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A New Direction in Translation Pedagogy: Task-based Translation Teaching

Reza Rezvani Rouhollah Askari Bigdeli Yasouj University

Abstract Consistent with the frustrating proliferation of theoretical treatments, for the most part unhelpful dichotomous and polytomous categorizations, in Translation Studies, translation teaching complacently continued with the prevailing and powerful “read and translate” directive (Rezvani, Riazi, & Sahragard, 2011). Translation teaching at Iranian universities is no exception to this lingering trend. This is partly due to the lack of principled approach and guidelines allowing for reflective translation practice. Responding to this formidable problem, this paper constitutes an attempt to provide a linkage between the promising task-based teaching and translation task drawing on the wealth of studies and recourses from the neighboring field of language teaching and learning. Principled guidelines are, as such, put forward taking into account both translation process and product. Resting on tasks as the vehicle of teaching/learning engagement, the guidelines concern pre-task, main task, and post-task together with the procedures involved in each stage. This paper will carry significant implications to higher education translation pedagogy. Keywords: translation teaching, task-based teaching, read and translate directive, translation teaching guidelines

Introduction According to Menck (1991), emergence of translation is concomitant with the translation of classics from Greek and Latin literature into other languages. At the center of this trend was so-called Grammar Translation Method. The basic tenet of this approach was to enable students to translate some decotexualized sentences from one language to another. In other words, finding one-to-one equivalence for vocabularies included in the text was the main task students had to do in the course of translation. Although the Grammar Translation Method (GTM) has been under attack universally in the realm of language teaching, its continuing influence is still very much felt today and, to a great extent, has influenced people‟s perception of what translation is and how it should be done (Menck, 1991; Jakobsen, 1994). The legacy of GTM in translation teaching is what González Davies (2004) has called “read and translate” directive. He notes that using “read and translate” directive for teaching translation is probably as outdated and unfruitful as using the Grammar Translation Method (GTM) for teaching a foreign language. Rezvani, Riazi, and Sahragard (2011), further, raise arguments over the use of this approach in order to teach translation in Iranian universities. In this approach, which exclusively takes into account just the product of translation without any consideration of translation process, students‟ focus of attention is to consolidate and test the lexis and grammar of the given text. Accordingly, Translation is mainly composed of matching grammatical rules and vocabulary on one-to-one equivalence basis. Having raised critical voices in translation pedagogy, Hurtado Albir (1999) argued that there has been a lack of systematic pedagogical framework in translation teaching. House (1981, as cited in Calzada Pérez, 2005:1) characterized the typical translation learning setting as follows:

The teacher of the course … passes out a text (the reason for the selection of this text is usually not explained …). This text is full of traps, which means that the teachers do not set out to train students in the complex and difficult art of translation, but to snare at them and lead them into error. The text is then prepared … for the following sessions and the whole group goes through the text sentence by sentence, with each sentence being read by a different student. The instructor asks for alternative translation solutions, corrects the suggested version and finally presents the sentence in its final “correct” form … This procedure is naturally very frustrating for the students. In González Davies (2004), it is noted that as opposed to a rich body of research on translation theories and process, little has been written on translation teaching and class dynamics. He argues that new


alternatives are to be proposed and developed in the lieu of using “read and translate” directive in translation classes. For this reason, this paper begins with a brief introduction to task based teaching and then drawing on the principles of task-based teaching, some pedagogical guidelines will be proposed taking into account both translation process and product.

Task-based teaching Recent developments in second and foreign language teaching and learning have proposed alternative ways of language teaching. According to Rahimpour (2008), a better understanding of language learning process has culminated in the emergence of task-based language teaching. Different models have been put forward for task-based instruction (see for example Nunan, 1989; Skehan, 1998; Willis & Willis, 1987). The most frequently used framework has been proposed in Willis (1996). Willis‟s framework is composed of three stages, namely pre task, task, and post task. Each stage prepares the ground for activities that help students complete the task. Pre task stage includes some activities teachers and students do before moving to the task stage. As Ellis (2006) points out, these activities can vary from providing the necessary background knowledge and procedure to introducing and familiarizing students with the topic and the task to be performed. Lee (2000) underlines the importance of 'framing' the task with the aim of helping students understand what they are required to do.

