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The Translation Movement in the Arab World: From the

Pre-Islamic Era Until the end of Umayyad Dynasty (Before

610-750 A. D.)
D. Hussein Abdo Rababah
Al-Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University, College of languages and Translation, Riyadh, KSA

Email address:

To cite this article:

D. Hussein Abdo Rababah. The Translation Movement in the Arab World: From the Pre -Islamic Era
Until the End of Umayyad Dynasty (Before 610-750 A. D.). International Journal of Language and
Linguistics. Vol. 3, No. 3, 2015, pp. 122-131. doi: 10.11648/j.ijll.20150303.13

Abstract: This research is a retrospective explanatory one. It traces back the contribution of Arab
translators on the global translation movement and civilization starting from the pre -Islamic era until
the end of the Umayyad caliphate in 750 A. D. The importance of translation in transferring knowledge
from one nation to another and from one civilization to another is well-known to every scholar and
researcher. This study has revealed that the contribution of Arab translators on the global translation
movement and civilization has been performed by transferring knowledge and sciences from different
resources, such as China, India in the East, and Greece, Roman empire in the west into the Islamic
state in the Arab lands, and then they have participated in transferring that knowledge into Europe in
the high medieval ages. Moreover, this research paper has provided evidence that the transfer was
not limited to sciences such as chemistry, astronomy, botany among other branches of science. It has
rather extended to include arts and literature; Arab translators have translated fiction and stories from
India and East Asia to Europe and the West. This study has also affirmed that Arabs, before Isla m,
were mainly living, in the Arabian Peninsula, they have been divided and attracted into either one of
the two biggest and strongest civilizations and powers at that time; the Romans in the west and
Persians in the east. In other words, Arabs didn't have at that time an independent civilization, unified
state or entity. When Islam came, the situation has dramatically been changed. This will be elaborated
in details in this study. This research is composed of five sections. The first section is an introduc tion
which discusses the significance of this study and definition of related terms. The second section
reviews the related literature. The third section tackles the translation movement during different
stages, this implies the pre-Islamic stage and Islamic stages including the translation movement
during Prophet Muhammads life (610-632 A. D), the ruling period of the Rightly Guided Caliphs (Al
klhulafa Ar rashidun) (632-661) and the Umayyad ruling stage from 662 to 750 A.D. The fourth section
discusses the results and findings. The final section summarizes the study and submits suggested

Keywords: Translator, Arab Translators Contribution, Translation Movement, Global Civilization,

in the Umayyad Dynasty

1. Introduction1.1. Objectives of this Research1.2. Definition of Operational Terms1.3. Significance
of the Study2. Review of Literature3. The Stages of the Translation Movement in the Arab
World3.1. The Pre-Islamic Stage (Before 610 A. D.)3.2. The Translation Movement in the Islamic
State4. Discussion, Findings and Analysis5. Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations
Language is considered as the most prominent aspect of any human culture or civilization in the
world, because people use it to communicate with each other, and it is usually linked with the identity
of any nation. Communication by itself also plays a crucial role in transferring the cultural attributes,
civilization and advancement from one generation to another and from one nation to another. The
importance of translation in transferring knowledge is well-known to every scholar, researcher, and to
the lay people.
Languages, which can be represented by the translation process, are the vehicles of thought and
feelings among the human communities. And I would say that translators are the captains of these
vehicles. No one can deny the importance of bridging the relationship between countries and nations,
and overcoming the barriers between them. This can only be achieved by translation, by which mutual
understanding between people and governments is accomplished. Furthermore, the transfer of
knowledge, sciences and arts from one nation to another and one generation to another is
comprehensively based on translation,.
The global translation movement has commenced with the creation and existence of the first human
being in this world, namely Adam, when he started to communicate with angels and his partners to
express his thoughts (concepts) into words. In Quran, which has been revealed before 1400 years,
Allah says "He (Allah) taught Adam the name(s) of all things; then He placed them before the angels ,
and said: "Tell me the nature (names) of these if ye are right." (Al-baqara 31: Yusuf 2006: 10), in
another translation for the same verse by Usmani (2007) "And He taught Adam the names, all of
them; then presented them before the angels, and said, .Tell me their names, if you are right..." Some
of Quran interpreters, for example Alqortoby tafsir (explication) translated by Yusuf 2006, states that
names of things in this verse refer to the equivalent names(nouns) in all original languages in this
In the same Alqortoby Tafsir of Quran (2006), Kaab al Ahbar Al-himeiri, who was a narrator in Islam,
said "Allah taught Adam Arabic and Syriac languages and other ancient languages". This means Allah
taught Adam the names (nouns) or words, that refer to certain concepts, and their equivalents in all
languages in the world and Adam had taught these words and names to his descendants. So, in my
opinion, this can be considered as the initial and the first step of translation in the World history. Late r
on, with the development of human civilizations, people used translation to fulfill the need of
communication in various human societies with different languages, as it will be discussed and
explained in the following sections of this study.
This research is a retrospective historic study. It traces back the contribution and influence of Arab
translators in the global translation movement and civilization. It investigates this contribution starting
from the pre-Islamic era until the Abbasside dynasty (before 610-750 A D). It also sheds light on the
role of Arab translators in transferring knowledge from and into the world civilizations that have existed
before and after Arab prosperous civilization.
This research paper consists of five main sections, the first section is an Introduction, which includes
operational definition of related terms, the significance of the study and the objectives of the research,
and the second section reviews the related literature. The third section of this research discusses t he
stages of the Arab translation movement starting from the pre-Islamic stage until the end of Umayyad
ruling period in 750 A.D. The fourth section of this research includes analysis, discussion and
explanation of the findings. Finally, the last section of this research summarizes this study and sets
conclusions and recommendations.

1.1.Objectives of this Research

i. Sheds light on the translation movement in the Arab world by tracing back the translation
movement from the pr-Islamic period until the end of the Umayyad era.
ii. Identifies how have Arab translators efforts contributed to the whole global translation
movement and civilization.
iii. Highlights and identifies the progress and development of the translation movement an d how it
has been managed, administered, sponsored and organized in the Arab world from one era to

1.2.Definition of Operational Terms

1.2.1.Definition of Civilization
The word civilization is originated from the Latin word civilis, meaning "cit izen," and implies
membership in a state or country. Scholars have often described civilization as a set of attributes in
certain societies including agriculture, sailing, metal working, monumental construction, writing, cities,
government, currency, taxation, and religion have all been cited by scholars attempting to define what
signifies civilization (Meriam-Webster Dictionary website).
A civilization is any "complex state of society characterized by urban development, social stratification,
symbolic communication forms (typically, writing systems), and a perceived separation from and
domination over the natural environment. The Online Dictionary defines civilization as an advanced
state of human society, in which a high level of culture, science, indust ry, and government has been

1.2.2.Definition of Translation
It is the transfer of one linguistic production from one language to another language and it has fulfilled
and met the original purpose in the text of the source language (SL or L1) text and it is a skill, by
which the translator replace the text and meaning of the source language by a text and meaning in the
target language (Tl or L2) (Kharma 1979 my translation, and Sokolovsky 2010). This definition is
similar to Newmarks definition (2001:21): "Translation is a craft consisting of the attempt to replace a
written message and/or statement in one language by the same message and/or statement in another

1.2.3.The Translator
The translator is the person who carries out the procedure of translation. So, the translator's "task is to
create conditions under which the source language author and the target language reader can interact
with one another" (Lotfipour, 1997). The translator uses "the core meaning present in the source text
to create a new whole, namely, the target text" (Farahzad, 1998). A good translator is someone who
has a comprehensive knowledge of both source and target languages (Razmjou 2004).

1.3.Significance of the Study

The significance and importance of this research comes from the global importance of translation in
general as well as Arabic situation in the world, because the role of language in the developing world
is materialized through translation (Razmjou 2004). Most people know that Arabic is spoken and
written by about 300 million inhabitants of the Arab world, but few realize that Arabic script is familiar
to more than one billion and half of people in the World. For example Persian (Farsi), Urdu, Pashto
languages speakers and people in all Muslim countries such as, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria and
many more
The significance of this study lies behind the translation profession, though the translators efforts are
usually forgotten or marginally mentioned. Translators usually play the role of the third party; who is
basically absent in the process of knowledge transmission. People usually consider the author or title
of the book and they forget the translator. In this regard, Allen (2004) (cited in Siddiek 2010), argues
that translation is a notoriously thankless profession: there is absolutely no money in it; it involves a
severe submersion of the self into another; the hours are long and you get about as much recognition
for your efforts as the telephone repairman. (Wortsman 2010 cited in Siddiek 2010) holds the same
idea that he had all but given up translation. So by conducting such research, researchers could
highlight the importance of the translation in the World civilization.
So, the role of the translator is as important as the importance of the origina l scientific work that the
translator intends to translate. The Translators task goes parallel with the original knowledge product.
It is expected to produce the same effect if it has been perfectly transferred into the target language.
In this context, I would say the translator who is able to translate a good and useful book from L1
(Language 1) to an influential and useful book in L2 (Language 2) has done a great job by producing
the same effect on the target society, so he can be considered as the seco nd author of that book but
in L2. Thus, the significance of this study lies in the importance of the translators role and his/her
translation outcome and its relationship with the global civilization.

2.Review of Literature
After reviewing the related literature, one can conclude that the translation movement has been
carried out in different directions:
i. The first direction was from Greek and Roman civilization in the West into the Arab world,
This has been taken place in the 7th century with advent of Islam, as Islam encouraged Muslims to
learn and translate
ii. The second direction was from the Far East including India and China to Arabs in the Middle
East and Arabia Peninsula, such as the translation of Kaleilah WA Demnah, one th ousand and one
iii. The third direction was from Arab World towards Europe in 12th century which will not be
discussed in this research paper.
Types of Translation in the History of Arabs are
i. Freelance translators or interpreters, such as Zaid Ibn Thabet who translated Prophet
Muhammads letters.
ii. Institutional Translation type, such as Bayt-ul-Hikmah in the Abbasside era which will not be
discussed in this study.
iii. Specialists or scholars of different knowledge branches have played the role of translators, for
example, in medicine; most translations in different domains of medicine were done by
specialists, they have translated books related to their scientific specialties.
As previously mentioned, Arab scholars and translators contributions were of two different directions;
the first direction was transferring knowledge and science from Romans; namely Greek Byzantines,
who were the last rulers of Romans in the West in the medieval ages. The second way was
transferring knowledge from Persians and Indians, and even Chinese in the East to Arabs, who used
to live in, what is called nowadays, the Middle East region, then later in the medieval ages to Europe
in the West. From the East, they have translated different books into Arabic, such as Abdullah Ibn Al-
Muqaffa, as Kallah wa Dimnah from Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language, is an ancient Indian
collection of inter-related animal fables in verse and prose, arranged within a story.
The transfer had also implied the transfer of knowledge from one historical era or civilization to
another; in other words from one powerful nation to another. Arabs have transferred knowledge from
pre-Islamic civilization to the Islamic Civilization and later to the European or Wes tern Civilization.
This transfer of knowledge has taken place through effective and active translation movement. The
translation movement took place through different stages that will be discussed in the following

3.The Stages of the Translation Movement in the Arab World

The stages of Arab translators contribution are chronologically classified as follows

3.1.The Pre-Islamic Stage (Before 610 A. D.)

