The Linguist

The Linguist 52,4

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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FEATURES Learning to adapt Students can learn a lot from the 'tradaptation' of classic works, rather than close translation, says Laurence Raw 26 The Linguist ADAPTABLE: 'Hamlet' performed by Lithuanian company Meno Fortas © DMITRI MATVEJEV When teaching a Shakespeare course to second-year undergraduates at Başkent University in Ankara, Turkey, I dispensed with a content-based pedagogy and asked them, instead, to think of a Shakespeare play as a basis for their personal development. Rather than reading the text closely, translating it and commenting on its themes, what mattered was the ways in which individual learners consumed or adapted to the text. As long ago as 1934, John Dewey emphasised that a learner-centred approach is one in which 'elements that issue from prior experience are stirred into action in fresh desires, impulsions and images'.1 Yet this 'stirring' can only be achieved if learners understand the significance of the Shakespearean text to their development as individuals. Hence they should be encouraged to engage collaboratively with a variety of issues – textual, thematic, sociological, cultural – posed either by themselves or by the educator. In Turkey, students on translation courses are typically expected to translate texts from English into Turkish and vice versa, looking for the closest possible linguistic equivalents. Their assessment is very much dependent on the educator's understanding of how 'faithful' their translations are to the source texts. I wanted to direct learning away from the literary text per se, and to centre it instead on the learning experience as a whole. I began by asking the basic question, 'what would learners like to achieve through the Shakespearean course?' In other words, what sort of things could they know about that they did not know before the course had begun? I encouraged them to think of answers not in terms of knowledge – that they might understand Shakespeare better – but in terms of abilities; how could exposure to the text help them to acquire the kind of real-world abilities that would stand them in good stead once they had graduated? After receiving a series of answers, I tried to create a syllabus based on the learners' own experience. What they understood from a Shakespeare play depended very much on what they knew, believed and valued. The course involved interacting with learners' prior educational experiences, for example by acknowledging their belief – reinforced throughout their educational careers – that translation was a more 'academic' form of textual transformation than adaptation. A natural selection The choice of plays was determined through negotiation: we read a number of Shakespeare plays (either in English or in translation), and they then tried to convince everyone within the group – learners and AUGUST/SEPTEMBER educator alike – that their choice of play was the best. This was an interesting task, as they set aside the notion that a text had to be translated before it could be understood and looked at the plots instead. Some liked the brutality of Hamlet, others the rough-and-tumble of The Comedy of Errors. The latter was particularly popular; its setting in Ephesus was recognisable to learners brought up in the west of Turkey (Ephesus is about an hour's drive from İzmir). However, it was decided collaboratively that the principal objective should be to select texts that could best fulfil the learning outcomes – in other words, develop learners' abilities to communicate with one another, as well as encouraging self-reliance. Eventually the group settled on Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, the subject-matter of which seemed especially applicable to most students' experiences. Familial rivalry forms the subject of innumerable popular

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