Ask A Linguist For October 1997 - December 1997
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> From: Louis A. Casados <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> When an Adult student is learning Modern American English, I emphasize
> translating from their native language as a means of understanding what
> they are reading or saying. I have been criticized professionally for
> this common sense view. I liken it to the strong right arm showing what
> the weak left arm is to duplicate in order to achieve strength. Is
> translating an oudated concept in the eyes of professional linguists?
> Do you as a professional group condone or condemn its use? Thank You
I don't think any of us can speak 'as a professional group'; we
can only express personal opinion.
I am a language teacher trained as a linguist. Part of the content
of the freshman English classes I teach at Taiwan University involves
reading what for Taiwan students are rather difficult essays. My usual way
of 'teaching' the texts is to have the students read them aloud, sentence
by sentence, and then to translate them into Mandarin, their native
language. I feel this is the only way I can be sure that they have indeed
understood everything in the original. So for certain purposes, yes, I am
definitely in favor of the use of translation in language teaching.
Karen Steffen Chung
National Taiwan University