Chapter 9 – Translation in SLA

Wikis > Chapter 9 - Translation in SLA


The process of translation understanding in the acquisition of a second language has been a field of research during the last years. Translation has impact on how people learn a new language (Duff, 1989). To understand correctly how it impacts the learning process, it’s important to define the concept under ‘translation’. In this perspective, we could define the translation as only the process to change the words for one language to words from another language. Nonetheless, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, ‘to translate’ is “the act to change the words of one language into the words in another language that have the sale meaning”. Thus, the translation is successful only in a case where the meaning is kept. The translation seems something natural, nevertheless, in the past, it had been generally felt that the translation during the process of learning a new language was something prejudicial for the learner (Surcouf, 2010). One of our purposes is to debunking common myths surrounding the role of translation in L2 acquisition.

From the disadvantages to the advantages of the translation, it is important to contrast its use to allow to people to understand in which contexts and why the translation can be use, and moreover what are the limits of translation.


Exemplification with Google Translation


Google Translate is a multilingual statistical machine translation (Wikipedia – Google Translate) that can be used as a web-based generic learning program to learn a new language. It is suppose to translate a words or sentences to a language into another. The program can also be used to listen the pronunciation of the target or source language. Nevertheless, Google Translate do not know the grammar of the target languages. It just use statistics based on different corpora (corpus: a collection of written or spoken material stored on a computer and used to find out how language is used [Cambridge Dictionary]) to look for patterns and to get give a correct translation. The major part of the Google Translate Corpora comes from the United Nations Organization. In consequence, its six main language are English, French, Chinese, Spanish Arabic and Russian. But, Google Translation can translate a language to more than one hundred languages. And even if Google Translate can be useful in some case, in the majorities of the case it may allow incorrect translation. This is due to the lack of Google Translate to understand the concept of ambiguity, which is the very basis of human language (Linguisticae – Pourquoi Google Traduction est aussi nul ?) This concept of ambiguity is related with how the languages conceptualize the world with words.


In this example, we can highlight Google Translate provide an incorrect translation. In fact, it should translate ‘Je me fais chier’ by ‘I’m bored’, but even doing this translation a part of the meaning is lost. The sentence in French is taken form an informal situation, and translating the message the context of production of the message is lost, which can be very important.

Conceptualization [from Christian Surcouf (2010)]

To understand the translation process, it is important to understand the way languages conceptualize concepts surrounding its users.
In language 1, an uninformed person reflecting upon the world surrounding it, could think it needs n words to talk about n entities it sensed and felt important to talk about. Because this person is informed, it will tend to think his language is enough and could be universal linguistically.


Therefore, when the individual will try to learn a new language 2, it will assume the language it is learning works the same as its mother tongue. In other words, in the language 2, there are n entities the people speaking the language can perceive, thus there are n words too.


At the moment to translate, the Language 2 learner will simplistically look for the translation of the word it needs to produce a sentence in the language 2. With this kind of reflection, the learners of a new language tend to think the language are symmetrical and for one word in a language, there is the same translated word in another language.


We have to remind this is a simplistic example of how to conceptualize. In fact, the languages own a lot of specifies that make difficult an easy translation. The speakers around the world are not confronted to the same phenomena, hence the idea they will not perceive the same entities so they will not need to use the same words than another language.

9 reasons to not translate:

Among the different reasons to not translate we can highlight 9 relevant reasons to not translate. This 9 reasons are due to the fact that there are differences between languages, particularly in their characteristics, morphology or the way that they represent a specific vision of the world.

Before presenting the 9 reasons, we can quote Swan, a linguist who worked on the translation between language and especially on the divergences of languages:

 “The world has too many things for us to have a word for all; we save using words in more than one meaning, leaving the context disambiguate them. Unfortunately, languages cut the meanings of words differently; a word in language A can have more equivalents in the language B.”

(Swan 1997: 157)

Reason n°1: absence of a single translation

The expression of the conceptualization of the world through the lexical units sometimes leads to the impossibility of a simple translation. If it inventory them, then the bilingual dictionary provides a gloss explaining more or less clearly the concept in question.

