Wednesday, April 30, 2008

a successful (and awesome) student project

[This is the first of the two posts about the week of awesomeness I mentioned at the beginning of April. Click to embiggen the images, especially the one of the actual news clipping.]

I taught English 403 in the Spring semester: Professional and Technical Writing for ESL Students (English 402 is the non-ESL version, although for various reasons that I hope to have a hand in changing, 403 and 402 tend to focus on different things). One of the four projects in the course was a translation project. You might say "Wha?? But this is an English course!" to which I say "and boy howdy did they write a lot in English."

I'll backtrack.

The person who regularly teaches ESL courses got in touch with the university's recycling office about a possible translation project for the instructions/poster/handout on the new single-stream recycling program offered here. Couple that with the time I spent as documentation i18n/l10n manager for a really big tech company oh so many years ago (and my abilities in working with non-English documents and application i18n/l10n as part of my daily work anyway), and it seemed like a good thing to do. I could totally teach the processes and documentation that go into doing a translation project. And I did.

student project 2/3Students worked in language groups across the two sections of this class. Groups ranged in size from 1 (guess that's not a group) to 10, but each group did at least the one page poster and most groups also did a second batch of text that can be used as needed. The documents were translated into Chinese (both Simplified and Traditional), Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Arabic, Farsi, and Spanish. Throughout the course of the project, students wrote the following documents in English (individually): a Memo of Understanding, a Progress Report, and a final Translator's Report. So, while the translation is what you see in the image above, each student might only have translated a hundred words (if even that) from English into their preferred non-English language—and the same student will have written a few thousand words about the translation.

NOTE: Here is the assignment overview document, and if you want to see any of the individual assignment sheets just let me know.

Clearly, the students put a lot of work into this project. student project 1/3 Their documents are going to be distributed by WSU as a public service throughout the western United States, and will help recycling stations communicate important information about what can/cannot be recycled in single-stream recycling projects. I also wanted to provide them with some knowledge about how to do this sort of thing because it is likely that somewhere down the line in their engineering or marketing or whatever jobs, someone is going to find out about their language multicompetencies and ask them to pitch in and help out on a translation—outsourcing translations is very expensive so a lot of it stays in-house.

student project 3/3Anyway, we threw them a little party and had the "client" (head of university recycling) come in and talk to them/thank them/etc. We provided food. We displayed all the work. We invited the press. A lovely student reporter came to the event and talked to the client, to us, and most importantly to the students in the class. Please click through and read the article (you might have to view the large size first).

I was so happy for (and proud of) the students and what they did for the community (and the environment). WSU is not the most diverse school, and it was A Good Thing to get information out there that international and/or ESL students have unique and valuable skills.