Before Islam, Arabs were mainly living, in the Arabian Peninsula, between the two biggest and
strongest civilizations and powerful empires at that time; the first one was the Roman Empire from
north and west, and the second one was the Persian Empire from East. Arab tribes had been attracted
and divided into either one of these two powers. In other words, Arabs didn't have at that time a
separate and independent civilization, unified nation or state. Moreover, they didn't have a great effect
in the world. When Islam came, the situation had dramatically and totally been changed. They have
formed their own new state and nation; it is the state of Islam, as Islam has played a great role in its
identity, culture, civilization, prosperity and development. This will be discussed and explained in more
details in this study.
Although, little documents are available concerning the translation activities in the pre-Islamic stage, it
is expected that Arabs, however, had translation activities in their life, because they used to travel in
what is called "the Journey (caravan) of summer and winter" by which they t ravelled from Arab
peninsula to the Levant lands, Ethiopia and Yemen. These journeys were lead by Quraysh tribe, one
of the famous Arab tribes used to live Mecca and Medina in the Arab Peninsula at that time, they are
both located in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia nowadays. they were commercial journey in nature, in
which they travelled to Ethiopia and Yemen in winter and to Bilad Ash-sham (East Levant) (modern
Syria, Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon nowadays); it is also called the Fertile Crescent.
This has been documented and stated in the Holy Quran before about 1400 years in "It is a great
Grace and Protection from Allah), for the taming of the Quraysh, (And with all those Allah's Grace and
Protections for their taming, We cause) the (Quraysh) caravans to set forth safe in winter (to the
south), and in summer (to the north without any fear", (Dar Assalam online Publications 2014:106.
Surah Al-Quraysh), and they are translated by Yusuf 2006 "For the accustomed security of the
Quraysh "Their accustomed security [in] the caravan of winter and summer (Surah Quraysh 10: 1
and 2). Most scholars say that each caravan used to take six months from the time of travelling from
Makah to the time of return from Ethiopia or Yemen in winter or from Ash -sham (East Levant or Syria
region nowadays) in summer. In this regard, it is known that trade and even warfare can spread ideas
and result in the desire to gain access to the best ideas that others have (Yusuf 2006 and Usmani
2007). So, communication between people with different languages will only take place and be
achieved by the presence of translators or/and interpreters.
Presumably, through these journeys, Arabs have made contact with at least three nations at that time;
Persians in the East, Romans in the North and West, and Ethiopians in the South, and these nations
had different languages, Pahlavi language (old Persian) for Persians and Old Latin for Romans and
Greek for Byzantines and Ge'ez or Ethiopic for Ethiopians, which is still used today as the liturgical
language in the Ethiopia and part of Eritrea.
Therefore, a journey with such length and different communication modes or languages, it is logically
impossible to make such economic and commercial relationships without having a certain sort of
translation facilities and proficient translators, who helped those travellers and merchants to
communicate with other peoples. There is also an archaeological evidence of such translation
activities, it is a manuscript dating back to 513 A. D, found near Aleppo, and written in Greek, Syriac
and Arabic. It includes, among other things, the names of men involved in building the church where
the manuscript was found (Hourani, 1991).
So, the translation movement before Islam period was limited to the mutual and commercial intere sts,
communication and contact between Arab tribes represented by Quraysh from one side and other
neighbour nations, such as Romans, Persians, Al Manathirah and Al Gasasinah from the other side.
Although, this translation movement was existed, and there ar e no enough documents available about
its nature, but logically there should have been some sort of translation activities available at that time
in order to fulfil Arabs and other peoples communication needs.

3.2.The Translation Movement in the Islamic State

Islam existed in 610 A.D with its new basic principle urging people to search for knowledge and
understanding this universe, because Islam believes that the possession of knowledge is the best way
of understanding this world; by which a man can understand and realize the relationship between the
creation and creator. This in turn will help in discovering and solidifying the truth and faith of Allah,
who is the creator (God) of this universe, and people will glorify Him in accordance with this
understanding. So Islam adopted this principle and tried to disseminate this belief into the world.
In this regard, T. S. Eliot explained that the great world cultures (or civilizations) Byzantine, Medieval,
Islamic, Chinese, among other civilizations, have been established on a religious revelation. Each
revelation is transmitted to other nations and generations by the power of tradition. "It is through this
social and artistic deployment which we call "tradition" that the original revelation comes to permeate,
and imprint its particular stamp on, every sector of collective life" (cited in Stoddart 2008: 13).
Additionally, the time of the prophet Mohamed (Peace be upon Him) is significant and important in the
translation history, because new Islamic and religious terms have been introduced to Arabic and later
translated to other languages in the world. The spread of Islam and the communication with non -
Arabic speaking communities as Persians, Assyrians, Romans and others motivated the prophet to
look for translators and to encourage the learning of foreign languages. One of the most famous
translators at that time was Zaid Ibnu Thabet, who played a crucial role in translating letters sent by
the prophet to kings of Persia , Syria , Rome, and the replied letters sent b y those kings to the prophet
( Khan 2009 and Al-Jawziah 2003).
Islamic teachings have also given a high value to education and learning, and historians agree that
the early Muslims were open-minded to accept and adopt the civilization and science heritage of
others or in the lands they have ruled. From the first day of revealing Quran to Prophet Muhammad,
the first verse revealed to Prophet Muhammad, Angel Gabriel asked him to "Proclaim! (or Read!)(1) In
the name (2) of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created- Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed
blood (3) Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful (4) He Who taught (the use of) the
Pen (Surah 96:1-4, Al Alaq, The Clinging Clot or Iqra or Read: Yusufs translation 2006: 457). So
seeking and searching for knowledge is the first and vital principle of Islam; in other words, gaining
knowledge can only achieved either by conducting scientific research or by translation of others
research results or scientific works.
Moreover, another evidence for the keenness of Islam to have literate and educated followers and
acquire the world knowledge is that, in the first battle of the history of Islam, the battle of Badr, which
was the first battle between Muslims and atheists, Muslims captured fifty prisoners in th at battle; some
of them were freed for redemption. Those prisoners, who could not pay redemption but could read and
write ; in other words they were literate, were asked to teach Muslim children how to read and write as
compensation for their redemption and a condition to be released, and when they did, they were freed,
whereas prisoners, who were poor and had no money, were released without any redemption or
So, bearing this crucial concept in Muslims minds has motivated them to proceed and sta rt learning,
looking for knowledge and acquiring it from their neighbor nations, this also requires translation of
sciences and knowledge from all available resources, origins and languages. As Islam spread out,
Arabs and Muslims have met different established civilizations and centers of learning. Arab
translators have started transferring and translating the knowledge available in these centers. Thus, a
new era of translation has been evolved.
This translation movement in the Islamic era can be divided into sub-stages according to the ruling
system existed in each stage. The first sub-stage (stage) took place with the Prophets Muhammad life
or existence, the second stage occurred during the Ruling period of the four Rightly Guided Caliphs
(Al klhulafa Ar rashidun), the third sub-stage is the Umayyads stage, and the fourth or final stage is
the Abbasid stage; these stages will be discussed in more details in the following sections except the
Abbasid stage which will be discussed in another upcoming researc h paper. However these stages
are overlapped and the borders of each stage are not clearly landmarked. The first stage , for
example, could be considered as the preparatory stage for the following one and a part of the whole
translation process; whereas the second stage is considered as the complementary stage to the first
one and as another step for the following one and so on.
Therefore, I can re-classify the stages of the translation movement in the Arab World with the advent
of Islam in a different way, other than the classical and chronological classification one, they can be
classified according to their contribution to the global civilization as follows:
i. The receptive stage: It includes the beginning of the Islamic era, because during the se
periods Arabs were mainly receiving and transferring knowledge from others without great scientific
intervention or development from their side. This stage includes the beginning of the Islamic stage
during the Prophet Muhammad life, the stage during the ruling period of the four Rightly Guided
Caliphs (Al klhulafa Ar rashidun) and the beginning of the Umayyad era.
ii. The productive stage: the translation movement in this stage has reached its utmost
prosperous peak and achieved its fruitful objectives and goals. It includes the late stage of the
Umayyad era and the third stage of the Islamic translation movement, namely the Abbasids stage.
This classification is similar to the classification of language acquisition process which includes the
receptive and productive stages. It is based on the knowledge acquisition. For instance, at the
beginning of Islam, the translation movement was limited in just transferring knowledge from other
languages into Arabic, so, I call it the receptive stage. But in the second stage (The productive stage),
Arab scholars started to introduce, argue, criticize, invent, initiate, add their own opinions, develop
others ideas and innovate new ideas based on scientific background and embody them with Islam
thinking and understanding. So, they have become productive and creative to the global civilization
and knowledge fields, and the translators task and role have become very crucial and significant too.
Additionally, I can say that every stage of the translation movem ent has simultaneously implied the
receptive and productive processes.

3.2.1.The Translation Movement During Prophet Muhammads Life (610-632 A. D)

As early as the seventh century, in the year 610 A. D., Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad
(Peace be upon Him) in the Arabian Peninsula. It has marked the appearance and advent of Islam, a
new religion in the world. It was revealed in Arabic. So, the Arabic language and Islam have become
inseparable. As Muslims started moving in all directions in order to disseminate the mission of Islam,
they became in need for translating their knowledge written in Arabic with the new concepts and
religious terms to others, and translate and understand the languages of others. So, they basically
needed to have translators and interpreters during their movements and campaigns.
For example, it is well documented in history that Prophet Muhammad has sent different letters to a
number of rulers and kings who were ruling areas and lands around the Arabian Peninsula, such as
Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantines (Eastern Roman Empire), Chosroes II (Emperor of Persian Empire),
Harith Gassani, the governor of Syria, Negus, king of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), Muqawqis, the ruler of
Egypt among others, urging them to adopt the new religion of Islam ( Khan 2009 and Al-Jawziah
2003).This type of correspondence, exchange and communication between the Prophet and non -Arab
rulers could not have taken place without using a sort of translation or interpretation. Moreover, the
Quran itself includes many words arabicized and borrowed from Greek, Persian, Syriac and other
languages, such as istabraq and sundus among others (Baker 2001). This is another evidence for the
presence and exchange of linguistic expressions and words between Arabic and other languag es and
peoples and a proof for the presence of translation activities.