To illustrate this point, we can take as an example the following German word:


This words is one of the longest words which have been used officially as it is the name of a law. In English, we do not have one word to translate it. We need an all sentence to translate the meaning of this words which is “Cattle marking and beef labeling supervision duties delegation law”.

We can only translate the meaning of this word by a gloss explaining more or less the concept of the German word.

But this is also because of the properties of the German language. Indeed, German is an inflected language as well as English but it has a strong capacity for the composition. This language is well known for its ability to form compounds of great length, agglutinating elements which is not the case for English. That is why, translating from German to English is not possible for some words and it is necessary to use a sentence to understand the concept and the meaning of the word.

This illustrate that languages are well divergent by their morphology but they can diverge also by their vision of the worlds they reflect and it could lead to the same issue than above: one word cannot be translated by a single word.

To better understand this, we can take as an example these following words:

Waldeinsamkeit (German)
“The feeling of solitude and connectivity to the nature of whom ends up alone in wood”

Wabi-Sabi (Japonese)
“Finding beauty in imperfections”

Ya’aburnee (Arab)
“The statement from someone who wants to die before the loved one as it would be intolerable to live without it”

Depaysement (French)
“The feeling that one experiences being away from his home country; the feeling of being abroad”

These words are impossible to translate in English with a single word. To explain the concept and understand the meaning of these word, we need, as previously, an all sentence.

In this case, we cannot translate these words, because each language have its own representation of the worlds, and represent a specific culture or history. We cannot translate the world view from one language to another and we need to explain the meaning of the word by a sentence.

Reason n°2: Partial Crosscheck:

We can define partial crosscheck as one worlds that may result in several different words in other languages. So it means that the meaning of one word in a language A will be dispatched into three or more words for example in a language B. In other words, the meaning of three words in a language B will be grouped in one word in a language A.

And the partial crosscheck I quite common from on language to another. Indeed many are the tokens resulting in a partial crosscheck leading consequently to the absence of biunivocity between the two languages. It shows that there is no symmetry between languages.

To illustrate this point, we can take as an example the personal pronoun “I” in English.


The pronoun “I” can be translated in Japanese by 4 different pronouns depending on the level of politeness.

From more polite to more familiar. : watakushi, watashi, boku and ore.

In Vietnamese the word « I » can be translated in 3 ways.

  • Tôi: it is used when we are talking with a person formally.
  • Em: it is used when we are talking with a person older than us
  • Mình, it is used when we are talking to a friend or in an informal situation

Simpler, Korean has only two word to say “I” tcho (polit) and NA (more common).

We can find many other example of partial crosscheck between languages.

Another partial crosscheck can be find in the Inuit language. Indeed they have a lot of words to say snow. They have a word for the melted snow, another one for the falling snow or for the snow that’s been there a while etc while in English or in French we have only one word to say it.

This is clearly representative of the environment in which we live and thus the use thereof. Indeed Inuit live in snowy areas and therefore need in their daily life to have more nuances that are not useful for us since we do not live in this environment it is not part of our daily life.

Reason n°3: different morphosyntaxic operation

Besides the semantic dimension, the word also carries morphosyntactic constraints.

For example if “miss” can be translated respectively in “manquer” in French and in “vermissen” in German, the syntactic structure is different.

The English and German is similar to the level of syntactic structured as both are Germanic languages. But when we compare with French, a Latin language, the morphsyntactic structure differ. Indeed, word order varies.


The positions of the personal pronoun of the first person singular are the same for German and English whereas in French, we can find this pronoun in second position in the sentence.

This leads to frequent mistakes, as many French native speaker are more likely to take the morphosyntactic structure of the sentence in their L1 and translate it in the L2. They produce, then, incoherent sentences as “You2 miss me1

This is an example of asymmetrical difference that lead to a cross-linguistic interference.

