Page 1

Philip Kerr Lindsay Clandfield Ceri Jones Roy Norris Jim Scrivener

Straightforward Second edition

Teaching made simple Guide to Dictation and Translation

Straightforward 2

Second edition

The Straightforward Guide to Dictation and Translation Contents Why use dictation and translation?


Dictation and translation in the Straightforward workbooks


Dictation activities

3 - 11

Translation activities

12 - 20

Welcome to the Straightforward Guides. We hope that they will be particularly helpful for less experienced teachers, as well as providing a number of fresh ideas for everyone. Each guide follows a simple, easy-to-use format.

1 The first section is an overview of dictation and translation activities in the classroom. The second section provides a selection of classroom activities that require only minimal preparation, along with tips on how to incorporate this kind of work into your day-to-day teaching. This guide is all about dictation and translation in the language classroom. We look at why we might use dictation and translation activities and how to make them lively, stimulating and valuable learning experiences. We have included activities that you can use at a variety of levels, but we hope that you will take these ideas and adapt them with different texts. We hope you and your students enjoy them! Lindsay Clandfield and Philip Kerr Authors of the Straightforward series

Why use dictation and translation? Dictation and translation are classroom techniques that can be used in a large number of different ways and for a wide variety of purposes. In its most traditional and familiar form, dictation consists of the teacher reading aloud a text, at first in its entirety and then in shorter chunks, which the students transcribe. In this form, it is essentially a kind of test. Research suggests that it can be a useful and valid way of evaluating students’ language competence, but we should remember (1) that traditional dictations are a testing, rather than a teaching, technique, and (2) that there are plenty of other testing options available to us. Translation, too, has traditionally been used as a means of testing. Following the move towards more communicative approaches that began in the 1970s, and a reaction against ‘grammar-translation’ methodology, translation became very unfashionable in some teaching contexts. Indeed, in some schools where the use of the students’ mother tongue was frowned upon or banned altogether, translation inevitably declined in popularity or disappeared from the classroom.


An even more serious accusation against using dictation and translation in the language classroom is that these activities are essentially boring and demotivating for learners. It seems we all have a very strong mental image of a boring old language teacher giving dictation upon dictation or forcing us to translate pages and pages of text. However, we believe that both of these techniques still have much to offer modern language classrooms. As with so much of what takes place in language lessons, it is not so much a question of what we do as how we do it. The activities illustrated in this guide show that dictation and translation can be used to achieve many aims: practice of the skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening (either individually or in combination) or focussing on aspects of language (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation). They can be a tool to help students focus on useful or frequent phrases and they can illustrate quickly the difference between two concepts. Most importantly, perhaps, they can provide lively, stimulating classroom tasks that your students will find motivating and enjoyable.

Dictation and translation in the Straightforward Workbooks The Straightforward Workbooks contain a large number of dictation and translation tasks. These are intended primarily for self-study, but many of them can be adapted for classroom use, using the ideas contained in the following pages. Because these Workbook tasks correspond to the themes and language of the Student’s Books, you may find that they offer interesting ways of revising material that has been looked at on a previous day. If, for example, you do not finish a double page lesson from the Student’s Book in a particular lesson and need to carry on with it another day, you could begin the new lesson by adapting one of the Workbook tasks.

Dictation: Vocabulary Revision Level: Elementary and above Preparation Select seven or eight items of vocabulary that you wish to revise. If you have time, you can prepare short sentences that include each of these words. However, you can also make these sentences up on the spur of the moment. This activity is best used at the start or the end of a lesson. Procedure 1 Tell the students that you are going to revise some vocabulary and give them a few minutes to look at the relevant section of their vocabulary notebooks (or the wordlists at the end of the appropriate unit in Straightforward). 2 Dictate the sentences that contain the target vocabulary. Read each sentence two or three times. 3 Ask the students to compare their answers in pairs. As an optional follow-up, you could also ask them to translate the sentences. 4 Conduct feedback with the whole class. Note This quick and easy activity is especially useful as a way of recycling words that ‘crop up’ in the course of a lesson. If, like many teachers, you write such words on a section of the board, clean the board and go straight into the activity. This is a handy way of encouraging students to take notes of what you write on the board. Variations 1 Select words that contain especially difficult sound-spelling relationships. 2 You can also use this technique to revise grammatical structures.


