Every year for the past few years, I've been mentoring at Scratch Day, helping the kids with their projects during the course of the workshops. The problem? This takes place in my second language, which I don't use Scratch in. Since I don't regularly find myself using Scratch in that language, I don't really remember the words from year to year, and I'll find myself often going "the one under that one", or "the pink section", or of course "thingy".

Does this have a negative effect on the students if I'm not using the terms that they'll be using, because I don't know how to translate them exactly? Especially since for some of these kids, it's the first time they're using the platform.

The site itself and everything they're doing has the correct terms; it's just me stumbling giving them the wrong names.

Is this actively harmful, or just something that it'd be nice for me to work on, but not imperative?

  • I assume in my answer that the students "speak" the same language as the UI of the Scratch version they are using and you are the outlier. My answer would change if that is not the case. For example, if you and the UI are in, say, English, and the kids speak Spanish, my answer isn't valid. A three language situation is even harder. I have an answer for the English/Spanish situation. Please clarify. – Buffy Jul 31 at 12:29
  • @Buffy - the kids and UI are in the same language, I'm the outlier. – Mithrandir Jul 31 at 12:30
  • Thanks. I think my answer is valid, then. Sorry for the extra work it suggests. – Buffy Jul 31 at 12:33
  • I knew someone who referred to electronic parts with the word 'puppy', as in: "solder that puppy." – Scott Rowe Jul 31 at 15:56

Words matter. The problem is that the kids need to communicate the ideas to one another and to teachers, etc. They also need a way to integrate their Scratch experience into a larger programming set of ideas that they can carry with them.

It is good that you are trying to help, but you need to prepare yourself better first. Build a quick-look glossary for yourself that translates the terms in your native language into the one the kids are speaking. Scratch menus and documentation can help you do this, of course.

As you work, keep a few index cards and a pencil so that you can extend the vocabulary as needed. The glossary itself shouldn't require you to leave the Scratch environment for lookup. Paper is actually good for this - more index cards, perhaps.

Another trick you can use, perhaps, depending on the age of the kids, is to have them tell you the names of the terms when you stumble. Make a note of their answer (check its accuracy), and work hard not to stumble there again - more index cards.

Imperative? Probably yes. Or nearly so. But don't lose your enthusiasm for working with kids.


I'm a bit of an advocate for the use of index cards everywhere, by students and instructors. There is a description of the Hipster PDA in the answer to another question here.

First of all, kudos to you for teaching Scratch to kids!

Vocabulary forms tokens of ideas that we can pass on to one another, and it is no coincidence that much of early childhood is spent with a parent telling a child, "this is a doorknob", and "this is a can opener". These identifiers allow us to summon, link, and morph ideas. We organize our thinking around names.

Stephen H. Webb beautifully wrote:

Collecting, naming, and organizing things¯anything, from banana labels to dachshund paperweights¯seems to be built into human nature. At least, that’s what the Bible tells us. The first task God gave Adam was the naming of the animals. God “brought them to Adam to see what he would call them” and “the man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field” (Gen. 2:19“20). No matter how you imagine this scene, its meaning seems clear enough. The gift of language is what separates us from other species. We can name them, but they cannot name us.

Proper words will help your students enormously when they move on to their next programming language. Without the vocabulary to act as accessors to the ideas that they have understood in your workshop, students will have to independently make connections by linking the underlying ideas. This is cognitively taxing, and only some of them will manage to do this. The others will have to relearn the ideas in the new context from scratch. (No pun intended.)

  • It is vital to learn correct terms, but what I observe is that another language might not have an exact correlate word, but only a more general one. I find that English has taken many general words from other languages and made them highly specific. For example, 'shampoo' is only for hair-washing in English but in the source language it just means 'soap'. Because many technical words arose in English-speaking contexts, the correct exact match simply might not exist in another language. This would make it hard for other-language speakers to form the correct hierarchies and distinctions. – Scott Rowe Jul 31 at 16:02

How about flipping it around: People don't learn when you just tell them what to do. So when you are asked a question, answer with a question, for example “What section will you find that in?”, ”show me how you would do that.” (Have them be the cat).

As teachers we are told not to be the source of all knowledge, to facilitate. Every time I have a weakness, I ask how can I use this to encourage me to teach better.

  • +1 I think it's worth mentioning that this works even when you're prescribing what steps they need to take. "Now click the blue one under that...Remind me, what's the name for that piece?" – Bilkokuya Sep 3 at 12:23
  • @Bilkokuya So you are directing them what to do, but also asking a question, to make them pay attention to what they are doing. Is that correct? – ctrl-alt-delor Sep 3 at 22:13

About remember everything

You're teaching people but you're a learner at the same time so; is not a real problem for example you don't remember every technical term about Scracth

Why is not important?

  1. Software development is not about memorizing is about understanding
  2. Its more helpful to write a technical guide with the most common terms
  3. If you forget something, for example what is an scenario you can go to your technicala guide and find whats is it
  4. If you make you technical guide after you will be feel very comfortable writing for example technical documentation
  5. For example if you students go from scratch to Java for example, and if you teached them about reading docs, then they will be very fluent cheking out the Java API

At the end is not bad not remember everything, why do you guess every programming language, RDBMS has it's own API to read in case, so take it easy

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