A challenging activity for advanced students is to translate a poem into English.
Take this concise and touching Urdu poem by Abdul Jhelumi of Pakistan as an example.

Abdul Jhelumi translated his own poem but it has some awkward moments because he is not a native speaker and has never lived in an English speaking country.
Give it to your students to see what they can do with it.  There are no right answers!

Below first is the version with so-called improvements making the English more natural, and then the original translation from Urdu by the author.

If all your students are the same nationality choose a poem in the native language that every one translates, but if you have mixed nationalities then work on an existing translation so everyone has the same starting point.

Do read this poem, it’s short so it won’t take up much time, and touching.

The same poem with slight modifications, keeping closely to the original but smoothing over the slightly unnatural moments.

If I were a Looking glass,
O’ never ever in my life,
Opportunism’s slave would I be.
Not only before the king,
But also at the gallows,
Only truth would I speak,
If I were a Looking glass.

But being human,
I’m born to be shattered ceaselessly,
Sometimes by shocks,
Sometimes by fatal pangs of parting,
Of parting with my beloved.

If I were a Looking glass,
Surely I’d be smashed into tiny pieces by ruthless stone.
But only once, dear,
Would it happen to me
If I were a Looking glass.
The author’s own translation from Urdu:

If I were Looking glass.
O’ never ever in my life,
I’d be slave of opportunism.
Not only before the king,
but also at the gallows,
only and only truth I’d speak,
If I were Looking glass.

But for being human,
I’m born to be shattered ceaselessly, dear.
Sometimes by shocks,
Sometimes by fatal pangs of parting,
o’ parting with beloved.

If I were Looking glass,
Surely I’d be crashed into
tiny pieces by ruthless stone.
But only once, dear,
it would happen to me in life.
If I were Looking glass.

Could you use this idea in your advanced classes?

All the best
Shelley
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