Dictation: Personalised Dictation Level: Elementary and above Preparation: This is another activity to revise a set of lexical items. Select a list of items that you wish to revise. As a minimum, select 10 items, but you can also do this with much longer lists. See the example below. Procedure 1 Write the list of lexical items on the board. Tell the students to work in pairs or small groups. They must create grammatically correct and ‘logical’ sentences from the words in the list. Each sentence they create must contain a minimum of two words from the list. 2 When the students have prepared four sentences, tell them to find and work with a different partner. The new pairs of students must now dictate their sentences to each other. 3 When the pairs have completed their dictation, they should compare their versions of these sentences. Besides checking for errors, encourage them to discuss whether the sentences they heard were both grammatically correct and ‘logical’.


4 Conduct feedback with the whole class and resolve any issues that the students are still unsure about. Example










deserve manage terrorist

equipment obvious weapon

(These words are taken from the word list that accompanies Unit 10 of Straightforward Intermediate.) Variation 1 Rather than preparing word lists, simply use the word lists at the end of each unit of Straightforward.

Dictation: Lead-in to Texts Level: Pre-Intermediate and above Preparation Look closely at a (reading or listening) text that you are going to use in class. Select key content words from the text (the number of words that you select will depend on the nature and length of the text, but 10 – 12 words is generally about right).

Procedure 1 Dictate the words to the class. 2 Tell the students to work in pairs or small groups and to predict the content of the text. If the text you have chosen is a narrative, ask them to attempt to combine the words they have written down into a short story. 3 Tell the students to read or listen to the text. Their task is to identify differences between the text and their predictions. 4 Conduct feedback with the whole class and then continue the lesson with the comprehension tasks from the course book.

5 Variations 1 Select only verbs from the text. 2 Select words that you think the students are unlikely to know. Once they have written down the words, tell them to use dictionaries to check the spelling and meaning of these words. 3 As a way of teaching with course books closed (see Jim Scrivener’s ideas in the Straightforward Teacher’s Books), you can also dictate the comprehension questions for listening exercises.

Dictation: Whistle Stops Level: Elementary and above Preparation Prepare a short text that you want to use. When you dictate the text to the class, you are going to omit a number of words, so decide in advance which words you will omit. See below for an example: the words that will be omitted are underlined, and the vertical lines indicate pauses between chunks of the text. Procedure 1 Tell the students that you are going to do a dictation. Tell them that some words will be missing and that when there is a missing word, you will whistle (or click your fingers / tap the desk / etc.). 2 Read the whole text to the class once, including whistles when appropriate. Tell them not to write anything at this stage.


3 Read the text again, dividing it up into short, manageable chunks. Read each chunk two or three times, including whistles when appropriate. Read these chunks at a natural speed, so that features of connected speech are included. Tell the students when punctuation marks are needed. Students must now write down what they hear and write a star (*) for each whistle. Make sure that you allow the students enough time to write. 4 When you have completed the dictation, tell the students to check their work and to replace the stars with the missing words. It is often useful for the students to do this in pairs. 5 Conduct feedback with the whole class and identify the problems that they experienced. Variations 1 Do not give the students information about punctuation. They must insert this themselves at the same time as they identify the missing words. 2 At higher levels, you can use the same procedure without whistle stops. Tell the students before the dictation that the text is missing a specified number of words. Their task, once the dictation is complete, is to identify the missing words and where they belong. Example Australia is one of the most sporting countries in the world. | Although the population is quite small (about 20 million), | it has a large number of world champions | in many different sports. | About three quarters of all Australians | do some kind of sport. | The most popular are walking, | swimming, aerobics, cycling, tennis and golf. | They also enjoy watching sport. (from Straightforward Pre-Intermediate, p.101)

