in English and in Italian.