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Does anyone have a rubric for grading Latin translations?


Mary in GA
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Certainly, translations is probably the most important rubric here - but I'm afraid I don't really understand what's the question you're asking. :confused: You're asking HOW I'm doing it, what are the criteria and what are "units" I'm operating with when grading, or...? I can give you examples, just please precise what exactly you'd like to know. :)

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I want to know, too. Right now I assign 1 pt. per Latin word...but I wonder if I'm grading too leniently? I have also graded 1 pt. per group of words, i.e. in templo would count as 1 point, not 2.

 

I have been doing something similar; but it seemed like for some assignments or tests I was dealing with too many points, and it was really cumbersome. I have also tried using broader categories like assigning an over all point value to the exercise, and then a rating system for categories like vocab, grammar use (construct, tense, case, etc.), and whether or not the translation reads smoothly. Eg Vocab 4/5, grammar 3/5, etc. But I'm not really sure this system is a very accurate way to grade.

 

I have been very inconsistent!

 

Certainly, translations is probably the most important rubric here - but I'm afraid I don't really understand what's the question you're asking. :confused: You're asking HOW I'm doing it, what are the criteria and what are "units" I'm operating with when grading, or...? I can give you examples, just please precise what exactly you'd like to know. :)

 

A grading rubric. A framework within which to grade/evaluate translation from Latin to English or English to Latin. Any suggestions appreciated. Thanks!

 

Mary

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I have no background in Latin and am probably doing it all wrong, but I'll tell you what I do anyway. :D For translation exercises, I count each sentence (Latin to English, English to Latin, doesn't matter) as five points. I don't know enough Latin to pick apart every little bit of a sentence, so I've just been taking off two points for mistakes involving the simple subject or predicate and one point for any other mistake within the sentence. An example:

 

Translate the following sentence into Latin:

 

Christ was killed that men be saved from death and sin.

 

Christus interfectus est ut homines e morte et peccato eperentur.

 

"Eperentur" should be "eriperentur," so I took off one point.

 

For straight vocabulary questions, one word equals one point.

 

Each declension chart-type question (decline "mensa, mensae") is worth five points.

 

Each conjugation chart-type question (give the present indicative of "exeo, exire") is worth three points.

 

Waiting for Ester Maria's reply! :bigear:

Edited by Melanie
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The languge is not a nomenclature (© De Saussure :D), it's never translated word per word, in fact, there's a whole principle in translation that says: Non verbum e verbo sed sensum exprimere de sensu. (Not word by word, but SENSE BY SENSE, or better, idea by idea.)

 

So what does it mean? The translation must be divided syntactically, in small operable units that CAN be transferred to a different language. Which is another reason why syntax should be taught explicitly after morphology, but I digress. It's the best to show it on an example.

 

This is from Caesar (De Bello Gallico, 1.12):

Flumen est Arar, quod per fines Haeduorum et Sequanorum in Rhodanum influit, incredibili lenitate, ita ut oculis in utram partem fluat iudicari non possit.

 

English:

There is a river [called] the Saone, which flows through the territories of the Aedui and Sequani into the Rhone with such incredible slowness, that it can not be determined by the eye in which direction it flows.

 

How do you divide the points?

Flumen est Arar - There is a river Arar/Saone (1 point)

quod per fines Haeduorum et Sequanorum in Rhodanum influit - which flows ... into the Rhone (1 point)

incredibili lenitate - with [such] incredible slowness (1 point)

ita ut oculis - so that by eyes / by the eye (1 point)

in utram partem fluat - in which direction it flows (1 point)

iudicari non possit - it cannot be determined (1 point)

 

There is a total of 6 points for this sentence; for some other sentence, it would be a different number of total points, depending on syntactic elements, those little "unities of sense", you can divide the sentence into. In this case, you wanted to make sure:

1) That the MAIN CLAUSE is clearly distinguished;

2) That the other subclauses (sentence parts with influit, fluat, possit, since those are the verbs) are distinguished, PROPERLY SUBORDINATED;

3) That the other syntactic units which aren't sentences per se are recognized and properly translated.

 

That's the order of priority: first you check the main clause, if that one isn't recognized, all parts with verbs are automatically 0 points (so in this case there would be 2 points in total, for a lenient instructor, for "ita ut oculis" and "incredibili lenitate", if those were correct - the stricter ones automatically give 0 points to a sentence without a correct main clause, even if non-verbal parts are translated correctly); if it is recognized, then you check subordinate clauses and add additional points. The MOST important thing is to recognize the main clause, since the whole sentence is built around it.

 

I took a relatively advanced example Latin -> English, but the same logic is applied to simpler sentences. Sometimes things aren't as "linearly straightforward" as in that example, which is also a lighter one:

 

Horatius poeta eventum in Foro Romano narrat. (The poet Horatius narrates an event in Forum Romanum.)

