T&L Forum: Translation and Language Learning Seminar Report

On 9th December 2019, Project Dart hosted a Teaching and Learning Forum sponsored seminar entitled “Translation in Language Teaching: Rethinking the Role of Translation in Third-level Language Learning.”

Invited speakers

Due to the generous support of the Teaching & Learning Forum, Project Dart were able to invite 3 experts who have contributed widely to this area of scholarship.

Dr Ángeles Carreres is a senior language teaching officer at the University of Cambridge
Dr Javier MuñozBasols is a senior language instructor at the University of Oxford
Dr Lucía Pintado Gutiérrez Assistant Professor at the School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies in Dublin City University

Key Contributions from invited speakers

Lucía Pintado-Gutiérrez presented an overview of how the thinking around translation in language teaching has evolved to a greater acceptance of both L1 use and translation as a pedagogical tool. Her talk acted as a valuable introduction to later discussions by
highlighting how increased focus on translation has also meant the emergence of multiple and at times conflicting conceptualisations that challenge the acceptance of good practice and introduce new boundaries in our understanding of translation.

“increased focus on translation has also meant the emergence of multiple and at times conflicting conceptualisations”

The contribution of Javier Muñoz-Basols introduced the audience to practical ways in which audiovisual translation and similar multimodal tasks can be used with the support of new technologies to encourage linguistic creativity and develop inter/plurilingual and
inter/pluricultural competency. Although the role of AVT in language learning has been well researched, our understanding of how it can be used in the classroom is often not clear due to a lack of interdisciplinary knowledge, technological know-how, and institutional constraints. A key message centred on the need to understand students as “multilingual subjects” and remain aware of the language repertoires present in the classroom because to leverage them for language learning.

In her presentation, Ángeles Carreres returned to the initial call for interdisciplinary dialogue by questioning the dichotomous view of translation as either a means for language learning or an end skill to be developed for professional translation settings, and stressed the more productive perception of translation as an essential mediating ability for any language learner. While problematising the concept of the native speaker as a performance model, in line with developments in second language acquisition theory, her contribution still noted the challenges associated with a translation-based plurilingual pedagogy, namely in the areas of material development, teacher training, and assessment. During the workshop that followed, however, she provided practical examples for the integration of translation in the classroom by exposing students to a wide range of authentic inter- and intralingual mediation tasks.

“more productive perception of translation [is] as an essential mediating ability for any language learner.”

Key Insights from the seminar

  • Traditional assumptions regarding the distinction between professional translation and pedagogical translation need to be reconsidered in the light of the current variety of contexts where cross-language and cross-cultural exchanges occur.
  • Discussions around the role of translation in language teaching are continuously evolving and are particularly relevant given the increased focus on plurilingualism.
  • Translation in language teaching has often been used apologetically despite its recognised benefits for the development of language competence.
  • Translation can be used not only as a language acquisition tool but also as a way to support interlingual and intercultural awareness amongst students.
  • Translation and translation skills are key in mediation, recently introduced in the CEFR to highlight the social dimension of language.
  • Although translation can be successfully used to enhance plurilingual and pluricultural competency, the cultural element poses challenges for instructors in terms of training, adequate teaching materials and assessment.
  • New forms of assessing translation should be considered, including ongoing reflective tasks and formative assessment opportunities, to better reflect authentic language use and technological developments.
  • Translation in language teaching is understood and employed very differently across institutions, units, and individuals, so opportunities for further training and discussion of best practice would be welcomed initiatives.

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