It then considers some of the many objections ELT thinkers and practitioners have had to translation, and some of the possible benefits of its use. It concludes with some observations about how to make translation tasks successful, and some activities.
Introduction Translation was a significant part of ELT for a long time, and then a significant missing part for a long time also. However, it and these other abandoned activities are now a feature of many communicative classrooms and successful aids to learning, although the approach to using them has changed. As Duff says, teachers and students now use translation to learn, rather than learning translation. Modern translation activities usually move from L1 to L2, although the opposite direction can also be seen in lessons with more specific aims , have clear communicative aims and real cognitive depth, show high motivation levels and can produce impressive communicative results.
The history of translation in ELT methodologies As mentioned above, translation was the basis of language teaching for a very long time, and then rejected as new methodologies started to appear. It was a key element of the Grammar Translation Method, which was derived from the classical method of teaching Greek and Latin. This was not a positive learning experience for many: as well as learners memorizing huge lists of rules and vocabulary, this method involved them translating whole literary or historic texts word for word.
Unsurprisingly, new methodologies tried to improve on this.
The Direct or Natural Method established in Germany and France around was a response to the obvious problems associated with the Grammar Translation Method. In the Direct Method the teacher and learners avoid using the learners' native language and just use the target language. Like the Direct Method, the later Audio-Lingual Method tried to teach the language directly, without using the L1 to explain new items.
Objections to using translation We can consider possible problems with using translation by looking at possible negative impact on learners and then on teachers. Under each heading we can consider some of the concerns expressed. Translation does not help learners develop their communication skills. Benefits Many ELT teachers and theorists now see the validity and value of translation as an activity in communicative classrooms although few coursebook writers offer ideas and materials for this area. Below are some of the ways translations can have a positive impact; many of these also serve as responses to the objections and criticisms expressed above:.
Classroom approaches Translation is a difficult activity to set up and can go badly wrong, producing some of the objections described above. There are many aspects to designing and running tasks. Firstly, it is necessary to plan carefully and fully, and to identify the right kinds of aims. Ensure that your source material really does focus on these, and has not been introduced just because you like it. Make sure you have dictionaries and usage sources available.
It is important to recognise the problems associated with traditional approaches to translation a solitary, difficult and time-consuming activity using literary texts and find solutions to these, such as ensuring these tasks are short not easy , always working in groups, and maintaining the element of a communication gap where possible.
As the objections above showed, learner perception of this activity is key. It is useful to explain your aims and discuss any concerns that your learners have; many activities use materials that can be generated by learners, which can have positive impact on motivation and dynamics. Avoid activities which require your learners to use their L1 a lot if you don't have a consensus in your class.
Think about the possibilities and pitfalls of this kind of work in a multi-lingual group - discussion and comparison of L1 idioms may be very rewarding, for example, but working on a text not. Think about the different benefits of translation and more specifically L1 - L2 or L2 - L1 work in the context of aims and also of the class profile. Web Solutions for the Classroom - Barcelona. Intelligent Assessment and Evaluation - Florence.
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