In task stage, students carry out the task individually or in groups. The teacher‟s role, in this stage, is to monitor students‟ performance and offer support (Willis, 1996). In fact, the teacher should encourage students to take part doing the task and make sure that they are clear about the objective of the task. In post task stage, according to the framework proposed in Willis (1996), students report what they have prepared to the class or to the teacher. After completing the task individually or in groups, there would be a curiosity among students to discover how others do the same task. When they report their performance, in spoken or written form, to the whole class or to the teacher, they will realize how well they have performed the task (Willis, 1996). In this sense, the post task stage can be used for the purpose of conducting a feedback on the success of the task and considering suggestions for improving it. Students may wish to discuss such issues as working together, performing in a group, things they enjoyed doing, things they didn‟t enjoy and so on. Evaluation of the task will provide teachers with helpful information when planning further tasks.

Task-based teaching in translation pedagogy Having considered translation in foreign-language teaching as a means to an end rather than as an end in itself, Menck (1991) argues that translation in foreign-language teaching is following radically different objectives, and students are not aware of functions and problems of translation. They embark on translating without properly understanding the ST and thus they tend to transfer word for word equivalence from ST to TT. As a result, their translations abound with the occurrence of SL words and structure. Teaching translation at Iranian universities is no exception to this lingering trend. A glance at the existing methodology used to teach translation courses in Iranian universities indicates that objectives of these courses have been either misunderstood or hard to achieve. As suggested by Razmjou (2002), it is imperative that translation classes shift from teacher centeredness to student centeredness so that students can have more cooperation rather than competition. She also highlights the need for change in the methodology used by instructors of translation teaching courses. González Davies (2004) holds that language learning could be the closest relative to translation training, so approaches and methods proposed in order to teach language could be altered, adapted and integrated so as to teach translation. Elsewhere he mentioned that, nowadays, using “read and translate” directive for teaching translation is probably as outdated and unfruitful as using the Grammar Translation Method (GTM) for teaching a foreign language. To avoid such a prevailing and powerful “read and translate” directive as described by Rezvani, Riazi, and Sahragard (2011), proposals have been put forward to apply task-based teaching and learning to translation teaching (González Davies, 2004; Hurtado Albir,



After delineating problems running with the current state of translation teaching as well as considering proposals put forward in favor of applying task-based in translation teaching, we, now, turn to five pedagogical guidelines proposed drawing on the principles of task-based instruction. It is worth noting that the purpose of this paper is not to propose a method for teaching translation because as it is argued by González Davies (2005) no single and final methodology can be found to teach translation. However, teaching can be carried out in a way that it actively engages students in the learning process. Use task as an organizational principle Long and Crookes (1987) argued that task would be a proper unit of instruction. Teachers can thus organize instruction around tasks, not methods or approaches. Nunan (1993) distinguishes between two kinds of tasks: real-world task and pedagogical task. The former bearing a close resemblance with the tasks in the real world is designed to help learners acquire skills so they can function in the real world. However, the latter is intended to function as a bridge between the classroom and the real world, in the sense that they are designed with the aim of preparing students for the real world. González Davies (2004) and Nunan (1989) maintain that translation classes can encompass both pedagogical and real- world tasks. Pedagogical tasks should be design with the aim of enhancing students‟ skills to carry out a more complex translation performance. Using texts to raise students‟ awareness of linguistics, encyclopedic, and transfer skills can serve as pedagogical task. However, there should still be some other tasks as real-world tasks, such as glossary building from the texts used in the classroom to complement published material. Real-world tasks will prepare students for their future professional life. Hence, depending on the course objective and students‟ knowledge and skill in translation, teacher can utilize both kinds of tasks in the course on teaching translation.

Emphasize both process and product of translation To accomplish both the process and product of translation, each translation task can be completed in three stages, that is, pre-task, during task, and post-task. Ellis (2006) maintains that pre-task stage encompasses the various activities that teachers and students can perform before they start the main task. These activities can vary from providing the necessary background knowledge and procedure to introducing and familiarizing students with the topic and the task to be performed. Willis (1996) holds that in during task stage, students carry out the task individually or in groups. The teacher role, in this stage, is to monitor learners‟ performance and offer support. After task completion, in post-task stage, students report what they have prepared to the class or to the teacher. In this sense, the post task stage can be used for the purpose of conducting a feedback on the success of the task and considering suggestions for improving it. These stages can be incorporated into the steps Hatim and Mason (1990:21) put forward in the translation process. They argue that each translation can be carried out in three steps:

1. Comprehension of the source text

2. Transfer of meaning

3. Assessment of the target text

In the pre-task stage, issues with regard to comprehension of the source text are addressed. González Davies (2004) points out that before students start their work on translation, some basic issues such as topic, text type, the target reader, and questions regarding comprehension of the text should be addressed. When the objective of task and instruction on how students go through the task explained, and the problems associated with understanding the text worked out, students can move to the second stage and engage in translating the task individually or in groups. The teacher role, in this stage, is to monitor students‟ performance and offer support where needed. After task completion, in post-task stage students can report their performance to the teacher or to the class and, thus, can understand and evaluate their peers‟ choices. Moreover, students can reflect on translation problems and solutions, and discuss their justification of choices with regard to target language.

