METM22 Chronicles: Laura Bennett

Creative Translation in the Classroom: focus on translator-facilitated workshops

Every now and then, a translator will post on social media about the invisibility of our profession and the general public’s unawareness of what we actually do. After a few indications of agreement, the conversation generally stops there. But, through the Stephen Spender Trust, Laura Bennett managed to do something about it.

In 2020 and 2021, she worked on the Creative Translation in the Classroom (CTiC) project, hosting remote and in-person workshops throughout the academic year. As Laura puts it, creative translation was used as a Trojan horse to sneakily raise the intercultural awareness, confidence and aspirations of primary and secondary schoolchildren.

The CTiC approached “creative translation” in three logical steps, which I believe any translator will recognize:

  • decoding the (always authentic) source text – in this specific case, students used visual clues and mood boards to understand the context and gist.
  • producing a literal translation – or, as we’d call it in our world, “that rough first draft”. Comprehensive glossaries were provided to the children, who also had access to online dictionaries and Google Translate.
  • coming up with a creative translation – after getting a handle on the intended meaning, students were encouraged to find more natural and creative ways of conveying the message.

Laura was paired with two secondary schools in Bicester and Aylesbury, working from French into English with children aged 11-14. Using “Francophonie” as a theme for the four workshops, she selected a Christmas song, a collection of short graphic stories, an illustrated book and a poem, all written by native French speakers from countries other than France.

In her presentation at METM22, Laura detailed the strategies she used to bring each of these texts to the classroom. One of the activities was as close to transcreation as could be imagined: students were asked to recreate a story in a British setting.

As one might expect, the children got a lot out of these workshops. The anonymous feedback showed that they’d found language learning more entertaining, and they’d learned new things from the texts themselves (one example was how traditional beliefs in African culture are still present in many people’s lives). And, naturally, having a different type of lesson given by a real professional engaged them in ways their regular lessons tend not to.

As for Laura, she appreciated the change of pace from her day-to-day translation work, the new contacts she made through the Fund, and the impact her workshops seemed to have on some of the students. She has even returned to one of the schools to give a broader talk on careers in languages, this time to older students. The CTiC project has now ended, but Laura continues to work with the Stephen Spender Trust, hosting one-off workshops.

This was a very inspiring talk. While not everyone will have a scheme like this to get involved in, the audience was left thinking about what we could do to raise the profile of translators and make a difference in our communities.

This METM22 talk was chronicled by Ana Carolina Ribeiro.

Featured photo by METM22 photographer Jone Karres.

3 thoughts on “METM22 Chronicles: Laura Bennett

  1. This is a brilliant concept and I wish I could have attended Laura’s session. A similar program was flourishing in Rhodes in 2015 and 2016 — in a sensitive trilingual Turkish-Greek-English (or at least Anglophile) environment in local schools. (I learned of it through MET’s membership in the ReFAL — the Spanish network of the Anna Lind Foundation, which facilitated our involvement in a few translation meetings organized by the international ALF.) The program in Rhodes was also “a Trojan horse to sneakily raise the intercultural awareness, confidence and aspirations of primary and secondary schoolchildren.” It improved their confidence and interest in both their own family languages and the other languages around them. There’s no downside to this!

  2. Thanks for this comprehensive account, Ana Carolina. I was disappointed not to be able to attend Laura’s talk as the concept sounded fascinating. Your article has answered many of my questions and piqued my interest even more – it sounds like a win-win situation for everybody involved.

  3. Thank you both Mary Ellen and Louise for your comments. Working in classrooms on behalf of the Stephen Spender Trust has been truly inspirational and I’m very grateful to them for the opportunity. If you would like to find out more about the Trust, please see their website

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