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Translating Authentic Historical Documents Using Perusall

Posted by on Thursday, April 14, 2022 in Projects.

This activity aims to help students gain the skills they need to successfully translate Spanish-language historical document into English. Students will be presented with an authentic historical document (i.e., a newspaper article from 1930) and work with their classmates to identify unfamiliar vocabulary or expressions using the collaborative documentation annotation tool Perusal, create a translation glossary with these words, and, as a last step, produce a Spanish-to-English translation of the document. The activity will help students learn new vocabulary, understand idiomatic or specialty language in Spanish, and develop a systematic approach to translating documents.

Lesson Overview:

  • Spanish
  • Advanced (High)
  • Multiple class sessions
  • Creative Tool: Perusall
  • No costs involved

Lesson Plan:

See the project description below

Project Description:

First, students will use the collaborative annotation tool Perusall to identify vocabulary, expressions, and idioms that appear in the document. The instructor of the course will have already annotated the document to help students identify vocabulary and expressions that might be challenging for the students. In small groups, students will be assigned to work on a particular section of the document (i.e. group three works on first paragraph, group 1 on second paragraph, etc) and work together using Perusall to annotate the document.

Second, students, after having annotated the historical documents with their classmates, will each add a word or phrase to the translation glossary. The translation glossary is a key tool for translating foreign language texts. The translation glossary would be available on Google Docs for students to work on collaboratively. Each group would enter a word or phrase that they find difficult to translate, look it up in a dictionary or parallel text (a text using the same word of phrase in a similar context), and then provide a brief explanation of their final translation.

Third, in a separate Google Doc, students will provide an English translation of the document, referring back to the translation glossary and the annotations on Perusall when necessary. Each group would present their translation of the document.

Students will work on the following ACTFL communication modes:

Interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational

Students will work on the following language skills:

Reading, writing, and speaking


Steven P. Rodriguez

Vanderbilt University

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