Dictation: Class Control Level: Elementary and above Preparation Prepare or select a short text. Procedure 1 Read the text once to the whole class at a natural speed. 2 Tell the students to work in pairs and see how much of the text they can remember. This stage is optional, but it helps to prepare the students for the next stage and encourage them to be more ambitious. 3 Tell the students that you are going to dictate the text to them. Tell them that they can stop you at any time by calling out ‘stop!’, but that you will only repeat words a maximum of two times. Each time they call out ‘stop’, repeat the last eight words you have read. Then pause, allowing the students time to write, before continuing the dictation. Variations 1 Nominate just two or three students who are allowed to call out ‘stop’. The others must remain silent. This will help to prevent the activity becoming too chaotic. 2 In order to encourage the students to be more ambitious (and to discourage them from calling out ‘stop’ every two or three seconds!), tell them that they can only call out ‘stop’ a certain number of times during the dictation. The number of times that you specify will depend on the length of the text. Note One of the values of dictations is to train the students’ short-term memory, so, in a normal dictation, the sections between pauses should be short enough for the exercise to be do-able, but long enough to be challenging. The technique described above will help you to discover exactly how strong or weak the stduents in your class are.


Dictation: Running (Wall) Dictation Level: Elementary and above Preparation Select or prepare a short text (5 or 6 lines is usually enough). You could use, for example, the first paragraph of a reading text that the class is going to read or a short authentic text related to the theme of the lesson. You could also write a short text that includes language that you want to revise or present. Make 1 copy of it for every 12 students in the class. Make sure that it is easy to read (i.e. use a font size of approximately 16 points). Procedure 1 Read the text aloud, slowly but naturally, to the students once without stopping. 2 Attach copies of the text to the board or the walls of the classroom. In order for students to be able to see the text, they will need to get up from their desks. 3 Students work in pairs: one student is a ‘dictater’, the other is a ‘scribe’. The ‘dictaters’ get up from their desks, go to the text, remember as much as they can and then return to their ‘scribe’ and dictate what they can remember. They return to the script as often as necessary until their ‘scribe’ has completed the text.


4 When a pair of students have completed their text, tell them to sit down together and check for errors. If they feel they need to, one of them can get up to look at the text on the board or wall to double-check. Variations 1 Some teachers like to turn this procedure into a race. This can be both fun and motivating, but runs the risk of becoming a little chaotic with larger classes. 2 You can tell the ‘dictaters’ to keep their hands behind their backs at all times. This will force them to use more language (as opposed to pointing with their fingers) when explaining to their partner what needs to be written. 3 If you attach the texts to the walls (and not the board), you can ask one pair of students to do their work on the board. This will make it easier for you to do feedback with the whole class at the end of the activity.

Dictation: Jigsaw Dictation Level: Elementary and above Preparation Select or prepare a text. This technique is particularly useful if you want to use slightly longer texts than in a normal dictation. Photocopy and cut up the text into three sections. Procedure 1 Divide the class into three groups. 2 Give one person in each group a section of the dictation, which they must dictate to the others. 3 When each group has completed the dictation, rearrange the class so that in each group, each student has one part of the text. The groups must decide on the best order of the three parts of the text in order to complete it. 4 Conduct whole class feedback. Check that everyone has got the text in the correct order and ask them to give their reasons. 5 Then show the class the complete, correct text (projection or handout) and ask students to correct their work. Again, conduct whole class feedback: identify the errors that the students made and try to establish the reasons for these errors. Variation 1 This technique can also be used with a text divided in four. Students work in pairs, with each student dictating two parts of the text to their partner.


Dictation: Gapped Text Reconstruction Level: Elementary and above Preparation Select a short text. Prepare a version of this text with blank lines replacing the highfrequency words (see example below). If possible, prepare this gapped text on a transparency that you can project onto the board. If this is not possible, you can also make photocopies which you can distribute. Finally, you could also copy the gapped text onto the board, although this is obviously rather time-consuming. Procedure 1 Show the students the gapped version of the text. Tell them that you will read the text twice, and their task will be to reconstruct it. 2 Tell the students to put their pens down. Read the text, slowly but naturally, twice. 3 Ask the students to suggest the missing words. They can do this in any order (i.e. they do not have to attempt to guess missing word 1 first). This can be done collaboratively with the whole class, or you may prefer to make this into a team game (in which you award points for correct guesses).


