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Diplomats and Interpreters - whole class activity

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Ability level: Intermediate to Advanced
Prep time: 5-10 minutes (printing and cutting)
Time: 45 minutes - 1 1/2 hours
Class size: 26 or less (could be adapted for a larger class – just make more role cards)

If this activity seems unnecessarily complex, that is because the purpose is to give students a taste of what it’s like to be an interpreter. Because my students are university English majors I blended some career related lessons into their Oral English classes. See also “Commodity Trading,” “Build a Building,” and “Transportation Planners.”

Students work in pairs. One is the diplomat. The other is his/her interpreter. Each pair receives a role card stating the diplomat’s name, country, and goals. The diplomat will mingle (accompanied by the interpreter) with the other diplomats and try to establish exchange programs and cooperate on mutually desired research.

The catch is that the diplomat can only speak the native language of his country (represented by the native language of the students). Thus the interpreter is needed to translate into English. Then the other diplomat’s interpreter must translate what is said back into the other diplomat’s native tongue (also represented by the native language of the students).

Thus a conversation would go something like this. German diplomat introduces himself (in Chinese), his interpreter translates introduction into English, Thai diplomat’s interpreter translates into Thai (Chinese). Then Thai diplomat responds and introduces herself in Thai (Chinese), her interpreter translates response and introduction into English, German diplomat’s interpreter translates into German (Chinese). And so on…

When explaining this all to the students, it is useful to have two pairs come up and demonstrate (with your guidance). Also tell the students that the more they get into the roles, the more useful the activity will be in giving them a sense of what translation is like. Tell them to translate only what is said directly to them (i.e. what is said in the language that their character understands) even if this will lead to a misunderstanding. They should pretend that they can’t understand anything else. Encourage them to go beyond their goals and discuss other aspects of diplomacy (culture, trade, politics, etc.)

Also encourage the interpreters to take notes for accuracy when translating long statements, especially ones full of numbers.

After a while have the diplomats and interpreters switch roles.

I tried to choose authentic names for each country, but the goals are random.

Role Cards:

Ayodeji Adewunmi
Nigeria
Want to:
 Send 50 undergraduates and 25 grad students abroad, divided between at least 4 different countries
 Host 30 undergraduates from at least 4 different countries
 Exchange 25 high school students, divided between at least 4 different countries
 Exchange 50 university professors, divided between at least 7 different countries
 Cooperate on global warming, physics, and psychology research

Bolelang Rakeepile
South Africa
Want to:
 Exchange 40 undergraduates and 10 grad students, divided between at least 5 different countries
 Exchange 25 university professors, divided between at least 5 different countries
 Cooperate on nanotechnology, manufacturing and pharmaceutical research

Choonhapong Thaiupathump
Thailand
Want to:
 Host 100 undergraduates and 60 grad students, divided between at least 10 different countries
 Send 60 undergraduates and 20 grad students abroad, divided between at least 4 different countries
 Exchange 25 high school students, divided between at least 6 different countries
 Exchange 10 university professors, divided between at least 3 different countries
 Cooperate on global warming, geology, botany, and zoology research

Ulrich Kiefer
Germany
Want to:
 Exchange 10 undergraduates and 50 grad students, divided between at least 5 different countries
 Exchange 10 high school students, divided between at least 3 different countries
 Exchange 18 university professors, divided between at least 4 different countries
 Cooperate on cloning, cancer, AIDS, and genetic mapping research

Carlo Mazzucchelli
Italy
Want to:
 Exchange 90 undergraduates and 40 grad students, divided between at least 7 different countries
 Exchange 60 high school students, divided between at least 8 different countries
 Exchange 30 university professors, divided between at least 6 different countries
 Cooperate on cancer, AIDS, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and geographic information systems research

Igor Baykov
Russia
Want to:
 Send 200 undergraduates and 40 grad students abroad
 Host 50 grad students from at least 5 different countries
 Exchange 15 high school students
 Exchange 40 university professors
 Cooperate on geographic information systems, global warming research, genetic mapping, aerospace, and psychology research

Manish Punjabi
Kazakhstan
Want to:
 Host 100 undergraduates and 60 grad students, divided between at least 10 different countries
 Send 60 undergraduates and 20 grad students abroad, divided between at least 4 different countries
 Exchange 25 high school students, divided between at least 6 different countries
 Exchange 10 university professors, divided between at least 3 different countries
 Cooperate on psychology, cancer, pharmaceutical, and zoology research

Karenna McGuire
Ireland
Want to:
 Exchange 90 undergraduates and 40 grad students, divided between at least 7 different countries
 Exchange 60 high school students, divided between at least 8 different countries
 Exchange 30 university professors, divided between at least 6 different countries
 Cooperate on botany, AIDS, and cloning research

Fei Yong
Malaysia
Want to:
 Exchange 10 undergraduates and 50 grad students, divided between at least 5 different countries
 Exchange 10 high school students, divided between at least 3 different countries
 Exchange 18 university professors, divided between at least 4 different countries
 Cooperate on cancer, aerospace, global warming, manufacturing, and geology research

Hassan Mourad
Egypt
Want to:
 Exchange 40 undergraduates and 10 grad students, divided between at least 5 different countries
 Exchange 25 university professors, divided between at least 5 different countries
 Cooperate on global warming, pharmaceutical, and archaeology research

Joichi Ito
Japan
Want to:
 Exchange 90 undergraduates and 40 grad students, divided between at least 7 different countries
 Exchange 60 high school students, divided between at least 8 different countries
 Exchange 30 university professors, divided between at least 6 different countries
 Cooperate on archaeology, genetic mapping, and zoology research

Jose Gerardo
Argentina
Want to:
 Exchange 80 undergraduates and 50 grad students, divided between at least 6 different countries
 Exchange 80 high school students, divided between at least 8 different countries
 Exchange 20 university professors, divided between at least 6 different countries
 Cooperate on AIDS, disaster prevention, and geographic information systems research

Alexandre Karol
Brazil
Want to:
 Exchange 120 undergraduates and 60 grad students, divided between at least 8 different countries
 Exchange 55 high school students, divided between at least 8 different countries
 Exchange 40 university professors, divided between at least 6 different countries
 Cooperate on disaster prevention, geology, botany, and manufacturing research

Ian Ostrom
China

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