Reason n°4: Part of the clause different or absent

We can notice that the cross checking of grammatical categories are even more uncertain that languages are remote. Even when they are relatively close, like English and French, but differences exist.

For example, we can find difference in the way of expressing movement:

Traverser la rue en courant” (verb)

To run across the street (preposition).

In the first sentence we have « traverser » which is a verb and in the second sentence we have “across”, a preposition.  To say the same thing we use different categories grammatical. We don’t reach the same way to express the same ideas. But it is the best way that we do to translate ideas.

Another example is verbs of change in French such as “grandir” which has no direct equivalent in English and is translated using a verb (or possibly become):

Il grandit/grossit/vieillit (verb)

He is getting (becoming) big/fat/old (verb+ adjectif)

Another example of this point is the use of classifier. In Vietnamese we have:

Uốn từ điển. (classifier+noun)

Dictionary (noun).

Such words as classifier raise some problems for Anglophones learning Vietnamese as there is no equivalent in their language and so it is difficult to understand this concept.

Reason n°5: the difference in frequency of use

The frequency of use of a word may vary from one language to another. If a learner translate a frequent word in his mother tongue to his L2, the translation of this word may have a frequency of use less important or not at all frequent and this could lead to a misuse of the language.

To illustrate our point, we can take as an example the English word “admonished” and its translation in French “admonester” which mean “Make a reprimand to someone without condemning but by warning to not do it again”.

We can use Goggle N-gramm viewer a linguistic application offered by google to observe changes in the frequency of one or more words or phrases through time in printed sources



As you can see on the different graphs, the English word is more frequent than the French word “admonester”. Indeed the frequency of the French word is only about 0.0000060% whereas the word in English has a frequency of about 0.000150%. There is a quite significant difference between the frequency of use of the same word in French and in English and so, if a English native speaker wants to say “admonished” in French and translates it by “admonester” it could be surprising for the native to hear as the word is rarely used in French.

There are many other difference in frequency of use attested like for example “molestar” in Spanish translated by “molester” in French. “Molestar” is more frequent in Spanish than “molester” in French

That Is why, we need to use other words like synonyms (if they are existing) that are more frequent in the language we want to express ourselves to say the same thing. This shows that we need to be careful about the context when want to use a word, as it can vary from on variety of the language to another or it can vary in different contexts.

Reason n°6: languages, language registers, individual, regional variations

The variations between individuals, region etc that a learner may encounter in his process of learning can lead him to produce erroneous statements.

Let’s take an example to explain our point.

We have translated the French sentence “Je me fais chier” with google translate. The result is quite surprising as the sentence means “I’m bored” in a familiar way.


As this sentence is really informal, google translate did not manage to translate it correctly. However, this sentence has a high frequency of use in French, particularly among young people.

So, when we want to translate, there may be bias due to different registers as here (colloquialisms or commonly used but not officially attested).

Other variations may produce wrong statement as for example, individual variations. Everyone has its own vocabulary, lexicon, expression and is not using words with the same frequencies.

Regional variations might be also the reason of the production of wrong statements. Indeed, varieties of languages based on regions or different variety of English can created bias. A region can have some words that we cannot find elsewhere and that can lead to the same issu that view previously. English has some variations as in Singapore with the Singlish that has its own expression and word.

All these variations cause bias when we use translation and can lead to misunderstanding or wrong sentences.

Reason n°7: different order of collocation

The order of collocation (which is a continued more or less predetermined words) may vary form one language to another without a difference of semantic.

For example, we can analyse the different order of collocation in “black and white”  and “white and black”. With a research on google we find out that the number of occurrence of “Black and white” is about 57.000.000 whereas the number of occurrence of “White and Black” is about 3.000.000.

This show that, in English, it is more common to use “black and white” than “white and black” and using the last one could be surprising for native speakers.

Then, we look for the order of collocation in others languages. In French, the order is the same but in Spanish the order differ from these two languages. Indeed “blanco y negro” (which means “white and black” has a number of occurrences of about 4.000.000 whereas “negro y blanco” (“black and white”) has a number of occurrences of about 400.000.