3.2.2.The Translation Movement During the Ruling of the Rightly Guided Caliphs (Al
Klhulafa ar Rashidun) (632-661)
After the death of Prophet Muhammad, Islam has expanded its territory out of Arabia Peninsula into
Egypt, Syria and Iran rapidly. By the end of the 7th century, Muslims, who were basically represented
by Arabs, governed lands stretching from Spain in the west to the borders of China in the east. These
countries had different languages, such as Persian in Iran and Sanskrit and Urdu languages in the
Indian Continent. North and westwards were Romans; their language was Latin. This means that
opening or adding new countries to the Islamic state, several languages, civilizations a nd cultures
have been added to the growing state.
Accordingly, the communication between those speakers of different languages and Arabs could not
have been taken place without a sort of translation. So, it is expected that Muslim campaigns to places
out the Arab peninsula included translators and used translation in order to communicate with those
different nations and peoples with different languages. Moreover, with the spread of Islam came the
spread of the Arabic language across Afro-Euro-Asian lands from Central Asia to the Atlantic Ocean.
Muslim governments established centers and schools for teaching Arabic, collecting and translating
scientific, literary, and philosophical works of all nations.
However, following the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632, Islam was led by a series of four
caliphs who have known the Prophet and were his companions. They were known collectively as the
Four Rightly Guided Caliphs (Al klhulafa Al- Rashidun in Arabic); they formed what is called Al-
Rashidun Caliphate. This ruling era was characterized by the followings:
i. It was a short period of ruling
ii. The rulers were busy in stabilizing the internal socio-political situation of the Islamic state.
iii. They have faced internal challenges as well as external ones. These challenges divert the
Rightly Guided Caliphs (Al klhulafa Al- Rashidun) attention from developing the translation movement
and other scientific issues, they were rather busy in sorting out different socio -political issues, as it will
be explained in the following section.
The Rightly Guided Caliphs (Al-Rasheedun Caliphate) are:
i. Abu Bakr (632634 A. D.): He ruled the Islamic state for only two years and he faced many
challenges, especially the Rebels from some Arab tribes who threatened the authority and unity of the
Islamic state, by rejecting Islam and refusing to obey Abu Bakr, so he was very busy in restoring the
order and stabilizing the Islamic community. The Islamic community also faced border threats from the
Roman and Persian Empires. In 633 the Caliph Abu Bakr defeated that revolt (known as a ridda) or
apostasy and thereby secured the whole Arabian Peninsula for Islam. So, it is expected that during
this ruling era, little work has been done for the translation movement, except those translation
activities related to the communication with people from Persians or Romans at the borders of the
Islamic state.
ii. Omar ibn al-Khattab, ( 634644 A. D)
iii. He launched the first waves of conquest beyond Arabia, and ruled for 10 years. Under Omar
reign, the Islamic empire expanded at an unprecedented rate ruling the whole Sassanid Persian
Empire and more than two thirds of the Eastern Roman Empire. Omar also established the public
treasury which controlled the financial affairs of the Islamic state. Cities were built with irrigation
canals and paved roads, and education in the Quran became more widespread. He also codified the
Islamic law. He decreed that the Islamic calendar should be counted from the year of the Hijra of
Muhammad from Mecca to Madinah (Campo 2009). With this expansion of the Islamic territories
during Caliph Omars reign, it is expected that there was obviously a demand on teaching Quran and
Arabic. So, this could have been achieved by the presence of bilingual teachers or /and interpreters
and translators.
iv. Othman ibn Affan (644656 A D.) Othman is the Caliph who codified the Quraninto its final
orthographic form which is namely Arabic. With the growth of a multilingual population in the Islamic
state during his ruling period, Othman ordered the Quran to be compiled in a single unified dialect by
forming a committee who compiled the basic text of the Quran as it exists today.
v. It was important to develop a standardized orthography and writing system in order to
eliminate the regional, dialectal and linguistic variations that existed in the Arab world. This work was
undertaken due to the vast expansion of Islam under Othman's rule, the Islamic empire expanded into
Iran and some areas of Khorasan (present-day Afghanistan, which encountered many different
dialects and languages. This had led to variant readings of the Quran for those converts who were not
familiar with the language. So translated versions of the interpretation of Quran was necessary to be
available (Natheer 2001). Othman was originally a trader and a son of a rich and trader family, so
bilingualism was expected to accompany his caravans and commercial communication.
vi. Ali ibn Abi Talib (656661 CE) During this period however, Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan
(Muawiyah I) and Amr ibn al-As controlled the Levant and Egypt regions independently of Ali. His rule
as caliph was plagued with internal troubles and hostilities. Therefore, there were insu fficient
documents about this period. However, it is expected that Caliph Ali has followed the steps of his
preceded caliphs and the same steps of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him)

3.2.3.The Translation Movement during Umayyad Ruling Era (661- about 750 A.D.)
General Information and Historical Background
The Umayyad dynasty was established by the caliph Muawiyah I (Mu'awiya) in 661. Caliph Muawiyah,
previously governor of Syria, inaugurated dynastic rule. From their capital city at Damascus, the
Umayyad caliphs ruled a vast empire, extending from Europe to India, until 750. After the Umayyad
dynasty was overthrown by Abbasids, it continued in Spain in the west until 1031.
So, Umayyad Caliphate was divided into two main parts, the first one was in the east which ruled
(661-750) from Damascus as its capital city with different caliphs; started with Muawiyah I ibn Abu
Sufyan (661-680), Yazid I ibn Muawiyah (680-683), Muawiya II ibn Yazid (683-684), and ended with
Marwan II (744-750). The second part of Umayyad dynasty was ruling the west part of the Islamic
state including Spain, and Cordoba was the capital city for the Umayyad Emirs of (Spanish Umayyad
Caliphs 929-1031), started with Abd-ar-rahman I, 756-788, Hisham I, 788-796, al-Hakam I, and ended
with Hisham III, 1027-1031. An Umayyad prince, Abd-ar-Rahman I, took over the Muslim territory in
Al-Andalusia (Hispania) and founded a new Umayyad dynasty there.
The first or east part of Umayyad Caliphates or dynasties started in 661 and ended in 750, so it l asted
about ninety years, and during that time, as mentioned previously, Islam spread from China in the east
to Spain in the west. In this era, the translation of scientific books into Arabic has already begun, but
the translation movement under the Abbasids, who succeeded the Umayyads, was greater and more
The Umayyad dynasty has made a great task related to the translation movement; it is the adoption of
Arabization or Arabicization, by which Arabic was considered as the official and common language or
mode of communication within the empire. This can also be considered as a major step of language
planning made in the Islamic state or Arab world at that time.
The translation process in the Umayyad period is considered as the first stage or t he corner stone of
the whole Arab translation movement in the Islamic time. However, if we compare the Umayyad
translation movement and its accomplishments with other Islamic periods of translation, such Abbasid
one; we can easily conclude that the translation movement in this era was limited in quantity and
quality. The amount of translated works was limited in number, as it included only the translation of
the basic and natural sciences. For example, medicine, or chemistry which was involved in the
Umayyad translation movement, as it is important for preparing the medical prescriptions and recipes
for patients by physicians, but it didnt comprehensively tackle the translation of logic, mental
sciences, psychology and philosophy books among others.
The translation movement into Arabic during the Umayyads reign began under the rule of Omar bin
Abd Alaziz who was one of the famous Umayyad caliphs; he encouraged and supported translators
and worked for the sake of knowledge and science. Prince Khalid ibn Yazid was also one of the
famous translation supporters. His situation as a member of the ruling family in addition to his
enthusiasm and efforts had undoubtedly contributed in the transfer and spread of knowledge (Ibn Al
Nadeem, n. d.). He, himself, was also one of the famous translators in the First Hijri century (700 A.D);
he and other translators had translated books of medicine, chemistry and mental subjects. He was
interested in sciences such as alchemy, so he requested to translate the works of Greek or Byzantine
philosophers and scientists. He rewarded the translators generously, and they also translated Greek,
Persian and Egyptian books into Arabic (Bahri 2011).
As Islam expanded, Muslims did not destroy but preserved others cultures, because their ma in goal
was to revert people ask them to adopt and spread the Islam mission. Furthermore, they absorbed
and used the technology and sciences of these civilizations to produce and develop a new knowledge
and Arab-Islamic civilization, which was the beacon for humankind for hundreds of years. For example
in the Persian Empire land, which is called Iran nowadays, Muslims left the Academy of Gundishapur
(in Arabic was called Jundishapur) intact and later added to its knowledge treasures. This Academy
was the intellectual center of the Sassanid Empire (Persians); it was founded by Sassanid king
Shapur I. It included a teaching hospital, big library and centre of higher education. This Academy had
also included Indian works, such as Indian mathematics, including H indi numerals, called Arabic
numerals today, were also introduced to Muslims during this time. The Abbasid Muslim rulers ordered
to translate the works at Jundishapur and other places in the Sassanid Empire into Arabic. So it is
expected that Arab translators have carried out this task (Mathews n.d. and Bahri 2011).

