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RE word-play

As RE co-ordinator in a Church of England primary school, I was searching for a way to make the origins of the Bible interesting for Year 6 pupils.

We were looking at different translations and how mistakes could be made moving from one text to another. I drew up a completely fictitious language and culture, similar to Anglo-Saxon. I explained that some words had not yet been deciphered in a letter that was written by a dying nobleman. His spelling and handwriting were not perfect, and some of the words were partially obliterated.

I also gave them copies of a dictionary that had been prepared of nouns and adjectives and asked them to complete the letter to the best of their ability, using common sense and guesswork. What the children did not know was that the dictionaries were not all the same, with words like "crow" in the first version being replaced by "cow" in the next, and so on. Subtle differences of one letter or reversal of two meanings gave us a wide variety of translations. The results were sometimes very funny, and the children realised how difficult the task of translation could be.

When we moved on in the next lesson to changing the Lord's Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer into (a) modern day English and then (b) mobile phone "text-language" we began to get a really good understanding of the intricacies of language and translation.

Sarah McIver is RE co-ordinator at Diocesan and Payne Smith C of E Primary School, Kent

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