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Activities

1 For this exercise, students should bring a bilingual dictionary with them in

class; you will need to bring a tape or CD and something to play it with.

Write up a series of word lists in the students' source or target language.

(This exercise works differently, but equally well, in both directions.) Each

list should contain five words of medium difficulty that do not quite fit into a

single coherent discourse or register. For example:

demonstrator, ordinance, signpost, escalator, plastique

venerable, vehicular, venereal, vulnerable, virtual

cylinder, antislip surface, counter, column, revolving door

float, chute, flatbed, load limit, listserv

jamb, jack, jig, joist, joint

manifold, mandatory, manifest, mangle, manhole

Print each list on a separate sheet of paper and photocopy enough for the

whole class; or else write them on the board or overhead transparency. Then

take the class through the following exercises, one with each list.

(a) Have the students work on the first list (it doesn't matter which) with

a dictionary, alone; encourage them to be as thorough and analytical as

possible, even looking up words they know and choosing the meaning

that they think most likely (but don't encourage them to construct a

coherent context to facilitate the determination of "likelihood" — yet).

Get them to put their facial muscles into "concentration" mode: focused

eyes, knitted brow, clenched jaw.

(b) Next have them work on the second list, still alone, but now relaxing,

getting comfortable in their chairs, visualizing every word, and building

a composite image of all five words before translating.

(c) With the third list, have them work alone again, and relaxing and

visualizing again, but with classical (or other fairly complex but

enjoyable) music playing in the background as they translate.

(d) With the fourth list, start with relaxation, music, and visualization

again, but now have the students break up into groups of three or four,

discussing context and collectively creating a reasonable and realistic

context for the words (imagining a professional context for them,

telling a story about them, etc.) before translating them.

(e) With the fifth list, do everything as in (d), but now have the students

mime the meanings of the words to each other before translating.

(f) With the sixth list, do everything as in (e), but this time have the

students try to come up with the funniest possible wrong or bad

translations.

The exercise can be completed in about 30 minutes if you rush, but works

better if you allow 45—60 minutes. Even if you rush, be sure to allow 15—20

minutes after it is over to give students a chance to talk about what they

were feeling as they moved from one step to the next. What difference did

relaxation make? Music? (Some find music very distracting; others become

many times more productive once the music starts playing.) Group work?

Mime? Funny wrong translations?

Some, incidentally, may find the idea of doing wrong translations disturbing.

Note, however, that the creative process is the same in both right and wrong

translations, just a lot more fun, and thus also more productive — generates

more possible versions — in the latter. Skeptics can also be directed to the

findings of Paul Kussmaul (1995: 39ff.) in his think-aloud protocol research:

It could be observed in the protocols, especially during incubation, when

relaxation was part of the game, that a certain amount of laughter and

fooling around took place amongst the subjects if they did not find their

solution at once. This, in combination with the "parallel-activity technique"

described above, also prevented them from being stuck up a blind alley,

and promoted new ideas. Laughter can also be a sign of sympathetic

approval on the part of a subject and may help to create the gratificationoriented

condition postulated by neurologists.

(1995:48)

2 This exercise is obviously closely related to (1), differing primarily, in fact,

only in using a whole text instead of a word list. (The word list, being simpler,

is more "teachable"; the whole text is more realistic, and more complicated.)

Elements from exercise (1) not listed here might in fact be added — especially

music.

Note the somewhat artificial distinction made in this exercise between

"preparatory" or "pre-translation" activities (a—c) and "translation" (d—e). In

real life these blur together, of course, but it is useful for students to realize

what an important role "pre-translation" processes play in the act of translation

— how essential it is to "get in the right frame of mind" to translate something.