domingo, 26 de junho de 2011

Stop Trying To Translate.


I am going to go straight to the point due to the fact that I woke up a little bit mad about this topic. If you are teacher here in Brazil, probably, at sometime in your life as a teacher, you told your student that translation will NOT help them learn the second language they are applying for. I know that it is a long and tough discussion, but I had to come over here and express what I have been feeling about it. 

ESL TEACHERS have to keep in mind that the students' first language is the basis for everything they do: dreams, communication, meaning, how they read and understand the world, how they express their deepest fear and feelings, and so forth. That is, for things to start to make sense, they automatically connect the objects to their first language and then they translate into the foreign language. The only problem is that they forget about PRAGMATICS (the use of the language) and SEMANTICS (the meaning). And the outcome is usually something that does not make sense in English. Our job is to help them see through WORDS, read between the lines. Teachers, show your students that WORDS ARE NOT LANGUAGE, they are only a really small part of the language. 

ESL STUDENTS, you cannot translate from your mother tongue to English by ONLY translating the words. You have to keep in mind that English has a different structure itself and, most importantly, it's impossible to translate different cultures by using the same words. 

Google Translator, Dictionaries, Thesaurus, or any other thing you use to help you understand are welcome, but you cannot use it to make sentences or translate things literally because they do not make any sense.

- Preciso tirar agua do joelho. (Preciso fazer xixi)
- Need take out water of the knee. (IT IS NOT ENGLISH) - The correct translation is - I need to go pee, I need to go to toilet, I need to use it, I need to take a piss.

The point I'm trying to get across with is that there is NO LITERAL TRANSLATION.

Teachers of Elementary Levels, it is your job to show your students from the get-go that translating will not help them learn the foreign language. As a matter of fact, it will make their lives more difficult because when they come across PHRASAL VERBS, IDIOMATIC EXPRESSIONS, COLLOCATIONS, AND SLANG TERMS, they will try to understand by basing them on their mother tongue and unfortunately it will not be possible. 


Lil' Dawg

10 comentários:

  1. Excellent advice! I myself have given that same advice over and over, until finally they figure out that I had a reason for giving it.

    The sooner we get this out of the way, the better. The rest becomes much, much.

    Nice blog, btw.

  2. Thank you for your feedback. It is always great to have competent teachers like Lu Bodeman commenting on the topics. You are always welcome!

  3. Awesome, man! I totally agree with you!

    Show it to your students hoping they will finally get the point. Brazilian learners, mostly beginners, just refuse to accept that they can learn real English without any sort of literal translation. I've shown them proof that when they use literal translation when speaking to Brazilian ESL teachers, they are more likely to get what they mean since they both share the same mother tongue, but on the other hand, they will sound completely awkward to native speakers so they will panic!

    The problem is that those skeptic students don't really feel like endeavoring to understand things in English. However, we got the power to change that scene and I personally think we're doing such a great job! Let's keep it up!

  4. Thank you for sharing with us your viewpoint. I have known you for a couple of years now and I can tell that I've never met someone, who aren't native speaker of English, with such knowledge about the English language. Your students are really lucky to have a teacher like you, Mr. Emilio Borel.

    And yes, I totally agree with you when it comes to talking to native speakers. That really sounds awkward when the speech is based on literal translation.

    Thanks man!

  5. Ok. I do agree with you, teacher. However there are many schools where the teaching approach is based on translation, then, what to do?

  6. Dear Flavio,

    It's my pleasure to have you commenting this topic. Unfortunately, it still happens. Translating might sometimes help you, but it sets boundaries around the students' capacity of figuring out the meanings of sentences, expressions and collocations.

    From what I can see, translating and make things easier to students by translating is setting them to failure in speaking and really mastering the English language. And, in addition, I'd ask you why there are so many English Schools and only a few of fluent speakers in Brazil.

    I think we should help them figure out meanings, have them speak English at all times in class, however, their mother tongue is sometimes welcome, it helps us, teachers, take a shortcut in teaching them some grammatical topic. English should be used in real contexts so that everything that's taught makes sense to the students.

  7. Hi Dawg,
    Great article! This is a really important point for teachers to get across to students. I think it can save students a lot of time once they get it. I deal with a lot of beginners and some of them have never had any contact with a second language before, so one of their first instincts is to try to understand "why" we say "blue car" and not "car blue" like we do in Portuguese, or "why" we need do and does when in Portuguese there's no such thing.
    Once they get that each language has its own structure, they can hopefully relax and focus on understanding and absorbing it.

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