Translation Experiments

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Lesson Introduction: 

Just like learning a language, translating a poem is all about making mistakes and testing the limits of our creativity! In this series of lessons, students try their hand at translating poems from English to French and French to English. Translation is framed as a fun, accessible, and collaborative game through which students can deepen their knowledge of both languages and build intercultural awareness. First, students will be introduced to inspiring bilingual Canadian poets who are also translators. Then, they will be led through a series of translation experiments that focus on play and possibility. Students will work with poems and translations from the Poetry in Voice anthology to test the limits of Google Translate, explore unique “untranslatable” English and French words, and even collaborate on translations with other language students from across the country!**

Learning Objectives: 

In this lesson, students will have opportunities to:

  • Experiment with a variety of strategies, activities and resources to explore the meaning and importance of translation.
  • Cultivate appreciation for Canadian and International poets who also engage in translation.
  • Acquire and apply new vocabulary in English and French through the act of translation.
  • Learn to incorporate a range of digital technologies for drafting and revising translations (for example, distinguishing when to use Linguee, WordReference, or Google Translate).
  • Promote intercultural understanding through conversations about the cultural and contextual nuances and discussion of “untranslatable” words.
Materials and Resources: 

To teach this lesson, you will need:

  • Handout 1: Off The Top of My Head (attached)
  • Handout 2: Poets Who Translate. Translators Who Poet (attached)
  • Board and marker (or Smartboard) to create word web
  • Computers, tablets, or smartphones to access WordReference and Google Translate
  • Paper and pencils or pens

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Poetry In Voice is a charitable organization that encourages Canadian students to fall in love with poetry through reading, writing, and recitation. All of our resources are available online for free. You may also use our resources if you reside outside of Canada.