4.Discussion, Findings and Analysis

From the previous findings and review of literature, one can conclude that the translation movement
has started slowly in the pre-Islamic and has been developed in the Islamic era, and in the Islamic
Umayyad era, it has been accelerated and developed. The most important periods in the history of
translation movement and its contribution on the global civilization into Arabic are the Umayyad and
Abbasid periods, which were followed by a long period of translation (recession) in the Islamic World
from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries, as mentioned by Baker (1998). However, in my opinion, I
would say that there was no complete recession of the translation in the Umayyads stage or in any
other stage, because translation is an indispensible need for every nation in the world at any time or in
any place. So, I would prefer to say that there was no substantial development in the translation
movement during a certain period of time better than saying recession, because there should have
been a sort of translation or interpretation activities during all stages and ages between nations in the
It is worthy noted that the translation process was the first basic ground for the scientific development
which has followed this translation stage. Therefore, translation was first used as a transferring stage
of science and knowledge. Then, it was converted to be used as the corner stone of the whole Arab
and Muslim civilisation. In other words, it served as a method or means to achieve a goal but not the
end goal by itself. Arabs have translated astrology, medicine, and other sciences, as well as they have
developed them later.
The quality of the translation products are also expected to be of less quality than the Abbasids
translation works, because the translation movement in the Abbasids period was institutionalized,
more organized and controlled by Bayt-ul-Hikmah, as it will be discussed in another research paper . I
would refer the limitations of the translation products in Umayyad dynasty era to the following reasons:
i. The first reason was the limited care and support of caliphs, because they were involved in
several socio-political and military issues, especially during the beginning period of the Umayyads
ii. The second reason is that caliphs were busy in establishing and strengthening the
administrative institutions and departments of the new Islamic state.
iii. The limited budget of the newly established state and the most financial expenses were mainly
directed to the military weapons and equipments and supporting the armed campaigns.
Despite all of these limitations, this translation stage is considered as the milestone of the whole
translation process in the Arab World. Arab translators have started translating the basic branches of
science and knowledge, such as medicine, chemistry among others, because they are necessary for
human life. Then, after Islam ideas, thoughts, beliefs and teachings had become stronger and more
solid in the minds of Muslims, they moved a step farther by translating books of Greek theology,
philosophy and logic, as they had no fear of hurting Islam at this stage.
Therefore, the most famous and important scientific works, books and references have been
translated into Arabic from different languages. The work of Arab translators was neither anarchic nor
chaotic one; it had rather been planned, organized, managed, systemized, had plans and targets, and
they were supported to a certain limit by the Islamic state and government.
This study has revealed that there are several factors helped in developing and accelerating the
translation movement from the pre-Islamic stage until the end of the Umayyad era, they can be
summarized as follows:
i. The existence of Arabs between two powerful, civilized, educated and developed empires
around the Arab lands, in addition to the need for building up commercial relationships with the
neighbouring states and empires.
ii. The motivation and encouragement of Islam to learn from all sources in the world, as Islam
has considered the search and acquisition of knowledge as one of its ordinances and it is an individual
as well as the society responsibility, duty and obligation. Islam as a religion doesn't separate the
knowledge of life from its basic principle or the knowledge of the second life; therefore Muslim
scientists were scholars in Islam as well as in any secular science such as medicine, philosophy,
astrology or any other branch of knowledge, for example Ibn Al Nafis or Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd among
other scientists.
iii. The translation process was also supported by certain rich and known people and families,
such as Othman Ibn Affan among others (Al-kasimi 2006)
iv. The efforts of the translators themselves which cannot be neglected. Because they exerted
their utmost efforts to produce the best translated versions, this can be inferred from the process and
stages of translation they used to apply in translation later in Bayt-ul-Hikmah activities in the
Abbasside dynasty.
v. The interest and willingness of the scientists and scholars themselves to translate certain
original copies of famous scientific or literary books, such as Hippocrates and Aristotles works and
Kalilah wa Dumnah among others.
vi. The motive of Arabs and Muslims to spread and disseminate the mission and teachings of
Islam in worldwide that are inseparable from Arabic as it is the liturgical and religious language and
the language of Islamic teachings. Therefore, wherever Islam extends and spreads, knowledge in
Arabic was translated into other languages and knowledge of other languages was also translated into
vii. The need and will of Arabs for transferring the civilisation and technological development to the
world, especially after the expansion of the Islamic state from China in the east to Spain in the west.
viii. The linguistic characteristics of Arabic, especially the presence and availability of different
word formation techniques, such as derivation, diminution among others, the flexibility of the Arabic
language, the richness of its terminology corpus, and its high capacity and big stock of expressions
and words, have helped in coping with the new scientific concepts and coining new terms.

5.Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations

The contribution of Arab translators to the global translation movement and civilization from the Pre -
Islamic stage until the end of the Umayyad Caliphate in 750 A. D. have been discu ssed and identified
in this research. The translation activities during that period of time have implied all branches of
knowledge, such as medicine, chemistry, astrology, botany among others. The process and efforts of
translation were carried out by individuals, such as Khalid ibn Zaid and Zeid Ibn Thabit among others.
However, it was supported to a certain extent and limited degree by Caliphs and rich families such as
Caliph Othmani Ibn Affan among others.
This period of translation was important at the global level of translation movement for the following
i. Arab translators have firstly translated important books of different branches of knowledge
such as philosophy, medicine, mathematics, literature and other sciences from all over the world into
Arabic, and they have added information and knowledge to them, and later they have retransferred
and retranslated them into European languages. This in turn had a great impact on the global
ii. Arab translators started to be specialized in a specific language and specific branch of
knowledge, this has enhanced the quality of the translation. For example, some of them were
specialized in translating Syriac, Greek, Persian or Latin works.
iii. They developed the translation process and made an important profession and they developed
and changed it from the stage of individual and freelance translators to the institutional stage.
iv. They have also made Arabic the official language for people living in a vast geographical area
extending from China in the East to Spain in the west. So, Arabic became the scientific language as
well as the mode of communication at that time. This step can be considered as language planning
process made to Arabic.
v. Arab translators have transferred the master pieces of scientific and literary books into Arabic,
this in turn has helped in preserving the knowledge of others and transmitting it to the following
generations of Arabs and non-Arabs in the whole world.
Thus, Arab civilization has absorbed every key idea and knowledge of old Greek and Roman
(Byzantine) sciences and added to it what they have known and learnt from Persia, India and China.
"Certainly, one of the great achievements of the human intellectual spirit was the Arabic translation
movement. On the course of about one hundred years, virtually the entire Greek scientific and
philosophical corpus was either translated or summarized into Arabic" (Davis 2010: 12). Then, Arab
translators and scholars have published them in paper-made books with the invention of paper and
the encouragement of Caliphs and rulers of the Islamic state who have encouraged the translation of
every major and important scientific work into Arabic.
These paper-made books have been retranslated into Europe with the participation and help of Arab
translators. The modern western science and knowledge primarily originated from the study of these
Arabic books, and then they have been retranslated into Latin and other Europe an languages.
So, if we try to deny the role of Arabic or/and Arab translators, we can all conclude, assume and agree
that Arabic has at least played the role of a reservoir of knowledge; it has preserved knowledge for
about six centuries and then transferred it to the world. It has covered all branches of science
medicine, chemistry, astronomy, mathematics and physics. Arab scholars have additionally added
eminent information, inventions and theories to the original knowledge and then they transferred it to
modern world. This great transfer job has basically been carried out by the efforts and contribution of
Arab translators.
Finally, knowledge is a collective and accumulative process to which all cultures, past and present,
have contributed. A great deal of this knowledge is preserved and augmented through a highly
creative and rigorous process known as translation. Medieval Arabic translators did really contribute to
the development and preservation of human knowledge Menocal (2005). Arab translators transferred
the translation movement and process from ad hoc activity into an organized and institutionalized
movement and they have changed it to a scientific approach by moving it into a scientific profession.
Through their huge translated books in different fields, Arab translators have helped in the
development of this world civilization to reach our contemporary technological civilization. This
translation movement was unprecedented in the transmission of knowledge in the whole history of

Equivalence and Equivalent Effect in Translation Theory

Translation equivalence is an important concept of translation theory. It is one of the main principles of
Western theory of translation. Finding translation equivalents is one of the core problems of the
translation process. As Catford states, the central problem of translation-practice is that of finding TL
equivalents. A central task of translation theory is that of defining the nature and conditions of translation
equivalence. (Catford, 1965, p. 21). Starting from the middle of the twentieth century a lot of prominent
theorists who work in the field of translation theory include the concept of equivalence in their theorizing
and research. The concept of equivalence was used to distinguish the difference between free and literal
translation. Roman Jacobson became the first who used this term in his work published in 1959. Later a
lot of specialists used this term in their works and made a lot of attempts to distinguish the concept of
equivalence. Such prominent specialists as Vinay and Darbelet Jakobson, Nida, Catford, House and
Baker used the concept of equivalence in their studies. All of them regarded this concept in relation to the
translation theory. Translation is a complex process which can be regarded from several perspectives.
Some specialists view translation as a merely linguistic process where notions from one language are
translation into another one. This group of specialists regards equivalence as literal translating each word
and notion. At the same time other specialists state that cultural context is very important for the
translation because only the use of the context can help to pass real meaning of the text. In their opinion,
equivalence in translation should deal with passing the meaning of the text. These scholars present
semantic or functional approach to translation. The third group of specialists take middle position and
state that equivalence is used for the convenience of translators. Bakers who shares this approach states
that equivalence is used for the sake of conveniencebecause most translators are used to it rather
than because it has any theoretical status (Kenny, 1998, p.77). Despite different attitudes to the concept
of equivalence, most of the specialists pay much attention to its meaning in the theory of translation.

2. Importance of Equivalence in Translation Theory:

It is important to understand the meaning of the term equivalence. In English language it may be used as
a technical term, which describes scientific notions. For example, term equivalence is used in
mathematics, At the same time term equality may be used in common sense in everyday language. In
the theory of translation the term equivalence is used in its general meaning because it is hard to find
absolutely identical words and notions in different languages. Different languages have different phonetic,
grammar, syntax and vocabulary structures. That is why we can speak only about certain degree of
equivalence when we make translation. So, in our case we use term equivalence in the meaning of
similarity or approximation and it shows the level of likeness between the source and the target text. This
likeness may be achieved on different levels.

Translation is a form of communication and that is the reason it is so important to establish equivalence
between the source text and the target text. Nida defines translation as reproducing in the receptor
language the closest natural equivalent of the source-language message, first in terms of meaning and
secondly in terms of style. (Nida, 1982, p. 12). It is evident that equivalence is one of basic concepts of
translation which can not be neglected.

3. The View of Different Specialists of Equivalence in Translation:

Roman Jacobson made a valuable contribution to the development of translation theory. He introduced
the concept of equivalence in difference which had an important meaning for the further development of
the translation theory. Roman Jacobson distinguished three kinds of translation, which included:

intralingual (dealing with one language)

interlingual (dealing with two languages)

-intersemiotic (dealing with sign systems).

According to Jacobson, translator searches for synonyms when making intralingual translation in order to
pass the message. This means that intralingual translation does not imply full equivalence between
language units. According to Jakobson: translation involves two equivalent messages in two different
codes (Jakobson, 1959, p. 233). This means that the task of translator becomes to reach equality in
messages despite different grammatical, lexical and semantic structures of ST and TT. Despite difference
in grammar and lexical structures translation becomes possible through finding necessary equivalents. As
he states: whenever there is deficiency, terminology may be qualified and amplified by loanwords or
loan-translations, neologisms or semantic shifts, and finally, by circumlocutions (ibid. p.234). Jakobson
uses different examples to illustrate his concept. He compares different language structures from English
and Russian languages and illustrates cases where it is not possible to find a literal equivalent to the ST
unite. In these cases translator should choose the most suitable way to translate the text trying to reach
the most possible equivalence.
Same as Vinay and Darbelnet, Jakobson states that linguistic approach does not suit for the need of the
translation theory. He stresses on the limitations of linguistic theory and point out different methods which
help to make the equivalence in translation the same. Jakobson counts on semiotic approach where
translator should extract the message from the source language and then choose the most appropriate
means to pass it to the target language.

Later scholars continued the study of translation theory and developed their own understanding of
equivalence. Nida and Tiber distinguished two types of equivalence formal equivalence
(correspondence ) and dynamic equivalence. Dynamic equivalence is based on the equivalent effect,
while formal equivalence is focused on the message itself. As they state Typically, formal
correspondence distorts the grammatical and stylistic patterns of the receptor language, and hence
distorts the message, so as to cause the receptor to misunderstand or to labor unduly hard (Nida and
Taber, 1982, p. 201). Despite the detailed study of both types of equivalence, Nida gives preference to
the dynamic equivalence, because it gives more opportunities for the translators and proves to be more
effective during the translation procedure. Nida showed other specialists the way and let them distance
from the word-to-word translation and make a translation process more dynamic and more reader-

Catford is another scholar who dedicated much effort to the study of translation theory. His concept of
translation equivalence differs from the concept presented by Nida and Taber. Catfords approach is
based on the linguistic approach. Catford expanded translation theory and added new criteria, such as
the extent of translation, the grammatical rank and the levels of language involved in the translation.
According to Catford, grammatical rank establishes translation equivalence.