4 As students call out correct words, insert them into the text in the appropriate positions until the entire text has been reconstructed. If necessary, read the text again at some point. London 1had 2the 3worst 4traffic 5in 6the UK 7and 8was 9one 10of 11the 12worst 13cities 14in Europe. Drivers 15spent 50% 16of 17their 18time 19in 20traffic jams, 21and pollution 22was 23terrible. 24In 2003, 25the mayor 26of London 27made 28a 29new law 30to 31help reduce 32traffic. 33It 34costs ÂŁ8 35a 36day 37to 38drive 39in 40central London. 41More 42people 43use public 44transport 45and bicycles 46now 47in London 48because 49of 50this law.


London 1________ 2_______ 3________ 4________ 5________ 6________ UK 7________ 8________ 9________ 10________ 11________ 12________ 13________ 14________ Europe. Drivers 15________ 50% 16________ 17________ 18________ 19________ 20________ jams, 21________ pollution 22________ 23________. 24________ 2003, 25________ mayor 26________ London 27________ 28________ 29________ law 30________ 31________ reduce 32________. 33________ 34________ ÂŁ8 35________ 36________ 37________ 38________ 39________ 40________ London. 41________ 42________ 43________ public 44________ 45________ bicycles 46________ 47________ London 48________ 49________ 50________ law.

The numbers have been inserted for your convenience, but it is not necessary to use them. (from Straightforward Pre-Intermediate, p.85)

Dictation: Dictoglass Level: Elementary and above Preparation Select a short text. Procedure 1 Tell the students that they are going to do a special kind of dictation. Tell them not to attempt to write down every word. Ask them simply to write down the most important words. They will recognise these words because they are given additonal stress / prominence. Do not worry if students find this difficult at first: most students need lots of practice and training before they can do this with confidence. 2 Read the text twice with a pause between each reading. Give the students enough time to write down the key words. 3 Tell them in pairs or groups to attempt to reconstruct the text. Point out that their text does not need to be exactly the same as the orginal. The only thing that matters is that it makes sense. 4 When students have completed their texts, distribute copies of the original script and ask students to compare it with their versions. Discuss any language points that arise. Variations 1 For students unfamiliar with this type of activity, you could give them the first three or four key words before they listen. 2 You could ask one pair / small group of students to do their text reconstruction on the board. This will then act as the focus for feedback.


Translation: What’s in a Name? Level: Elementary and above Preparation Translate the following names literally into the students’ L1 (their own language). So, for example George Bush becomes Jorge Arbusto in Spanish and Georges Buisson in French.

George Bush Johnny Walker Wall St. Nicholas Cage Louis Armstrong The Doors Johnny Cash Seven Up Clint Eastwood (translate ‘East Wood’) Procedure 1 Tell the students they are going to have a dictation of names of famous people, things and places. Explain that they will hear these names in their own language, but must write down what they are in English (in other words, they must get the names right). 2 Give the dictation.

12 3 Have students check their answers in pairs. How many names could they get? Variation You could ask students to come up with a similar dictation in reverse – using names of famous people or things in their own language. For example July Churches is the singer Julio Iglesias and Anthony Flags is the actor Antonio Banderas.

Translation: Use it if You Need it Level: Elementary and above Preparation None Procedure 1 Assign a speaking activity as you normally would. 2 Explain that during the activity, the students can use a word or phrase in their own language if they need it as long as they make a note of it during the activity. They must not use a dictionary at this point. 3 Let the students do the speaking activity. 4 After the activity, ask them to tell you what words they wrote down in their own language. Write these up on the board. 5 Elicit the translations from the class (students can use dictionaries at this stage). Write these up too. 6 Ask students to work with a different partner and repeat the speaking activity. Tell them to try and use the new English expressions they “needed� from before.


