You are on page 1of 11

Professional Development Assignment (PDA)

Using translation in advanced classes Part B Experimental Practice


Word count: 2,023

Giuliete Aymard
February 2013

Contents
Introduction ........................................................................................................................................ 3 Background ......................................................................................................................................... 3 The Grammar-Translation Method ................................................................................................. 3 How can translation help students? ............................................................................................... 4 My personal interest in the area ......................................................................................................... 5 Objectives ............................................................................................................................................ 6 From the teachers point of view .................................................................................................... 6 From the learners point of view ..................................................................................................... 6 Measurement tools ............................................................................................................................. 7 Post-lesson evaluation ........................................................................................................................ 8 Appendix 1 ........................................................................................................................................ 10 Bibliography ...................................................................................................................................... 11

PDA Part B Experimental Practice Giuliete Aymard

Page 2

Introduction
The use of translation as a means to learn a foreign language is certainly among the first and most traditional methods known to teachers. However, the need to develop students communicative skills led to more modern methods on the one hand and to the vilification of translation on the other. Translation became synonymous with boring classes and an inefficient method that should be avoided at all costs. That does not mean students have given up its use, though. Translation, at least out of the classroom, is alive and well. Also, many teachers and authors have been rethinking their position regarding the use of translation and acknowledging its benefits in EFL. For these reasons, I have decided to put my own prejudice aside and experiment with translation in my classes for the very first time.

Background
The Grammar-Translation Method
The Grammar-Translation Method, also known as the Classic Method and the Prussian Method (Richards & Rogers, 2001) is one of the most traditional methods to learn a foreign language. It is based on techniques used since the sixteenth century, when students of Latin were made to memorize long lists of vocabulary and translated sentences in order to learn Latin grammar in great detail and would, consequently, be able to read, understand and translate literary texts. This method apparently consolidated as such in the nineteenth century was the standard for language studies from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century and was particularly strong in Germany. The main characteristics of this method were: 1. Focus mainly on reading and writing, as its final aim was to enable students to understand literature and benefit intellectually from such understanding. 2. The sentence is the basic structure to be studied and through which knowledge is acquired. Vocabulary is generally a selection of words used in the text being studied and would be learned in lists with equivalences in the native language. 3. Most of the class would be taught in the students native language, with a deductive presentation of grammar topics and the rest of the time (actually most of it) would be dedicated to sentence translations into and out of the target language. Accuracy here would be extremely valued. (Richards & Rogers, 2001) In the 1960s, the advent of new methods, aiming to help students develop oral proficiency in foreign language, thus offering a more complete, practical and meaningful way of learning, led to PDA Part B Experimental Practice Giuliete Aymard Page 3

the avoidance, not to say the shunning of translation in the classroom. It became widely regarded as an inefficient way of becoming fluent in any language, with dull lecture-style classes that were highly teacher-centered and extremely frustrating to students. That does not mean, however, that translation was completely eliminated from EFL. Actually, not only do students still resort to it ever so often, but also some teachers have come to rethink the use of translation, considering it can be applied for the students benefit. Some authors defend the practice of translation in the EFL context not as a means in itself, as done in the past, but as a strategy to form students able to become more independent and better equipped when using a foreign language. According to Alan Duff Translation helps us to understand better the influence of the one language on the other, and to correct errors of habit that creep in unnoticed ()Translation is a natural and necessary activity. More so, indeed, than many of the fashionable activities invented for language learners. Outside the classroom in offices, banks, factories, shops and airports translation is going on all the time. Why not inside the classroom? (Duff, 1996:6).

How can translation help students?


