“Every weekend I go on the cottage in the nature” (a.k.a. translations to combat L1 (Czech) interference and learn idioms)
The sentence in the title above is beloved of English teachers across the Czech Republic. It’s all due to L1 interference, as with many of these things. One of my classes asked me to help them notice their Czenglish mistakes and try to do something about them. I looked back over old writing and speaking notes and asked around in the staffroom to collate a list of common mistakes, then created the first three sets of materials below.
I asked the students to translate their versions of each group of sentences, trying to write small enough that they could write corrections in the box if necessary (I told them they would get a ‘clean’ version of the sheet later). I then showed them each group of words on the Powerpoint presentation and drilled any difficult sentences / any which they had all made a mistake with. We talked about why Czech people make these mistakes (on a sentence-by-sentence basis) and I encouraged them to highlight anything which they got wrong and need to learn. We also discussed the Czech equivalents (I crowdsourced these from my Czech friends on facebook, so feel free to correct any mistakes you find!). I sent them the presentation after the lesson so that they can look at it whenever they like.
Czech sentences for students to translate
Common Czenglish mistakes and how to correct them
Czenglish Powerpoint presentation
The second set of materials were adapted from the fascinating Omniglot website. I had to edit some of the English on there as not all of them were correctly translated. This was a final ‘fun’ lesson with a CAE group and we spent a long time discussing how to use the idioms and whether there are differences between the use of the equivalents in Czech and English. First, they attempted to translate any of the idioms which they knew already (not many!). I had cut up the ‘answers’ cards before class. They used them to find the rest of the phrases and checked them against my master list.
Czech idioms and their English equivalents (worksheet)
Czech idioms and their English equivalents (answers)
The final step was to play a game I learnt from Anette Igel. Lay the cards out as a board game, with the Czech on one side and the English on the other (back-to-back). Take a counter. Roll the die, move the counter, then translate the idiom you land on to the other language. For instance, if you land on “knedlik v krku”, you have to say “a frog in my throat”. If you are right, turn the card over so you can see the English side. The next person to land on it has to translate it back into Czech. We decided to award one point for each complete circle of the board you did. I lost by quite a long way 😉
The students really enjoyed playing the game, and learnt some more colourful language on the way.
Feel free to download / adapt these in any way you choose, and if you need any help or would like to know how to do a similar thing with your local language, please let me know in the comments below.