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Joined: Mon May 07, 2007 8:23 am
Posts: 7
Post translation
Hi, at the moment i'm teaching a class of 4 adults and whenever I include a song in our lessons. They insist on translating it. I let them do that. Because after all, they like doing that so they get really motivated. They translate the songs themselves with some help, of course. But I'm worried because one teacher told me that research has shown that when students translate into their mother tongue that interferes with their learning and they don't acquire the language properly. Is that true? I don't think so. i don't encourage translation in my classes but if students get so motivated with that activity. Why not do it?

Mon May 07, 2007 8:33 am

Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 6:46 pm
Posts: 8
Post Re: translation
Don't worry - translation is a perfectly normal strategy at the early stages of learning, and a useful one as it allows students to "notice" the differences between the two languages. I always encourage my elementary students to think of what they want to say in their own language first, and then decide how to say it in English. If they can't, I let them say it in their own language and then reformulate it for them.

Incidentally, there is another piece of research that found that if you asked "Should students be allowed to translate?" inexperienced ESL teachers all replied No! Teacher trainers on the other hand replied yes.

At higher levels translation becomes less necessary because the English formulation becomes more automatic, but even then students will want to see how new language compares with their own L1

Even if you absolutely "forbid" your students to translate, they'll do it silently anyway! So I'd rather they did it out loud so that I can check they've got it right.

For more teaching ideas, visit An ELT Notebook

Mon May 07, 2007 7:28 pm

Joined: Thu Dec 07, 2006 4:13 am
Posts: 36
Location: Sweden
I think it's perfectly ok if that is not the only learning strategy. If you give them enough chances to learn in other ways the will use them too. Sometimes it's difficult to change the way we think, especially if we are older :) Just stimulate them and encorage to try other strategies.

Tue May 08, 2007 2:29 am

Joined: Mon May 07, 2007 8:23 am
Posts: 7
Thanks a lot for your answers. i will feel more confident now when I do this and not so guilty :lol:

Tue May 08, 2007 2:53 am

Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2006 1:36 pm
Posts: 386
Location: Tohoku Japan
yes I agree with susan53

I think its fine for the lower levels but should discourage it at the mid to higher levels

Tue May 08, 2007 11:24 am
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
All learners are searching for meaning. If they can't understand what's being said, it's natural to try to find the meaning. In L1 or comfortable language in L2 we can look for the meaning in the context. When we're totally lost there's no real alternative other than sit in ignorance. The search for meaning is best done in L2 but that can lead you to circles of meaning and get you further confused.
fight=battle battle=confront confront=fight :x

I speak Japanese rather well, but when someone says something I don't understand, I immediate think what does that mean. When I do this I'm asking what does that mean in English. Even if they give me a definition in Japanese I log that somewhere in brain connected to the English word. Only, when there's no good equivalent English word do I memorize it as is.

So, I agree with everyone else that translation is fine. I think it's OK at any level, but what I generally ask students not to translate what they understand. So if it's only one word that's giving them problems translate only that word (if they have to.) If it's just one sentence in the paragraph translate only that sentence or part of that sentence.

I've never heard that translating has any negative effect on language acquisition, but that could be true (there are a lot of things I haven't heard yet : ) However, I think it has more to do with why they are studying English. Some people are studying English and they will probably never have a chance to use it. If they enjoy translating, great! Some are studying to take exams to qualify for some position. Some are translators or want to be.

If we knew what was best, a lot of researchers would be out of jobs.

Build up! Be positive! Teach hard!

Tue May 08, 2007 1:20 pm
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Joined: Fri Jun 16, 2006 2:27 pm
Posts: 70
Location: Austria
This may not have a lot to do with it, but here goes anyhow:

Look back at the way you learned a foreign language. Did translating help you? I agree with the other writers in this forum that it is there naturally, especially at the beginning, whether you want it to be there or not. When you become more fluent, then translating fades into the background.

Secondly, I have fond memories of translating. It made learning more fun. I did it backwards, though. I translated "You Are My Sunshine" in my first year of German. Any native German-speaking person would have croaked if they had heard me! :smt119

To this day I sing it. Now I know how awful my German was back then, the song is living proof. But boy was that fun! And fun is part of the game.

Wed May 09, 2007 3:33 pm

Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2007 12:38 am
Posts: 21
I think that when dealing with young children is important no to ask them to translate all the time but guess by context, because if not, what happens, and I have seen many situations like this is that they are not used to understand by context and when they are reading they get annoyed if they do not understand all the words, and then they think they are not able to read in that language.
English is not my first language and whenever I read something I don't try and understand all the words, because I was encouraged to read by context. So it's good if we encourage the young people to do that... but, when dealing with adults, I understand that for them sometimes it is easier if they translate and don't waste time listening to explanation. And I don't know if you have realised but many times when you ask for the meaning of one word, and someone gives you an explanation, and you understand it, you usually say: ahhhh it's xxxx and you translate it to your own language, because it is a good way to consolidate it.
Therefore, don't worry about translations, it's not a big deal with adults and it's helpful most of the times

Fri May 11, 2007 11:25 pm

Joined: Fri May 25, 2007 11:44 am
Posts: 1
Location: china
I think translation is helpful. I am learning French for two weeks. We are more interested and motivated when we understand what the teacher talking about if we can relate them to our mother tongue. Sometimes we can not find an exact word to match, but anyhow we can understand it better by discussing it in mother tongue. Translation helps us improve our comprehension in oral French learning.
We are not encouraged to translate every word into mother tongue when we are reading.Guess by context is a good way to help us understand better.
This is my learning experience. I think that translation is helpful to some degree.

Fri May 25, 2007 12:30 pm

Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2006 9:47 pm
Posts: 17
Location: France
:lol: I agree with Susan, translation allows students to notice the differences between 2 languages and some get an interest in their own language. it also makes learning more fun especially when some English idioms are translated into French and vice versa!

Fri May 25, 2007 8:49 pm

Joined: Tue May 22, 2007 1:22 pm
Posts: 17
Location: TURKEY
I usually use the translation method because I think it is useful for making the students understand the sentences. They learn how to translate and it makes them motivated... But I think it also has some disadvantages because my students can be confused when they read complex sentences. So I think that it is better not to use this method frequently... :-)

Sat May 26, 2007 12:19 am
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