Scholarly article on topic 'Developing English Linguistics Students’ Translation Competence through the Language Learning Process'

Developing English Linguistics Students’ Translation Competence through the Language Learning Process Academic research paper on "Languages and literature"

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{"Linguistic competence" / "translation competence" / "corpus-based language learning ;"}

Abstract of research paper on Languages and literature, author of scientific article — Teodora Popescu

Abstract This study aims at demonstrating that students of linguistics need to develop their translation competence alongside their linguistic competence. My approach starts from the assumption that the process of language learning comprises other dimensions besides the linguistic competence. Likewise, translation competence incorporates all the components of the language learning, plus some specific sub-competences. Translation theory and practice syllabus for language learners should include as course aims the development of translation competence (linguistic; sociolinguistic; pragmatic and intercultural competence), as well as translation skills proper. All these elements need to be included in the university curriculum, together with appropriate teaching/learning methodologies.

Academic research paper on topic "Developing English Linguistics Students’ Translation Competence through the Language Learning Process"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 93 (2013) 1075 - 1079

3rd World Conference on Learning, Teaching and Educational Leadership - WCLTA 2012

Developing English linguistics students' translation competence through the language learning process

Teodora Popescu a *

1 Decembrie 1918 University of Alba Iulia, 5, Gabriel Bethlen Str., Alba Iulia 510009, Romania

Abstract

This study aims at demonstrating that students of linguistics need to develop their translation competence alongside their linguistic competence. My approach starts from the assumption that the process of language learning comprises other dimensions besides the linguistic competence. Likewise, translation competence incorporates all the components of the language learning, plus some specific sub-competences. Translation theory and practice syllabus for language learners should include as course aims the development of translation competence (linguistic; sociolinguistic; pragmatic and intercultural competence), as well as translation skills proper. All these elements need to be included in the university curriculum, together with appropriate teaching/learning methodologies.

© 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Ferhan Odaba§i Keywords: Linguistic competence; translation competence; corpus-based language learning;

1. Introduction

Curricula for students in English linguistics generally separate linguistic competence from translation competence. Typically, there are courses dealing with linguistics (phonetics and phonology, lexicology, morphology, syntax, etc.) and some courses on translation (usually dealing with translation theory and some practice).

The aim of this paper is to prove that students of linguistics need to develop their translation competence alongside their linguistic competence.

My approach that starts from the assumption that the process of language learning comprises other dimensions besides the linguistic competence (sociolinguistic competence, pragmatic competence and intercultural competence). Along the same lines, translation competence incorporates all the components of the language learning, plus some specific sub-competences (pertaining to the translation profession proper (content-knowledge competence; ICT competence, research competence and monitoring competence).

That is why, from a pedagogic viewpoint, in order for the students to attain a certain degree of translation competence, their level of linguistic competence must be fairly well-developed (at least upper-intermediate, or B2 according to the Common European Framework of reference for languages); however, when learning how to translate, students have to be able to further enhance their linguistic competence. In other words, in order for a

* Corresponding Author: Teodora Popescu. Tel.: +40-726-644-652 E-mail address: tpopescu@uab.ro

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Ferhan Odaba§i

doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.09.333

translator from L1 into L2 to be successful, they need to master a relatively independent-user stage in their language learning.

2. Literature review

The relationship between linguistic competence and translation competence has been sparsely addressed by various researchers, however, with differing standpoints. The use of translation in foreign language classes was discarded as a teaching technique, especially after the grammar-translation method had fallen into disuse, and the proponents of the communicative approach started to frown upon teachers' resorting to L1 in their courses. Translation was entirely left to some specialist courses in translation theory and practice, particularly in curricula destined for the formal training of translators and interpreters. Nevertheless, as Rodgers (1986, p. 4) pointed out, "Grammar Translation dominated European and foreign language teaching from the 1840s to the 1940s, and in modified form it continues to be widely used in some parts of the world today."

