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20 and 21 September 2012 Celje, Slovenia The Role of Translation in the ESL/EFL and ESP Classroom Melita KOLETNIK KOROŠEC University of Maribor/Department of Translation Studies, Maribor, Slovenia Abstract— For much of the 20th century, translation suffered the reputation of being an ill suited aid in teaching and learning English as a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL). This was, for the most part, due to the predominant position of communicatively oriented approaches to teaching, rather than any entirely convincing objective reasons. An almost complete lack of translation and translating activities is observable in the available ESL/EFL and ESP textbooks aimed at the primary and secondary school learners. However, some accounts in scientific literature - primarily by the language teachers of future translators – together with some personal observations of teachers, lead the author to the conclusion that teaching through translation has, nevertheless, been able to survive and pass the test of time, and remains most notably present in more advanced levels of education. In this paper the author attempts to make a case for reviewing the role of translation in language teaching and, in particular, its educational value for advanced learners of ESL/EFL and ESP. The article starts by outlining the rationale and exploring the various reasons for the rejection of translation in ESL/EFL and ESP in the past. Building on the theoretical and methodological frameworks advanced by the grammatical, communicative and other established methodologies, the author reassesses the role of translation and proposes teaching through translation as one of the several possible activities contributing towards the effective and efficient development of linguistic and communicative skills . Index Terms— English language teaching (ELT), English as a Second Language (ESL), English as a Foreign Language (EFL), English for Specific Purposes (ESP), translation. I. INTRODUCTION For much of the 20th century, translation suffered the reputation for being an ill suited aid in the teaching and learning English as a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL). This was, for the most part, due to the pre-eminence of approaches which postulated a communicative focus and monolingual teaching. Judging from the available textbooks selected by Slovenian primary and secondary teachers for classroom use in the 2012/13 academic year, there exists an almost complete lack of translation and translating activities, both in general and specialised education, even though translation still seems to be (at least informally) present. There are, however, few really convincing objective pedagogic reasons for the absence of translation, while empirical evidence to substantiate the general tendency remains selective. However, a number of accounts in scientific literature, e.g. by Cook [3] and Malmkjaer [11], maintain that translation has nevertheless been able to survive the test of time at more advanced levels of education. According to [3], “the use of translation remains the norm at university-level language teaching”, most notably among languages other than English. What is more, in the second edition of A History English Language Teaching, Howatt and Widdowson [6] make a plea for “reviewing the role of translation in language teaching and particularly its educational value for advanced learners in schools and universities”. This article therefore endeavours to explore this role and potential, and attempts to draw conclusions as to its applicability in ESL/EFL and ESP teaching. Commencing with an outline as to the rationale, this article explores the various reasons for the past rejection of translation in ESL/EFL and ESP teaching. It looks at different theoretical and methodological frameworks which have evolved over the past hundred years or so (with a focus on grammar-translation, audio-lingual as well as communicative methods and approaches) and reports on the findings of a preliminary analysis of selected textbooks used by primary, general secondary as well as vocational, technical and specialised educational institutions in Slovenia. The article supports the view that translation can be beneficial in the effective and efficient development of linguistic and communicative skills, particularly at more advanced levels of education. It also defends Cook’s perspective that translation can contribute towards the development of language awareness and use, and could - at the same time - be an effective answer to learners’ needs in today’s globalised multicultural world. The International Language Conference on The Importance of Learning Professional Foreign Languages for Communication between Cultures 2012 1 20 and 21 September 2012 Celje, Slovenia II. COMPETING METHODS IN ESL/EFL TEACHING Monolingual approaches to foreign language teaching, which supported the idea that languages should be taught through resort to foreign or second language (L2) only, have importantly (but not exclusively) contributed to the almost complete disappearance of translation from ELT/FLT and ESP textbooks, as well as to an - at least declarative - absence of activities involving translation at all levels of institutionalised education in the 20 th century. This comprehensive dismissal of translation has been in part based on the wholesale rejection of the grammar-translation method, but also on more economically and politically motivated grounds, namely, the spread of international language schools such as Berlitz, and the worldwide marketing of course materials and textbooks by such major publishers as Oxford University Press (OUP), Cambridge University Press (CUP), MacMillan and others. Within the context of the grammar-translation method, translation