Using Interactive Mobile Technology in a Translation Class

Using Interactive Mobile Technology in a Translation Class

Dr Tang Kin-Ling taught an undergraduate course Introduction to Translation (E-C) in Semester 2, 2018/19 using the mobile technology uReply. The introductory course aims to introduce the general principles of translation from English into Chinese and general translation theories. Since the course is a core requirement for BA Programme in Translation, most of the students are translation majors, while the others choose the course as an elective or minor subject.

Photo: The class in session

The course places an equal emphasis on translation theory and practice, and short translation exercises are a core feature of the course. The teacher would normally ask students to finish a few translation questions at home. The main purpose of short exercises is to let students have hands-on translation practices, and to compare their own translations with others’, since for any one single source text, multiple target text versions are possible. Through peer-learning, they will be able to reflect on their own work, and through commenting on their translations, the teacher can also grasp the chance to explain relevant translation principles and theory.

Photo: Students discussing their translations together

Previous experiences show that only a few students are willing to share their translations in class using such conventional approaches as asking students to read aloud their work, as they are afraid that they would make mistakes and be embarrassed in front of others. Even if a few students are willing to share their translation, only one target text can be discussed at any time. Also, the few outspoken students will gradually become the only ones who will speak up in class, leaving others feeling excluded and demotivated.


The use of interactive mobile technology can help to overcome the above challenges, since students can input their translations anonymously using their mobile phones. They do not have to install any mobile app, and can just scan the QR code of the relevant session that the teacher shows on screen. The whole class can be engaged at the same time. After inputting their text, the students can view all the translations by their peers immediately. They can compare their own translations against others’. Students reflected that this can help them to review their own work and think of ways to further improve their translations. With all the translations displayed on screen, the teacher can comment on selected translations in front of the whole class.

Photo: A student is inputting her text using her smartphone

The teacher can also make use of the app to set up some multiple-choice questions. The purpose of this is to prompt them to reflect on certain translation-related issues and to engage the whole class in discussions. For instance, how to translate the word Cappuccino? There are at least two widely acceptable translations of the same word. By asking students to choose their preferred one, class discussions can be initiated on the principle of translating a foreign word that has no equivalence in Chinese.

Photo: A multiple-choice question asking students to choose their preferred translation of the word Cappuccino.

To further reflect on the experiences of using the system in class, time management is an issue. At the beginning, the teacher spent too much time in waiting for as many responses as possible from students. After receiving some comments from students, a time limit was set in the collection of responses.

According to a survey carried out by the Teaching and Learning Centre, most students in the class agreed that they have increased their interactions among peers and with the teacher by participating in the Classroom Response System activities, and that they have increased their level of understanding of the learning contents. Based on in-class observation, students are keen to share their translations using the system. In this era, students cannot leave their smartphones behind and it is common to see students checking their smartphones in class. The integration of mobile technology with class activities is helpful to engage students’ attention – through engaging their mobile phones!