2.1. Linguistic competence

The concept of "linguistic competence", will be used for taxonomical reasons in order to refer to a learner's "knowledge of and ability to use, the formal resources from which well-formed, meaningful messages may be assembled and formulated" (CEFR, 2001,p 109), as opposed to the knowledge and skills required to deal with the social dimension of language use and/or the meaning and language use that are dependent on the speaker, the addressee and other contextual features. It was Chomsky (1965, 3) who first made a distinction between competence (the system of linguistic knowledge) and performance (the way the language system is used in communication), ensued by a well-known debate on whether it is indeed possible to study language is such a 'purified' environment', as pictured by Chomsky, resting on the premise that a language without being used is no longer a language. The controversy was likened by Cook (1996) to a war "waged as much in language teaching, in children's languages, or in computational linguistics, as it is in linguistics itself". Theoretical linguists, in particular, would welcome such a separate approach, while applied linguists are strongly opposed to the idea of learning a language as an abstract and isolated system. Other specialists scrutinised the issue from the perspective of teaching materials elaboration. According to Allen (1975, p. 40), most language textbooks actually contain a limited number of completely abstract sentences or completely 'authentic' utterances. The majority of classroom materials are based on sentences that are at the meeting point of the two extremes. Undoubtedly, Chomsky's definition of language cannot be adopted as a language learning goal per se. It is not possible to teach students the abstract forms and rules of language and expect them to be able to use the language in real contexts in an appropriate manner. According to Spolsky (1972), linguistic competence is "not enough for practical or educational purposes; we are interested not just in the fact that someone knows a language but that he knows how to use it". Language instruction should assist the student in competently using language forms, which can only come with practice and exposure to real-life contexts. In this terrain of discontent, Hymes' concept of 'communicative competence' seemed to finally satisfy applied linguists. Stern (1992, p. 73) points out Hymes' argument that besides linguistic competence, the native speaker possesses another rule system, according to which, he intuitively knows what is socially acceptable or unacceptable, and can adapt his language use according to the topic, situation and human relations at stake. By the same token, Widdowson (1989) comments that "Hymes proposed his concept of communicative competence in reaction to Chomsky, and it is customary to present it as an improvement in that it covers aspects of language other than the narrowly grammatical". The concept of communicative competence was nevertheless conceived from a sociolinguist's perspective, and only starting with Canale & Swain (1980) and Canale (1983) did this approach enter the area of second/foreign language teaching and learning. According to them, communicative competence is made of the following categories: grammatical competence (phonology; vocabulary; syntax; semantics); discourse competence (rules of discourse such as cohesion and coherence); sociolinguistic competence (sociocultural rules having to do with language use); strategic competence (the ability "to compensate for breakdowns in communication" and "to enhance the rhetorical effect of utterances") (Canale 1983, p. 339).

How to integrate these elements into language learning goals is yet another issue. Widdowson (1989, p. 134) argues that "[a]s soon as you talk about competence as ability, or what people can actually do with their language,

you get into all kinds of difficulty", since "there is so much you have to allow for in the way of individual differences, varying circumstances, attitude, and so on that specification becomes impossible". According to him, "grammar needs to be in its place", while at the same time allowing for "rightful claims of lexis", as the actual use of language may be more dependent on stocks of lexical items rather than the analysis of structures. In this, he seems to accept the idea that linguistic competence needs to be separated from language usage.

2.2. Translation competence

Among the very few studies on translation competence development, mention should be made of Campbell's (1998) research based on applied linguistics methodologies. He explored translation competence of non-native speakers' translation from their mother tongue into English. His informants were native speakers of Arabic, studying translation and interpretation at an Australian university. Data analysis and interpretation led Campbell to design a three-layered model of translation competence: 1) textual competence (the ability to produce TL texts with "structural features of formal, written English") (p. 73). Evaluation benchmarks are nominal izations, type/token ratios, word length, passives, prepositional phrases, etc.; 2) disposition (translators' behaviours in choosing different words when contracting TL texts). The parameters he advances are: persistent vs capitulating; and prudent vs risk-taking. Combinations of the above categories will create four types of disposition: a) persistent and risk-taking; b) capitulating and risk-taking; c) persistent and prudent; d) capitulating and prudent; 3) monitoring competence, consisting of two sub-categories: self-awareness, and editing.

