Facets of translation in foreign language education: a tentative classification of forms and uses

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The paper provides an overview of the forms in which translation is used in foreign language education. A tentative classification is suggested which differentiates between facilitative translation as a supporting process that helps to overcome learning constraints, deliberate translation as an independent task with a predetermined objective that targets learners’ foreign language competence and skills, and simulated translation as an activity from which additional pedagogical benefits regarding learners’ foreign language proficiency can be derived. From the side of the learner, facilitative translation constitutes a complex learning strategy that can be applied for a variety of strategic purposes (memory-related, cognitive, compensatory, metacognitive, affective, and social), while from the side of the teacher it represents a scaffolding tool that can be consolidated into a fully-fledged teaching technique. Deliberate translation can further be differentiated according to the specifics of pedagogical focus. Language-focused translation, targeting learners’ grammatical accuracy or vocabulary range and control, and skill-focused translation, targeting one of the four basic communicative language skills, can be used for both instruction-related and diagnostic purposes. The focus on the holistic use of the available linguistic repertoire results in the two complex uses of translation as an incentive for communication and as a communicative activity aimed at developing the skill of cross-language mediation. A particular type of simulated translation which appears to be particularly suited for the purposes of foreign language education is audiovisual translation.

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