Intercultural Language Learning through Translation and Interpreting: A Study of Advanced-Level Japanese Learners

Article excerpt

Abstract

The paper examines the appropriateness of translation and interpreting tasks for language teaching. To this end, it analyses an advanced-level Japanese language subject taught at an Australian university, utilising the concept of intercultural language learning (ICLL) as a theoretical framework. The study also investigates the learning experience of students, in an attempt to discuss the significance of incorporating translation and interpreting in advanced-level Japanese language teaching. The data on which this paper is based come from subject evaluation surveys and interviews with former students. Positive aspects of students' learning experiences through translation and interpreting identified in this study include relevance to real-life and constant interaction, which directly contributes to promoting students' learning.

Keywords

intercultural language learning, translation, interpreting, Japanese language; tertiary languages education

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Introduction

Scope of study

The place of translation in language teaching has been downplayed perhaps as the result of criticisms against the grammar-translation approach to teaching languages. As Cook (1998, p. 117) remarks, 'twentieth-century theories of language teaching and learning have at best ignored the role of translation, and at worst vilified it' (Also see Sadeghi & Ketabi, 2010). At the same time, the use of the first language in the classroom has been discouraged in order to maximise the input in the target language (for example, Cook, 1998; Cook, 2001; Liddicoat, 2008). Intercultural language learning (ICLL), however, emphasises the need for learners and users of language to move between languages and cultures, which, in turn, recognises positive aspects of using the first language in language acquisition (Liddicoat, 2008). In this sense, at least within the framework of ICLL, translation and interpreting appear to be ideal activities in that they force learners to focus not only on the target language but also the original language. In this paper, we argue that both translation and interpreting are suitable and powerful tools to facilitate students' learning, particularly in advanced level language subjects. This is in line with the claim by Cook (1998) that translation in language teaching can be utilised 'more imaginatively' than the traditional grammar-translation method. He further points out that whilst the traditional grammar-translation method places much emphasis on lexical and grammatical equivalence at the sentence level, a variety of other criteria could be incorporated for using translation in language teaching, including pragmatic or stylistic equivalence, consideration of genre, or the needs of the potential audience (Cook, 1998). Indeed, we would like to demonstrate that such additional aspects can in fact contribute to students' learning. We argue also for the usefulness of such an approach from the viewpoint of the students' dynamic learning process.

This paper investigates a Japanese language subject currently taught at an Australian university, utilising ICLL as the analytical framework. This subject, entitled Japanese Interpreting and Translation, has been taught at advanced level for the past several years. As its name indicates, it aims at teaching Japanese mainly through interpreting and translation. More specifically, our focus will be placed upon examining the students' learning experiences through translation and interpreting activities.

Context of learning

The subject we examine in this paper is offered as the tenth subject within a sequence of twelve Japanese language subjects taught at undergraduate level at an Australian university. This means that a typical student who completed his/her Japanese language study at secondary school in Australia enrols in this subject in his/her third year. The students enrolled in this subject are diversified in terms of gender, age, language, and ethnic backgrounds, their academic major, or year level. …