However, this model overlooks the crucial issue of translation equivalence (grammatical, semantic, pragmatic, cultural, etc.). A second model is provided by Sofer (1998), who puts forward ten commandments for professional translators: 1. A thorough knowledge of both SL and TL; 2. A thorough "at-homeness" in both cultures; 3. Keeping up with changes in the language and being up-to-date in all of its nuances and neologisms; 4. Always translating from another language into one's native language; 5. Being able to translate in more than one area of knowledge; 6. Possessing ease of writing or speaking and the ability to articulate quickly and accurately, either orally or in writing; 7. Developing a good speed of translation; 8. Developing research skills, being able to retrieve reference sources needed in producing high quality translation; 9. Being familiar with the latest technological advances; 10. Being able to understand the type of potential one's language specialty has in a certain geographic area. (pp. 33-37)

If we analyse the two models, we would see most of the characteristics are pragmatically-oriented, and refer to personal skills that translators need to possess/develop. However, we should not overlook from among a translator's competence, the explicit ability to achieve equivalence at lexical, semantic, textual (discursive), pragmatic (see Mona Baker, 1992), cultural level (see David Katan, 1999).

2.3. Teaching implications

I uphold the theory that translation competence cannot be achieved unless a translator already possesses good knowledge of both SL and TL [by this meaning linguistic knowledge, on the one hand, as well as socio-linguistic, pragmatic and (inter-)cultural knowledge]. Therefore, at the intersection of the two competences, we would find the above elements:

Figure 1. Second language learning vs learning to translate

The other components of translation competence would be, in synthesis, content-knowledge competence (economics, finance, medicine, law, etc.), ICT competence (hardware, operating system environment, packages used: Windows, Trados, etc., the Internet); monitoring competence (awareness of the quality of translations made) and research competence (the ability to resort to bibliographic and lexicographic resources).

In synthesis, the translation theory and practice syllabus for language learners should include as course aims the development of translation competence which includes all the elements pertaining to language learning (linguistic competence - phonetics, morphology, syntax, semantics, discourse; sociolinguistic competence; pragmatic competence and intercultural competence), as well as sub-competence pertaining to the translation profession proper (content-knowledge competence; ICT competence, Research competence and monitoring competence), as graphically represented in the figure below:

Figure 2. Learning objectives for a translation course

3. Research methodology

My main tenet here is that by interspersing the foreign language class with translation tasks, students will enhance both their linguistic and translation competences. I develop a certain paradigm of language learning, coupled with the learning of translation. For the practical demonstration of the sub-competences I stated, I used a corpus consisting of the translations made by 30 MA students of English linguistics (translations of 2,500-word texts, one from English into Romanian and one from Romanian into English). The tool used for the identification of word associations was the ConCapp concordancer software. The renditions of the students were indicative of the fact that translation competence is a far more complex one than we have so far realized. The analysis of translations helped students understand, besides linguistic aspects of L1 and L2, socio-cultural and pragmatic aspects pertaining to the reality reflected by a certain language.

4. Results and interpretation

Given the fact that language is a dynamic phenomenon, changes that occur are intrinsically linked to the social and cultural reality of the community that speaks a certain language. The texts that we used for the purposes of our translation classes indicated the fact that we were actually witnessing the creation of a "crisis lexicon" in English and Romanian (with social and cultural loads), however different from each other, depending on the language users' perceptions and attitudes towards the events. Besides the idiosyncrasies of individual writers, some traits are to be found in several instances. One example could be the use of religious metaphors attached to current social phenomena, e.g.:

AT THE annual pilgrimage to Davos last month, politicians were united in agreement: the biggest danger facing the world economy is protectionism. Many of the mountaintop sermons picked out the risk of financial mercantilism, a reflux of capital from foreign markets to home ones. Gordon Brown, Britain's prime minister, preached against a "retreat into domestic lending and domestic financial markets".