Translation: Dry Run on a Speaking Activity Level: Elementary and above Preparation None Procedure: 1 Find a speaking activity (e.g. a roleplay) that you want your students to do in pairs. See the example in the box. 2 Ask the students to look at the activity and do it first in L1 (in their own language). 3 When they have finished, tell them to repeat the roleplay but now in English. 4 When they finish the English version, do some whole class feedback. Ask what sections of the speaking activity they weren’t able to do in English on the second time around. Go over the expressions or words they needed on the board. Note: for some speaking activities (e.g. roleplays) students find it difficult to think of what to say, even in their own language. This activity allows them to get their head around the topic and roles first in their ‘comfort zone’ before doing it in English.


Work in pairs, A and B. You are going to act out a telephone conversation with an office supplies company. A: Phone the office supplies company and place an order for some stationery. B: You work for the office supplies company. Answer the phone and make notes of: a) what the customer wants b) how many of each item c) when the customer wants it. Adapted from Straightforward Intermediate p.53

Translation: Planting Words Level: Pre-intermediate and above Preparation Find the lyrics of an English song that you and your students like. Go through the lyrics and change some of the English words into words in the students’ language. Here is an example for the song What a Wonderful World by Louise Armstrong, with French words ‘planted’. I see trees of vert.... rouge roses too I watch them bloom.... for moi and tu And I think to moi-mème.... whata wonderful monde.

Procedure 1 Tell students that they are going to read a text with some words from their own language in it. Their job is to hunt these words and translate them back into English. 2 Distribute copies of the lyrics sheet you have made. 3 Ask students to work through the page and find the planted words. 4 Tell them to check their translations in pairs. 5 Play the song to let them check their answers. Variation Ask students to do the same exercise with songs they bring in themselves.


Translation: Reverse Translation Level: Pre-intermediate and above Preparation Find two very short texts (50 words each): one in the students’ mother tongue and one in English. Make one copy of each text for every two students in the class. Procedure 1 Divide the class into two groups, A and B. Give the students in group A the text in the mother tongue and the students in group B the text in English. 2 Tell them they have to translate the texts into the other language (English or mother tongue). They can confer among themselves on how they would like to do this. They do not need to all have the same final translated text. 3 When groups have finished, ask them to pair up so that every student A is with a student B. 4 Tell them to swap their translated texts. They must now translate the text back into the original language. 5 At the end, tell them to compare with each other, and with the original.


Translation: Translating Interesting Quotes Level: Pre-intermediate and above Preparation Prepare a series of interesting quotations (for example, 10) on a piece of paper or overhead transparency (see box for examples). Procedure 1 Show the first quote to the students (either by copying it on the board or projecting it onto an overhead projector). 2 Give the students 30 seconds to read the quote, then take it away or hide it. 3 Ask the students to write, in their own language, what they understood from the quote. 4 Tell them to compare translations afterwards. Variation Take quotes from the news. Do the same procedure as above, then ask students to imagine who said it.

17 ‘Laughter is an instant vacation.’ ‘My home is not a place. It is people.’ ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ ‘Water is the only drink for a wise man.’ ‘You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?’ ‘Travellers never think that they are the foreigners.’ ‘There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror.’ ‘Teachers are people who used to like children.’ The examples above are taken from the Straightforward Portfolios, which contain lots of funny, inspiring and educational quotations.

Translation: Reading the News Level: Intermediate and above Preparation Ask students to bring a newspaper in their own language to class. Procedure 1 Tell them to flick through the paper until they find a story they think is interesting. They should read the article to themselves first. 2 Ask students to work in pairs. Each student takes turns explaining the “gist” of the news story to their partner in English. 3 At the end, they swap stories and repeat the exercise, each with the other’s news story. 4 Do some whole class feedback at the end. What did people find out from each other?


Variation After stage 3, students choose five words from the article that they think are ‘key’ to understanding it. They must provide a translation and explanation (where necessary) of these words.

