For this activity, you will need to get the lyrics of the 1978 Police hit song Roxanne translated into your students’ mother tongue. Change Roxanne’s name so that students don’t recognise the song if they already know it. Tell students that the text is a poem and their task is to translate it back into English. Will they realise that it is a song? The activity works best with adult learners who are likely to be familiar with the track. A Spanish translation is included in the PDF download. Others are included in the comments below.
- Language level: Intermediate – advanced (B1 – C1)
- Learner type: Mature teens; Adults
- Time: 45 minutes
- Activity: Translation
- Topic: Prostitution
- Language: ‘Have to’ for obligation
- Materials: Song
For this activity, you will need to translate the lyrics of Roxanne into your students’ mother tongue. Change Roxanne’s name so that students don’t recognise the song if they already know it. Here are the lyrics followed by a Spanish translation:
Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light
Those days are over
You don’t have to sell your body to the night
Roxanne, you don’t have to wear that dress tonight
Walk the streets for money
You don’t care if it’s wrong or if it’s right
I’ve loved you since I knew you
I wouldn’t talk down to you
I have to tell you just how I feel
I won’t share you with another boy
I know my mind is made up
So put away your makeup
Told you once I won’t tell you again it’s a bad way
Deborah, no tienes que encender la luz roja
Aquellos días han pasado
No tienes que venderte el cuerpo a la noche
Deborah, no tienes que llevar puesto ese vestido esta noche
Hacer la calle por dinero
Te da igual si está bien o si está mal
Te quiero desde que te conocí
No quiero menospreciarte
Tengo que decirte exactamente como me siento
No quiero compartirte con otro chico
Yo sé que estoy decidido
Asi que guarda tu maquillaje
Te lo he dicho una vez, no volveré a decirtelo más
Es una mala manera
Make a copy of the translation for each student in class and sign it Gordon Sumner (this is the real name of Sting, the lead singer of The Police and the Roxanne songwriter)
Lesson plan outline
- Ask your students if they like poetry. Tell them that you have a very famous English poem that has been translated into their own language.
- Give out copies of the text and tell students that their task is to work out what the woman does for a living. Ask students to read the poem and write down their answers.
- Let students compare their answers and give reasons for their decisions.
- Tell students that you want them to translate the poem back into English. Tell them that once they have done that, you will let them see the original English version. Give them access to dictionaries if possible. This process can work best if you allow students to work together.
- Allow different students or groups to compare their answers.
- Tell students that the poet, Gordon Sumner, is very well known. Tell them that they might recognise him if they could see a photograph. Use an image search site to find a picture of Sting.
- At this point, students may realise any or all of the following
- The text is from a song not a poem.
- The woman’s name has been changed. She is actually called Roxanne.
- You (the teacher) are a liar and a cheat.
- Play Roxanne for your students and let them listen and correct their translations before giving access to the full lyrics in English.
Give your students a mini webquest for homework. Ask them to find out where Sting got his name. The commonly-cited story is that he used to play in a jazz band wearing a black and yellow sweater. The bandleader thought that the sweater made him look like a giant wasp and gave him his nickname, “Sting”.
Roxanne contains 3 examples of don’t have to and can be a useful song to practice or introduce this structure.
- You don’t have to put on the red light.
- You don’t have to sell your body to the night.
- You don’t have to wear that dress to night.
The public domain image in this post was taken from here.