Using Translation

Translation is a useful language learning task but not something we want to base the whole course on. We are not going to revert to the grammar translation method.

There are two useful translation tasks we can do with all learners.

  1. Exact (not literal) translation of a sentence.
  2. Summary translation of a text.

Exact Translation of a Sentence

This is useful as it is a language focused task, focused on both languages.


  1. Choose an interesting sentence of an appropriate length. You might want to chose a sentence from a text which they have read recently.
  2. Ask the learners to identify and label all the word types in English.
  3. Ask the learners to mark the verb, noun and prepositional phrases in the sentence, and any other elements.
  4. Learners check with their partners. Class check.
  5. Then ask learners to translate the sentence into their native language.
  6. Learners check with their partners. Class check.
  7. Discuss the differences and options for the translation.
  8. Label the word types and phrases in the translated sentence.


Option 1: Do 1 to 4 as above. Then give the learners a translation of the sentence from an online translation tool like Google Translate. Is it a good translation? Can it be improved?

Option 2: Do 1 to 4 as above. Then give the learners translations of the sentence from two online translation tool like Google Translate. Are the translations the same? Are they good translations? Can they be improved?

Summary Translation of a Text

This is useful as it is a communicative task.


  1. Choose a short text on an interesting topic which you think the learners will be able to understand at least 95% of without any problems.
  2. Read the text to answer the how, who, who etc. questions.
  3. Check understanding.
  4. Check new vocabulary and grammar.
  5. Ask the learners to write out a short summary of the key ideas/information in the text for someone who cannot read the original text (for whatever reason). You might want to give a word limit for the summary.
  6. Ask the learners to check their partner’s summary, and check the number of words if a word limit was given.
  7. The learners improve their summary based on their partner’s feedback.
  8. Then ask them to translate their summary of the text into their native language.
  9. Ask the learners to compare their translations.

© Robert Buckmaster 2022