Volume 17, No. 2 
April 2013

  Omid Jafari


Front Page

Select one of the previous 63 issues.


Index 1997-2013

TJ Interactive: Translation Journal Blog

  Translator Profiles
Have Language, Will Travel
by Robert Ewing Finnegan

  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant and Worker Bee
Networking 101
byDanilo Nogueira and Kelli Semolini
Translation—an ageless profession
by Katia Spanakaki

  Translators and the Computer
The Ukrainian Cornucopia of Tools
by Jost Zetzsche

  Medical Translation
La historieta como instrumento para la divulgación médico-sanitaria: Aspectos pragmalingüísticos
Blanca Mayor Serrano

Translation and Politics
Trauma and Translation: Bearing Witness
by Fatima Sakarya and Sidney Shaievitz
Soviet Censorship and Translation in Contemporary Ukraine and Russia
by Nataliya M. Rudnytska, PhD

Arts and Entertainment
When Correct Grammar is Wrong-ish—Grammaticality, Ungrammaticality, and Usage-based Theory in Film Subtitles
by D. Bannon

Science and Technology
A Glossary of Olive Oil Taste Testing (Spanish-English and English-Spanish)
by Soledad Sta. María

Translator Education
How Approaches to Teaching English Can Be Used for Teaching Translation?
by Omid Jafari

  Caught in the Web
Web Surfing for Fun and Profit
by Cathy Flick, Ph.D.
Translators’ On-Line Resources
by Gabe Bokor
Translators’ Best Websites
by Gabe Bokor

  Translators' Tools
Translators’ Emporium

Call for Papers and Editorial Policies
  Translation Journal
Translator Education

How Approaches to Teaching English Can Be Used for Teaching Translation

by Omid Jafari


Unfortunately translation is still being taught by outdated approaches in Iranian universities, and its instructors use the 'read and translate' method, so that each student is required to translate one or two pages at home for each session and then bring them to class and read them aloud for the instructors and classmates. This method minimizes students' participation to at most four or five students, and a boring and exhausting atmosphere dominates the whole class, while the researcher's investigations have indicated that more innovative approaches are utilized in Western universities to maximize participation and enhance motivation. Such approaches include: forming groups of four or five students to have group translations in classes, giving two translations of a specific text to each group to compare and contrast them, giving texts with blanks to groups to find the proper terms, collocations, and expressions in the source language, giving texts in the source or target language to groups to edit them, etc. We hope that this research helps to create more variety in translation classes, create new environments, and develop more incentive and motivation by using such approaches.

Key words: Iranian universities, translation studies, translation instructors, group translation


ranslation has been taught in Iranian universities for a long time and there are still problems regarding translation instruction, since many of the instructors lack any specialization in translation studies, but rather have studied English literature, teaching, and linguistics, and may have never tried actual translation themselves. Therefore, they are not intimately familiar with the difficulties of translation and cannot link translation theories with translation practice. The dominant approach is 'read and translate,' in which the instructor makes the students prepare a translation of a text for the next session and read them for the whole class to identify problematic areas of translation to be discussed in the class. This minimizes class participation to at most four or five students and makes the class atmosphere boring since there are usually 30 to 40 students in each Iranian university class and the rest of the class remains inactive because the instructor does not have sufficient time to ask other students. Such problems can be tackled if approaches based on group activity are utilized. Explanation of such theories and practices which were devised for teaching English will follow in the next section.

1. Modern views on teaching

Translation instructors could use more innovative methods of teaching in order to create more fun, variety, and enthusiasm. and to enhance students' motivation.
Teaching trends have changed in accordance with the generations changes in western countries in the 1960s, and scholars have attempted to use theories of linguistics, psychology, communication, and culture in teaching. The most significant approaches were of humanistic and communicative branches that rejected previous structuralist theories and had no belief in teacher-centered methods. According to Humanistic approaches, a learner is assumed as a person who can enhance his or her competence and performance actively and can simultaneously positively influence his or her classmates and teammates' performance. According to Arnold, “this kind of learner is not considered as one who just receives the instructor's knowledge” (Arnold 1999). The learner's feelings and emotions are also very important in such theories, since they play a determinant role in the learner's performance. Such theories have been recently substantiated by the science of neurobiology, since it also showed “a close correlation between the performance of the brain and feelings and the results obtained from the learning process” (Buzan 1991). Cooperative Learning approach, which has been derived from the Humanistic approach and emphasizes group learning, can help reduce peer pressure, enhance communicative and social skills, and also create a bridge between cultural and language differences to develop group cohesion and learning process.

