We have another guest post this week – this time from not just one teacher but two! Alexandra Guzik, teaches English at the Follow me to English school in Krasnodar, Russia and Sahar Salha teaches at the Elementary co-ed “A” UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun, Gaza. This post is about a really nice cross cultural learning experience that they set up through the Hands Up Project. Alex’s class reworked a traditional Russian folk tale into English and then sent it to Sahar’s class for them to rehearse it and perform it. At the bottom of this post you can see a video of this perfomance, but first read their reflections on the experience.
Alex – Making the Bun
I teach in a private school where children get extra English classes. They come twice a week for a one-hour-and-a half lesson. Most of the children arrive 5-15 minutes before their lesson starts and leave immediately after the lesson is over. Most of them rush to other classes or school depending on the shift at school. At our school we give learners homework to do as two lessons a week is not enough for work on the language to progress in learning it. Therefore there is little opportunity for us to do work beyond our course.
Choosing the story
There are quite a few Russian folktales and most of them deserve to be shared with children from other countries. So before having our hands full with translation, we had to choose one folktale to begin with. The Bun (Kolobok – a type of a round bread or a round loaf) has a repetitive pattern, which means less work for translators and a good number of characters – eight. One more advantage of repetitive nature of the story is that it is easier to learn the script.
Approach to translation
I didn’t want to spend a lot of lesson time on working on the translation. So I asked my students to have a go at translating the fairytale at home as an addition to their homework. Unfortunately, it was in June and only four children attended the following lesson. But we had a good discussion comparing each other’s translations, arguing when choosing more suitable words. E.g. negotiating on words ‘pantry’ and ‘scrape up’ caused a lively discussion because learners had three different versions for them. We used online translator, monolingual dictionaries and Google Image to reach a consensus. At last we read through the final version which everyone was happy with.
What I had to do after the lesson was to type the story in a form of a play and edit the chant for it to keep a steady rhythm.
1 Whereas in English words Grandpa and Grandma mean relatives, in Russian any elderly person might be called Grandma and Grandpa. That is why we had to add this line ‘There was once a poor old man, Grandpa, and his wife, Grandma’, instead of just ‘There was once a Grandpa and Grandma. They were poor.’
2 Some old-fashioned Russian words are used in the story, which exact meaning some learners did not know. So at first they had to find out the meaning of these words before translating into English.
3 Some learners tried to find ready-made translations on the Internet, but most of them turned out to be of too high level for borrowing them as they were. Thus learners’ effort was still necessary.
Sahar – Performing the Bun
Being in touch with Alex to do online sessions means a lot to me and my students at school. As a result of this interaction , Alex sent me a Russian story and I trained my students to perform it. I’m very happy that they liked the story.
Here are a few of the things they said about the experience .
Malak “the bun”: I’m very happy that we act this story although it’s easier than stories we performed for Mr Nick before, but I’m happier because it is from Alex ;this means we have new audience for our performance. Also I feel as I’m flying while rolling.
Ahed “the narrator”:This story is Russian ,this means that we can perform other stories in the future like French or Spanish stories.
Zeinab “the animal”: I like this story because it is like a song with its repeated lines, my brothers at home started to sing it and they don’t know what it means but they hear me. I won’t forget it forever.