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Translation Nation at primary level

Translation Nation was a four-year project with Eastside Educational Trust that ran from 2010 to 2014 and saw 10 and 11 year old children in inner-city primary schools making translations of folk tales from other cultures.

Funded by the Arts Council and the Esmée Fairbairn Trust, and curated by Sarah Ardizzone, Translation Nation at primary level
  • helped children to develop an understanding of how language and literature provide a window into other cultures
  • raised the profile of community languages within schools
  • increased participants' understanding of how language functions, improved their creative writing and helped them develop clearer and more nuanced English

'This is a vital project to building the confidence of those students who speak a language other than English.'
Year 5 Teacher, Sir John Heron Primary

An action-packed first day saw a large number of children experimenting with learning other languages, being introduced to literature in translation, finding out more about the role of a translator and considering linguistic nuances. On the second day, parents and grandparents were invited into the classroom to share their stories and the workshop leaders helped the students translate the stories into fluent, creative English. On the final day the three stories were performed in the original language and in English to an audience of other young people.

'The content of the workshops was very well structured so that children could practise orally the skills they would need when writing. A lot of the work focused on editing and redrafting to polish the final story, adding description and making the story flow. They have developed the ability to concentrate on redrafting and editing skills, something they don't always have time for in class due to the pressures of the curriculum.'
Rosie Keaney, EMTAG Manager, Granton School

The project won two prizes from the European Union: the European Label for Language in recognition of the project's innovative qualities and the way in which it introduced literature in translation to primary school children and a EuroTalk Primary Education Language Prize. Feedback from the schools mentioned that the workshops had affirmed bi/multilingualism and the role played by many young people as interpreters and translators; improved the participants' oral communication and written skills in English; involved parents and the extended family; and provided opportunities for peer teaching.

'It has given the pupils an experience of empathy by showing them what it is like to be in a situation of not understanding the language that everyone is speaking.'
Linda Thomas, Head, Sparrow Farm Junior School

Translation Nation at secondary level

In 2013 Translation Nation was extended by Sam Holmes and Sarah Ardizzone to include children at secondary school. The aim was to
  • ignite students' interest in studying modern foreign languages
  • introduce students to the fundamentals of translation and the many professional pathways available to young people with language skills
  • encourage the use of languages to access global literature and culture and intercultural experiences
Students aged 12–14 at schools in Islington, Havering, Hounslow, Wandsworth, Newham and Croydon enjoyed one-hour workshops spent subtitling French and Spanish films and considering the many jobs open to those with languages beyond the obvious ones.

'I learnt that languages help you at nearly every kind of job'
Firdous, Isleworth & Syon

The emphasis was on students working collaboratively to produce a rough direct translation and then devising their own subtitles to replace the French or Spanish slang, expressions and teenage dialogue with English equivalents. They found it empowering that they were able to translate the printed scripts without the need for a dictionary, using instead a combination of the Translation Nation pre-prepared glossary and their own creative thinking.

'Sentences don't always make sense if you translate them exactly. You need to tweak them and change the words around for it to make sense.'
Manpreet, Redden Court

Students came away realising that to be a successful translator you need to have a lot of cultural awareness in the languages you are translating, and a creative side when it comes to finding innovative solutions to difficult translations.

'This workshop got me thinking that languages and translation are more important than people think.'
Maria, Westwood Girls

Listen to Michael Rosen talk about his visit to one of the participating schools on Word of Mouth and read lead translator Sarah Ardizzone’s blog. Translation Nation featured in the September 2013 edition of Languages Today (the journal of the Association for Language Learning). Read the article (pdf download).

To find out more about the project, please visit the archived Translation Nation website or email