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Exploring Translation in Language Learning

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Malgorzata Smentek

This book explores the functions and potential of translation in language learning. It demonstrates that despite its changing fortunes in the history of foreign language teaching, translation has a prominent part to play both in the L2 classroom and beyond. As a cognitive process and a quintessential communicative activity, it not only boosts the learner’s bilingual and bicultural competence, but also promotes and accelerates the development of the skill of translation. Considering its diverse educational assets as well as the results of a research survey presented in this book, the author argues that translation practice should become an integral element of contemporary foreign language education.

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Introduction

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Emerging from an intrinsic human need to understand one another, translation has always played a significant and natural part in communication across languages and cultures. As Steiner (1998: 49) notes, “[t]he affair at Babel confirmed and externalized the never-ending task […] – it did not initiate it”. Over the last decades, however, this need has grown at an unprecedented rate, elevating translation to the status of an indispensable means of communication and opening the door to further explorations within this discipline.

Despite its long tradition in the history of human cross-linguistic interaction, translation still remains a very complex phenomenon − one which can be investigated from a myriad of viewpoints and can function at various levels of language. Its interpretations, depending on the adopted perspective, can indeed be so diverse that any attempts to provide a precise definition of the concept of translation are bound to end in failure.

While translation is most often associated with enabling interaction across linguistic and cultural boundaries, we should not forget that − although in recent decades on an incomparably lesser scale − for centuries, translation has also had another significant mission, i.e. a didactic one, as a means of teaching and learning foreign languages. Interestingly, however, while translation per se has received unanimous approval as an art, a craft and – more contemporarily − as an independent academic discipline, i.e. translation studies, its role and functions in the context of foreign language teaching (FLT), and English Language Teaching (ELT) in particular, have notoriously...

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