A letter to the teachers of English: 39Translation as a useful strategy to teach English (1) [Archives:2004/704/Education]

January 19 2004

Dr..M.N.K.Bose ([email protected])
Associate Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb.

Dear Fellow teachers,
Please don't jump to the conclusion that I am suggesting translation of English into Arabic wholesale in English classes. By translation here, I mean intralingual translation, which I will explain further below.
Translation experts talk about three kinds of translation: interlingual translation, which is the most common kind and which means translating from one language to another, say from English to Arabic; intralingual translation, which means translating the message from one form to another in the same language, say rewriting a long essay into its summary; and intersemiotic translation, which means translating the message from one form to another, say from a weather chart into a text.
Interlingual translation is what we normally use in our English classes, translating English words or sentences or texts into Arabic. I have already warned you against the rampant use of Arabic in English classes and have suggested the judicious use of it for the benefit of our learners. Translation is developing as a serious study and is being taught on higher courses in the universities with a view to producing efficient translators; these courses concentrate on interlingual translation.
One of the experts in the Hodeidah Conference highlighted the use of intralingual and intersemiotic translations as teaching strategies. Let's look closely at them and see how they can be used in our English classes. He quoted paraphrasing, note making and summarizing as examples of intralingual translation and turning a timetable or a weather chart into a text as an example of intersemiotic translation.
Paraphrasing and summarizing are useful teaching strategies, especially at a higher level, say in secondary schools and colleges. They involve the learners and demand a lot of work from them; they will have to read the text to be paraphrased several times, refer to a dictionary for difficult words, if necessary, understand it, and rewrite it in their own words as they paraphrase it. The reading of the text in this case will be reading of a higher order, developing the necessary reading skills in the learner, and so is writing. Summarizing also demands higher order skills and a very useful technique in English classes.
Our learners have to be trained to do these activities through practice. The texts for these activities should be carefully selected; the topics should be familiar and the language within the level of the learners. To begin with, the texts from books meant for lower classes can be used for practice, and later, passages from newspapers, magazines and other such sources can be used. I personally feel that passages in Arabic can also be used for these activities, for the skills needed for paraphrasing and summarizing are not language specific. But extreme caution should be taken while selecting Arabic passages to be used in English classes and it will be better if the Arabic passages are used occasionally in English classes. Alternatively, teachers of Arabic can be encouraged to use these activities in their classes and the teachers of English can refer to the learning strategies used in these activities while the learners engage themselves in such activities in their classes. Such interdisciplinary (between two disciplines of study) activities should be encouraged for the benefit of the learners, because learning should not be treated as a watertight compartment; it is only natural to encourage our learners to learn from all available sources.
There are a lot of exercises in the Crescent English Course books for intralingual and intersemiotic translations. I'll write about them in my next letter. Use them. Good luck.

Yours fraternally,