For teachers: Bilingual Sentence Building

USA-Brazil-flagThis is a speaking activity using the student’s mother tongue.

Teacher – working knowledge of students’ MT
Class – monolingual
Level – elementary to advanced
Purpose – to make students quickly aware of contrastive grammar

1. Tell the students to stand in a circle. If you have a large class, have two or three circles.

2. Tell them that they will be ‘handling’ words and phrases round the circle. They pretend the word or phrase they ‘pass’ to the next person is an object (giving a sense of its weight and temperature, for example). They also say the word loudly and clearly.

If the class MT is French, this is the way the activity might go:

– Student A hands and says a word of their choice to student B: lapin
– Student B receives the word and then hands it to student C, translating it: rabbit
– Student C receives the word and adds another word: grey rabbit
– Student D translates the phrase into MT: lapin gris
– Student E adds a word: viens, lapin gris
– Student F translates the phrase into English: come, grey rabbit
– Student G adds a word: come here, grey rabbit
– Student H translates the phrase into French: viens ici, lapin gris

3. Get the words and phrases flowing bilingually round the circles. Stop the students before the sentences get too unwieldy, around then to twelve words long.

4. Put the students into pairs and ask them to reconstruct the bilingual sequence in their notebooks.

NOTE: This is a linguistic spontaneity activity, so you can’t pre-plan the sequences.

From: Using the mother tongue – Making the most of the learner’s language – Sheelagh Deller and Mario Rinvolucri. SBS Publishing.

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