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Translation Lesson


The Internet offers some truly unique opportunities that can give teaching new impetus and be quite a lot of fun for the students. One of these new opportunities is the ability to translate an entire Internet page from English into a target language, or, vice-versa, translate from another language into English. These pages can then be used as the basis for students to improve vocabulary quickly, without having to check the dictionary for each new word. This lesson outlines one of my favorite uses for this great technology in an ESL or EFL classroom.

Aim: Improving vocabulary and writing style analysis

Activity: Translation of Internet page or original student writing from the native language of French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, at http://babelfish.altavista.com

Level: All


  • Divide students into small groups and ask them to either:

    1) Create a short story or document in their native tongue using the computer OR

    2) Together, find an Internet page in their own native tongue that they would like to see translated into English.

  • Ask students to follow the procedure outlined in the worksheet to translate their text or Internet page into English.
  • Once students have their translations, make sure they save the document or text extract onto the computer for future reference. It might also be a good idea to have them print out the document.
  • Students then use this translation as the basis for the activity.
  • Have students create a vocabulary list using the vocabulary gleaned from the translation.
  • If applicable, ask students to place this new vocabulary in a vocabulary tree (see Lesson: Vocabulary Charts ) for future use and to share with other students.
  • The second part of the exercises consists of the students identifying language from the translation that they feel is expressed poorly in English. Students should underline these sections if they have printed the document.
  • Ask students to put the underlined sections into more comprehensible English.
  • Help groups focus on the mechanisms that are inherent to their own language which translate poorly or differently into English. For example: "La bicicletta di Antonio" in Italian translates to "The bicycle of Antonio" in English rather than "Antonio's bicycle". In this case Italian uses a different linguistic formula to express possession.
  • As a class, discuss the various patterns of difference that the groups have discovered during the course of the lesson.
Translating Text or Entire Pages on the Internet
  1. Highlight the text you want to translate, or use CTRL A - or "Select All" from the drop down menu "Edit" to select the entire text.
  2. Copy the text by pressing CTRL C - or "Copy" from the drop down menu "Edit"
  3. If you want to translate an Internet page, copy (CTRL C) the address from the address window.
  4. Go to http://babelfish.altavista.com
  5. Copy the text, or Internet address (URL) into the large window using CTRL V - or "Paste" from the drop down menu "Edit"
  6. Choose the language you want to translate into from the drop down list titled "Translate from" (for example: English to French)
  7. Wait for the text or page to be translated.

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