Topic: Education

Last updated: February 5, 2019

The practice of translation is long established, and, according to Munday (2012, p. 13), writings on this process go long back in history, as it was crucial for cultural and religious dissemination. In the first century BCE, for example, Cicero and Horace already used to discuss the possible manners of translating a text. However, the study of translation as field only came to light later in the twentieth century and, also in line with Munday (2012), before that, translation had the minor position of just an element of language teaching. In that regard, Cook (2010, p. 14-15) points out that, until 1960s (and beyond), language learning in secondary school in many countries had come to be severely influenced by what is known as Grammar-Translation Method (henceforth GTM). Per contra, this method, detailed in our next section, was a target of grave criticism and fell into disrepute with the rise of new alternative forms of second language (henceforth L2) teaching, such as, the Direct Method or the Communicative Approach (Cook, 2010), for instance. This process led, as a consequence, to the discard of translation in the scenario of language teaching and learning. In this sense, as reported by Brown (2001), translation as a learning activity started to be considered unsuitable within the context of L2 learning. However, in the late 1980’s, the status of translation in L2 teaching started to be reviewed. As follows, the non-stopping quarrel on the use of translation in language teaching has enlisted linguists, methodologists, teachers and translation theorists in a long-standing scrutiny of reasons in favour and/or against its use. While some argue against the use of translation as a pedagogical tool in the language classroom (e.g. Lado, 1957; Gatenby, 1967), on the other hand, some scholars have argued in favour of translation in L2 teaching (e.g. Bonyadi, 2003; Colina, 2003; Petrocchi, 2006; Pariente-Beltran, 2013). As we may notice, and as pointed out by Cook (2010), it is only relatively recent that there has been a move to restore translation to language teaching, and
the present article advocates such movement or, in other words, that only translation is not detrimental for L2 students as it is an effective pedagogical tool. To Popovic (2001), for instance, translation has been a frequent object of ridicule by those eager to demonstrate their allegiance to modern ways and times, and we, following Ellis (1992) and Ur (1996), promote that translation
is a legitimate instrument for language pedagogy. Therefore, in a nutshell, our main goal is to provide a basic resource for translation theory to L2 teachers of various levels, and to present some well-established arguments in order to try to demystify the persistent social imaginary that translation should be avoided in L2 teaching, mainly due to its close relation with the use
of learners’ first languages (henceforth L1), or, according to Hall and Cook (2013), the use of their own-languages. In order to do so, this paper draws on ideas form Developmental Psychology and Applied Linguistics, focusing on the benefits of the use of the own-language and of the explicit instruction in L2 teaching. At this point, it is valid to point out that the scope of this article is the written translation rather than oral translation (interpreting or interpretation) even though overlaps make a clear distinction impossible (Gile, 2004; Munday, 2012).


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