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Reading in Two Languages

by Suzan Stamper | 25 Nov 2013
Resource Description: In a lower-level speaking class at a university in the United States, students give short presentations reading texts in two languages: their first language and English.
Audience: University
Audience Language Proficiency: Beginner
Duration: 20 minutes for instructions + presentations
Objective(s): speaking and presentation skills
Outcome(s): After the presentation and viewing the video, students reflect on their confidence and ability to give presentations in English.
Activity Description:

Give the following instructions to your students:

In this presentation, you will read two short texts: the first will be in your native language (about one minute long) and the other one will be in English (also, one minute long).

The readings can be a favorite poem, song, short paragraph, part of a famous speech, etc.  Both of your readings can be from the same text (in other words, you can read your native version, and then its English version), or you may choose two different texts. You will also need to prepare a short introduction (about 30 seconds) so that your audience understands more about the texts before you read them.  Be sure you practice this presentation aloud at home until you are comfortable with it.  

This activity was created for a lower-level English class at a university in the United States.  Since most of the students had not given a presentation in English, this activity was the first, and easiest, of three presentations given in the class. In this first experience, students read aloud in front of the class in two languages: their first language and English.  By comparing the differences between how students read in these two languages, most students could see they were quite confident in their first language as seen in volume, speed, eye contact, posture, and expression. During the presentations, a video was made and then uploaded to the class website. After the presentations, students were instructed to watch and analyze their video.  The presentation format with two languages resulted in many interesting conversations about 
  • confidence (first languages vs English)
  • presentation strategies
  • students' first languages (e.g., classmates were quite curious about others' languages)
  • The teacher can demonstrate the presentation assignment by reading in two languages for the students.
  • Presentation rubrics can be used to assess students' speaking. 
  • Videos can be saved and compared to later assignments.  In this class, at the end of the term, the students viewed all three of their presentations and reflected on their progress. 
Useful Links: There are many websites with poems, stories, and texts.  The following may be useful as examples or texts. 
TESOL Interest Section: Computer-Assisted Language Learning