I’ve only road-tested this activity once with a group of teachers I recently trained but I think it will work well with learners as well. Strictly speaking, the text I’ve used for this task doesn’t really mix languages. But I think interactions within the task offer lots of opportunities for translanguaging. What I like about this text is its versatility. It can be used with a range of Indian learners as well as multilingual groups – particularly in Southern India. The sign repeats similar (but not the same!) messages in Kannada, English, Tamil, Hindi, Urdu and Telugu. At a recent workshop I conducted for teachers, I did this as a Kannada-English translanguaging task.
For more information on translanguaging, read the first post in this series.
- Introduce and practise the chunk “keep your (noun) + (adjective)”
- Encourage students to explore meaning more deeply in English and their home language
- Maximise communicative potential through translanguaging.
- Display the Instagram post or get learners to access it on their own devices.
- Show learners the picture and ask them to discuss the following questions:
- Where is this sign? (NB: It’s on a shopfront on Commercial Street in Bangalore)
- Who is the sign meant for? Why is it in so many languages?
- Who has put up the sign?
- Why have they put it up? What do you think has happened on Commercial Street?
These questions are adapted from ones suggested by Helen Carnello from St. Mary Kanarpady at the workshop.
- Ask learners to look at the English sign “Safe your children” and find any mistakes. They’re likely to tell you that there’s a spelling mistake. Write the corrected sentence on the board “Save your children.”
- Now get learners to focus on the Kannada sign “ಮಕ್ಕಳನ್ನು ಉಳಿಸಿ” (makkaḷannu uḷisi) and ask them if they think there’s a difference between the English and Kannada signs. Elicit that the Kannada sign actually says “Save children or Save the children”. Get learners to discuss the difference in meaning in English between “save your children” and “save the children” and whether this difference is important in Kannada – would they want to start the sentence with ನಿಮ್ಮ (nimma)? For beginners, it might be useful to explore the position of the verb in Kannada (last) vs. English (first).
- Link back to what learners shared about why the sign has been put up in this busy street in Bangalore. Ask them if “ಮಕ್ಕಳನ್ನು ಉಳಿಸಿ” (makkaḷannu uḷisi) makes sense in this context. Elicit that “ಉಳಿಸಿ” (uḷisi) means helping someone who is in immediate danger and may not be correct in this context. Ask learners to help you with a verb in Kannada that conveys the meaning better (perhaps ರಕ್ಷಿಸಿ or ಕಾಪಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಿ).*
- Have learners revisit the English sign. Suggest that “save” and “ಉಳಿಸಿ” (uḷisi) have a similar meaning and don’t make sense in this context. Get them to notice the sentence at the bottom in English “As a parent, safeguard your children”. Elicit that this sounds very formal and somewhat unnatural. Get learners to use ಕಾಪಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಿ (kāpāḍikoḷḷi) or similar to rephrase the English sign. Remind learners that the verb in English doesn’t come last unlike Kannada and elicit “Keep your children safe”.
- Write this sentence on the board and highlight this lexical chunk: keep your + noun + adjective
- Get learners to work in groups to create a mindmap with “keep your” at the centre and ask them to brainstorm other combinations such keep your classroom clean etc. Get learners to do a gallery walk and collect useful phrases from other groups.
- Ask learners to practise saying the phrases to each other prefixing them with ‘please’.
*Many thanks to Archana Sanvi from Silas Int. School for giving us a great explanation of the meaning of the Kannada text at the workshop.
- Get learners to create a bilingual Kannada-English poster for their school/city/community that provides some advice or warnings.
- Alternatively, ask them to work in pairs to come up with backstories for one of the phrases they brainstormed. For example, “keep your classroom clean” – why did the teacher have to say this to his/her students? What had happened? Students can do some translanguaging using Kannada, English or any other home language. Encourage them to use content words in English – you can support them by putting up content words in English on the board
- Marek left a comment on one of my other translanguaging posts that he could probably adapt some of the ideas for his teaching context in Flanders where there’s a lot of translanguaging. I realised then that it might worthwhile including a note on the structure of the task so it can be repurposed for other texts, contexts and languages. At the moment, it all looks very Indian.
- Here’s the frame or structure of this task.
- Find a bilingual or multilingual authentic text where there are some differences in meaning between ostensibly similar messages in different languages.
- Get learners to understand the L2 text.
- Have them explore the meaning of the L1 text.
- Contrast the meaning of the two texts and make changes to the L2/L1 message where appropriate.
- Draw out any useful vocabulary, structures or chunks from the L2 text and have students explore this.
- Get learners to do a productive follow-up activity that allows them to use both L1 and L2 flexibly.
Translanguaging and the teacher
I think teachers are sometimes apprehensive about multilingual approaches when they can’t speak their students’ home languages. I don’t speak Kannada but when I ran this activity last week, participants spoke in Kannada for at least 50% of the time and the task focused on exploring meaning and form in Kannada and I wasn’t at sea. The goal here is to facilitate translanguaging and home language use as a way of enabling students to learn English but that doesn’t necessarily mean that teacher needs to speak in L1 or understand its grammar and rules.