Translation in language teaching: modern methods
Jean René Ladmiral


In this article, J. R. Ladmiral analizes the place translation should have in language teaching. He starts out by afirming that it is a well known fact that in the teaching of languages, traditional methods are being turned to, mainly, the methods used in teaching ancient languages, and this within the context of "pedagogic renovation" in this field.

He states that, historically translation has been excessively criticized as a language teaching method, especially in France and Germany, countries in which it has almost been totally banned. It is, in fact, undeniable that the use of translation as a language teaching method can be even self-defeating in so much that it directly goes against the principles of active pedagogy, especially against the principle which advocates the learning of a second language without reference to the mother tongue. Even so, the fact is that translation has not been eliminated as a teaching method.

In this article, Ladmiral specifically analizes the use of the version —translation of german texts into french by french natives— in the teaching of German.

Undoubtedly, modern methods are efficient in the first phase of language teaching, however it has been proved that the said methods have their limit, which apparently no optimisation of teaching materials manages to surpass.

It is not the aim here to undermine the achievements made by modern methods and return to traditional ones, but to change the discussion on them and assessing their value, combine them with the positive points found. We are not dealing with a simple turn about of theme and version, we are talking about the acceptance of translation as a part of a language teaching method, giving it its rightful place.

It is necessary to break with the asymmetry of theme and version (translation) where modern methods have managed to swing the balance and give primacy in the second stage of teaching to translation, but not in the way academic teaching of translation is done, rather creating real communication situations, within a communication strategy, in the framework of a translation seminar, which at the end of the article, J.R. Ladmiral specifically describes.

J. R. Ladmiral, from this perspective, puts forward five fundamental points to be considered on the role of translation in language teaching:

1. Translation could and should have a pedagogic place in such teaching, not only, as it is normally found in examination control, and not even only as motivation.

2. The practice of version (translation) makes a comprehensive grammar necessary, give primacy to the capacity of comprehension of the second language (remember the old concept of passive vocabulary). J.R. Ladmiral says that this is the only realistic solution, he insists on the concept of a realistic solution to the problems of maximum threshold which appear at the end of the first stage of language learning (learning of the fundamental structures of the second language).

3. It is necessary to question the importance of oral rather than any other type of expression, and go back to giving the written form (at this stage) importance, because on a written level it is easier to become metalinguistically concious, and this is necessary in order to get over the maximum threshold previously described. In this sense J.R. Ladmiral brings to mind the parallel between reading processes and translation (version) taking both as a form of interpretation.

4. It is useful to go back to grammatical metalanguage. The best metalinguistic communication, bridge, or link is precisely the combined presence, the combined vision of the two languages in translation.

5. J.R. Ladmiral finally states that perhaps the fundamental paradox of the learning of a second language, and the use of translation in this learning, is precisely that the real and the second language, but the students own mother tongue, that the learning of a second language is in fact, perhaps an indirect way of learning in greater depth one's own mother tongue.

Translation in this sense becomes important once the basic structures of the second language have been dominated, and it is also an answer to the threshold problems which appear in modem teaching methods.