Daily Translation, or "The Method"


Congratulations! You have made it through (at least) the first two years of your language class, and now you are reading original (or perhaps slightly adapted versions of) Latin or Greek authors. Getting to this point is why you put in all that effort learning vocabulary, gammar, and sentence structures. Now it is time to build your ability to translate, learn different prose or poetic styles, and become more and more comfortable with the language. It is also an opportunity grow in new ways, by learning to understand the passages in their historical and cultural contexts, and by learning to value and evaluate them as works of literature.

Just as, in the first two years, doing the daily homework assignments--learning the vocabulary, memorizing the forms, etc, was essential to building up the core skills that led to your overall success--so also now your daily work is essential to building up the skills necessary to succeed in this higher-level class. Please read the descriptions below to understand what constitutes different levels of performance in a daily translation assignment. Also, please realize that your performance every single day is assessed; though there may be fewer quizzes, your daily translation work will be observed and you will get a cumulative score in my grade book at each marking period (6x/year).

What It Is:
On most days your assignment will be to translate a certain set of lines of prose or poetry. The next class, we will go over the assignment, and you will be expected to translate when called upon. Here are some rules and guidelines:

You may not write in your books. The only exception to this rule is that you may make grammatical notes about certain words, but only when we are going over the lines together. In other words, your text should be pristine when you get to class.
• You may write out a translation as you prepare the lines (this is optional), but you cannot use it as we go over the lines in class. It must be put away.
You may write out a list of new vocabulary words (this is recommended), but you should write it on a separate sheet, NOT in your books. You can keep this sheet handy as we go through the lines in class.
You MUST work from the Latin/Greek to English, not the other way around. Although English translations of the works we translate are not forbidden, and may even be provided, you should NEVER "backwards translate" your HW assignment. Why? Two reasons: because it is not helping you learn, and because it is cheating. And be forewarned: it is very easy for me to tell when a student has backwards translated. Please do not do this because it is an issue of academic integrity.

When is it OK for you to look at a translation? Two cases:
1) when it is part of your HW assignment to do so
2) when you are hopelessly stuck as you work on your translation, and need to get unstuck.

What To Do:
1) Always read aloud. This engages all of your learning styles. When reading poetry, read in meter (if possible).
2) Try to look for phrases and grammatical units as opposed to going word by word. Get a feel for the structure. NEVER try to translate one word at a time. Rather, read first for comprehension. Try to get a sense of the passage before looking at the provided notes or looking up any words.
3) Now look thoroughly at the notes. If there are still words you do know or don't remember, take a moment to think about Latin/Greek words you already know that might be related to this word, or to English words that might be related. Make an informed guess at the meaning if possible. Finally, you may look up the word to see if your guess was close. Write the vocabulary glosses down in the order you encounter them (by line number, not alphabetically) on a separate sheet of paper. Don't be disappointed if you realize you just looked up a word you have previously learned. It happens to all of us :-)
4) Try to translate not just for content (the raw meaning), but for context (the point) as well.
5) Periodic review of old vocabulary words is very helpful. Use your old lists, or iFlash, or Quizlet card stacks on the web.
6) Try to take into account why words have their different forms, and how they function. This adds value to just knowing what a sentence "means."
7) If you get stuck, try to work through the difficulty using the notes, vocab, or just by pausing for a moment and then taking a fresh look.
8) If you get REALLY stuck, you may call me, ask a friend for help (but NOT merely for the answer), or, you may glance at a translation, but only to get yourself UNstuck and then you must go back to the original lines again.
9) Finally, REVIEW your work a second time, or even a third, so the lines are fresh in your minds when you come to class. I will assess your ability to translate clearly and to answer follow-up questions about the lines.

• you may work with a classmate or classmates, but this must be truly collaborative work. In other words, each member of the working group should be doing all the work.
• if you run out of time in your hour (see the policies and expectations page about using study time), I would rather you do less of the assignment well than all of the assignment poorly

RUBRIC: Here is a description of what different levels of preparation look and sound like in a typical translation class.

Pass or below:
Student is "winging it." Student has not looked at any notes or looked up any words, or perhaps barely looked at them in the minutes before class began. Student has no idea what the context, theme, or point of the lines is.

High Pass
Student's translation is halting and slow, needing many prompts or help from the teacher or other classmates. Vocabulary words or reading notes are incompletely or inaccurately looked up. Student may have an idea of the point of the passage, but has not thought much beyond that. It is evident that some work was done preparing the assignment, but not enough to master the material. (Remember, I am always available for extra help, but you have to avail yourself of it.)

Student's translation is competent, showing familiarity with the notes and vocabulary. Student is able to answer basic questions about the grammar used in the passage, but not more difficult questions. There may be small errors in details, but the whole is coherent and sound. Student is able to answer basic questions about the point of the passage or the theme presented, but not more probing or difficult questions. Student's work may not be uniform, so some sections may be very well prepared and other sections not so well prepared.

High Honors
Student's translation is smoothly delivered and accurate in even small details. Student is wholly familiar with the notes and vocabulary, and is able to answer even the more difficult follow-up questions. Student is also able to answer questions about the point or themes of the passage with full, thoughtful replies. Student asks questions of the classmates or teacher, showing an interest in learning more and in leading the class inquiry forward.