Another example that poses difficulties to the Romanian speaker was the title of an article: "Paying the piper". The story for children in translated into Romanian as "the enchanted flute", which means that although Romanian kids are familiar with the story, they are not familiar with the idiomatic expression attached to the moral of the story: to accept the unpleasant results of something you have done; pay the price.

Particularly interesting was also the translations made to the following passage:

Capping the non-equity-based remuneration of executives in companies receiving "exceptional assistance" at $500,000 a year and banning "golden parachutes" for failed executives is likely to strike most Americans as fair, or even generous, given that Mr Obama himself earns a mere $400,000 and the rules will apply only to new bail-outs.

The expression "golden parachute" is exactly a crisis-related newly coined term. In Romanian it would be inappropriate to translate literally, as "para^uta" in slang refers to a fallen woman. A few of the students understood this cultural inadequacy and tried to find better renditions:

1 ceptionala" ridicata la suma de 500.000$ pe an si interzicand "parasutele aurite/de aur" pentru directorii ca

2 onala / apeciala" la 500,000 de dolari pe an si a interzice / bloca "parasute de aur" pentru directorii execu

3 sistenta exceptionala" pe 500,000 dolari pe an si interzicerea "parasutelor de aur" pentru directorii prabusi

4 sistenta exceptionala" pe 500,000 dolari pe an si interzicerea "parasutelor de aur" pentru directorii prabusi

5 sistenta exceptionala" de 500,000 dolari pe an si interzicerea "parasutelor de aur" pentru directorii incapab

6 in partea statului, la 500 000 de dolari pe an si interzicerea "colacilor de salvare" pentru cei care sunt

7 esc ajutor de stat, la 500.000 de dolari pe an si interzicerea "colacilor de salvare" pentru directorii in pe

8 mind ajutor de stat anual de 500.000 de dolari si interzicerea "colacului de salvare" pentru directorii conce

9 aiutor exceptional" de 500 000 de dolari pe an si interzicerea "compensatiile suplimentare" pentru

Figure 3. Translations for "golden parachutes"

5. Conclusions

The role and importance of translation need to be reassessed in the foreign/second language classroom. This has been done recently, e.g. in the Humanistic paradigm (Community Language Learning (CLL) and Suggestopedia, teachers resort again to translation, in which methods, translation represents a sort of transition from the learner's mother tongue to the target language, and through it, learners' anxieties can be diminished. Translation tasks may interspersed in the language class, and it is particularly important to choose authentic and relevant texts to be translated from and into the mother tongue, so as for the students to understand the real usefulness and efficiency of good translation skills. Most importantly, translation competence encompasses the linguistic one, therefore, all instructors who want to teach translation, need to pay heed first to students' foundation competences.

References

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Volume 2 (pp. 16-44). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Baker, M. (1998). Translation studies. In M. Baker (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopaedia of Translation Studies (pp. 277-280). London: Routledge. Campbell, S. (1998). Translation into the Second Language. Harlow, Essex: Addison Wesley Longman.

Canale, M. (1983). From communicative competence to communicative language pedagogy. In J.C.Richards, & R.W. Schmidt (Eds.), Language

and communication. (pp. 2-27). London & New York: Longman. Katan, D. (1999). Translating cultures. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing.

Missfkova, G. (2009). Learning culture through text analysis: Semantic and pragmatic foundations for working. Journal of Linguistic and

Intercultural Education — JoLIE, 1(2), 63-76. Popescu, T. (2011). Linguistic competence vs. Translation competence: A pedagogic approach. In FLTLAL 2011 Proceedings/lst International Conference on Foreign Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics May 5-7 2011 Sarajevo. Sarajevo: International Burch University, ISBN 978-9958-9965-9-7, pp.1183-1189. Sofer, M. (1998). The Translator's Handbook (2nd ed). Rockville, Maryland: Schreiber Publishing, Inc.

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