Catfords theory of translation was criticized by many scholars. Snell-Hornby became one of the most
active critics of Catfords ideas. She called equivalence in translation to be an illusion and didnt believe
that translation could be regarded as a merely linguistic process.
The notion of equivalence was changed and developed with the flow of time. Bakers ideas gave new
vision of the problem. She explores the notion of equivalence on different levels and applies it to the
translation process. She combines linguistic and communicative approaches in order to make translation
process more effective. Baker distinguishes equivalence at the level of the word, at the grammatical
level, and at the level of the text . Pragmatic equivalence deals with the purpose of communication and
also makes an important contribution to the translation process. All these levels are important for the
translator and should be taken into consideration during the translation process because only their
combination can result in the qualified translation.

Peter Newmark is another specialist whose ideas had great impact on the development of translation
theory. He steps away from Nidas ideas of recipient-oriented translation and changes the vision of
equivalence in translation. Newmark develops ideas of communicative and semantic translation in
contrast to literal translation. Not leaving ideas of equivalence and literal translation, Newmark gives
preference to semantic and communicative translation. According to Newmark, translation is rendering
the meaning of a text into another language in the way that the author intended the text. (Newmark,
1988, p. 5). His views had great influence on many other specialists who studied his works and used his

4. Equivalence in Translation: Pros and Contras:

Translation is a complex phenomenon which is hard to define. It helps to pass the meaning and form from
one language to another and very often equivalence becomes that measure which helps to define the
success of this process. A lot of specialists stress on the important role of the equivalence for the
translation. Marry Snell-Hornby even states that different definitions of translation process may be
regarded as different variants of equivalence description. It is hard to overestimate the role of equivalence
in translation. Translation is a bridge which helps to link people who do not understand each other.
Translation enables communication between people. This way equivalence becomes the measure of
success of translation process. The more equivalent the source and the target text are, the better
communication goals will be achieved.
Many scholars and researchers stress on the important role of equivalence in the translation process. At
the same time some specialists stress that desire to achieve maximum equivalence may create certain
limitations and restrictions. Thus, equivalence may result in extreme concentration on form and structure
and thus may cause the loss of sense and message of the text. Specialists who share this opinion center
rather on the message of the text and do everything possible to pass it to the recipient even if it may
cause the reduction to equivalence level. Equivalence is often used by the specialists who count on
linguistic approach to the process of translation. These specialists try to achieve maximum linguistic,
grammar and structural equivalence. Their opponents center on the sense and meaning rather than on
the form and, thus, do not give too important role to the equivalence or value the equivalence in meaning
rather than in its form.

5. Conclusions
Equivalence is a complex term which describes phenomena from different spheres of human knowledge.
In the field of translation it first appeared in the middle of the last century and since then has become an
important indicator of the translation process. Most translation theorists and researchers pay attention to
the equivalence in translation, despite the fact that their opinions on this phenomenon may differ. Some
specialists believe that the equivalence may be regarded as a synonym of the translation process, others
believe that the equivalence should not cause the loss of main message of the text. Despite different
approaches, the equivalence is an important notion in the translation process and it helps to approach the
meaning and value of the translation process in general


Deepti Bhardwaj
In an essay titled What does it Mean to Translate Hans J. Vermeer (1987) explores the structural,
semantic and stylistic problems of translation. He asks, Why does one translate a text?(p. 28) and
asserts, Linguistics alone wont help us. Firstly, because translating is not merely and not even
primarily a linguistic process. Secondly, because linguistics has not yet put the right questions to
tackle our problems. So lets look somewhere else. (p.29) The present paper will explore
Vermeers skopos theory and the second half of the paper will use Vermeers skopos theory to
analyse the skopos of some translations from Hindi into English and English into Hindi.
Vermeer finds the translator an expert who knows the best way to project the source text in the
target language. His translational action is not only dependent on the source text but on his
understanding and his purpose to translate in a given situation. Vermeer developed
the skopos theory as an approach to translation in Germany in the late 1970s. The word skopos in
Greek stands for purpose, goal target or aim. This theory marks a general shift from the
predominantly linguistic approaches and moves towards a more functionally and socioculturally
oriented concept of translation (Baker, 1998, p. 235). Vermeers skopos theory presented in 1978
stands on the premise that human interaction (and its sub category: translation) is determined by its
purpose (skopos), and therefore it is a function of its purposeThe skopos of a translation is
determined by the function which the target text is interned to fulfil (Nord,2005, p. 26). This implies
that the source text and the source text recipient do not have a very significant role to play in the
determination of the target text. Instead, it is the purpose of the translation and the intention of the
translator/commission to present it to an originally unintended readership which fixes its translation
Vermeer explicates the theory by firstly clarifying the basic assumptions. Skopos theory is not valid
just for complete actions but it also applies to parts of texts. The text is not an indivisible whole and
hence has numerous skopoi within it. Considering that the source text is a result of the source
culture it is not expected to possess any knowledge of the target culture. Therefore, mere trans-
coding or transposing of the source text into the target language cannot result in an appropriate
translatum (translated text). In turn, it is the translators job to make it compatible with the target
culture. His role is to establish intercultural communication.
Since the source text is oriented towards the source culture and the target text towards the target
culture, according to Vermeer (2000), the two texts might or might not converge source and
target texts may diverge from each other quite considerably, not only in the formulation and
distribution of the content but also as regards the goals which are set for each, and in terms of which
the arrangement of the content is in fact determined (p. 229). Therefore, there is always a degree of
intertextual coherence between the translatum and the source text which might vary according to
the skopos.
Basil Hatim(2001) defines intertextual coherence as the translators basic ability to comprehend the
source text and to engage with the skopos it is intended to have in the target language (p. 75). The
fidelity rule according to skopos theory merely maintains that some relationship should
exist between the source and the target text having the skopos and the intertextual coherence basis
Vermeer (2000) cites two major possible interrelated objections that exist/will arise against
the skopos theory and provides counter arguments to them. The first objection is that not all actions
have an aim; but Vermeer argues that any action by definition has an aim. Aim or skopos must be
potentially specifiable; for him every translational action- process, result and mode have a goal, a
function and an intention to fulfill. The second possible objection is that every translation activity
might not have a purpose or intention; that goal oriented translation would limit the range of
interpretation of the target text, and the translator does not have a specific addressee in mind.
Vermeer hcounter argues that a translational action has a much wider conception of the translators
task including matters of ethics and translators accountability. And therefore, notions like
translators fidelity also provide a skopos to a translator. A translation might aim to protect the
breadth of interpretations of the source text in the target text too as one of its skopoi.
The realizability of a commission depends on the circumstances of the target culture, not on the
source cultureon relation between the target culture and the source text(Vermeer, 2000. p. 235).
Therefore the commission actually decides the skopos of a translation, not freely falling for impulses
but directed towards a well defined goal. Hence, this challenges the conventionally validated
view that translations should be literal and loyal to the source text. It is this skopos which
determines if a text should be translated, paraphrased or completely re-edited (p. 237).
In this manner, the theory debunks the concept of equivalence that has demanded precedence
over any other idea in translation procedures. Equivalence stands for a relationship between a
source text and a target text making them directly related to each other in a way that the target text
is seen as an outcome of translating the source text. In Nords (2005) words it is the greatest
possible correspondence between source text and target text (p. 25).This concept is used by
translators to produce the same meaning, effect or value as the source text. Though, no concrete
definition has come up for this concept it is generally equated with fidelity.
However, skopos theory, functionalist in essence dethrones the source text itself. This theory as
already pointed out does not rely on the only premise that equivalence depends on. Yet, as Nord
suggests and one can see achievement of equivalence can be one of the skopoi of a translational
action. Fidelity is not the criterion but a mere adequacy with regard to the skopos (Nord, 2005, p.
I would now illustrate skopos theory with practical instances. Let me take the example of Ruth
Vanitas translation of short stories by Hindi writer, Pandey Bechain Sharma Ugra. Ruth Vanita has
very often taken up same-sex love as a central thematic concern; and her work recurringly raises the
issue of homosexuality.
Ugras stories pertaining to same sex love came up during the Indian nationalist movement for
independence. Ugras narrator seems to be against same sex relationships, but he never wins any
argument against it. Ugra was heavily criticised for bringing up such a subject to the literary world in
a language which was going to become the national language of India. His discussions about
gender, masculinity, sexuality, obscenity, censorship and Section 377, along with nationalist
concerns are just as relevant today.
Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai (2000) traced the history of modern homophobia as it developed in
nineteenth century India. Vanitas intention is to use Ugras stories and the discussions around them
as examples of homophobia. As a translator she decides her area, namely the stories that discuss
gay relationships. Her skopos makes her extra sensitive to some nuances of the stories. She
mentions in the translators note that problems arose especially with regard to Sanskrit, Perso Urdu
and regional language terms for sexual preferences such as batuk prem, laundebazi, paalatpanthi,
and idiomatic turns of phrase, particularly when they involve puns and wordplay, such as Ugras use
of his own pen-name or that of the journal Matvala as adjectives within the text (Vanita, 2006, p. x).
Vanita liberally uses Indian English words, translates literally, provides approximations, works hard
to retain the poetic quality of some verses, and provides endnotes to explain untranslatable difficult
metaphoric words. However, she confesses that dhwani of some words cannot be produced in the
target language. Her aim is to draw our attention to what was a problematic aspect of literary and
historic period of Hindi writing, and continues to be so. From a work written during the nationalist
period, she makes her case against homophobia and strengthens her point about Indian discussions
of homosexuality. She adheres to her political position while choosing the subject and to a large
extent in her technique of translation.
Moving on, let me now discuss an English canonical text translated into Hindi, Amrit Rais translation
of Shakespeares Hamlet. Amrit Rais Bhumika (Introduction) to the translation expresses his
unhappiness with the available translations of Shakespeares plays. Rai holds Shakespeares ideas
and emotions in such high value that for him any languagewhich can retain them in translation
actually proves its own efficiency and capability. For him translation is a creative process and he
encounters two major problems in translating Hamlet. The first is the appropriate understanding of
the text and its translation in such a way that the complexity of the original does not get lost.
Secondly it should never be forgotten that Shakespeare wrote these plays for performance and if
that gets affected then the translation does not mean anything (Rai, 1965, p.7).
Rai is a propagator of the Hindi language and has such faith in it that he does not pine for word to
word translation of the play but translates it into simple day to day Hindi which gives it the
naturalness of Shakespeares thoughts. He aims to maintain detailed intricacies of expressions and
emotions in his prose translation, accepting the problems of rendering the works into verse. His
intention is to capture the essence; this translation is actually a panegyric to Hindi which is true,
secular, receptive to new words and is lively. He concentrates on the emotions of the characters and
presents them in the target language to prove its vitality and vast vocabulary independent of the
source text at least linguistically. The translators declaration of his intention serves as examples
which very well illustrates skopos theorys point that the translators decision making power has
precedence over the source text.
The paper has tried to argue that any translation cannot be understood, analysed and critiqued
merely on the basis of the linguistic equivalence between the source and the target texts. It takes a
lot more in the process of translation and the study of a translation should also look outside a mere
comparison between the original and the new version. With the above mentioned examples we find
translations a lot more than mere linguistic and mechanical re-coding of a text in a target language.
Translations are intimate works of art which involve absolute attention of the translator in what
(choice of texts) and how to translate. The skopos theory of translation brings the translator in the
perspective. It helps us gather the human link between two languages and thereforecultures. With
this theory in mind a reader of translation would be more conscious of the two diverging texts and
the respective separate ideological standpoints of the author and the translator

