6. Quick-fire translation starter
(This post was co-authored with Dylan Vinales during last week’s Garden International School professional learning afternoon). In the last forty years or so, most emerging L2 methodologies have dismissed the use of translation as a counterproductive practice. In particular, the emphasis on 100 % use of the Target Language lain by CLT and other approaches has often resulted in an outright ban of the L1 from the modern language classroom, and with it, evidently, the dismissal of translation. As I identified in a recent review of the relevant literature (Conti, 2016), translation has been out of favour for the following reasons:.
10. Concluding remarks
It is associated with the Grammar translation approach;. It is assumed that L1 use in the classroom hampers L2 acquisition;. Translation is seen by many as a mechanical transfer of meaning from one language to another – not a communicative activity;. Translation tasks are perceived as boring;. Translation is seen as independent of the other four skills;.
Translation takes up lots of valuable time that could be devoted to more beneficial communicative activities;. Translation is believed to be appropriate only for training translators. In recent years, however, theorists and researchers working in the Cognitive paradigm have been re-assessing the role of the L1 and translation as a means to support and enhance L2 acquisition.
Numerous studies seem to indicate that translation does indeed provide numerous cognitive advantages in instructed L2 settings over 100% Target Language. Consequently, as often happens in modern language education, the pendulum has swung back again and the new England-and-Wales GCSE Modern Language Exam now includes a mandatory translation module. The most valuable advantage of translation pertains, in my opinion, to the cognitive comparison between the L2 and the L1 it promotes, which often results in noticing the gap between the two languages, thereby potentially pre-empting/correcting L1 negative transfer or, conversely, providing confirmation for L1 positive transfer.
An example: last week one of my students, whilst playing one of my oral-translation games (see below) noticed that when saying ‘Il est avocat’ in French, unlike English, the indefinite article is not used. He subsequently asked me if that was the rule in French and once I confirmed, he translated the next sentence in the challenge ‘She is a teacher’ (=elle est enseignante) correctly. In my post ‘The case for translation in foreign language instruction’ I have written about the pros and cons of translation extensively and provided a number of important recommendations as to how to design and implement translation tasks.