Dictionnaire Cobra 2 – fast by name fast by nature

This post may be useful for people teaching TOEIC to French students – I know you are out there ;).

I have already mentioned the Cobra Dictionary and my use of it. To recap I used a gap fill activity (using the word bid) as a first stage, then a dictation activity as a second stage (where students needed to match the dictated English sentences to given French equivalents) and a reverse translation activity (students translated the given  French sentences to English and check with original English sentences) as a third stage.

A recent post on using translation over on LexicalLab reminded me to come up with a similar activity for my 2nd semester TOEIC students.

Looking at salient words in Unit 1 of the book Cambridge Target Score I chose the following:

as search words in the Cobra dictionary. I chose two examples for each keyword for a total of  eight sentences. I then made a simple gap fill for the English sentences as Handout 1:

1. Some of the conditions in the ————— are too stringent.

2. It is the second phase of a three-part —————.

3. How many —————s were there?

4. —————s should send their CV, a list of publications and a copy of their best papers.

5. The —————s lasted from 30 to 60 minutes, and questions examined :

6. After a brief —————, we look into whether we can offer you a job (depending on the vacancies we have).

7. A —————ing scheme.

8. To ————— teams.


And a separate file with French equivalents as Handout 2:

A) Les entretiens ont duré de trente à soixante minutes et les questions abordées étaient les suivantes :

B) Combien de candidats y avait-il?

C) Un programme de formation.

D) Il s'agit de la seconde partie d'un contrat qui comprend trois volets.

E) Certaines clauses du contrat sont trop strictes.

F) Entraîner des équipes.

G) Après un court entretien avec le candidat, la décision est prise de lui proposer ou non un poste (en fonction des postes vacants).

H) Les candidats sont priés d'envoyer leur CV, une liste de publications et une copie de leurs meilleurs articles scientifiques

This took me about 10-15mins to do.

Thanks for reading.


Dictionnaire Cobra – A striking corpus based tool

My twitter feed was particularly fecund recently when a nourishing morsel of a tweet by Antoine Besnehard/‏@Languages2_0 alerted me to the Dictionnaire Cobra. A corpus based dictionary for English/Dutch to French. I am not yet sure what parallel/comparative corpora it is based on but it has great potential.

This post reports on an initial trial with my TOEIC class and a lesson idea based on a reverse translation.

I trialled it with my TOEIC students as only 5 showed up, the others a no-show possibly because of the torrential downpour in Paris tonight. I divided the students into 2 groups and assigned them one word each to explain to the other group – bid, assembly line. I told them that after they spend a few minutes thinking of an explanation they should use the computer to look up the word in the Dictionnaire Cobra and make notes on what they find.

After the 2 groups presented their words, I asked them about their use of the online dictionary. Both groups seemed to find it very useful.

The lesson idea is based on a variation of a reverse translation as described by Phillip Kerr.

Use the Cobra dictionary to collect samples sentences of the words you are interested in. Use these examples in a gap fill exercise. So using the example of the word bid:

  1. Higher bids are likely.
  2. Canadians are having to guess when the call will go out for bids to replace our search and rescue helicopters.
  3. Late bidding is a strategic response to the presence of bidders placing multiple bids.
  4. young unemployed are encouraged to bid for work in other countries.
  5. Because his contract was up, he had to bid on a new contract.

Next list the French translations as a handout for the students:

  1. Des offres plus hautes sont probables.
  2. Les Canadiens se perdent en conjectures sur la date à laquelle un appel d’offres sera lancé pour le remplacement de nos hélicoptères de recherche et de sauvetage.
  3. La surenchère tardive est une réponse stratégique à la présence d’enchérisseurs soumettant des offres multiples.
  4. les jeunes chômeurs sont encouragés à faire une offre pour du travail dans d’autres pays.
  5. Lorsque son contrat a expiré, M. Cormier a dû soumissionner pour un nouveau contrat.

After the gap fill, and after telling students to put away their notes on the gap fill, tell them that you will now dictate the sentences. Their job is to match the translated French sentences to the English sentences that they hear. They can compare their matches with a partner.

After the matching they then have to translate the French sentences into English, they can work in pairs to do this.

Finally they check their translated sentences with the original English sentences.

As an extension one could highlight the different forms of bid in sentence 3 – bidding, bidders and its French equivalents.

Variations of this could include using a set of different words in the initial gap-fill exercise rather than the same word.

Thanks for reading.