Promote cooperative learning In general education, cooperative or collaborative learning has long proved to be a strong facilitator of learning (Kagan, 1989). On the integration of cooperative learning and task-based language education, Tinker Sachs (2007) holds that cooperative learning can be promoted when students of different


proficiency levels can help one another. Lightbrown and Spada (1999) argue that since task-based instructional environments are goal-directed, the focus will be directed, accordingly, to communication and cooperation. In task-based instruction as students are working in groups, writing, rewriting and editing their texts, they are creating opportunities for collaborative learning (Pullin Stark, 2005). Cooperative learning can result in an increase in communication, group cohesion, and social skills. It can bridge linguistic and cultural diversity that, consequently, contribute to more effective learning. In translation teaching, this is not about giving students different parts of a text to translate or about making groups that do not cohere. It is about providing the ground for a working atmosphere where each student feels actively engaged in doing task, and responsible for, the process and the end product (Bassano & Christison, 1994; Bennet, Rohlheiser-Bennet & Stevhan, 1991; González Davies & Català, 1994; Holt, 1993; Kessler 1992; Slavin, 1990). Thus, translation teachers can prepare the ground for cooperative learning by means of designing tasks which require that students work in groups and have interaction in the process of translation.

Use materials that reflect real-life situations and demands. Task-based learning involves those instructions in which classroom activities are tasks similar to those which learners may engage in outside the classroom ( Lightbrown and Spada, 1999). Guariento and Morley (2001) holds that in coexistence with the realization of the need to develop effective skills and strategies for the real world, the use of authentic texts continues to be considered as one way of maintaining and increasing students‟ motivation for learning. There have been many well-reasoned arguments with regard to how authenticity should be reflected in learning situations (Willis, 1996; Long and Crookes, 1992; Breen, 1985; Widdowson, 1978). Widdowson (1978) puts the most crucial type of authenticity forward. He argues that authenticity of task depends on whether or not a student is „engaged‟ by the task. That is, learners are engaged in doing the task provided that they are interested in its topic and its purpose, and understand its relevance. As Guariento and Morley (2001) point out, this type of authenticity has important implications for the presentation and selection of task. As has been mentioned above in the first guideline, translation teachers can make use of both real-world task and pedagogical task. One important thing to add is the fact that merely being a real world or pedagogical task does not vouch for students‟ engagement. As Widdowson (1978) argues, students should be interested in the purpose of doing the task, and understand its relevance. Thus, apart from using real world and pedagogical task, translation teachers should take into account the relevance of task and students‟ interest.

Prepare the ground for learner-centeredness According to Swan (2005), in task-based teaching, learner-centeredness rather than teacher control is at the heart of instruction. González Davies (2005) underlines the fact that student-centered classes will benefit from interaction and, thus, prepare the ground for leaner autonomy. Elsewhere he maintains that in classes that teachers ask students to render particular sentences where the ultimate aim is to produce an ideal model translation imposed by teachers, motivation and self-confidence -crucial for translating well- are demolished. In contrast, by creating a positive and interactive working atmosphere, teacher can help the silent translation student become an active participant in classes and take part in pair and group work (González Davies, 2004).

Conclusion In response to the traditional and lingering text-oriented directive in translation teaching, that is “read and translate”, the purpose of this paper was to propose some pedagogical guidelines drawing on the principles of task-based teaching. Employing theses guidelines in the process of translation teaching, teachers using real world or pedagogical tasks can enhance students‟ motivation which is deemed to be the starting point in learning. Dividing each translation task into three stages- pre task, task, and post task- teacher can prepare the ground for students to have active participation in the process of translation and thus be engaged in doing translation tasks. Furthermore, due to the advantages these guidelines can have in the process of teaching translation, they can be employed as underlying principles during translation course design.



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