The Social Consructivism approach also hypothesizes learning as “a social act, which depends on the knowledge produced by the learners' prior knowledge and experiences” (Király 2000). Such a theory gives much significance to the learner's independence and the learner has to know that s/he intends to learn something. Using such methods for teaching translation means “creating a reasonable atmosphere for learners to have a more helpful and effective participation in translation practice and feel responsible towards the process and the end product of translation” (Kussmaul 1995).

2. Translation teaching methods

a. Transmissionist approach: the traditional product- and teacher-centered approach, in which a text is given to each student to be translated and read in the class. The instructor provides the final answer in this approach.

b. Transactional approach: it is based on group learning, where teamwork and communication are very important, but still the final answer is provided by the instructor

c. Transformational approach: it is based on learning and is student-centered and relates to group learning and discovery of the learning process with the instructor's guidance. A bridge is built between class activity and translations done outside the universities' environment.

3. Advantages of using group activities for teaching translation

a. Every student has the chance to become involved in translation practice and comment on other students' translations.

b. Every student's translation can be scrutinized and criticized in order make him or her familiar with his or her strong and weak points

c. Every student becomes more motivated to deliver a more accurate translation, since s/he is assigned a task in the related group activity

d. Every student can grasp the acquired knowledge more effectively, and more reasonable solutions and strategies are obtained.

4. The proposed approaches to teaching translation

The following approaches could be utilized for many translation courses, including translation of texts on economy, politics, religion, etc. and they require that theories and frameworks related to translation studies be taught in advance. They include:

4.1. Comparing two translations: students will be divided into groups of four or five students, and two different translations of a specific text will be given to them. All groups will be required to compare these two target texts, detect strategies and methods applied, and make judgments about the quality of both, or ask the groups to determine which text has more errors.

4.2. Familiarizing with collocations, expressions, and terms: a source text full of blanks will be given to the groups to be filled. The students will be required to find the proper terms, collocations, and expressions left blank in the source text.

4.3. Having group discussions: students will be divided into groups of two or three and will be requested to discuss the translations they have prepared for the class, to explain the methods and strategies they have applied to their teammates, and to report to the class the results of their discussions at the end of the class.

4.4. Editing: the students will be divided to groups of two or three and a target text will be delivered to each group to make use of principles of editing, which were taught before and improve the target text

4.5. Backtranslating: this method is considered a standard way of assessing the accuracy of a translation. All students will be divided into groups of two and will be asked to take seat behind each other and then a text made up of short sentences will be delivered to the student sitting on the front chair to be translated sentence by sentence and handed to the next student. At the end of the class, students will be asked to read out their translations to the whole class to see how much of the essence and message of the original text has been lost.

4.6. Domesticating and foreignizing: the translator's attitude toward the original text or the target reader has been discussed throughout history, and differences of such distinctive approaches can be tested. The students of a class will be divided into two teams and each team will also be subdivided into smaller groups. One team will be made to translate a text using the domestication method, and the other team will be requested to use foreignization. These groups will read their translations at the end so that the differences of these two approaches are revealed.

4.7. Practicing Skopos-centered translation: modern theories of translation highlight the fact that prescriptive rules of translation are no longer applicable, and translation of each text has its own requirements. Indeed, the translator or the commissioner's intention or aim determines the proper way of translating a text. So for experimenting with this theory, a class will be divided into four groups, and each group will be required to determine specific rules to be followed for translating a specific text by another group. At the end of the class, each group will be asked to read out its translation to be compared with the specifications prepared by the other group.

4.8. Translating according to models: various translation models have been set up by theorists such as Catford, Nida, Newmark, Vinay, and Darblenet. So, for example, students can be divided into several groups to receive a source text and its translation to detect shifts of t ranslation described by Catford and to report their findings to the class at the end of their activity.

4.9. Discussing needed tools for translation: each translator at any level of knowledge will need tools like general and specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias. In order to familiarize students with such tools and their significance and application for translation, students will be divided into several groups and each will be asked to discuss a certain type of dictionary or encyclopedia and then explain its use to the rest of the class.


Teaching translation in Iran still faces numerous problems, and traditional approaches like 'read and translate' are being extensively used in universities. This leads to inadequate learning, although translation instructors could use more innovative methods of teaching in order to create more fun, variety, and enthusiasm, and to enhance students' motivation. Other researchers have also shown that such modern approaches help the learning process become more effective by more effectively motivating the learner.


Arnold, J. (Ed.). (1999). Affect in language learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Buzan T. (1991). Use Both Sides of Your Brain. New York: Plume.

Király, D. C. (2000). A Social Constructivist Approach to Translator Education; Empowering the Translator. Manchester: St. Jerome

Kussmaul, P. (1995). Training the Translator. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins