Translation and teacher education

27 Oct

If language teachers come across translation during their training as teachers, it is most likely to be as part of their university language studies when they attend classes that tackle a literary text using a ‘Who-wants-to-take-the-next-sentence’ methodology. It is unlikely that they will be asked to build reflective bridges between the language and pedagogical modules of their courses.

For the (predominantly native-speaker) teacher trainees following courses like the Cambridge CELTA or DELTA, translation will be largely ignored and, most often, frowned upon.

I’m not sure that adding to training courses a seminar or two devoted to translation and mother tongue use would be especially fruitful. Trainees learn much more by example than anything else, so a training course that wants to encourage trainees to make the most of the opportunities that translation offers needs, in advance, to work out what its own approach to code-switching will be.

There’s an activity in Dellar and Rinvolucri’s book (p.15), however, that can be easily adapted for use in teacher education contexts. The trainer dictates a series of questions. These include the following examples:

How much do I translate inwardly when someone is speaking to me in English? I am reading an English text and there’s an unknown word. Do I want an English definition of the word or an accurate translation into my own language? When I write English, what happens in my head?

Trainees discuss the questions in groups. It would seem to me that a logical way to conclude this discussion is to shift the focus on to the relative uses of English and mother tongue in the training course itself.

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