received criticism for its application of literary, unnatural or artificial texts, which were selected primarily to develop learners’ reading and writing skills. In this respect, perhaps the most controversial was the use and translation of isolated sentences, which were selected or devised from scratch primarily to serve the purposes of grammatical explicitation, and the postulated 1:1 equivalence between them, i.e. the belief that for every L1 item there is an L2 match or equivalent on the lexical and syntactical levels. Activities involving translation of such texts - or rather sentences - were further believed to be promoting knowledge about a language rather than an ability to use it, and, as such, they were ill-suited for all learners save those with an inclination towards literature. Another important milestone was the development of the audio-lingual method and situational language teaching, which originated in the USA and Great Britain in the 1960s. Supported by the latest findings in psychology (behaviourism) and linguistics (structuralism), they promulgated the idea of foreign language learning as a process of, as Richards and Rodgers [13] put it, “mechanical habit formation”, maintaining that language skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) were developed more efficiently if the items to be learned in L2 were presented in spoken form and with no resort to L1. In this respect, the audio-lingual method obviously excluded translation, and instead rested heavily on the postulated exclusive use of L2, both within and beyond the language classroom. As claimed e.g. by Vermes [17], main objection to translation, which was soon rejected1, was that it would promote “interference” or “transfer” from L1, and that it fails to reinforce correct foreign language behaviour. The communicative approach to language teaching, which leaned on the audio-lingual method, gathered increasing attention in the 1970s and has occupied centre stage in foreign language teaching to the present day. The main argument communicative language teaching postulates is that learners need to be prepared primarily for communicative situations where only L2 will be used, thus no resort to L1 (or translation) is required. Linking the language use with a communicative purpose also gave rise to the teaching of language(s) for special purposes, which is by default associated with monolingualism and an absence of translation. In communicative language teaching, a native speaker of L2, sometimes with no active knowledge of L1, was also deemed to be the best teacher and the ideal narrator, while the best way to acquire a language was to replicate the language learning process of a child in its acquisition of a first language [5]. In response to criticism directed at the grammar-translation method in terms of text and material selection, the communicative approach postulated the use of noncontrived texts and examples, together with learning situations which imitate real life. The disparate approaches which proposed monolingualism as the only possible solution, effectively - but for differing reasons - excluded translation from the explicit language learning curriculum. The evidence suggests that it is safe to claim that such exclusion is contrary to the intuition of teachers and learners alike, as well as contrary to an innate awareness of possible and existing connections between two languages. Arguably the most convincing reason of all, however, is the fact that translation will naturally and inevitably happen during the foreign language acquisition process [3]. Consequently, translation never actually vanished completely from the foreign language classroom, and, moreover, patiently awaits reassessment of its latent potentials by the language teaching community. III. TRANSLATION IN TEXTBOOKS - ANALYSIS “Interference errors were far less prevalent than those deriving from a universal natural developmental order...” [1] 1 The International Language Conference on The Importance of Learning Professional Foreign Languages for Communication between Cultures 2012 2 20 and 21 September 2012 Celje, Slovenia In order to corroborate the claim that translation and translation activities are almost completely absent from ESL/EFL primary and secondary school classrooms in Slovenia, a limited analysis of textbooks used in such settings was undertaken in the early summer of 2012. The textbooks under scrutiny were those shortlisted on the Approved Textbook List (ATL) 2 for Primary and Secondary schools issued by Slovenia’s Ministry of Education. Pursuant to Article 21 of the Organization and Financing of Education Act RS 3, regulating the use of textbooks in schools, all textbooks used by Slovenian schools carrying out publicly validated curricula need to be approved by the competent expert authority at the Ministry of Education and Sport. The textbooks analysed were further selected based on their representativeness per a given age group and level of education, as well as their availability in bookshops and libraries. The following English as a first foreign language primary school textbooks were analysed: My Sails 1 New used in the 4th grade of primary schools (learners aged 9 and 10 when they start learning their first foreign language within Slovenia’s state education system) published by Slovenia’s Obzorja publishing house; Touchstone New 1 used in the 6th grade (ages 11-12) published by Založba Obzorja; and Messages 4 used in the 9th grade (ages 14-15) published by Rokus Klett in conjunction with Cambridge University Press (basically a CUP publication adapted in accordance with the Slovenian curriculum). The Secondary-school English textbooks analysed encompassed: Way Up, Intermediate, used in the 1st and 2nd year (ages15-17) of general upper secondary education 4 published