Lots in translation!

Much has been said and written about whether or not translation has a place in the language classroom. I believe it’s a skill worth developing in our young language learners. It’s a practical skill for the real world. And, of course, it’s also now part of the Key Stage 3 National Curriculum for Modern Foreign Languages which states that:

Pupils should be taught to translate short written text accurately into the foreign language.

Lots in translation

Short, fun translation activities can be incorporated easily into a language lesson. They help to develop an explicit understanding of the similarities and differences between two languages. Here are just a few ideas.


Find and re-order

Learners translate a sentence by finding the words they need in a word snake or wordsearch and then rearranging them into the correct order. This can work especially well to reinforce word order where it is different from English.

 He speaks French and he speaks English too.




 I prefer the white mobile phone.





Missing letters

Learners complete a translation by adding the missing letters.

 In the south it’s very hot and it doesn’t often rain.

 D _ ns le s_ _ il f_ _t très cha _ _ et i_ ne p_ _ t pas s _ _ent.


Sentence halves

Learners are given several sentences in English. Translations for these sentences are also given but they are split in half and jumbled up. The learners translate each English sentence by matching up the correct sentence halves.

He gets up at seven o’clock.               Il a EPS             à sept heures.

He gets dressed at seven thirty.      Il se lève          à onze heures.

He has PE at eleven o’clock.             Il s’habille       à sept heures trente.


Paired gap-fill translations

Version 1

Learner A has a sentence in English. Learner B has a sentence in the target language. Both sentences have words missing. A and B work together to complete both sentences but may not look at each other’s sentence.

I like ______________ ______________ because it’s ______________ but I ______________ ______________  swimming ______________  ______________  boring .


_____  _________ jugar al futbol ______________ __________ divertido ______________ no me gusta  ______________ ______________  porque es ______________ .


Version 2

Learner A has a text in English. Learner B has the same text translated into the target language but with some gaps. Learner A reads out one sentence at a time. Learner B translates it, filling the gaps with the correct word. Learners can then swap roles.


He spends a lot of time on the Internet – at least three hours a day! His mother says he should take more exercise.



__________ mucho tiempo en Internet – al __________ tres horas __________ día! _____ madre dice que __________ hacer más ejercicio.


Answer: [Pasa mucho tiempo en Internet – al menos tres horas al día! Su madre dice que debería hacer más ejercicio.]

Glennis Pye

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