dog /1/ english, vocab, intro

Následující pojednání jsem z důvodu, jež v této chvíli není zcela zřejmý ani mně samotnému, sepsal v angličtině. Jelikož se v nich obracím k učitelům angličtiny, přijde mi zbytečné dávat si práci s jeho překladem. Podobný text navíc najdete v češtině na jiných místech tohoto projektu. Úseky testu budu prokládat podrobnějšími vysvětlivkami

A test is a surefire way to draw students’ attention. Since I don’t teach at schools, I never get to do actual tests. You know, ones that get graded. The tests that I do in my classes are only supposed to let the students know how they would do if this were the real thing. Or to show them how it feels to be interpreting with little time to spare. So if the students simply choose to tune out and sit a test out, there’s nothing I can do. The upshot is, I have to make the tests not only challenging but also fun.


This particular test is about a dog that was hit by a car and may not have survived the encounter. I was a witness to this incident on my way to the classroom and I was so badly shaken that I felt the need to immortalize it in a test. Here is what I wrote:

earlier today I was on the way over here
I was walking down the street thinking
when suddenly I saw a car hit a dog
the dog was hit pretty hard
and he was stuck under the front wheel
until the driver backed up

A test should be fun. And by fun I don’t mean side-splitting hilarious rofl kind of fun. I mean just entertaining enough that students don’t think of it as a test. It can be done. What you need to do is write it as a story. Or a monolog. Or a dialog, it doesn’t really matter. The point is, it shouldn’t be just a bunch of lines that don’t gel together (a bunch of lines is ok in a written test but not here) or else students would have to kind of restart their brains with each line, conjuring up a new context or situation. This would make it harder for them to concentrate on the important part, which is coming up with some good english.

to be honest, he seemed to be dying
his owner dropped everything he was carrying
and was going to pick him up
so that he wouldn’t get run over by another car
except the dog bit him on the arm
and made him scream ;-)

Making a test fun in class isn’t as hard as it sounds, actually. What you need to do is prepare the students for the test without letting them know that there is going to be one. Nor should they be aware that the story you’re opening this class with is what they are going to be tested on. That’s what makes it so much fun. The moment you say the first sentence of the test for them to translate, some twenty minutes later, and they look up and go „haven’t we heard this before? Oh, I knew I should listen to that,“ makes it all worthwhile

a lady riding by on a bike
suggested that they should take the dog to a vet
the driver agreed to drive him there
even though he didn’t have a lot of time
so everyone got into the car and drove off
whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
except getting hit by a car, I guess


Here are the words that I think you should definitely mention and write on the whiteboard when introducing this particular test

be stuck
back up
run over

Keep in mind that the vocabulary is not the point here. In fact, it is the last thing the students should focus on. Granted, there are distinctions to be made depending on your own preferences. For instance, I want the students to learn to use be stuck but not back up. You may disagree and reverse the order.


In any case, you would do well to include phrases such as earlier today / walk down the street / to be honest / it made him scream etc. in your intro. Maybe they’ll stick long enough to make it into the students’ translations. Of course, usually they don’t. The students nod along as you talk, never realizing that understanding is not enough. It’s ok, though. At least when you point out to them after the test that you did actually use all these phrases in your intro, they will pay closer attention to what you say next time around.

The rest they really should know (yes, including drop / hit / suggest etc.). If they don’t, I’m sorry to say it’s your fault for failing to have brought these up before.

By the way, this is supposed to be an exercise for intermediate students, intermediate being a rather encompassing term in this case.


Anyway, you open the lesson by telling your students a story. The most important thing is that you make it sound natural, as if you have just thought of it. Here you have a story about a dog that got run over by a car and you witnessed the whole thing. It doesn’t really matter that you didn’t actually see it, just as long as you sound convincing enough to make them believe you did. (I actually did see this happen on my way to the classroom so the intro wasn’t all that hard to do. Yes, I wrote the test in the five minutes I had left before class began, with students already at their desks. Am I good at this or what?)

Make sure you use all the vocabulary in your intro so that during the test your students don’t have to stop halfway through sentences groping for words they have never heard.


ok, so what do I do exactly?

1. tell them the story: good opening words would be „I ran into this guy the other day and we got to talking…“ or „I went to a party last night and…“ or, in this case, „you’re not going to believe what I saw on the way to school today…“

At the end of it, just anyway your way to the next item on your schedule, as if you’re done with this.


2. …about twenty minutes later announce that there is going to be a simultaneous translation test. It sounds much better if you don’t use those very words. I prefer just saying „get ready to translate what I’m gonna be saying“.


now, what they should keep in mind is

» a) They are interpreting for a guy who pays them. This means they can’t just skip a line if they don’t know how to translate it, they have to translate it in some way or another

» b) At the same time they want to do a good job of translating to impress the listener who might then ask their employer to give them more money next time he hires them

» c) Getting the volume right is very important too. If there’s one student who shouts his translations out loud, everyone else will soon give up. On the other hand, if there is no buzz in the classroom, no one will feel like being the first to speak

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