The value of translation in the EFL classroom certainly depends on the way we tackle it. Every time we resort to translation, we realize that there are several possibilities of language production. It is an opportunity for students to discuss and negotiate the meaning of a text, bearing in mind the language diversity, the cultural contrast, and the different contexts involved, the diversity of registers, styles, the idioms and the variety of language forms and uses (Fish, 2003). The use of translation can bring many benefits for both teachers as well as learners, such as: It provides learners with the practice and skills necessary to communicate accurately, meaningfully and appropriately; It can help teachers promote interaction among learners since they involve the negotiation of multiple possibilities of form and meaning; It encourages the reflection on language usage, raising language awareness. It helps students learn vocabulary in context, allowing them to become familiar with the multilevel meanings a word may have, while at the same time increasing their vocabulary and offering them greater granularity in their discourse (Macias, 2009). It increases lexical granularity, being particularly interesting to C1 level students (ibid.). It foments the development of learning strategies which give learners autonomy and learning awareness.

PDA Part B Experimental Practice Giuliete Aymard

Page 4

My personal interest in the area


Translation in EFL classes has always been somewhat taboo among teachers, so I have never dared use it in class. I considered it a slippery slope that had no place in the classroom. However, several events made me re-evaluate my position. First, I became a foreign language student myself, which made me see how often students resort to translation even when they do not externalize it. It was and still is useful to me when I need to understand some complex structures or learn new idioms. Second, I realized most of my students engaged in informal translation, usually translating lyrics of their favorite songs and comparing subtitles to what actors said in movies. Also, colleagues who suffered from the guilt of using it privately and secretly, as mentioned by Deller (2002:3), have told me about the positive effect it had on their students writing, an area in constant need of improvement in apparently any EFL class. Hence, it is fair to say I was curious about it and often asked myself if there was a good way to use translation in class to help students improve their knowledge. Added to this, there is the opportunity to work once more with authentic materials. As I stated in the first part of my PDA, I believe in bringing as much reality to class as possible. It helps keep students interest, provides meaningful experiences and gives students the opportunity to work in the classroom with materials and topics that are truly relevant to them. I was, therefore, convinced to research the area and experiment with translation, not in the traditional way, but in an eclectic, freer and more positive approach that will contribute to the development of my students skills.

PDA Part B Experimental Practice Giuliete Aymard

Page 5

Objectives
From the teachers point of view
My objectives with this experiment are: 1. Explore new possible ways to work with authentic materials in class, adding variety to my classes, thus enriching my professional experience. 2. Stimulate my own interest in translation and my knowledge of Spanish, which will be useful not only to the classes but also in my personal life. 3. Put the technique to test and assessing its effectiveness for myself, comparing it to other techniques. I want to see to what extent it truly helps students, mainly in writing and vocabulary, two areas I consider critical when teaching advanced levels. 4. Analyze my own ability to adjust and open to new ideas, mainly the ones I tend to classify as too different from my usual way of teaching or difficult to implement.

From the learners point of view


Here, my main objectives are: 1. Help students develop autonomy and learning awareness. Considering they already attempt free translations outside the classroom, this experiment may provide students with better tools to do it more effectively. 2. Engage students in yet another activity using authentic materials in a relevant meaningful way. 3. Help students improve their knowledge of register, context and style, which is particularly important at C1 level. 4. Provide students with another opportunity to exchange knowledge and information, in a collaborative and interactive environment.

PDA Part B Experimental Practice Giuliete Aymard

Page 6

Measurement tools
In order to find out whether the objectives have been met I intend to: 1. Ask students to fill out a feedback form (Appendix 1) at the end of the class. By doing this I will be able to confirm if the activity was relevant to them and if they feel this technique can be helpful in their learning process. It will also, indirectly, show how much students feel in charge of their learning. 2. Ask my tutor to observe the class. As my tutor has been monitoring my professional development for over four months, and is someone whose experience I trust, I will be able to have the appropriate professional feedback needed to evaluate the class in terms of interaction and effectiveness. 3. Compare the record of the students writings before and after the class. My group submits a piece of writing every two weeks and I believe I will be able to see at least some improvement in terms of register and style if I compare an article written before this class and an article written after this class. 4. Prepare an activity with some collocations of the chosen text and use it as a warm-up activity in the following class in order to test how much information was retained.

