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Technology enables cross-channel student translation project

Posted on 27/02/2012

The students on the London side are each paired with a French partner

A cross-channel collaborative project between King’s College London and a French university is using innovative technology to help develop collaboration and community skills and prepare students for the social workplace.

Students from the Department of French at King’s and French students from Université du Maine have been working collaboratively to translate a French passage from “La vie devant soi” (Romain Gary-Emile Ajar, 1975) into English using the video-conferencing platform EVO.

EVO supports user communication through instant messaging and audio-video channels. Users in EVO can create and participate in virtual meeting rooms and initiate collaborative learning sessions. The sessions are run by the Technology Enhanced Learning team in the School of Arts & Humanities in partnership with the French department and facilitated by the Modern Language Centre (MLC) at its state-of-the art Open Learning Centre.

The students work in pairs, one from each side of the Channel, to produce a finished translation, together with a commentary of 150 words in French on the difficulties encountered while translating (i.e. justification of translation choices). For both parties, the expected outcome of the activity includes: increased translation and collaboration skills, self confidence, understanding on how both languages work, and the development of specific links and ties with the study partner.

Platforms such as EVO are opening up new approaches to collaborative learning. In effective collaborative activities, less proficient students can be helped by high-achievers, who in turn can benefit from teaching their peers. Often the result of group work reaches a deeper level than the sum of what each individual member might obtain; group members support and motivate each other, take responsibilities for the outcome and also for the organisation of the work.

As businesses transform into social businesses, the social workplace is going to become more and more reliant on collaboration and community skills. It is important therefore to help students understand what it actually means to work collaboratively in the new social workplace, and the value that this would bring to them.

With support from MLC technical staff, the software was installed and tested to prepare the Open Learning Centre for this project and its use during these web-cam sessions. MLC language advisors provided French language learning support by taking questions from the students and talking through the language learning materials and online resources. So far three sessions have been carried out and both students and academics seem enthusiastic. Dr Soizick Solman, Language Director in the Department of French, notes that: “Students are working together, but also failing together. Soon, they will realise that some things cannot be translated exactly.” Charlotte Estrade of the Université du Maine adds: “Even the shyest of students spoke lots during the session and seemed completely relaxed and much more confident.”

A preliminary questionnaire reveals that 85% of the students participating would recommend this type of activity to other students and other courses. Students note that the activity enables them to “...practise using French in an informal, friendly, unpressurised atmosphere” and that it “encourages you to consider the reasons behind a particular argument for translation”.

This is one of several projects taking place in the School as part of its ongoing commitment to technology-enhanced learning. For more information, contact Ian Barrett or  Andy Konstantinidis.

TheOpen Learning Centre is available free of charge to all King’s students. It is located in the King’s building, room K-1.072.

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