Horatius poeta - the poet Horatius (1 point)

eventum narrat - narrates an event (1 point)

in Foro Romano - in Forum Romanum (1 point)

There are a total of 3 points in this sentence and on this level, as you can break the sentence in those little units. If it's English -> Latin, I don't take it as a mistake if "in Foro Romano" is put at the end of the sentence (not at this level), but if the syntax of English is messed up (because the student translated word-by-word and didn't notice that "eventum narrat" is a syntactic unit per se even if interrupted by other words), then I take off points. If a Latin word is incorrect, the point for that syntactic unit is also off, even if it's correctly put in the context (e.g. if it were written "evento narrat"). Sometimes it's possible to have negative points that way: if something is worth 1 point, you can take it away either for syntax (but NOT on this level), either for morphology ("evento" instead of "eventum"). If both are wrong, I mercilessly take 2 points off, even if the exercise is worth 1 point, so kids don't get 0, but -1 points for that part. But that's not very relevant at the earlier stages of learning.

 

Regarding vocabulary tests, I use 1 word = 1 point, BUT, the Latin word has to be written fully (stella, ae, f.), otherwise no point, even if the word is correct. Same for verbs, full forms must be written.

I don't give negative points on vocab, though.

Vocabulary tests with expressions, it's also 1 expression = 1 expression, so quae cum ita sint is all 1 point, write any word incorrectly or mess up their order, it's 0 points.

 

Full charts are all 1 point - mess up a single thing in a chart, it's automatically 0 points. Not because I'm cruel, but because it makes no sense to give a point: the entire chart is like one "unit" which you cannot really halve. But, say you have present AND imperfect, those are 2 charts, thus 2 points.

Asking a SPECIFIC part of a chart (indicative of the active imperfect of the third persion singular of the verb X) is a point, or 0.5, but a fixed amount. Asking a specific RECOGNITION (you write "habeo" and they have to write "indicative of the present active of the first person singular of the verb" and then full dictionary form of the verb) is also a point or 0.5. The FULL explanation must be written for that point/0.5 - if it's written like I wrote it above, without the dictionary form, 0 points automatically.

 

Direct speech to indirect speech, active to passive, any kinds of grammatical exercises - 1 point each, without halving (if something is incorrect, 0 points even if there are correct things).

 

I literally copied the system I had at school, I believe it's a good grading system. I hope it helps, ask more specific questions if something is unclear. :)

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Ester Maria, thank you for taking the time to post this. I've printed it out so I can digest it! I think it makes sense to break sentences down into parts as you show. This seems like it will require a fair amount of prep on my part for longer passages, but it will be a consistent system.

 

Mary

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Guest brownyadon

I also do the same procedure. Breaking the work in the parts makes the simple and faster. Whenever I want to translate the big paragraphs, I divide them in to appropriate pats and then start the work.

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  • 1 year later...
Guest mfolch

I grade both Greek and Latin, and I lack the patience to count every single clause or compute equally every phrase or unit of sense (though I admire – and cannot but regard with slight suspicion – those who do:).

Also, it seems to me that we need some flexibility when grading translations. Certain constructions should have more or less weight than others - even if they contain same number of words and together constitute a single clause or chunk of meaning - because they are, for instance, more or less common or difficult to translate, or perhaps they specifically have been discussed in class. So, this rubric is imperfect and I would welcome any guidance on how to make it more refined (while remaining equally handy).

 

The categories I use are defined according to general principles, and they allow for a degree of aesthetic judgment. But translation is aesthetic as well as computational – otherwise computers would have put us out of a job long ago. Also, I like to have wiggle room to differentiate between, say, a flawless vs. a flawless and elegant translation.

 

(The passages I quiz on tend to be 15-25 lines apiece; test passages are usually longer (150-200 words).)

 

Preliminary definitions:

 

By minor error, I mean: a noticeable, but not vitiating, degree of awkwardness or "translationese"; mistranslated vocabulary (which does not ruin the whole sense of the clause); minor misunderstandings of cases; reasonable confusion of tenses and parts of speech (e.g., imperfects taken as aorists, participial clauses rendered as independent clauses with a main verb); or mistranslations of minor clauses (e.g. simple ablative or genitive absolutes, appositional phrases, minor temporal clauses, etc.) which may count as one or two minor error depending on importance.

 

By significant error, I mean a situation in which: the student does not understand the basic structure, syntax, or sense of an important clause; mistranslated so many words as to misconstrue the fundamental meaning of the clause; or, though s/he may have gotten all the words right, has arranged them in a manner that misconstrues the fundamental meaning of the clause. I usually count omissions of lines as two or more such errors. Also, six minor errors = one significant error.

 

A a flawless, fluent translation.

A+ a flawless translation that is elegant, nuanced, poetic or rhetorically appropriate.

A- an A translation with at most two minor errors.

 

B a good translation with no more than one significant error, and two or three minor errors.

B+ a good translation which contains no more than one significant error and one minor error; or an A- translation with three-five minor errors.

B- a good translation with no more than one significant error, and three-five minor errors.

 

C a decent translation with no more than two significant errors, and two or three minor errors.

C+ a decent translation with no more than two significant errors and one minor error ; or a B- translation with more than five minor errors.

C- a decent translation with no more than two significant errors, and three-five minor errors.

 

D a shaky translation with no more than three significant errors, and two or three minor errors.