In Japanese “shirokuro” (“white and black”) is consistent with the Spanish order of words and the Chinese “hēibái” (“black and white”) has the same order than in English.

That shows that when we translate from English to Spanish, for example, the words will be correct but the form used will be wrong as this order of collocation is not often used and so it is a misuse of the language

That is why we should not translated as it could be wrong in another language just by the order of words.

Reason n°8: different Cultural connotation

This dimension is important in order to enter the spirit of the target language. From one language to another, some words may not have the same connotation. And this is link to the culture associated with the language.

For example, the meaning of the word “black” differs from one culture to another and so from one language to another.

In Western cultures, it is a sign of rebellion. Black can be dramatic, mysterious and sophisticated. It strengthens the authority and elegance. This is a serious, strong and prestigious color. It is most often associated with death and mourning.

In India, it is said that the black restores balance and health.

In Thailand, it is the colour of bad luck.

For the aborigines of Australia, black is the colour of the earth and of the party.

Africa, the black mark of maturity and masculinity.

So, if we want to translate “She is wearing a black dress” we will translate it maybe well in the other language but it will not have the same meaning for us than for the native speaker as it has a different cultural connotation as we have seen above.

Reason n°9: False-friends

Many words from different languages have phonological or orthographic similarities. Some have a close sense while others do not. The latter are false friends.

As an example, we can see the false-friends between French and English:

  • “a coin” is a false-friend of “un coin” which mean “a corner” in French
  • “pain” is a false-friend of “pain” which mean “bread” in French
  • “a lecture” is a false-friend of “la lecture” which mean “a reading” in French

Lexical similarity between two words of different languages may not lead to a contradiction, but it may lead to a use likely to be felt as biased by the native speakers.

For example, influenced by their L1, a Francophone learners tend spontaneously and unwittingly to use the Latin word of the English lexicon rather than in the German words event if there are more use.

Indeed, they will use « construct » instead of « build », signify instead of mean, continue instead of keep (on)+ing, etc.

Even if the use of these words may be seen as something refined for native speakers, the use of such vocabulary results of the final process of projection as that implemented in the false friends use, mentioned above.

Conceptualisation and age

As we learnt in one of our lecture, children and adults learn language differently and so, they are more likely to differ in the way of using translation from their L1 to the L2.

Even if Children are less developed cognitively and are still developing socially, it has been found out that they have better language skills in general. Indeed, as they are learning about the world and how it works at the same time, they are less likely to make relationship between the word in the L1 and the same word in the L2 and they do not know that “there are word out there”. Indeed, they are learning concepts and words simultaneously so they learn “what things are called and what those things are (their definition)”. For these reasons, Children are less likely to translate form their L1 to their L2

Furthermore, they draw on multiword building blocks in the learning process, so they learn the grammatical relations between words easier. Indeed, they learn the meaning of words at the same time of grammatical relations. So, they will master the grammatical relations faster than an adult, and they will have much less use of translation.

Adults learn some aspects of language faster than children. As they have already an important background and have already learn the meaning of many words, when they want to say something in their L2, they are more likely to translate the word from their l1 to their L2. Indeed, in contrast of children, they already have both linguistic and conceptual representations in place from their L1. This makes the mapping process easier for individual words because they already know the meaning of the words but they are also more likely to translate form their L1 to the L2 because of this.

Adults tend to learn from individual words for which the semantic is already known and rely less on multi-words units in the learning process. This leads to poorer mastery of certain non-transparent grammatical relations in contrast from children and lead to the use of translation

Interference of Mother Tongue

The projection of the mother tongue can be prejudicial on the second language of a learner. In fact, because the learner tends to assume its language is universal, he will tend to translate from his mother tongue in spite of a new conceptualization of the world from the foreign language. When a learner use tools like Google Translate, Bilingual dictionaries and other Translator tools, it will inhibit his own intuition about the new word. The leaner inhibits both bottom-up and top-down process, and the desire to identification and interpretation (Butler-Pascoe, M. E. & Wiburg, K. M.).

