In 2019, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.