2 sept. 2009

I assigned an exercise for my translation class: choose a paragraph of English prose and analyze it for style, register, tone, etc... What linguistic elements show when and where it was written, etc... The students were to stable a photocopy of the original, and write a paragraph of their findings, not a list of the elements they found. I recommended that they not choose a fairly bland paragraph of contemporary American English. Of the first four exercises I looked at I found the following problems:

Two translated the paragraph into Spanish, which I hadn't told them to do.

Two gave me copies of the book rather than photocopying the page.

One made a list.

One chose a bland paragraph of contemporary American English.

One thought that Virginia Woolf was writing in American English.

Two chose paragraphs that had been translated from another language into English, making them unable to follow the spirit of the exercise. Although I didn't tell them not to use a translation, you can't look at a translation of Galileo and see that that it was written in the 17th century, because the translation erases these factors. I should have explicitly stated I didn't want translations.

Of the fifth and sixth ones I just glanced at one used a paragraph of Dumas and the other made a list. I am going to give an A to anyone who followed the damned instructions and did a creditable job of looking at the style of the text.

My oral and written instructions stated that the purpose of the exercise was to do a pre-translation analysis to look at how difficult something would be to translate into Spanish from English, so I assumed they would choose texts written in English originally, but in teaching you can't assume anything. If they can't follow explicit instructions you can't expect them to follow implicit expectations.

I don't really want to be grading on students' ability to implement a junior high school skill: following the instructions. Yet the exercise does not work as well if you don't follow the instructions and understand why the assignment was designed. In other words, the junior high skill is needed as a prerequisite.

3 comentarios:

Andrew Shields dijo...

It's nice to know that other teachers share my problems ...

Vance Maverick dijo...

So what did you do? Repeat the assignment, or discuss and move on?

Jonathan dijo...

We discussed and moved on. That's the only thing to do in cases like this.