by Rokus Klett; Matrix, Intermediate, used in the 1st and 2nd year of general upper secondary education and 3rd and 4th year (ages17-19) of technical and vocational education, published by Mladinska Knjiga in conjunction with Oxford University Press; New English File, Intermediate, used in the 1st and 2nd year of general upper secondary, technical and vocational education, and also published by Mladinska Knjiga - OUP; and finally Straightforward, Intermediate, published by Mladinska Knjiga - McMillan and used in the 1st and 2nd year of general upper secondary education. The general aim of analysis was to detect whether the selected textbooks make use of learners’ first language, as well as whether or not they include translation activities. For the purposes of this article, a distinction is made between instrumental pedagogical translation and real translation as an act of communication. According to Vermes [17], these two types of translation differ from each other on three counts: the function, the object and the addressee of translation. Pedagogical translation serves an instrumental function, in which translation is used as “a tool for improving the language learner’s foreign language proficiency” [14]. The object of real translation is information about the content and reality of the source text, whereas the object of pedagogical translation is information about the language. Last, but not least, the addressee of pedagogic translation is not the target language reader, but the teacher, the examiner or the learners themselves. The textbooks used in primary schools were written by Slovene authors, either alone or adapted for a Slovene audience from international editions produced by such publishing houses as OUP or CUP. My Sails and Touchstone, two textbooks written by Slovene authors, featured activity instructions translated into Slovene, while Messages included short Slovene summaries as introductions to individual modules. The only evidence of the use of translation activities per se was found in Touchstone, which included the “Fun-Tastic, English-Slovenian Computer”, a match-up activity where the learners were asked to match English sentences with their Slovenian equivalents. Examples of the sentences include: 1. 2. 3. I understand you want to join our basketball club. Vidim/slišim, da se želiš vpisati v košarkarski klub. Please sit down. Sedi/te prosim. I need to ask you a few questions. Moram ti zastaviti nekaj vprašanj. The secondary school textbooks used by learners in general, technical and/or vocational programmes, were mostly adapted from international publications. In keeping with expectations, the overwhelming majority did not make any use of learners’ L1 or include any activities involving translation, either pedagogical or real. Featuring a Grammar and Vocabulary booklet 2 The Catalogue of Textbooks for Use in Primary Schools (Katalog učbenikov za osnovno šolo) and the Catalogue of Textbooks for Use in Secondary Schools (Katalog učbenikov za srednjo šolo) is available from Trubar Textbook Fund (Trubar, Učbeniški sklad) compiled by Slovenia’s Ministry for Education and Sport (accessed on 10 August 2012). 3 Organization and Financing of Education Act (Zakon o organizaciji in financiranju vzgoje in izobraževanja), 1996 (2011) Official Gazette RS No. 12/96) (accessed on 7 September 2012). 4 Known as gimnazije in Slovenia. The International Language Conference on The Importance of Learning Professional Foreign Languages for Communication between Cultures 2012 3 20 and 21 September 2012 Celje, Slovenia attached to the back of the publication, Way Up was the only instance of a textbook aimed at secondary school learners to offer a complete translation of grammatical rules and explicitations. The analysis therefore seems to corroborate the fact that ESL/EFL and ESP textbooks, irrespective of whether they have been written by Slovene authors or adapted for use in Slovenia from international publications, generally do not make use of translations or translation exercises. IV. THE ROLE OF TRANSLATION IN THE ESL/EFL AND ESP CLASSROOM - DISCUSSION What conclusions can be drawn from the analysis in terms of the role of translation in the ESL/EFL and ESP classroom? The translation of individual sentences in Touchstone is basically a return to the grammar-translation method: the sentences and their translations serve the purposes of pedagogical illustration, and even though their primary aim is not grammatical explicitation, they nevertheless offer a cultural correspondent which can help learners master a particular language item under instruction. Another common fundamental objection to the use of translation in the EFL/ESL and ESP classroom appears to have been taken account of: because L1 lexical translation alternatives are offered, a 1:1 equivalent between languages is not assumed, and, as such, permits the possibility of alternative or more than one translation. The issue of 1:1 equivalence seems to be of genuine importance as well as possibly detrimental to communicative language teaching and the use of translation at an early stage. The study of lexical errors by Heltai [5] has found evidence that learners do indeed have difficulty mastering one-to-many correspondence between L1 and L2. Also, as reported by Vermes [17], findings further suggest that “language learners at the intermediate level are not prepared to do translation in the real (communicative) sense”. At an early stage, translation is simply a decoding-encoding process, and learners’ attention needs to be drawn to the fact that the proposed translations are just some of the many available which are capable of achieving the particular communicative purpose. Finally, it should also be added that at an early stage, learners do not know how to interpret syntactic and semantic