A letter to the teachers of English: 40Translation as a useful strategy to teach English (2) [Archives:2004/706/Education]

January 26 2004

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

Dear fellow teachers,
Talking about translation, there are a number of exercises in the Crescent English Course books that involve intralingual and inter semiotic translations. For intralingual translation exercises look at pages 21,32, 79, 109 in Workbook 3, for example. These exercises involve note making and summarizing. Similar exercises are found in Workbook 5, pages 42, 62, 87, for example. Students are expected to read the texts and make notes extracting the main points or summarize the texts. As the students use various skills using the same language, English, these exercises are called intralingual translation exercises.
Let's look at one of these exercises, the exercise on page 21, WB 3, closely. Students are expected to read the text on page 7 of Pupil's Book 3, extract the main points about the appearance, character and likes of each person and write them in the appropriate places in the table in the Workbook. The skills involved in this activity are reading and understanding, especially scanning for the details, reducing the sentences into words or phrases carrying the main points, and transferring the points to the table in the WB. The process is called intralingual translation by the translation experts.
Intersemiotic translation activities are commonly known as information transfer activities and are found in plenty in the Crescent English Books; for example, in Workbook 3 look at pages 14, 22, 24-25, 43, 60, 95, 106, 122-123; in Workbook 5 look at pages 5, 11, 35, 45, 66. These exercises involve transferring the information from one form to another; hence they are called intersemiotic translation. We very often engage ourselves in these activities in our daily lives. For instance, when we look at an advertisement, we look at the pictures and get the message; when we look at a signal (say, a picture of a petrol pump) on the road while driving, we translate the signal into the right message (that there is petrol pump nearby); when we see a picture of a nurse with her index finger on her lips on the door of the doctor's room, we understand the message that we should be silent (whether we are silent or not is a different question!). All these are instances of intersemiotic translation and now you understand how much of it is useful to us in our teaching. Some of these signs can be reproduced in the classes and the learners are asked to translate them into texts; the reversal of this activity will also be useful, learners may be asked to draw signs for the messages (think of some funny messages!)
If we look at the exercises I have quoted as examples from the Workbooks, all of them involve transferring information from one form (either picture or table) to another form (text). Such activities involve a lot of cognitive as well as linguistic skills and the learners who engage themselves in such activities develop both cognitive and linguistic skills. Take the activity on page 66 of WB 5. When they read the text in the PB 5 in order to order the pictures in the WB, they read the text and understand the sequence of the events in the text using cohesive and coherence markers in the passage, then they attempt to arrange the pictures in the right order. This activity develops higher order reading skills, making the students efficient readers.
Using intralingual and intersemiotic translation activities does develop reading skills, writing skills and cognitive skills in our learners. Try them in your classes. Good luck.
Yours fraternally,
Dr. M.N.K.Bose.