Language acquisition

Home Developmental Psychology Language Acquisition

Language Acquisition
by Henna Lemetyinen published 2012

Language is a cognition that truly makes us human. Whereas other species do

communicate with an innate ability to produce a limited number of meaningful
vocalizations (e.g. bonobos), or even with partially learned systems (e.g. bird songs),
there is no other species known to date that can express infinite ideas (sentences) with
a limited set of symbols (speech sounds and words).
This ability is remarkable in itself. What makes it even more remarkable is that
researchers are finding evidence for mastery of this complex skill in increasingly
younger children. Infants as young as 12 months are reported to have sensitivity to the
grammar needed to understand causative sentences (who did what to whom; e.g. the
bunny pushed the frog (Rowland & Noble, 2010).
After more than 60 years of research into child language development, the mechanism
that enables children to segment syllables and words out of the strings of sounds they
hear, and to acquire grammar to understand and produce language is still quite an

Early Theories
One of the earliest scientific explanations of language acquisition was provided
by Skinner (1957). As one of the pioneers of behaviorism, he accounted for language
development by means of environmental influence.
Skinner argued that children learn language based on behaviorist reinforcement
principles by associating words with meanings. Correct utterances are positively
reinforced when the child realizes the communicative value of words and phrases.
For example, when the child says milk and the mother will smile and give her some
as a result, the child will find this outcome rewarding, enhancing the child's language
development (Ambridge & Lieven, 2011).

Universal Grammar
However, Skinner's account was soon heavily criticized by Noam Chomsky, the
world's most famous linguist to date. In the spirit of cognitive revolution in the 1950's,
Chomsky argued that children will never acquire the tools needed for processing an
infinite number of sentences if the language acquisition mechanism was dependent on
language input alone.
Consequently, he proposed the theory of Universal Grammar: an idea of innate,
biological grammatical categories, such as a noun category and a verb category that
facilitate the entire language development in children and overall language processing
in adults.
Universal Grammar is considered to contain all the grammatical information needed
to combine these categories, e.g. noun and verb, into phrases. The childs task is just
to learn the words of her language (Ambridge & Lieven). For example, according to
the Universal Grammar account, children instinctively know how to combine a noun
(e.g. a boy) and a verb (to eat) into a meaningful, correct phrase (A boy eats).
This Chomskian (1965) approach to language acquisition has inspired hundreds of
scholars to investigate the nature of these assumed grammatical categories and the
research is still ongoing.

Contemporary Research
A decade or two later some psycho linguists began to question the existence of
Universal Grammar. They argued that categories like noun and verb are biologically,
evolutionarily and psychologically implausible and that the field called for an account
that can explain for the acquisition process without innate categories.
Researchers started to suggest that instead of having a language-specific mechanism
for language processing, children might utilise general cognitive and learning
Whereas researchers approaching the language acquisition problem from the
perspective of Universal Grammar argue for early full productivity, i.e. early adult-
like knowledge of language, the opposing constructivist investigators argue for a more
gradual developmental process. It is suggested that children are sensitive to patterns in
language which enables the acquisition process.
An example of this gradual pattern learning is morphology acquisition. Morphemes
are the smallest grammatical markers, or units, in language that alter words. In
English, regular plurals are marked with an s morpheme (e.g. dog+s). Similarly,
English third singular verb forms (she eat+s, a boy kick+s) are marked with the s
morpheme. Children are considered to acquire their first instances of third singular
forms as entire phrasal chunks (Daddy kicks, a girl eats, a dog barks) without the
ability of teasing the finest grammatical components apart.
When the child hears a sufficient number of instances of a linguistic construction (i.e.
the third singular verb form), she will detect patterns across the utterances she has
heard. In this case, the repeated pattern is the s marker in this particular verb form.
As a result of many repetitions and examples of the s marker in different verbs, the
child will acquire sophisticated knowledge that, in English, verbs must be marked
with an s morpheme in the third singular form (Ambridge & Lieven, 2011; Pine,
Conti-Ramsden, Joseph, Lieven & Serratrice, 2008; Theakson & Lieven, 2005).
Approaching language acquisition from the perspective of general cognitive
processing is an economical account of how children can learn their first language
without an excessive biolinguistic mechanism.
However, finding a solid answer to the problem of language acquisition is far from
being over. Our current understanding of the developmental process is still immature.
Investigators of Universal Grammar are still trying to convince that language is a task
too demanding to acquire without specific innate equipment, whereas the
constructivist researchers are fiercely arguing for the importance of linguistic input.
The biggest questions, however, are yet unanswered. What is the exact process that
transforms the childs utterances into grammatically correct, adult-like speech? How
much does the child need to be exposed to language to achieve the adult-like state?
What account can explain variation between languages and the language acquisition
process in children acquiring very different languages to English? The mystery of
language acquisition is granted to keep psychologists and linguists alike astonished a
decade after decade


Constructivism and language teaching

Edit 4 4

Constructivism and language teaching

Marlowe and Page summarize the foundation of a

constructivist approach as:

1. about constructing knowledge, not receiving it

2. about thinking and analyzing, not accumulating


3. about understanding and applying, not repeating back

4. being active, not passive. (Marlowe & Page, 2005)

Constructivist learning has developed as a substantial

approach to teaching. During past decades many
researchers and scientist had elaborated on the historical precedents for constructivist learning theory. In
this view constructivism represents the shift from education based on behaviourism, to education based
on cognitive theory.
Thus, behaviourist epistemology essence is based on intelligence, domains of objectives, levels of
knowledge and reinforcement, however in the case of constructivist epistemology it is the learner who
constructs their knowledge on the basis of interaction with the environment.

The primary message of constructivism is that active learning enables the students to
construct their own knowledge and make their own meaning of what is being thought.


1) Constructivist Design Model, developed by George W. Gagnon. Jr., and Michelle Collay, favours all
the assumption of the constructivist learnig and teaching and forms six elements which teacher should
take into consideration while planning the lesson. They focus on the developnemt of situations as a way
of thinking about constructive activities of the learner rather that teacher's demonstrative behaviour while
conducting the lesson. Most conventional teacher planing models are centred on verbal explanations or
visual demonstratins of the issues by the teacher to the learners and only by then followed by stuent's
practice, while it should be the learner who discovers the knowledge themselves.
Six elements of constructivist learning model, have been designed to provoke teacher planning and
reflection on student's process of learning.

1. Situation - teacher develops the situation for students to explain

2. Groupings - teacher selects the process of grouping the material as well as the learners (whether they
want the learners to work in whole class, individually or in collaborative thinking teams of two, three etc.)
3. Bridge - teacher should build the bridge between what the students already know and what they might
learn by explaining the situation. (This may involve simple problem to solve, whole class duscussion,
playing game, or making lists)
4. Questions - anticipating possible questions and answers without providing students with the final
explanation of the situation.
5. Exhibit - this stage involves student's presentation of their findings, conclusions or records of thinking
as they were explaining the situation to the class. This can be done in writing description, verbal
presentation (graph, chart), visual representation (acting out, role play, making video tape, photographs,
6. Reflections - these are the student's reflections on their learning, on what they have learned, what
were their feelings while finishing the exercises, what they expected the final explanation to the problem
to be, etc. Reflective practice of the teacher applies to student's learning.

2) The Learning Cycle - three-step learning model can be applied to many kinds of constructivist
activities. This model was previously used in science education.
1. Discovery phase - the teacher on the basis of various materials encourages the students to generate
questions and hypotheses.
2. Concept introduction - the teacher focuses on students' questions and helps them create hypotheses
and design experiments.
3. Concept application - students work on problems that reconsider the concept introduced in the first
two steps.


cooperative learning
creative forms of classroom work
learning by projects
LBT - learning by teaching


individualisation of learning
autonomy of learner

Process-related awareness
learning awareness
language awareness
intercultural awareness

Holistic language experience

authentic and complex learning environment

One of the most important principles in constructivist aproach to language teaching is action
orientedness. Coopeartive learning (such as pair work, group work or any other social forms of learning),
creative and active participation in classroom activities, learning by preparing various projects as well as
learning by teaching (when the student is asked to take over teacher's role) have been treated as the
major tasks reffering to the action oriented method.

The second substantial principle in constructivis FLT is individualisation of learning which is centred on
the learner. Dieter Wolff, a notable German FLT researcher claims, that learning can only be influenced
by teaching in a very restricted way. It is the learner who is allowed to decide about the fragments and
sections of the materials provided by the teacher during the lesson. This possibility to make choises
fosters learner's autonomy, thus it takes into account their preferable style and type of learning. However,
the crutial thing is that beforehand the learner should be instructed on how to become aware and take
responsibility of his/her own learning, what considers strategies and techniques selected and applied
during learning.What is also important is that learning awareness should be complemented by language
awareness as well as intercultural awareness.

Another principle of contructivism referes to holistic language experience which referes to content-
oriented FLT and usually takes place in bilingual classes or project instruction. According to this
approach, acquiring foreign language will be effective in autentic and complex learning environment or

Negotiation unites teachers and students in a common purpose. It is important for the teacher to talk
openly with the learners about the choice of new information as well as the way of introducing it during
classes, and the formal constrains such as obligatory curriculum. What is also vital is negotiation of the
curriculum, which implies student's contribution to the modification of the educational program. It would
benefit in student's sense of their investment both in learning and in the outcomes.