PDA Part B Experimental Practice Giuliete Aymard

Page 7

Post-lesson evaluation
Strengths: I believe the text chosen worked well and served its purpose. According to the students Feedback Form, the topic was interesting (four out of six students considered it very interesting), so I can conclude it was successful to help keep their interest and engagement in the activity. The text was also appropriate in terms of vocabulary, offering some challenge without overloading. Students also considered the experiment very interesting and useful (five out of six students), saying they would enjoy having other opportunities to work with translation. My tutor gave me a positive feedback on the quality of the materials used in the class and considered the text appropriate, with interesting features of grammar and vocabulary. I agree with her that stage 2 of the lesson was very fruitful, as students had a good opportunity to analyze and compare the texts in English and Spanish. Weaknesses: There were a few points in the lesson that did not work as I expected. Being this lesson an experimental practice, I could not foresee some aspects such as: Timing: 20 minutes for the translation of 218 words of an authentic text proved to be insufficient. That led to a cascade of small problems. First, I felt nervous and began pushing students to finish my tutor also commented it was not a good idea. Second, in order to be able to do stage 3 (which I considered crucial), I decided to let one groups translation unfinished. This meant some frustration on the part of the students and an incomplete analysis for this group. My students also commented on the same and they feel they needed more time to complete the activity properly. What to do to help: I had some doubts about what to do to help them. Occasionally I joined the conversation and helped translating a particularly complicated structure, but I was not sure if should have done it or waited until they reached a conclusion. I did not know either how much of the conversation/ discussion should happen in Spanish. Learners Progress and Follow-up I believe this lesson was very interesting and students had a real opportunity to analyze language and think about it. It is clear that I need more time and most probably another lesson using translation to be able to measure how much help it really provided, but as a first experience I considered it quite promising. As I mentioned in the Measurement tools section, I intend to begin my next class reviewing the vocabulary/collocations, so I will have an opportunity to see how much they still remember and can use correctly, as well as give them a new opportunity to practice what they have learned. There will also be a writing activity how to write articles. During PDA Part B Experimental Practice Giuliete Aymard Page 8

this class, students will have the opportunity to review the structures, style and other features discussed during this experimental practice.

PDA Part B Experimental Practice Giuliete Aymard

Page 9

Appendix 1 Students Feedback Form


Date: __/__/___ Topic: ________________________________________________________________________

How do you feel about the topic? it was boring it was neither good nor bad it was interesting

the use of translation in the class? it was boring it was neither good nor bad it was interesting

Do you think translating texts helps you learn English? yes no Why?___________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________

How was the translation experience for you: too difficult interesting but not useful challenging and good

Please, comment on the positive and negative aspects of todays class: ________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________ Thank you! PDA Part B Experimental Practice Giuliete Aymard Page 10

Bibliography
DELLER, S; RINVOLUCRI, M. Using the mother tongue making the most of the learners language. 1. ed. London: Delta Publishing, 2002. DUFF, A. Translation. 5. ed. Oxford: OUP, 1996. FISH, S. Is there a text in this class? The authority of interpretative communities. 12.ed. Cambridge, USA: Harvard University Press, 2003. MACIAS, D; BENET, S.R.; REYNOSO, M.D. Reevaluating the Use of Translation in the Language Classroom. http://www.uees.edu.ec/pdfs/webzine/REEVALUATING-THE-USE-OF-TRANSLATION-INTHE-LANGUAGE-CLASSROOM-Sept-09.pdf. 2009. RICHARDS, J.C.; ROGERS, T. S. Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. CUP, 2002. PAN, Y.; PAN, Y. The Use of Translation in the EFL Classroom. Philippine ESL Journal, Vol. 9, July 2012.

PDA Part B Experimental Practice Giuliete Aymard

Page 11