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How to stop kids from translating? 
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Joined: Wed Aug 23, 2006 11:37 pm
Posts: 9
Location: France
Post How to stop kids from translating?
I don't know what to do. I teach a group of 12-13 year olds, who are an intermediate-advanced level. They have a fairly large vocabulary, and a good understanding of most grammar rules, during isolated activities.

But when they write or speak freely, they often translate what they want to say, and forget about all the grammar that they have learned. So when they translate sentences directly from French, the grammar and sentence structure are wrong.

I'm not sure how to approach this, because I know I do the same thing in French when I'm not sure. I'm glad that they are confident enough to be speaking and writing readily, but it almost seems like a waste when they automatically resort to French grammar rules instead of trying to figure out how to say it properly.

Do I constantly correct everything they say, which would discourage discussions, or let them express themselves, and potentially reinforce bad habits?

Any thoughts?


Tue Dec 05, 2006 9:54 pm
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
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That's a tough question. I think it depends on what your purpose is with the speaking activity or speaking time.

If you are just trying to encourage communication, you might let most of the mistakes go. If you notice a pattern of mistakes, you can make notes and maybe write them on the board the next class (with the mistakes) and let the students try to correct them. That's a pretty good self-correcting technique.

If you are practicing accuracy in your speaking activity, you'll probably want to correct. However, like you said over correction can discourage some students. I generally correct what appears to be an error in structure, but I don't correct what seems to be a 'slip.' Basically, if I think they know what to say but just missed something because they were speaking too fast or involved in some difficult turn-taking conversation, I let it go.

The only way I know how to stop translation is to stop giving them 'thinking' time. Try to use some activity where they must give quick responses (spontaneous responses.) However, I think translation is OK. I do it with Japanese when I'm trying to say something particularly difficult. I have to revert back to rules and stuff. With time and use, they'll internalize those patterns and rules and hopefully do better. The key is they need to know what they did wrong and that the direct translation doesn't work in that case.

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Thu Dec 07, 2006 10:15 am
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Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2006 3:35 pm
Posts: 119
Location: Yamaguchi, Japan
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I agree with the don`t give them thinking time. This applies to all levels in an attempt to get students to think i the foreign language.
Is the level of thought needed for the discussion too high for the language level. Doesn`t sound as though it is but it may be something to consider.


Thu Dec 07, 2006 2:26 pm
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Joined: Fri Jun 16, 2006 2:27 pm
Posts: 70
Location: Austria
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For those mistakes which continually crop up, you could use a wordless signal. In German, for example, beginners (as well as intermediate students) tend to slip the "time" into the wrong spot. They'll say "I saw yesterday a movie".

I mentioned that this mistake is "normal", and it usually take lots of practise before it fizzles out.

We decided that when a student uses this particular word order, instead of the teacher jumping in and correcting him or her, something would be triggered (which you can decide together) - for example, I'd be turned into a robot and start robot-walking on the spot, or my hands would start flapping as if on fire. Whatever works. Whatever makes them chuckle. It works best with the democratic mistakes which all or most of the students make.

In college I had a good professor who never interrupted us. He simply repeated the sentence soneone had said, as though he were casually addressing the whole group, but he said it correctly. You'd hear the difference, and you never felt as though you were standing up on that ha-ha mistake podium with everyone staring at you.


Thu Dec 07, 2006 3:39 pm
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