If you are interestes in the teacher's role in constructivist classroom,

If you search for more in-depth information about constructivist learner,


In the constructivist, classroom students are mostly working in groups, and learning and knowledge are
interactive and dynamic. The accent is put on social and communication skills as well as cooperation and
change of ideas.
Constructivist Activities for Language Teaching

Designing and Pursuing Research and Projects

Role Playing
Necessiate Multiple Learning Environments
Situational and Contextual
Theme and Content Based
Oral Presentations
Critical (Lateral and Parallel) Thinking
Discussions and Debates
Conceptual Contradiction
Meaning making
Real Life Examples
Portfolio Evaluation
Students Actively Participate
Reflect the Complexity of the World
Readers Response
Perception Aesthetics

Students can construct aditional knowledge by writing:

short plays
screen plays
legal briefs
song lyrics
letters (or e-mail) to experts
original advertisements
new endings for stories or songs
"what if..." thought experiments

Students can construct additional knowledge by taking / inventing / designing / drawing :

board games
concept maps
multimedia presentations

Students can construct additional knowledge by performing/presenting:

a play
a concert
role-play lecture (such as a well-known person from history)
a dance based on literature or historical event
collected songs

about a topic from another era

05SaturdayJAN 2013
There are several theories that are applied in education such as behaviorism,
cognitivism, constructivism etc. Many educators especially teachers use the theories in the
classroom based on their own roles. Each theory has its own different function and purpose
and also has a little bit correlation with each other, for example behaviorism theory. In this
theory, the teaching learning process focuses on the students centered not the teachers
one. It means that, if the teacher applies it in the classroom, it tends to create the passive
students. They just absorb the knowledge from their own teachers.
Constructivism theory is the response to the behaviorism theory (asiaeuniversity,
2012:106). It means that the role of constructivism theory is in the opposite of
behaviorism. The students role is to construct their own understanding and knowledge of
the world through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. It means that
the students construct the meaning of certain thing by assimilating and accommodating
through their own experience. It tends to create the active students. While the
constructivist teachers encourage and guide the students in order to assess the activities
which help them to get the understanding . The way the teacher guides the students can
be conducted through questioning them in order it can create the situation in which the
students construct the meaning of thing by themselves. Moreover the function of
questioning is to regard the students as the expert learners.

The other function of constructivism theory is it can create problem solving, if the
students find problem, they can discuss with other friends to get the solution. That is the
point of view about constructivism theory. The next session will be the description of
constructivism through the history, definition, types, principles, implementation in teaching
learning process, the characteristics of learning, the characters of learners, strength and
weaknesses, differences of constructivism with other theories and the comparison between
traditional to the constructivist one.

History of Constructivism
According to asiaeuniversity (2012:146)Constructivism is a part of cognitive
revolution. Cognitive revolution is the name of an intellectual movement in the 1950s that
began with what are known collectively as the cognitive sciences and increasingly
deliberated in the late 1960s. The term cognitive revolution began to be used to take
advantage of an analysis of scientific revolution in general that was developed by Thomas
Kuhn (Royer, 2005 in the asiaeuniversity, 2012: 146). The cognitive revolution was the
response to the behaviorism (asiaeuniversity ,2012:106). As we know that, behaviorism
was a theory that based on observable changes in behavior. Moreover, behaviorism was the
theory in which central attention was in the teachers role. It means that the character of
the students in the teaching learning process was passive while the teacher was in the
opposite. The students just absorbed the information from the teacher rather than
constructed the meaning by their own selves. While, constructivism was a theory to learning
in which learners were provided the opportunity to construct their own sense of what was
being learned by building internal connection or relationship among ideas and
facts being taught( Brich & Tombari, 1997 as cited in asiaeuniversity,2012: 144). It means
that the character of the students in which the constructivism theory was
applied was active. The teacher as the facilitator (give little guidance to the students). So,
this is the reason why constructivism is a part of cognitive revolution that it becomes the
response to the behaviorism.

Constructivism primarily is a synthesis of the ideas from philosophy, sociology,

psychology and education (Lowenthal & Muth, 2008). According to Kanselaar
(2002)Constructivism is not a single concept but it can involve the following three aspects.
They are epistemological, psychological and educational beliefs. Constructivism as a set of
epistemological beliefs that is beliefs about the nature of reality, whether there is an
independent reality. Constructivism as a set of psychological beliefs about
learningandcognition (e.g that learning involves constructing ones own knowledge).
Constructivismas a set of educational beliefs about pedagogy (e.g that one should allow the
learners to define their own learning objective that knowledge emerges from constructive
interaction between the teacher and the students or between collaborating
students). Based on the history of constructivism comes from experts, I can infer that, in
the beginning constructivism was derived from some aspects that were philosophy,
sociology, psychology, education and epistemological beliefs. All of the aspects united into a
general sense of constructivism that it was a theory of learning or making meaning that
individuals created their own new understanding on the basis of an interaction between
what they already know, belief, ideas and knowledge with which they come into contact
(Resnick, 1989 in Richardson, 2003).

Definition of Constructivism
Constructivism is a theory of how learning occurs (Henson, 1996 in asiaeuniversity,
2012:143). It means that this theory determines how learning happens. It is one of the
useful learning in which it determines the lives of learners; try to look for their own
understanding about something that they are curious to know. The ways to seek can be
done through questioning of their knowledge and new discoverers. Constructivism as a
learning theory learns about how people learn to construct something in their own
understanding by relating the prior knowledge and new information. By doing this, a
constructivist learners try to be an active creators.

Boris &Tombari (1996) in asiae university (2012:144) stated that constructivism is an

approach to learning in which learners are provided the opportunity to construct their own
sense of what is being learned by building internal connection or relationship among ideas
and facts being taught. According to Cheeks (1992) in asiaeuniversity (2012:145) humans
are not passive information receiver. Humans are active information receivers. They build
network of information with their previous information and they assimilate or accommodate
new knowledge with the prior information in order to build their own understanding of new
information. From the two perceptions from two experts, I can infer that constructivism is a
theory to help the learners to construct the meaning of thing. They try to create learners to
be active to assimilate what is being learned and prior experience.

Constructivism as a theory of learning emerged from the work of cognitive psychologist

such as Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bruner. With the development of cultural psychology, the two
perspectives become dominant. They are individual and social constructivism. Individual
constructivism focuses on the construction of meaning inside the person while social
constructivism focuses on the construction of meaning among people.

Types of Constructivism
Constructivism is a theory of learning to help the learners to construct something based
on their own understanding by assimilating prior knowledge and new ones. According to
Kanselaar (2002) there are two major constructivist perspectives. They are Jean Piaget from
Swiss and Lev Vygotsky from Russia.

1.Jean Piaget (1896-1980) Cognitive Constructivism as individual perspective

Piaget is a Swiss psychologist who describes knowledge development from a holistic and
cognitive perspective, emphasizing that there are many channels that are used to construct
understanding e.g reading, listening, exploring, and experiencing (Savery & Duffy,1995).

Cognitive constructivism developed as a reaction to behaviorist and information

processing theories of learning (Lowenthal & Muth, 2008). As the reaction to behaviorist,
since constructivism tries to help the students as active learners while behaviorism is in
opposite. In the information processing, the learner perceives stimuli encodes them into
useful information then stores the information for later use while in the constructivism tries
to assimilate the previous knowledge and the new one to be the current problem
solving. In this case, cognitive constructivism tries to make a situation in which learning as
the result of constructing based on individual perspective and his or her previous

The development of the human intellectual can be processed through the process of
adaptation and organization. Adaptation is a process of assimilation and accommodation.
According to Cynthia et al (2005) the term assimilation occurs in which learners add new
knowledge into their existing knowledge framework and accommodation occurs when
individuals adjust to new information. In this case, I can infer that assimilation is the way to
relate what has already know and prior experience while accommodation to correct the way
relating to the new information.
Piaget also organizes scheme to produce the adult mind by using schemata. According to
Brynes(1996) in asiaeuniversity (2012: 148) schemata or prior knowledge links organize
our experience more efficiently for processing. It is important to produce the effective
problem solving. Overall, Piagets cognitive constructivism focuses on how the individual
processes and relates new information to information that already in mind.

2. Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) Social Cultural Constructivism (socio-constructivist

Vygotsky is a Russian psychologist who introduces the constructivism through socio-
constructivist perspective. In this case, the theory of Vygotsky emphasized in the learning
based on context through the interaction with others. According to Safery & Duffy (1995)
constructing understanding through interaction with others in social environments in which
knowledge is to be applied.

Vygotsky as the expert of constructivism in socio cultural perspectives assumed that the
theory came from the theory of language, thought and mediation in social environment.
According to Lowenthal & Muth (2008) pure social constructivists believe that learning
occurs via construction of meaning in social interaction within cultures and through
language. Social constructivism classroom is rooted from Vygotskys psychological theory
that knowledge is not transferred from teachers to students but constructed in the students
mind (asiaeuniversity, 2012:152). It means that the social constructivism which rooted from
Vygotskys perspective can be applied in education field. In this case, the focus of
knowledge doesnt come from teacher to students but how the students can construct by
their own selves Here are the list of some characteristics of social constructivism classroom.

The goal is emphasized in collaborative meaning.

The role of teacher is as facilitator who monitors the students thinking

The social interaction can occur in classroom

The curriculum that is applied in classroom can absorb the interest of the students and
then assimilate it with their own cultures.
From the characteristics of social constructivism, it is important to emphasize to the
social environments not within the individuals mind. Moreover, it is also important that the
teacher and peers also have the significant role in the application itself. There are four tools
for social constructivism. They are scaffolding, cognitive apprenticeship, tutoring, and
cooperative learning (asiaeuniversity,2012: 153-154).

1. Scaffolding is the technique to increase the students competence and to reduce the
teachers guidance.
2. Cognitive apprenticeship is the technique where the teachers belief about the students
competence to show the best performance and to create the learning situation as well as
3. Tutoring is the effective technique to help the students learning by giving explanation
that can be done between an adult and a child or between a more-skilled child and less
skilled child.
4. Cooperative learning is the learning by discussing something in group based on their
own experience.
Those are the viewpoint of individual and social cultural constructivism .In the followings are
the three primary propositions that characterize constructivism from a cognitive and social
viewpoint (Safery & Duffy, 1995).

Cognitive is seen as the tool for sharing the peoples understanding about something
that they want to know then they test it.

The goal is to assimilate the people prior knowledge and the new one in order to
construct new understanding.

3. Bruner (Constructivist theory)

In this case, Jerome Bruner, one of the psychologists of constructivism who supports the
cognitive constructivism based on Piaget. It means that Bruner also has the same thinking
about individual constructivism that it focuses on how the individual process occurs and it
relates new information to information already in the mind. The theoretical framework of
Bruner is that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concept
based on their current or past knowledge. Moreover, the focus of Jerome Bruner in
cognitivist constructivism is in instruction. So, in this case, the role of the instructor should
try and encourage students to discover principles by themselves. The instructor and the
students should engage in active activities.
There are three principles of instruction from Jerome Brunner(Meyer, 1998)

1. Instruction must be concerned with the experience and the contexts that make the
students willing and able to learn (readiness).
2. Instruction must be structured so that it can be easily grasped by the students(spiral
3. Instruction should be designed to facilitate extrapolation or fill in the gaps (going beyond
the information given)
Bruner also uses discovery learning in translating cognitive constructivism principles in
teaching and learning in the classroom. In this case, the teacher presents examples and the
students work with the examples until they discover the interrelationship between the
subject structure. Furthermore, Jerome Bruner also emphasizes in the importance of
understanding the structure of a subject being studied. Subject structure refers to the
fundamental ideas, relationship, or patterns of the fields that connect all of the essential
information (asiaeuniversity,2012:149). According to Bruner, learning will be more
meaningful, useful and memorable for students if they focus on understanding the structure
of the subject if they focus on understanding the structure of the subject being studied.

