For teachers: Contrasting Tenses or Structures

Teacher: working knowledge of students’ MT
Class: monolingual
Level: lower intermediate to advanced
Purpose: to help students distinguish between two often-confused English grammar structures by translating them into MT
Materials: sheets of paper

Preparation

Write four pairs of sentences or phrases in English which contain contrasting structures. See below for some examples. Write each pair of sentences on a separate sheet of paper.

I’ve been living here all my life.
I lived there for ten years.

I haven’t been going out much lately.
I went out every Friday night last month.

We’ve been seeing too much of those two.
We saw them coming up the hill.

Have you been waiting long?
Did you wait until the end?

Hasn’t she been skating yet?
Did she go skating with you?

He’s been talking about his bad luck again.
He talked to them about photography.

We’ve gone there three times so far.
We went there after work.

She’s started learning English five times.
She started her course last month.

You’ve wanted one of these for ages.
You wanted a big red red one.

Haven’t you called her?
Didn’t you call her?

Hasn’t he told you the news?
Didn’t he tell you the news?

1. Put the students into groups of four and give each member one sheet with one of the pairs of sentences at the top.

2. Ask the students to read their sentences and check that they understand them.

3. Students translate their two sentences from English into MT, leaving a generous space between the original and the translated versions.

4. When the students have finished translating, ask them to fold their sheet over so that only the translation is visible and pass it to another member of their group.

5. Ask this student then to translate the sentences back from MT into English.

6. Get the students to compare the translations and discuss the problems they have in distinguishing between the pairs.

Note: Students can write their own sets of pairs in class or as homework. Check for accuracy and also make sure that the pairs are constrasting the structures you are working on, before continuing with the activity.

Acknowledgment: We learnt this activity from Tim Hahn.

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

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