“The short-term advantages of translation have to be weighed against longer-term problems that dependence on translation may cause.”

(Wilkims 1974, 82).

Translation will encourage the learner to think in the mother tongue and to transfer to the foreign language, with accompanying interference.

“In deciding how far we are justified in using the learner’s mother tongue, we must remember that the time spent using it is time not spent using the foreign language.”

(Wilkins 1974, 83)



This section can be split into several parts, each showing the significance of comprehension in facilitating second language acquisition through translation.

If I can translate an English text into Turkish, it means that I know English well.

Participants in Calis’ (2012) study revealed that translation was the best way to properly test that a text has been fully understood. Learners will first translate a given text into their native language to try and understand its meaning as they will want to be fully satisfied with their comprehension of it before trying to use it in their second language. A combination of idiomatic and literal translation clarifies what is meant and what is said. By translating a learner is practising all of their language skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking, thus helping them to fully understand what it is they aim to articulate and communicate.

Comprehension: ‘Silent’ translation

This refers to L1 aiding the process of L2 acquisition by systemising a learning mechanism which is already intact. Nearly all bilinguals will agree that they have mentally translated at some point in the lead up to their acquisition of L2 and this is because it is a process that occurs unconsciously and automatically, especially where a learner may be struggling to comprehend a phrase or word. One can almost compare this phenomena to a defence mechanism used to apply meaning to novel phrases by searching for equivalents in L1. Although this form of translation seems to occur automatically, if the learner is able to control when they mentally translate this may grant them the added benefit of being able to consciously learn and understand the logic in the target language (L2) structures. In addition to this, mental translation has been shown to have a positive effect on reading comprehension. Kern (1994) used a ‘thinking out loud’ approach to see if participants were indeed making use of mental translation – the mental reprocessing of L2 words into L1 forms – in order to comprehend the main idea of the text they were presented with.  The three experimental groups consisted of L2 learners of French who differed in level of reading ability; the low ability group was found to translate more often however the between group differences became less pronounced when the participants were tested again at a later stage in their language development. This shows that mental translation is used to compensate more in those with lower proficiency and over time learners become more selective in their use of translation only using it when needed to improve their comprehension, rather than a reliance on it. When reading in L1 we do not feel the need to consciously decode words and have automatic word recognition, but in L2 a lack of concentration may result in translation being used as default mechanism to comprehend text.

Comprehension: Vocabulary

Not only does translation help to learn new vocabulary, expressions and grammatical rules, it also eases memory constraints so that learners are able to memorise and access more words, grammatical rules and sentence structures. Although there may not be exact equivalents of some words, translation can be used to explain difficult terms through describing the general concepts of such words. This will then allow the learner to understand what context they can be used in. Consequently it can be said that translation aids in the: learning, understanding and producing of new vocabulary. Translation also facilitates the vocabulary learning process by enhancing the learners’ cognitive abilities; in applying meaning to L2 words through L1, learners will find it easier to recall new words. Where there are connections between L1 and L2 knowledge, this allows a more efficient memorisation process.

Comprehension: Cross-linguistic influences

As mentioned above, memorising and recalling words becomes much simpler when meaning is attached to them and by using L1 knowledge to facilitate acquisition of L2 learners are actually going through the process of cross-linguistic transfer. This can be positive or negative and both are important in the development the complex structures associated with SLA. A common disadvantage related to translation in language learning is that it causes interference particularly with regards to grammar. This is an example of negative transfer. However it has been found that once learners gain a better understanding of grammatical rules, they begin to notice the importance of word order which counters the claim of negative interference. Translation can be used to grasp a better understanding of grammatical concepts such as tenses and singular/plural forms and by applying meaning to these structures to allow better recall. Research has concluded that it is better to learn the structures provided by L2 but to practise them in L1 in order to gain meaning. By merely recognising that the linguistic knowledge of L1 can be used to facilitate the acquisition of L2, whether this is through identifying the similarities and differences between the two or by other means, the learner is developing their analytic thinking.