information, and focus solely on lexical items, but at the same time lack proper research skills and training in the use of dictionaries. The use of translation in Way Up, on the other hand, seems to be a different case in point: some recent studies, e.g. Scheffler and Cinciala [14] state that explicit grammar instruction in L1 (such as translating grammar rules into L1) contributes to the development of explicit knowledge in secondary school learners. Swan [16] further claims that “the existence of crosslanguage equivalents can substantially reduce the teaching need in some areas.” Their findings are in accord with personal observations and reports by some of the fellow ESL/EFL and ESP teachers who intuitively perceive translation as an activity which will naturally and inevitably happen during foreign language learning and which is particularly suitable to upper intermediate and advanced learners. The use of translation therefore seems to benefit language teaching and learning at an advanced stage into this process. V. CONCLUSIONS Objections to translation as a learning-inducing activity in the ESL/EFL and ESP classroom seem to be as manifold as there were approaches in the past that sought to claim a preeminent position in language teaching. In fact, competition among methodologies was so fierce, and the belief that “newer is better” so prevalent, that on many an occasion the new technique rejected absolutely everything that came before, even those methods which enjoyed advantages and achievements - among which translation undeniably has a place. The evidence presented, however limited, seems to point to the belief that - for various reasons - translation activities are not entirely supportive of communicative language teaching at the early stage of language acquisition. Given the assumption that translation can, nevertheless, contribute to explicit language learning, such activities are better suited to advanced language learners in the context of secondary schools, colleges and universities. The author therefore believes that there is substance to the claims voiced by Howatt and Widdowson in their History of English Language Teaching, that translation has a role in language teaching and is of particular educational value for advanced learners. She is further convinced that these findings will contribute to a narrowing of the gap between language teaching and translation, as well as at the same time offer an effective answer to learners’ needs in our increasingly globalised multicultural world. REFERENCES The International Language Conference on The Importance of Learning Professional Foreign Languages for Communication between Cultures 2012 4 20 and 21 September 2012 Celje, Slovenia [1] R. Brown, A First Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. [2] J. Collie, Way Up, Intermediate, Učbenik za angleščino kot prvi tuji jezik v 1. in 2. letniku in kot drugi tuji jezik v 3. in 4. letniku gimnazijskega izobraževanja. Ljubljana: Rokus Klett, 2010. [3] G. Cook, Translation in Language Teaching: An Argument for Reassessment. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. [4] K. Gude, J. Wildman, Matrix, Intermediate, Učbenik za nagleščino kot prvi tujik jezik v 1. in 2. letniku gimnazijskega in 3. in 4. letniku srednjega tehniškega oziroma strokovnega izobraževanja. Oxford: Oxford University Press [Ljubljana: Mladinska knjiga], 2007. [5] P. Heltai, “Lexical Contrasts in Learners’ Translations” in K. Klaudy, J. Lambert & A. Sohár [eds.], Translation Studies in Hungary. Budapest: Sholastica, 1996. pp 71-82. [6] A.P.R. Howatt and H. G. Widdowson, A History of English Language Teaching. 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. [7] N. Jesenik, J. Skela, V. Šavli, My Sails 1 New, Student’s Book, Učbenik za pouk angleščine v 4. razredu osnovne šole. Maribor: Obzorja, 2011. [8] P. Kerr, C. Jones, Straightforward, Intermediate, Učbenik za angleščino kot prvi tuji jezik v 1. in 2. letniku gimnazijskega izobraževanja. Oxford: McMillan Education [Ljubljana: Mladinska knjiga], 2008. [9] D. Larsen-Freeman, Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. [10] M. Levy, N. Goodey, D. Goodey, Messages 4, Učenik za pouk angleščine v 9. razredu osnovne šole. Ljubljana: Rokus Klett, 2011. [11] K. Malmkjaer [ed.], Translation and Language Teaching, Language Teaching and Translation. Manchester: St. Jerome, 1998. [12] C. Oxenden, C. Latham Koenig, New English File, Intermediate, Učbenik za angleščino kot prvi tuji jezik v 1. in 2. letniku gimnazij in srednjih tehniških šol oziroma strokovnih šol. Oxford: Oxford University Press [Ljubljana: Mladinska knjiga], 2010. [13] J. C. Richards and T. S. Rodgers, Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. [14] P. Scheffler and M. Cinciala, “Explicit Grammar Rules and L2 Acquisition”, ELT Journal vol. 65/1 January 2011 pp. 13-23. [15] J. Skela, D. Marguč, A. Gvardjančič, Touchstone New 1, učbenik za anglešščino v 6. razredu osnovne šole. Maribor:Obzorja, 2007. [16] M. Swan, “Why Is It All Such A Muddle, And What Is The Poor Teacher To Do” in M. Pawlak [ed.], Exploring Focus on Form; in Language Teaching, Kalisz-Poznan, Poland: Faculty of Pedagogy and Fine Arts, 2007. [17] A. Vermes, “Translation in Foreign Language Teaching: A Brief Overview of Pros and Cons” Eger Journal of English Studies, vol. X , 2010, pp. 83-93; (accessed 7 September 2012) AUTHOR Melita Koletnik Korošec is a teaching assistant at University of Maribor’s Faculty of Arts, Slovenia, where she instructs students of English translation. She holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Graz, Austria, and currently studies towards a PhD in translation studies. (e-mail: melita.koletnik@ Manuscript received by 10 September 2012. Published as submitted by the autho. 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