This is the application of Bruners teaching technique in the classroom


Firstly, present examples and non-examples of the concepts that you are teaching

Example: give example that include people, kangaroos, whales, cats, dolphins as examples
while non-examples are chicken, fish, penguin

Secondly, help students see connections among concepts

Examples: ask questions such as these: what do we call things we eat? Food

Use diagrams, outlines and summaries to pint out connections

Thirdly, pose a question and let students try to find the answer

Example: How could the human hand be improved?

What is the relation between the area of one tile and the area of the whole floor?
Fourthly, encourage students to make intuitive guesses

Example: Instead of giving a words definition, say, Lets guess what it might mean by
looking at the words around it.

The Principles of Constructivism

There are some principles of constructivism that must be paid attention in applying this
theory in teaching learning process ( Simon, 1990)

1. Knowledge is actively constructed by the individual.

It means that knowledge is seen or viewed as learning in how the learners construct the
meaning of something that can make sense to them. In other words, it creates the learners
as active creators.

2. Learning is both an individual and a social process.

We find the meaning of learning through the interaction with others in natural contexts.

3. Learning is a self-regulated process

Individuals learning is determined by the inborn characteristics and external factors that
influence them.

4. Learning is an organizational process that enables people to make sense of their

Learning is viewed as process to relate the prior knowledge and new one by assimilating
and accommodating.

5. Cognition serves the organization of the experiential world, not the ontological
reality. Truth as viability, not validity.
In doing the term learning an individual has different ways, perspectives, life and the
purpose of it. So, he or she has different result in interpreting the term learning that it is
based on his or her experience.
6. Reality represents an interpretation.
To construct our understanding of the meaning of certain thing, we cant separate with the
term interpretation.

7. Learning is a socially situated activity that is enhanced in meaningful contexts.

The term learning happens in social environments in interaction with others in meaningful

8. Language plays an essential role in learning. Thinking takes place in

Language is seen as the tool to connect with what has been learning with component of
language such as words, sentence etc. then combine it in order to create the effective

9. Motivation is a key component in learning.

Motivation has significant role in learning if the learner has high motivation in learning , he
will have the better result than the learner doesnt.

The Implementation of Constructivism in Teaching and Learning Process

As a theory of learning, constructivism focuses on the implication of constructing new
knowledge for learning (Lowenthal & Muth, 2008). In this case, constructivism stresses in
the center of learners especially for practice and learning rather than the teacher. This
theory intends to construct the students role in teaching learning process in order the
students more active in the class rather than be passive that just absorbed the information
from the teacher. Moreover through this theory is expected that the learning environment
should emphasize on students directly, the importance of context, authentic problem and
task, discovery learning , students prior knowledge, group projects and discussion,
students choice and authentic assessment. There are some applications related of the
constructivism approach that can be applied in the classroom in order it can improve the
interest of the students in learning as the part of teaching learning process. They are
discovery learning, inquiry based learning etc.

Discovery Learning
Discovery learning is one of the applications of constructivism. According to
ODonnell(1997) Discovery Learning is an instructional method in which the students are
free to work in learning environment with little or no guidance. This assumption from
ODonnell is also supported by Ryan & Muray (2009) who assume that discovery learning is
problem based learning with minimal guidance. It means that through discovery learning
the teacher gives opportunity to students to explore their selves by learning through the
environment with little guidance from the teacher. There are some structures that must be
paid attention in applying discovery learning. They are readiness to learn, intuitive and
analytical thinking, motivates for learning. These structures must be moved from basic to
advanced step.

Readiness to learn:
Any subject will be useful if the students have readiness to learn through discovery learning.

Intuitive and Analytical Thinking:

Analytical thinking consists of identifying step and finally find the solution to the problem.

Intuitive thinking is the students find the solution from their problem with little guidance
from the teacher.

Motivate for Learning

If the students have motivation for learning, the result will be better than they who do not.

The examples of constructivism when it was conducting in the class are when students are
given a math problem and asked to come up with a solution on their own, and when the
students are given a scientific problem and allowed to conduct experiments.

Inquiry Based Learning

Inquiry based learning also the application of constructivism that can be applied in the
classroom. According to Mayer (1997) particularly inquiry based learning seeks to mediate
the learning process and make this kind of cognition an object of classroom instruction. In
inquiry learning the role of the students are as scientist or researcher. It intends to give the
position to the students as professional scientist who masters certain science on the
authentic inquiry activities. The activities that include in this learning are formulating
questions, designing informative investigations, analyzing patterns , drawing inference,
accessing evidence in responding the questions, formulating explanations from evidence,
connecting explanations to knowledge and communicating and justifying claims and
explanation. Moreover, there are 5 steps in conducting inquiry based learning(Mayer, 1997)

1. Engagement with a scientific question, event or phenomena connected with their current
knowledge, though at odds with their own ideas which motivates them to learn more.
1. Exploration of ideas through hands on experiences, formulating and testing hypotheses,
problem solving and explaining observations.
2. Analysis and interpretation of data, idea synthesis, model building and clarification of
concepts and explanations with scientific knowledge sources(including teachers)
3. Extension of new understanding and abilities and application of learning to new
4. Review and Assessment of what they have learned and how they have learned it
The Characteristics of Learning in Constructivism Classroom
According to Seigel (2004) there are some characteristics of learning in constructivism
theory. These characteristics are useful especially for students in taking the position in the
constructivism situation. They are as follows:

1. Constructed => the students learn how to construct the meaning of thing or word
through assimilating prior knowledge and new one to get new understanding.
2. Active => by studying constructivism, it creates the students become active
3. Reflective => the students reflect what they already know to their real life
4. Collaborative => constructivism as the theory of learning to construct the meaning of
certain word by discussing with the peers or others in group discussion.
5. Inquiry Based => study of constructivism to find the solution from the problem
6. Evolving =>evolving is the temporary way to integrate the knowledge that is
already gained to reduce invalidity.
The Characters of Learner in Constructivism Classroom
According to Can (2007) the other point that must be considered in applying
constructivism in classroom is about the characters of the learner itself. In this situation ,
the teacher must create the character of the learners naturally such as feel responsible for
their learning ,have developed awareness .,have developed autonomy,
have developed goals for learning, have developed initiative, use strategies ,accept the
complexity of life, respectful to multiple perspectives and world-views, open minded, task
oriented, process oriented, self-controlling, realistic, scientific, value generator, holistic,
articulate ,flexible, moderate, humanistic, innovative, social
indulging into the experience, self-motivated, self-reflective.

Strength and Weaknesses

Constructivism is a learning theory which emphasizes in the students role than teachers
.So, as a teacher who wants to apply the constructivism in his or her teaching learning
process, he or she must consider the strength and weaknesses of it when it applies in
classroom. The weakness of constructivism is where conformity is essential divergent
thinking and action may cause problems. While the strength the learner is able to interpret
multiple realities, and the learner is better able to deal with real life situation. If a learner
can problem solve, they may better apply their existing knowledge to a novel
situation.(Schuman,1996 in Mergel, 1998).

Differences of Constructivism from other Theories

Constructivism is a language theory to help the students in constructing something based
on their own understanding. It emphasizes in students role than the teacher. It is one of
the language theories that gives contribution in education field. In this case, there are some
language theories that give contribution to education field beside behaviorism such as
cognitivism and constructivism. So, in the followings are the differences among them in
order to users of this theory do understand with their own principles (Jung & Orey, 2008).

It emphasizes on how to construct the meaning of the word or thing based on
their own understanding. It can be done through individual experience and schema. The
role of the teacher is to ask the students to learn to construct meaning and to assimilate
and accommodate the students prior knowledge and the new ones.
It stresses on students observable behavior to create automatic learning includes the
use of instructional cues, practice, and reinforcement. In this case, the role of the teacher in
behaviorism theory is determines what type of cues that could produce the desired
response, to create conducive situation to reach the target stimuli and to create
environmental condition.

It stresses on the process happens inside the human mind, acquisition of the language,
and internal mental structure. In this case, the role of teacher is to understand the position
of the students who have different experience that will influence to the learning outcome, to
determine the manners that mostly used and which one is effective to organize the new
information, to provide feedback in order to make the new information will be more
effective and efficient.

The Comparison Between Traditional to the Constructivist One.

After compare constructivism with behaviorism and cognitivism. The next is the
comparison between traditional and constructivist classroom when we compare from
curriculum, teacher, students, materials, and assessment (Brooks and Brooks , 1993)
a) Curriculum begins with the parts of the whole. Emphasize basic skills

b) Strict adherence to fixed curriculum is highly valued

c) Materials are primarily textbooks and workbooks

d) Learning is based on repetition

e) Teachers disseminate information to students, students are recipients of knowledge

f) Teachers role is directive, rooted in authority

g) Assessment is through testing, correct answers

h) Knowledge is seen as inert

i) Students work primarily alone

a) Curriculum emphasizes big concepts, beginning with the whole and expanding to
include the parts.

b) Pursuit of the student questions and interest is valued

c) Materials include primary sources of material and manipulative materials

d) Learning is interactive, building on what the student already knows

e) Teachers have a dialogue with students, helping students construct their own

f) Teachers role is interactive, rooted is negotiation

g) Assessment includes student works, observations and points of view, as well as tests.
Process is as important as product
h) Knowledge is seen as dynamic , ever changing with our experiences

i) Students work primarily in groups


Constructivism is a theory of learning in which the learners are provided the opportunity
to construct their own sense about what is being learned by building the connection
through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. This theory is the response
to the behaviorism theory that tends to focus in teachers centered while constructivism
stresses in students centered. In constructivism theory, the students are active in the
classroom. The role of teacher is as the facilitator. The way the teacher guides the students
can be conducted through questioning. By giving question, it can create the students to
conduct the meaning of thing by them.

There are two types of constructivism. They are cognitive constructivism and social
cultural constructivism. Cognitive constructivism was developed by Piaget. He
conceptualizes learning as the result of constructing based on individuals experience and
prior knowledge. While social cultural constructivism was developed by Vygotsky. He
assumed that constructing understanding through interaction with others in the social
environment in which knowledge is to be applied. Although there is different assumption
between them, but there is similarity that is both create the learners to construct the
meaning of thing by their own sense by building the connection through experiencing.

The implementation of constructivism theory can be conducted in several learning such

as discovery learning, case based learning, inquiry based learning, problem based learning,
and project based learning. Discovery learning is an instructional method in which the
students are free to work in learning environment with little or no guidance from the
teacher. Inquiry based learning as the other of application of constructivism theory. It
emphasizes to the role of the students as scientist or researcher who masters certain

Overall, I can infer that constructivism theory is a good theory to create active students
by building the connection between what is being learned and reflecting it through
experience. The students will be enjoyable in teaching learning process. Moreover,
constructivism promotes social and communication skills by creating a classroom
environment that emphasizes collaboration and exchange of ideas