Entering the Grammar Cave

Posted on 17. Dec, 2014 by in Language Learning

Itchy Feet: A Travel and Language Comic by Malachi Ray Rempen

“Grammar Cave: Curse of the Syntax” should be an Itchy Feet-themed text-based adventure video game, don’t you think? Old timey graphics, midi music…the many sequels, including “Grammar Cave III: The Conjunction Malfunction,” and “Grammar Cave VI: Detective Dative Makes the Case”…

Anyway, what were we talking about?

Right, grammar. While speaking, grammar can be a double-edged sword. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If you don’t pay attention to grammar while speaking and just wing it, you run the risk of being misunderstood, insulting, or just plain incomprehensible. Most native speakers will let grammar mistakes slide if they know you’re learning the language, but secretly it’s chiseling away at their souls every time you do it.

But if you do pay attention to grammar, and it doesn’t yet come naturally to you, you’ll end up stalling your sentences halfway through to check your work or prepare for what you’re about to say, and freeze up like our poor man in the comic above. This is also a fine tool for use in the soul-chiseling of native speakers (“Grammar Cave XII: Soul Chiseler”…I like where this is going).

Alternatively, you could do what I do, which is: don’t think about the grammar until you know you’ve screwed it up. Then, go back and repeat what you’ve said five times until you get it right. That way you kill two birds with one stone: you chisel the souls of your unfortunate listener, and you stall the conversation. There’s nothing that thrills native speakers more than when you stop in the middle of a sentence to query them on conjugations.

Unfortunately for you (and me), that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Practice makes perfect, and so forth. This article brought to you by: “Grammar Cave XXVI: When Idioms Attack”!

How about yourselves? Do you get stuck on grammar, or do you just blow right past it? Do you spend hours boning up with exercises, or do you just learn it over time from context? What’s your favorite “Grammar Cave” video game?

Flipping Your Foreign Language Classroom [Webinar]

Posted on 15. Dec, 2014 by in Company News, Events, Language Learning

At Transparent Language, we don’t just support learners of a foreign language, we support teachers, too!  That’s why we started our Education Webinar series earlier this year. We’ve received so much positive feedback from attendees—and requests from educators unable to attend—that we’re repeating the series in early 2015! First up: the ever-controversial topic of flipping your foreign language classroom. You can preview the webinar slides and register to join us below!

What is the flipped classroom?

In a traditional classroom, the teacher stands in front of his or her students to impart some knowledge, while the students are often sitting passively, listening, or taking notes. Students are then sent home to complete application activities, which they lovingly refer to as homework, in isolation.

In the flipped classroom, students are expected to interact with and learn new material prior to coming to class—often on the computer. Then, during class, the teacher acts as a guide to facilitate interactive activities. In this approach, students are doing the application portion of the lesson in class, with the support of the teacher.

Why flip?

As teachers, most of you will be familiar with Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience. For those not familiar, the important takeaway is that when students are simply listening or reading material, they retain only a fraction of what they would retain if they were more actively involved. One of the major benefits of the flipped classroom model is that it frees up a significant amount of class time for active learning. Imagine your students using new vocabulary and employing new grammar concepts while performing a skit or participating in a debate.

Flipping your language classroom also helps differentiate the learning. Those who are fast learners can quickly complete the lesson at home, while those who need more support can redo, pause, rewind, etc. as necessary.

It’s also beneficial for parents and students alike. When students complete the lesson at home, rather than the application, parents can see the learning in action and learn alongside their child. Having access to lessons at home also helps out those poor parents of sick children. No more worrying about what their child is missing during their sick days.

How do I flip my classroom?

This part is better left explained in person! Want expert tips from a 20+ year veteran teacher of French and Spanish? How about some free lesson plans to help you flip your classroom right away? Join us at our upcoming webinars:

Monday January 19, 2015 7:00-8:00pm EST

Thursday January 29, 2015 4:00-5:00pm EST

Have questions or comments before, during, or after the webinar? Connect with us on Twitter using #TLedwebinars.

