Share this page

Translating Shakespeare today: EU-project CultureShake gets students to bring Shakespeare’s words closer to home

Lisa Peter, Project Manager of CultureShakespeare at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, tells us about a multilingual learning project that involves translations from the Trust's library.

Lisa Peter
CultureShake logo

In early autumn a group of Swedish and German secondary school students raided the Trust’s collection of translations to support a multilingual learning project that combines Shakespeare’s world of drama with essential translation work. CultureShake, as the project is titled, wants to raise awareness of the multilingual world most people in Europe inhabit and aims to increase the inclusion of students from multicultural backgrounds into mainstream classrooms. While many schools quite rightly focus on integrating students from abroad by making them learn the official language of their country as quickly as possible, many language teachers now also emphasise the importance of including the students’ home languages in this process, both in order to enhance a more rounded language learning experience and to value multilingualism as an asset.

CultureShake participants
CultureShake participants

The CultureShake participants are between 13 and 16 years old and they all speak at least three languages, quite often a mixture of several home languages and a number of acquired languages too. Russian, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Farsi, Macedonian and Amharic are only a selection of the many languages involved in this project, so translations held in our library came in very handy as an additional source of inspiration for the students.

As part of the overall project, where the students also do a significant amount of text and performance work, the students are compiling their own online Shakespeare dictionary at the moment.  They work with shortened versions of their focus plays A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest for the duration of the project, but although reduced to a performance length of about twenty minutes, those snappy scripts nevertheless consist of Shakespeare’s words only and do not use any modernised English. This means that some terms will need explaining for an audience for whom English isn’t their first language, so creating an online dictionary where tricky terms like ‘marvellous’ or ‘abed’ are explained isn’t a bad idea. The languages used are simply those the students speak fluently anyway, so at the moment they are working on the only Shakespeare dictionary that combines 13 different languages in one place! Some definitions of the more central terms will also be available as audio recordings, plus photos will further help with understanding the words. The online dictionary will eventually be freely available on the project website at the end of the CultureShake project in autumn 2019.

CultureShake participants
CultureShake participants

If you would like to learn more about CultureShake and its objective to use Shakespeare’s works to incorporate multilingualism and multiculturalism into the classroom, take a look at the project website:

Erasmus+ logo

Recommended blogs

See all blogs