ISSN 2454-8537

International Journal of Humanities in Technical Education Vol: 3, Issue 2 – February - 2019 – ISSN 2454-8537

Incorporating Translation in Language Teaching

Dr. Neha Joshi, Department of Communication, Kadi Sarva Vishwavidyalaya, Gandhinagar


This paper aims at exploring the opportunities and ways translation could help educators strengthen their language teaching initiatives. Translation is not simply a tool but a process that may rejuvenate your learners’ zeal for learning. When used rightly this method can help them develop multiple abilities along with the linguistic competence. To prove this, the author has highlighted the advantages of using translation and the ways it can be integrated in the teaching-learning process.

Incorporating Translation in Language Teaching

Translation of texts is one of the most natural approaches to teach new languages. It creates comfort zone for the learners and makes the language learning process easy for them. Though the Grammar Translation Approach (GTM) has been criticized with the emergence of newer approaches, one would agree that it is one of the most effective methods to hel your students learn a new language and its grammar (Cook, 2012).

This paper elaborates some ways to incorporate translation as a tool in the language teaching classrooms. It also highlights some of the advantages of using translation for language teaching. Also the challenges faced by the educators while using translation for language are mentioned.

Why translation for language teaching

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries translation was given prime importance in teaching Greek and Latin. The translation as a tool has been seen as a heart of language teaching (Cumpenasu, 2007).

According to Duff (1994) translation is an omnipresent process. It happens everywhere and all the time. Many a times, with an aim of helping their classmates, the students translate in class. In the process of learning different subjects, the learners translate ideas from their mother tongue into English to improve their comprehension.

Adding to this Leonardi (2010) says:

“Translation plays a very important role in an increasingly globalised world and in increasingly multilingual Europe where it is used on daily basis”.

As mentioned in the introduction, translation worked well until the new language teaching approaches were introduced. There was been a time when translation was considered as inefficient, unreliable and irrelevant as far as language teaching was concerned Dagiliene (2012).

Translation, when adopted to teach a foreign language leads to the concept of pedagogical translation as this process helps teachers enrich learners’ competences. The pedagogical translation process plays n important role in motivating the students to practice reading, writing, vocabulary, grammar and speaking Dagiliene (2012).

According to Ross (2000), translation is the fifth skill in the learning process. It is one of the social skills as it leads the learners to improve their communication and understanding. Translation also fosters interaction and cooperation between people which brings better results in terms of language teaching and learning.

Dagiliene (2012) opines that translation helps the educators to heightens learners’ language awareness. In the process of translation learners are focused on identifying differences in structure and vocabulary where they disseminate the various aspects of language and build their own efficiency. Also they compare grammar, vocabulary and word order while using translation as a tool for language learning. It provides them an opportunity to gain dippers insights of both the languages.

According to Herry and Higgins (as cited by Cumpenasu, 2007), translation is a conscious learning process that focuses on understanding and formulating the knowledge and information. It means that translation is not simply reading, it requires the learners to go deeper into the texts and acquire comprehensive understanding for successful transmission of the thoughts and ideas.

And as we observe the process of translation when used for language teaching, it looks like this:

Translation leads to transmission of a thought from one language to another. While translating, we try to interpret meaning of given text in source language and represent it in the other language. Here the objective is to communicate the same message from source language to the target language.

Advantages of using translation in language teaching

According to Nord (1997), translation is an interpersonal activity which enables the language learners to develop linguistic competence in L1 and the TL, cultural competence and technical competence in research, etc. Previous research work conducted by Duff (1989) proved that translation activities can play a key role in development of the four skills. Here it is important to note that reading, writing, listening and speaking activities enable the learners for better translation tasks. The use of translation in the classroom also influences the expansion of vocabulary items (Harmer, 1991).

When the translation tasks are carried out in groups, it helps to build discussion around the uses of language. These discussions play an important role in enabling the learners cultivate comprehensive understanding of linguistic meaning (Campisi, 2015).

Schaffner (1998) has stated that the translation can help foreign language learners in the following ways:

1. Improving verbal agility;

2. Expanding their vocabulary in L2;

3. Developing their style;

4. Improving their understanding of how languages work;

5. Consolidating the L2 structures for active use; and

6. Monitoring and improving the comprehension of L2.

According to Leonardi (2009), translation gives the learners an opportunity to have a guided practice in reading. As the process of translation requires their involvement, while the learners are analyzing the source text, their reading comprehension improves and this process also promotes vocabulary development. The translation process also enables the learners to improve their writing skills.

Beyond everything, books are considered to be the window to the world. So when you allow your students to dip into a variety of books from different languages, they get an opportunity to explore new knowledge which can be a key to their growth.

