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Teacher Spotlight: A Portrait of the Translator as a Young Woman

Young woman writingMarija Hladni, a teacher, translator and creative writer from Serbia, gives us an insight into the life of a translator, as well as a few words of wisdom for anyone considering a career in translation.

‘Translation is a craft,’ said one of my faculty professors, apparently with the heartfelt desire to belittle my dreams. Luckily, I disagreed, held true to my goals and eventually ended up as a young and relatively successful translator. I always thought that translation is an art, a beautiful way of ignoring the dividing differences between two cultures and letting them exchange ideas and learn from one another.

It is an unwritten rule that a translator should specialize in two or three areas of expertise, but in order to work in my country I had to adapt, so right now I am translating everything from scientific papers dealing with medicine or agriculture to legal documents and literature. Of course, I would like to be able to choose what I do, and hopefully in the near future I will be, but for now it’s sunflower breeding immediately followed by multiple sclerosis parameters.

Another thing that I have learned working as a translator is that everybody needs their translations finished yesterday – if there was a medical condition that prevented people from distinguishing between a phone and a time machine it would almost certainly be called translationitis. The ailment would be characterized by violent outbursts of frustration and disbelief on the subject’s part whenever his or her desire to ignore temporal laws wasn’t met with the utmost enthusiasm and a binding urge to comply.

So, if you are thinking about becoming a freelancer within translation profession, remember that in this line of business sleep is a rare pleasure you can indulge in only once you’ve managed to defy the laws of nature. I’m half expecting to be asked to finish a translation before it is even sent to me. The best way to deal with this type of situation is to stay calm and remember that people who are not translators naturally don’t know as much about the process as you do, so they really can’t be expected to know that you actually need time in order to do the work. Give them an estimate on how long it will take you to finish the translation and if it doesn’t suit them feel free to refer them to your wizard/mad scientist friend who might be able to help them out with their demands.

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Reading with/for pleasure in ELT

Woman reading a book in bedEva Balážová, an ELT Consultant for Oxford University Press in Slovakia, highlights the importance of encouraging students to enjoy reading in English as a way of improving their communicative competence.

Reading a book in English???

People usually read in their mother tongue. Foreign language readers encounter many obstacles that wipe all the pleasure out and can make it a real pain. On the other hand, reading in English undeniably enhances the learning process.

What does pleasure from reading mean in general?

It is everything that drives us to read and read again, all the reasons why we say ´I like reading books,´ everything that helps us immerse ourselves in the content. We like reading because it encourages our curiosity, our fantasy, it whips up our desire to know more. What’s more, we enjoy reading in a safe environment without any stress, pressure or assignments.

Reading for/with pleasure in ELT proves invaluable for developing communicative competence. When reading for pleasure we focus more on content than vocabulary or structures. In that case students think in English, which is necessary for successful communication. Furthermore, students build a positive attitude towards language and develop their critical thinking and creativity skills.

My idea of how to incorporate this into the school syllabus is to establish a readers club.

It offers students the chance to spend their free time with a good book, reading in English. I know that their attitude might be: ´Why should I stay at school for longer than I have to?´ … ´It´ll be a drag. I can´t be bothered sitting and reading for the whole lesson.´ … ´What for? ´…

So how do we get over these objections and encourage students to give up their free time for reading?

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Brave New World English

Robin Walker is a freelance language teacher, teacher educator and materials writer. In this post, he considers the vital role that English now plays in World business and communication, and discusses the increasing importance of English as a Lingua Franca. Robin hosted a Webinar “Pronunciation for International Intelligibility”. Watch the recording of this webinar here.

Last month I took on two clients, both seeking coaching in pronunciation. Pablo works in the finance department of a US multinational that has a key European plant here in northern Spain. His boss is Irish, but most of the people he uses English with are non-native speakers. Pablo handles accounts for the whole of Europe, and even within the confines of his office, he’s in daily contact with speakers from over 17 different countries.

Ana works at the Spanish branch of a German company that makes air bridges, the metal and glass tubes that feed us on and off planes in airports around the world. She uses her English for telephone calls, Skyping and video-conferencing, and with Chinese, Brazilian, Arabian and European clients. English dominates her daily life despite working in Spain, and her office is a Tower of Babel in the making.

Image courtesy of fimoculous on flickr

Wow! It’s happened. (They said it would.)

Wow! It’s happening right now. (It’s everywhere I go.)

And wow! It’s going to go on happening far into the future.

English has gone global, and is being used much more today as a lingua franca (between non-native speakers), than as a native language (between native speakers), or as a foreign language (between native speakers and non-native speakers).

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How to reflect on how we teach

Young woman using laptop on park benchJulietta Schoenmann, a language teacher and teacher trainer with over twenty years’ experience, considers ways in which teachers can reflect on how they teach.

As professionals who care about our students and the quality of the lessons we prepare and deliver, we do from time to time want to explore certain aspects of our practice in more depth. One way of doing this is by carrying out an action research project. ‘Project’ makes it sound rather grand and formal but it doesn’t have to be as inaccessible as it sounds. Classroom-based research is simply a method for finding out more about teaching and learning which then, in theory, makes you a better teacher and also helps your students become better learners. So how do you go about doing it?

On your own

There are loads of things you can do by yourself which reveal plenty about you as a teacher – your attitude to your work and your students, your role in the classroom, your management techniques, your lesson planning abilities, etc. The first thing you need to do is think about which aspect of your lessons you want to research. Looking through any pages of the New English File Teacher’s Book can get you thinking about areas that deserve attention:

  • How effectively do you present new grammar structures?
  • How helpful are your techniques for explaining new vocabulary?
  • Do you provide adequate feedback on students’ performance?
  • Do you set up and conclude activities in a logical and engaging way?

It’s helpful to write down some questions to get you started so that you have a focus to work with. Let me give you an example from my own teaching.

A little while ago I wanted to find out how effective my instructions were with pre-intermediate group and decided to record my lesson. The digital recording device I used was nice and discreet so it wasn’t distracting for students in class. I was able to stop and start it whenever I wanted (rather than waste time on footage that wasn’t that helpful to me, such as groups doing a writing task). I set aside time a few days later to listen to what I’d captured.

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