Comprehension: Analytic thinking

This refers to the process of raising one’s awareness to the non-parallel nature of language to allow conscious thinking and control of L2, thus reducing interference of L1. Translation can be used to make the learning process more meaningful. In doing so the learners become more active in the process as they will be required to apply meaning to words and phrases where they see fir, rather than being passively exposed to sets of new vocabulary and memorising these disconnected bits of knowledge.  The notion of equivalence is particularly important here: translation becomes a benefit when a learner begins to identify how new information fits with the information already possessed. Translation allows learners to think comparatively and they will feel more comfortable knowing they have fully comprehended target input through comparison with their mother tongue counterparts. In this way learners are developing skills through translation by improving their language proficiency. As previously discussed there are similarities and differences between languages, a significant difference being grammar in most cases. By learning grammatical structures in L2, the learners will become aware of the equivalence (if any) between the two languages. Where there are differences, translation will help them to see the classes of errors they could potentially make and how to prevent this from happening.  Similarly, where there may be aspects of the languages that are equivalent this will be effective in faster learning and more effective recall. Overall, the use of translation develops analytic thinking to the point where the learner is able to correct their own errors and check their comprehension, showing a full understanding of how to use L1 to facilitate use of L2 (and vice versa). By thinking about language in such an analytic way learners can begin to understand the problems caused by their native language in acquiring L2 and prevent them from interfering. Another consideration of language associated with translation is the cultural dimensions of it. If attempting to translate a text a learner will need to assess the gains and losses that may result; the meaning of the message should be preserved and if one is able to think analytically about a way to do this it shows a great level of comprehension.

Comprehension: Translation as the fifth language skill

If one uses translation from L1 to L2 in order to aid L2 learning and then can translate back to L1 (from L2) this shows full comprehension of L2 and awareness of the differences that exist between the languages. One the learner is able to express ideas freely in their L2 they have reached a high level of understanding and communicative competence which involves: accuracy, clarity and flexibility.

Translation as a teaching aid

Most teachers will see using L1 as a failure in their teaching.

The Linguistic Imperialism (Phillipson, 1992) refers to a time when people were forced to accept English and this caused it to be the superior language. People eventually accepted the assumption that English was to be the only language spoken in the classroom. In some situations children have been punished for using their mother tongue (MT) and so MT became associated with a deep sense of shame. However, learning a new language should not devalue one’s own language and culture, it should be a positive experience and one should not feel guilty about accessing L1. Therefore translation is something that teachers should work with and not against; switching between languages is a natural phenomenon, so why deny it? It would also help the teacher-student dynamic and build the rapport especially if they both share L1; it allows free expression and spares frustration. If another child were to understand instructions for a task and translate for his peers this would facilitate their understanding of the task. Lewis (2009) states that incorporation of learners’ prior knowledge and experience offers a starting point for language learning. Translation in the classroom environment, also known as bilingual education, aims to make the L2 more comprehensible for the learners and those monolinguals with low proficiency in L2 will struggle without the use of their MT.

“Translation activities should have the end goal of getting students to focus on what they are saying not how they are saying it.”

Pedagogical translation

Pedagogical translation is the use of translation (in the classroom) into the students’ native language as a means of facilitating foreign language learning. It is “a means to help learners acquire, develop, and further strengthen their knowledge and competence in a foreign language.” Translation as a pedagogical activity helps students to compare two languages and two cultures; comparative knowledge may also help L2 production and control of L1 (to limit interference). Leonardi’s (2010) Pedagogical Translation Framework (PTF) can help all four language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking). The framework was designed to be learner-centred and to encourage active participation by translating. It aims to develop learners’ analytic skills by acquiring meaning and knowledge in a foreign language.  Many components are taken into account before the framework is applied to a group of students like their proficiency level and which language skill the teacher wishes to focus on. Translation allows the transfer of language skills from one language to another and so the cognitive abilities gained from L1 are very useful in the acquisition and proficiency of L2. This transfer of literacy skills are what causes the relationship between L1 and L2 to be viewed as interdependent. The PTF framework supports this notion as it is split into three parts: pre-translation, translation, and post-translation with a particular focus on communication, rather than solely on accuracy.