5 Shining Examples of the Art of Translation

Posted on 10. Dec, 2014 by in Language Learning

To the unknowing reader, a translated text is simply a copy of the text re-written into the target language. This perspective fails to classify translators as what they truly are: artists. Sure, translating court documents may be more cut-and-dry (though I give serious kudos to anyone who has learned all of that legal jargon in more than one language!), but there’s another side of the translation spectrum.

From proper nouns and pop culture references to completely made-up words, there’s a lot to be considered when translating a story. Add the pressure of doing the storyline justice, accounting for ever-present subtext, and interpreting any cultural differences, and I’d say literary translation involves a lot more thought and care than simply one-to-one transcription into another language. The quality of the translation can truly make or break the story! To help you appreciate this formidable task, below are 5 shining examples of how translation requires just as much creativity and discipline as more traditional art forms like painting, dancing, or even writing.

The Harry Potter SeriesFrench_cover_Philosopher's

The 100+ million foreign language copies sold of the Harry Potter series sent translators through the whole gamut of difficult-to-translate elements. Spells, rhymes, and anagrams, oh my! The series’ French translator, François Ménard, for example, had to make important choices about every little play on words. He did not keep the name of the wizarding school, Hogwarts, choosing instead to translate it as “L’École de Poudlard” (a play on “poux-de-lard”), meaning “bacon lice”. Hogwarts conjures up images of a swine with skin problems— Ménard’s translation presents a similarly unpleasant image to French readers. With that level of scrutiny, surely the same amount of thought and creativity went in to Ménard’s translation as it did to Rowling’s original work.

The Hobbitb04044

No one could imagine such a vividly real world quite like R.R. Tolkien, whose stories gave life to a slew of new creatures, places, and even languages. (Any speakers of Elven languages out there?)  Surely, by now, we all know what a hobbit is, but how would one go about translating such a term? A hobbit, after all, isn’t even a real thing! The Mandarin Chinese translator, Li Yao, came up with an equivalent I’m quite fond of: 霍比特人 (huo bi te ren). This literally means “quickly compare special people,” which, on first read, is entirely too confusing. It was chosen as a a close phonetic match to “hobbit”, but think about it, what better way to describe the lovable little creatures we call hobbits? They are a special group who can be immediately distinguished from their less height-challenged counterparts in Middle Earth.

Don Quixote1656

As with most art forms, sometimes translations vary from translator to translator. Edith Grossman, a renowned Spanish-to-English translator, tackled Don Quixote even though it had already been translated to English. She paid special attention to the first line, one of the most famous lines in all of Spanish literature: “En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme.” A previous version had translated this as “In a village of La Mancha, the name of which I have no desire to call to mind”, but Grossman didn’t think this did the original version justice. Instead, she came up with “Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember.” She tried to evoke a more lyrical style of translation, which changes the mood entirely, don’t you think?

The StrangerTheStranger_BookCover3

When it comes to opening lines—we all know how important those are—sometimes it’s just one single word that causes translators grief. In Albert Camus’ “The Stranger” the perplexing word may just make you laugh: mother. The first line of this classic novel is pretty straightforward: “Aujourd’hui, maman est morte.” Originally, this was translated as “Mother died today.” Simple enough, right? But translators debated the use of “mother” rather than “maman.” In French, “maman” implies a certain amount of affection, an indication of the narrator’s relationship with his mom. But what about “mother”? It doesn’t quite have the same ring in English right? “Mother died today” gives almost no clues to how the narrator feels about her. Very subtle? Yes. But you can see why it matters.

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Nobody doubts the difficulty of translating an intricate work like The Stranger, of course, but even children’s literature presents unique translation challenges. Lewis Carroll captivated readers of all ages with his frequent use of personification, puns, homophones, poems, and metaphors. Russian translator Vladimir Nabokov tackled this challenge in a way that never reveals to Russian readers that the novel was originally in English. For example, Alice’s penchant for reciting poems poses a unique problem: Russian children wouldn’t be familiar with the popular English poems that Carroll is referring to (such as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat”, Carroll’s play on the nursery rhyme “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.) Instead of translating the poems Carroll whipped up—a potential disaster—Nabokov invented his own fake poems based on popular Russian poetry. Still think literary translation isn’t impressive?

Have you read any translated versions of your favorite novels? What are some of your favorite examples of the art of translation?