Reasons for using translation as a teaching technique
1. What the students think and feel about language learning is of great importance in language teaching and this should be taken into account in any course planning (Nunnan 1999). In some cases it is inevitable that language learners use their dominant languages (L1) as a resource. Indeed it is a kind of individual learning style for some students. They need to be able to relate lexis and structures of target language into their equivalents in their mother tongue. Therefore, sound pedagogy should make use of this learning style.
2. Translation makes the students develop their reading comprehension ability. It is quite obvious that before one can translate any text, he or she should read the text carefully, trying to make sense of its features like sentence structures, context and register. In other words, there should be a kind of textual analysis, which is very important in reading comprehension (Chellapan 1982). Indeed the difference between translation and reading is the degree of attention paid by the reader or translator, that is, in translation attention weighs far more heavily than in mere reading.
3. Translation is a conscious process of learning. In the translation process there are two types of activities both of which require full engagement of the learner. The first activity is "understanding" the source text and the second is "formulating" it in the target language (Herry and Higgins, 1992). This latter characteristic is what distinguishes translation from reading.
4.Translation is a kind of communicative activity, which is practiced within a meaningful context (Duff 1990). It enhances interaction between the teacher and the students and among the students themselves due to the fact that rarely is there any absolute "right" rendering of the text.
5. Translation can be used as an evaluative technique in reading classes. As reading is totally unobservable, comprehension should be inferred (выводить, значить) from the other behavior; it is important to be able to accurately (точно) assess (оценить) students comprehension of the text read. That is, among the other techniques like "doing," "transferring," "answering," "extending," and "modeling," we may ask students to translate part of the reading text into their native language to ensure if they have fully grasped the meaning. This can be done at the end of the reading lesson.
As we have already discussed, students usually use L1 as a resource, so teachers should try to find out ways of exploiting this resource rather than neglecting it. To this end, some practical guidelines are presented below:
1. Extreme care should be taken in selecting texts to be translated by the students. Naturally, dull, overlong and uncommunicative texts that are difficult to translate usually demotivate the students. So, it is much more practical to start with short communicative texts.
2. In practical teaching situations, the students who are to work on translation should be given prior guidance on practical procedures before being engaged in the translation itself. Initially they should be told that translation is not just taking the pen and starting the translation word by word or sentence by sentence. They should be briefly informed of translation procedures like "preparation," "analysis," "transfer," "initial draft," "rewording," "testing the translation," "polishing," and "final manuscript" (Larson 1987).
3. Grouping the students is of great importance in our classes. It offers a cooperative climate and promotes learners responsibilities (Brown 2001). So, to get the best translation, students can work in groups and participate in oral discussions. These activities surely will make the translation task interesting since the students are learning the language in an active way.
4. To use translation as an effective teaching tool, the difficulty of the texts should be taken into account. In the selection of the texts, we should not only pay attention to the degree of second-language (L2) proficiency, but also the degree of difficulty of the texts. Unfortunately, there is not any comprehensive view on determining the text difficulty; however, teachers can make a prediction of the relative difficulty of a given text. One practical way of handling this problem is the initial adaptation of authentic translation material. In this way, some lexical, semantic, syntactic and discourse (рассуждение, речь) elements, which are supposed to impede (мешать) the students' comprehension, may be manipulated (Darian, 2001).
There are some good reasons for the purposeful inclusion of translation activity in our classrooms. First of all, as a communicative activity, it enhances interaction between teacher and students and among the students themselves. Second, being a conscious process of language learning, it fully engages the learners in the learning process. Third, translation helps students develop their reading comprehension abilities. Fourth, it can be used as an evaluative technique for checking students reading comprehension of a particular text. However, in order to obtain the above-mentioned benefits, we must consider some points. The students should be initially given prior guidance on the practical procedures of translation activity and encouraged to work in groups to get the best translation. The degree of students' L2 proficiency along with the degree of the text difficulty should also be considered.