E. Einum

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NORWAY)
This article suggests a dual approach to foreign language training where language skills and reciprocal translation enhance the learning outcome of both. The approach was deployed in conjunction with the SkiLL project at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Piloted with a group of 120 English-learning engineering students, its initial results are promising, both in terms of student involvement, skills development and resource management.

The concept of relay interpretation, where a source language utterance is translated into the target language via a third language intermediary, has been adopted into a pedagogical concept of reciprocal interpretation and subsequent translation. Building and expanding on experiences from the Masaryk University of Brno, Czech Republic, paired students would interpret and translate source language material into their native language, exchange translations and repeat the process on each other’s translations. Ultimately, an informed reflection on the final product’s similarities to and deviations from the original would yield practical insights into the nature of the languages involved, as well as the translation process. A post-procedural open survey further allowed instructors an insight into the needs and preferences of students, both in relation to the skillsets used and the translation process itself.

For non-native speakers of foreign languages, the complicated process behind language production is often the main obstacle to language use. They tend to conceptualise the contents and form of the utterance or written text in their native language, before translating the phrase into the target language and finally articulating or spelling it out on the paper. Highly proficient language trainers are normally well beyond this point, though, and perform the entire process in the target language, significantly reducing the strenuousness of communication. This has led to a greater focus in language training on content and form of the final product, the target language phrase, than the crucial intermediary factor of translation.

Meanwhile, skills training constitutes a fundamental part of most curricula because it is the obvious route to improved proficiency. Therefore, any language training method which can further exercise comprehension and production skills while building student awareness around these, is pedagogically desirable. As the above procedure presents a number of options in skills use, both in comprehension and production, and requires the student to make informed choices, which they are made to reflect upon afterwards, the format of the translation training appears to further develop language proficiency.