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Translation 😱 ... is it really that bad?

Updated: May 3, 2019

For the last coupe of weeks my kids have been learning about the verb "to be". We're at a stage where my morning conversation with some of them looks like this:

-Good morning Igor. How are you today?

-I'm fine, thank you. And you? I am, you are, he is, she is .....


One of the tasks that is available for them in a translation exercise. I know that many teachers are agains this type of exercise and using L1 in lessons generally. Personally I don't see anything wrong with it. My kids all speak the same language (Polish) and thanks to this sort of exercise they're starting to understand, for example, that in English you need to have a subject in every sentence, whereas in Polish you don't. I don't think translation does any harm.

I know that not everyone will like to use this material but for those who will ...

It's extremely easy to make. This time you don't need a whole season of a Netflix show to complete it 😜 All you need is a printer, laminating machine and dice. But not your average dice, which is the biggest incentive for my kids to reach for the translation sheets.

On one side of the sheet there are sentences in English, on the other the same sentences in L1. At this point we have sentences with "to be " in positive and negative statements. We're going to have questions and a mix sed as well. Students roll two dice, one of them has numbers 1-10 on it, the other 00-90.

00 + 7 = 7

00 + 20= 20

10 + 00 =10

20 + 7 = 27

10 + 5 = 15

If you roll a 10 + any other of the tens you roll again

The student reads the sentence in Polish and writes it in their notebook in English. They turn over the page and check whether they got it right.

The files for download are divided into English and "empty" because I know that most of you will not need the Polish part. If you do, it's available on the Polish version of the blog. You can use the empty sheets to write the translation in your students' L1.

Every Monday I sit down with each student and ask them how many sentences they're going to translate this particular week. Some say 10, some say 40! Some say 5 and then I say "too few" and we start the negotiations 😄 I make a note of what each kid tells me and check it the following week.

We practice the spoken translation using a different aid:

We use small double sided cards. On one side we have a sentence in L1, on the other a Penal sticker (more on Penpal here) with the L2 translation. The students can choose one of two options:

Option 1: read the sentence in L1, translate it, touch the Penpal sticker and check if it's the same as what they've said

Option 2: touch the sticker, listen to the sentence in L2, translate it into L1, turn over the card and see if it's the same

I usually let them work in pairs with this one so that they don't feel like they're talking with a table or a wall 😜 Unless they want to work on their own, this option is always available.

It requires a bit more work from the teacher to prepare this aid. The cards need to printed, laminated, and cut. You need to place a sticker on each one and record the L2 translation.

Seeing as the cards have L1 sentences on them I'm not attaching them here (they're available on the Polish site). It's really easy to make them, though. Simply create a table in a Pages (Word) document and write a sentence in each box.

I used small rings to connect both translation sheets and the cards. This way I can hang them up and not store them on the shelf if I choose to (the shelves are getting quite full at this point ).


The questions sheet is now available 😊

I also decided to share with you the source of vocabulary that the kids use when translating the sentences. Part of the vocab they need for translation comes from the unit of the book they are studying at a particular time. The rest of it comes from Longman Picture Dictionary (J.Ashworth & J.Clark). I love this dictionary and recommend to all my young students. Thanks to using the picture dictionary, the question practice has a sneaky bit of CLIL in it: to be able to translate the name of the country from their L1 to English they need to recognise its flag first


Example pages from the dictionary:


It has arrived! Translation sheet with all forms combined: positivie and negative statements, questions and short answers all in one 😊 I'm attaching the English sheet and the blank one for you to fill in with your L1 translations.

Have fun creating,

Ewa :)

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