English to L1 to English (using business quotes)


A good activity is to start with a short text in English, translate it into L1, and then have another student who didn’t see the original translate it back into English. Comparing the original English version with the second English version throws up all sorts of interesting things re grammar, structure, lexis etc. The activity works best for higher-level students.

In my version I keep the original English text very short indeed by using quotes from well-known business figures.


1 Prepare and print out a short list of famous quotes spoken by well-known business figures. These are easy to find on the net by typing ‘famous business quotes’ into a search engine. Give half of the list to each student.

[Note from Paul: a good source of quotes here would be the PP presentation called ‘101 Awesome Marketing Quotes’ that I have posted in the Business Topics section. Here is the URL again in case you missed it: www.slideshare.net/HubSpot/101-awesome-marketing-quotes]

2 Each student chooses a quote they like, and working heads-down with a dictionary translates it into L1 (in my case Turkish). They write the L1 version on a sheet of paper.

3 I divide the group into pairs. Each student reads out their quote in Turkish to their partner. The partner listens carefully, asking for repetition as many times as necessary, and writes down a translation in English.

4 When both partners have had their turn they look at the original quotes and the second versions and discuss the differences.

5 As a class round-up, I ask each pair to share with the class the most important things they discovered, and I feed in my own comments. There is likely to be a mixture of grammar, structure and vocabulary.

Follow up

An obvious follow-up is then to discuss the content of each quote.

For homework, I ask the students to research the background of the business figure who said their own chosen quote, and write a short bio of this person.