Activities for OTP Workshops

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This is a collection of activities that can be used at OTP workshops.

The limits of compression

Tools: A set of 10 subtitles (in a language common to all the participants); computers or paper printouts and pens

Goal: Practice compression strategies, gain insight into preserving the original meaning while compressing subtitles

Duration: 20-30 minutes


  1. Give the participants a quick refresher on the rules of compressing subtitles (see this guide)
  2. Hand each individual or group the same set of 10 subtitles. These should ideally be long and in the form of sentences.
  3. Ask the participants to compress every subtitle as much as possible. Encourage them to test the limits of compression.
  4. After 10 minutes, have each individual or group read out their compressed version of the first subtitle. Ask the participants to discuss whether that version preserves the original meaning and whether it could still be shorter, and to share their versions of the subtitle. Afterwards, ask the next individual or group to share their version of the next subtitle and continue the discussion.

The chain of back-translation

Tools: A set of paper sheets each with a different English sentence from a TEDTalk; pens; dictionaries or WiFi to enable access to online dictionaries

Goal: Gain insight into what is preserved and what is lost in translation

Duration: 20-30 minutes


  1. Hand each individual or group a sheet with a different sentence. Ask them to translate it and then fold the sheet of paper so that the original sentence is not visible.
  2. Ask the participants to hand the sheet with their translation to another individual or group.
  3. Ask each individual or group to translate that sentence back into English. Stress that they should not look at the original sentence. Afterwards, ask them to fold the sheet of paper so that just their English translation is visible.
  4. Ask the participants to hand the sheet with their English translation to another individual or group. Repeat this cycle until every individual or group has translated every sentence or until there is no room left on the sheet.
  5. Gather every sheet. Choose one sheet and read out the original sentence and the last translation. Ask the group to comment on the differences in meaning. Repeat with every sheet.


  • This exercise can only be done in a group where every attendee is capable of translating from English into the same language.
  • For the original sentence, select something without specialist terminology. It is best to use a compound sentence that is not very short.
  • Stress that the participants should not worry about the quality of their translation in this exercise and especially should not be concerned about English.
  • Don’t give the participants too much time to spend on the translation. Leave at least ten minutes for the discussion at the end, and divide the rest of the time so that each individual or group gets to translate at least twice.