Ways to incorporate translation in language teaching

The use of translation activities as a way to enhance linguistic ability of your students can be fruitful way. As mentioned earlier, it gives the learners wider scope in terms of learning new concepts. According to Dagiliene (2012) if you can select interesting material for translation, it will make learners more expressive and help them enhance their knowledge.

Also the translation material should be authentic and diverse in terms of structure and function as it will allow the learners to cover different aspects of the foreign language.

Here are some suggestions on incorporating translation for language teaching. Some of the ways are based on British Council guidelines (Kaye, 2009).

• The learners can be divided into small groups and made to translate different parts of a given text. When they are done with it, you can ask them to arrange the translated text in the sequence of the source text.

• They can be asked to gather proverbs from the source text and asked to talk in the target language on “why they like particular proverb” and “what it means”.

• Translating a text from L1 to L2 and then translating it back from L2 to L1. Than you can ask them to compare the original text and re-translated text. Ask them to find out what they missed to bring back.

• Ask the learners to select a piece from their L1 and translate it with the help of Google Translate software. Ask them to find out what changes they would like to make in the translated text and why.

• Blogging is another tool that you can integrate in the teaching-learning process The learners can be made to publish their translated works on their blogs where their peers and other blog visitors can give their inputs on the translation and the ways it can be improved.

• They can be made to select random number of words from the L1 and prepare its translated version in the L2.

• Poems could also prove to be highly useful in the translation process. Ask your students to translate selected poems into L2 and ask them to recite both the poems in the classroom. An interactive session can be very fruitful in helping the students improve their future translations.

• Also Stories could be one of the best form of literature that your students would translate whole-heartedly. Ask them to identify famous stories from the L1 and translate them into L2. This would be an interesting task for them and for the listeners too.

• The learners can be also asked to find out some bad examples of translation available on the web and explain why they would tag it as bad translation.

Apart from the ways mentioned here there could be several variations that may bring a new wave of enthusiasm among your students and help them build their linguistic competence in tune with translation of different works.

Major challenges

Incorporation of translation in the language learning process requires the teachers to be well-verse with the content they are providing to their learners. They should be able to answer the questions raised by the students in the process of knowledge transfer and language learning.

Apart from this one needs to make sure that the learners continue to put in their efforts in the understanding the L1 in the most appropriate manner and deliver the same idea in the L2. Otherwise it could be a bad idea to have translation selected for the whole process.

Nolasco and Arthur (1995) have mentioned some challenges that the teacher face while incorporating translation in language teaching. According to them when you use translation for language teaching, the activities should be focused on the following criteria:

• During the translation process, the language should be used for a set purpose. You need to avoid learner deviation.

• You should have such translation activities that create a desire for communication among the learners.

• The translation activities should work as a source of motivation or the learners to be creative and contribute newer ideas during the learning process.

• During the teaching-learning process, the focus should be on what the learners are saying and not on how they are saying it.

• The incorporation of translation can bring out better results when the students are made to work independently.

• While using translation you should make the learning process such that it helps the learners to determine what to say or write.

• To achieve better results the translation activities should be made an inherent part of the language learning process.

Also, you are bound to face new challenges while integrating nay approach into a system. There are several benefits of incorporating translation in the language teaching process. On the other there are challenges too that might face.

For example, if you want your learners to take up the translation task in an efficient manner, they should have proficiency in the first language. They are also expected to have educational and cultural competence for effectively taking up translation as a tool for language learning.


Though the translation based approach for language teaching has been criticized by many, one should remember that before the emergence of the newer approaches, this was one of the most widely used ways to teach language. What you need is the zeal to make your learners experience new literature which doesn’t only help them gain competence over new language but also allows them to strengthen their knowledge.


Campisi, N. (2015). The use of translation in the language classroom. Retrieved from

Cook, G. (2012). Translation in language teaching and learning. Retrieved from

Cumpenasu, G. F. (2007). The Role of Translation in Foreign Language Teaching. Manuscript, University of Pitesti.

Dagiliene, I. (2012). Translation as a learning method in english language teaching. Studies About Languages,(21). doi:10.25156/ptj.2017.7.3.15

Duff, A. (1994). Translation: Resource Books for Teachers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kaye, P. (2009). Translation activities in the language classroom. Retrieved from

Leonardi, V. (2009). Teaching Business English through Translation. Journal of Universal Language,10(1), 139-153. doi:10.22425/jul.2009.10.1.139

Leonardi, V. (2010). The role of pedagogical translation in second language acquisition from theory to practice. Bern.

Nolasco, R., Arthur, L. (1995). Large Classes. Hemel Hempstead: Phoenix ELT.

Ross, N. J. (2000). Interference and Intervention: Using Translation in the EFL Classroom. Modern English Teacher, No 9(3). pp.61–66.

Schaffner, C. (1998). Qualification for Professional Translators. Translation in Language Teaching Versus Teaching Translation. Manchester. St. Jerome publishing.