Translation: The Press Conference Interpreter Level: Intermediate and above Preparation Ask two students to be your “interviewee and interpreter” at the beginning of class. Choose (or ask them to choose) an interesting role for the interviewee – a famous star, politician, singer… Procedure 1 Tell the class that today they are going to role play a press conference in which they will interview a famous person. Ask the two students you’ve asked to volunteer to come up to the front of the class. 2 Introduce the interviewee as a famous star. The other students are all journalists. The other students do NOT speak any English, and so must ask questions via the interpreter. Indicate who the interpreter is. 3 Demonstrate first by asking a question in the student’s mother tongue. The interpreter translates to English this question for the “famous person”. He or she answers in English. The interpreter translates the response back to mother tongue for the audience. 4 Tell students to ask questions, and run this activity like a real press conference. 5 As things begin to wind down, announce that the “famous person” has to leave for another press conference. Thank the volunteers and finish the activity. Variation The activity can work the other way around, with the “famous person” speaking in mother tongue and the journalists asking questions in English, which the interpreter must translate.


WORKBOOK TRANSLATION VARIATIONS Level: Any The following are three variations for you to try with the regular translation activities in the Straightforward Workbooks. Variation 1: AROUND THE CLASS Take the phrases from the translation exercise and translate them yourself into the students’ L1. Write each translation on a separate slip of paper. Before class begins, put these papers on the walls around the room. When class begins, tell students to walk around the class and read the sentences. They must write the English translations in their notebooks as they go. Tell students to check their translations in pairs – then check in the Workbook for the answers. Variation 2: CORRECT ME Take the phrases from the translation exercise and translate them yourself – but wrongly. Make small mistakes in the translation. Give the students your incorrect translations and the original sentences. Ask them to spot the mistakes, and correct them.


Variation 3: TRANSLATION QUIZ Ask the students to work in pairs. Each pair needs at least one Workbook. Tell the pairs to go back through the Workbook units they have done and select ten phrases with their translation. Tell them to create a multiple choice quiz, using the sentences and translations as a starting point. For example, a Spanish beginner question could look like this. What do you do?

a) Que haces? b) A que te dedicas? c) Como estas?

(answer - b) Tell pairs to swap their “tests” with another pair and do them. Acknowledgements: Versions of some of the translation activities first appeared in ‘L1 in the classroom, a practical ideas toolkit’ by Lindsay Clandfield and Duncan Foord. It’s for Teachers magazine Issue 3 2002.

Straightforward Second Edition Straightforward has come of age and has been treated to a review, revamp and facelift. Much of the content has been updated and made more relevant to our ever-changing world. You’ll find new topics, articles and exercises plus a shiny new design. All the old teachers’ favourites are still there – meaning it will still be a joy to teach with. Key features • Pick-up-and-use practicality – great for new teachers • Intuitive, easy-to-follow format • Flexible and adaptable for more experienced teachers • Strong emphasis on reading and vocabulary • Supported by one of the most comprehensive Teacher’s Books around What’s new? • A lot of the content has been updated and made more relevant to our ever-changing world. You’ll find new topics, articles and exercises plus a shiny new design. You won’t lose out on the old favourites though – they are still there with a facelift! • We’ve put a lot of emphasis on wordlists and lexical features and there is a vocabulary builder with activities from the new supporting online component. • The strength of the Teacher’s Book has been built on with the addition of a Teacher’s Resource disc that includes six 2–3 minute video clips per level, photocopiables and new methodology videos. There is a teacher’s resource website with additional reading texts and teaching support. • The CEFR still plays a prominent part in the series and there is even clearer signposting and self-assessment. • There is a new supporting online component – no more worries about installation or CD-ROMs sitting unused at the back of the Student’s Book. The content of the previous CD-ROM is now available via this website plus a whole host of other features.

Teaching made simple






 our Straightforward Guide to Dictation and Translation is all about using dictation and Y translation activities in the language classroom. You will find a number of practice activities for both dictation and translation to use in class with your students. For more information about Straightforward and more teaching tips and ideas visit the Straightforward website: Look out for the other booklets in the free Straightforward Guides series: Straightforward Guide to Presenting Grammar Straightforward Guide to Roleplays

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Dictation and Translation made simple  
Dictation and Translation made simple  

A guide to dictation and translation for the ELT classroom