Comprehension checks and analytic thinking

These benefits of translation can be explicitly employed within the classroom environment: during translation activities learners may be asked to translate specific words or sentences to draw their attention to the lexical differences. It therefore becomes a conscious process of learning and learners should be aware that there will not always be structural correspondence between L1 and L2. In this way they are adding to their level of comprehension for L2. Another method used by teachers to check their students’ understanding is by simply asking them to repeat what was said (in the target language) but in their native language. For example, to L1 Spanish speakers learning English “who can say what I just said, but in Spanish?” Not only does this technique show who was paying attention, it is a quick and accurate path to checking comprehension, instead of using long explanations in the target language which should be used only to clarify a particularly difficult concept. Children have been found to become very receptive and enthusiastic to this approach as it allows them to match words and sentences to those already known to them in their MT and has the effect of positive reinforcement, thus boosting their confidence and motivation to continue learning.

Motivating activity

Translation exercises are useful in that they invite discussion, which students are happy to contribute to. It is the teacher’s job to make sure however that a balance is kept between L1 and L2 use in the classroom as ultimately the amount of time to practise L2 is already limited to class-time since there is no guarantee of practise outside class-time. In addition to it being a motivating activity, translation allows learners to feel more comfortable in learning a new language as they will always be able to fall back on their MT for guidance. This reduces language anxiety, which is the negative feeling associated with learning a new language especially in a school setting due to a fear of academic evaluation and failure. By using MT this may aid learners’ understanding of expressions used and which they will eventually produce with confidence. This is a clear example of how banning MT in the classroom can deter students from wanting to learn a new language and how translation can make them feel more secure about it. Additionally, teachers should encourage students to guide each other where they can, building up stronger connections of peer support.

Learners’ perceptions towards using MT in SLA

Calis (2012) conducted a study to compile the beliefs of L2 learners of English via translation as a learning practice. Participants reported that translation promoted their receptive and productive skills as they wanted to be able to use the new language they acquired within the correct context and had a great desire to be able to remember target input so that they could indeed achieve their aim of using it effectively when speaking in L2. Most information regarding learners’ attitude towards translation revolves around the benefits of reading comprehension and facilitating memorisation of target vocabulary. Many make use of bilingual dictionaries to fully understand words they can then go on to use. Finally translation as an activity allows for more independent learning; students control their progress by their desire to acquire more and more linguistic knowledge and a deeper understanding of how to use L2.

Overall the idea of using translation to aid SLA is accepted more now however there are still teachers that are sceptical of its use and need to be trained in the benefits of its use. Some considerations to take away from using translation as a teaching tool are: grammar sections in textbooks should be designed with the goal in mind to be for learners to translate texts from L1 to L2 using newly learned structures. Teachers need to be educated on the importance of MT and how it is rich with linguistic knowledge which could make the language learning process much easier; it can improve learners’ understanding about how languages work, improve their verbal agility and improve their comprehension of L2. MT should be used systematically to have a constructive role in SLA.


In conclusion, even if there is not final categorical answer about the question of translation in the acquisition of a new language, it is important to contrast the disadvantages and the advantages. While the disadvantages concern more the production part of the new language, the advantages bring to light a comprehension context.

On one hand, there are still many searchers who argue about how the translation slows the acquisition of a new language. On the other hand, nowadays, there are more and more researches that emerge in order to give back to the translation its veritable value. That is why it is important to understand how to know to characteristics of the languages to use a better translation. Moreover, in order to not admonish its use, it could be interesting to learn how to translate, which can be done with the help of multilingual corpora. Doing that, you allow to the learner to know the specificities to the language to learn but also to learn more about its own language.


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