D+ a shaky translation with no more than three significant errors and one minor error; or a B- translation with three-five minor errors.

D- a shaky translation with no more than three significant errors, and three-five minor errors.

 

F Hopeless.

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Welcome to the boards, mfolch. :)

The categories I use are defined according to general principles, and they allow for a degree of aesthetic judgment. But translation is aesthetic as well as computational – otherwise computers would have put us out of a job long ago. Also, I like to have wiggle room to differentiate between, say, a flawless vs. a flawless and elegant translation.

Personally, I don't know that I can distinguish, many times, between a particularly elegant and an "only" flawless translation. If by flawless we take that all the relevant grammatical information is handled, and handled well in the spirit of another language, then sometimes elegance is a question of a purely subjective judgment and I tend to keep that out of my grading scheme whenever possible. Not that it means that there are not better and worse solutions, but those are things that are typically not clear cut, so I discuss them on the level past morphosyntax study, and often do not really grade on a cold number scheme (I grade on a 10-point scale, with first 5 being negative grades and the upper 5 being positive grades).

 

For example, we had a thread here some time ago on the high school board in which I compared (very superficially, though, not a full blown analysis, just several comments) various possible translations of a few chunks of Dante. In some cases, there were what I considered worse solutions than others, but in some cases, my preference was purely subjective. (Prior to that I had practically never read Dante in translation to English, so you could even say that while evaluating those chunks I had the "innocence" of somebody reading them rendered in English for the first time, without any preconceived notions of how things ought to be translated.)

 

For the most part in earlier years my major focus is the grammatical and the logical analysis of the period. When I start preparing my children for the translation, first I require them several times to bring to me, before having translated a single line, the passage which is grammatically and logically dissected, because I remember from my own school days that the worst mistakes among kids were always the product of running for the dictionary for every random word you do not fully understand, while disregarding the structure.

 

Later, I no longer require it, but the logical parsing of the sentence is so natural to me that I automatically divide things. My kids nearly always find their own mistakes in retrospect when I have them dissect things. So, I like to keep things "concrete", especially with younger students (prior to high school age), and leave aesthetical concerns both for when their familiarity with the language is greater due to greater experience in translation, and when they are a bit older to have acquired more aesthetic notions in general. This does not mean that we do not discuss it during odd moments even before, but it is not the focus.

By minor error, I mean: a noticeable, but not vitiating, degree of awkwardness or "translationese"; mistranslated vocabulary (which does not ruin the whole sense of the clause); minor misunderstandings of cases; reasonable confusion of tenses and parts of speech (e.g., imperfects taken as aorists, participial clauses rendered as independent clauses with a main verb); or mistranslations of minor clauses (e.g. simple ablative or genitive absolutes, appositional phrases, minor temporal clauses, etc.) which may count as one or two minor error depending on importance.

 

By significant error, I mean a situation in which: the student does not understand the basic structure, syntax, or sense of an important clause; mistranslated so many words as to misconstrue the fundamental meaning of the clause; or, though s/he may have gotten all the words right, has arranged them in a manner that misconstrues the fundamental meaning of the clause. I usually count omissions of lines as two or more such errors.

I mostly agree with your division of errors into minor and significant, though I actually tend to be stricter with things that are "older knowledge". I even count some of what should be "minor" issues as double mistakes in the upper levels, because if we had repeated and encountered something a certain construction so many times, then you cannot just not recognize it or mistranslate it (for example).

What you mention as misconstruing the fundamental meaning of the clause is what I thought of earlier, running for the dictionary without having the structure down. Those are zero points in my book, even if all the lexical information is duly rendered. Not understanding syntax would typically render the whole sentence null in my book too.

 

I think you have a good grading system.

One thing that I personally disagree with is this: in chunks of 15-20 lines or 150-200 words, a third significant error would automatically fail a student. I think those are simply too short pieces to allow for that much leeway for significant mistakes. A positive grade would be off limits with me after a third error of that kind. But then again, that also depends on the level and how experienced the students are with translating things

 

(By the way, are you talking about a homeschooling context or you teach Latin and Greek in a school? What are the ages / levels of the students in question? I think it is a very good scheme.)

Edited by Ester Maria
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Guest mfolch

Thank you for the feedback. I teach at the university level and usually my students come to me with at least two years of college-level ancient language work under their belts, so I assume knowledge of grammar and syntax.

 

I am teaching my first intermediate language course in years and discovered that my system needed some rethinking (hence my searching around on discussion boards). I wanted to learn from teachers who actually teach the fundamental elements of grammar, syntax, and vocabulary.

 

My rubric (such as it is), was developed in consultation with a number of colleagues and graduate students for masters exams. Three faculty members grade each exam, so we needed to calibrate grading standards. There was no single method: the Germans on the board preferred strict numerical calculations; the Italians were more keen on demonstrating fluency; the British were less than forthcoming; the Americans ... well, you saw what I came up with. We codified and then coordinated numerical, fluency, and categorical systems.

 

After grading a pile of midterms, I think I will integrate a stricter numerical evaluative apparatus into my rubric.

 

Many thanks!

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