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inTRAlinea. online translation journal > Volumes > Volume 23 (2021)

Pedagogical vs. Professional Translation:

Reconsidering a Long-standing Differentiation

By Georgios Floros (University of Cyprus, Cyprus)


This paper discusses the differences between pedagogical and professional translation in light of new developments in language pedagogy. Language learning and teaching have long turned to communicative approaches in addition to placing emphasis on structure. At the same time, pedagogical translation seems to be unable to catch up with developments in language learning and teaching, at least in the way pedagogical translation is understood and defined in translation studies. Therefore, pedagogical translation still places emphasis on the literal mode as well as on lexis and syntax. In order to get in line with contemporary needs of language pedagogy, it is proposed that pedagogical translation attempt a revision of its focus and aspirations through the critical adoption of concepts and methodologies used in professional translation. Such adoption might ultimately prove fruitful for language pedagogy as well.

Keywords: pedagogical translation, professional translation, language pedagogy, communicative turn, controlled simulation

©inTRAlinea & Georgios Floros (2020).
"Pedagogical vs. Professional Translation: Reconsidering a Long-standing Differentiation", inTRAlinea Vol. 22.
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: http://www.intralinea.org/archive/article/2493

0. Introduction

Translation activities have—almost consistently—been highly appreciated as one of the most important tools for teaching language competence in the foreign language teaching classroom (L2). With the exception of the period that witnessed the emergence of the communicative turn and the adoption of the communicative approach to language teaching and learning, a period in which translation gradually lost importance, language learning has favored translation as a tool for its purposes. Within the optimistic framework of the recent rediscovery of translation by language pedagogy, the coexistence of two different types of translation within the field of translation studies, that is pedagogical translation as opposed to professional translation, is indicative of the fact that translation as a learning tool and professional translation are viewed as two quite different kinds of activity.

Despite this fact, an attempt will be made here to reconsider the strict differentiation between pedagogical and professional translation in light of the recent developments both in language pedagogy and translation studies, taking issue with what Carreres (2006; 2014) discusses. More specifically, a convergence of pedagogical and professional translation will be proposed, not with the aim to totally overcome such divide, but—rather—in an attempt to revise and enlarge the focus and aspirations of pedagogical translation by examining possible ways in which professional translation might inform the pedagogical type. This proposal stems from the fact that the directions into which language learning has turned display significant epistemological affinities to the general understanding of communication maintained by translation studies and professional translation today. It also needs to be clarified that the division between pedagogical and professional translation is looked at from the perspective of translation studies. This is to be seen as an attempt to strengthen the contribution of translation studies to the much desired epistemological traffic between the two disciplines, since for a very long time, it has been the concern of language pedagogy to turn to translation rather than the other way round.

1. Pedagogical and professional translation: Myths and realities

Before we embark on the proposed convergence, it is important to look back to the period when translation declined as a learning tool, so as to see the reasons for such skepticism and to lay the grounds for a reconsideration of pedagogical translation. This decline was mainly due to fallacious perceptions concerning the effectiveness of the use of L1 in L2 learning (through translation)[1] and the equally fallacious interpretations on the part of language pedagogy of the translation task as a mere attempt to find lexical and structural correspondences among L1 and L2 (see, for example, the Grammar translation method, cf. Richards and Rodgers 2001). The communicative approach to language learning, though, was stressing functional and pragmatic aspects of language learning without recourse to L1. Consequently, a contrastive comparison between L1 and L2 vocabulary and structures was not deemed sufficient to cater for the linguistic/cultural competence in various communicative situations of L2. At the same time, it was thought that the use of L1 through translation was only reinforcing interference (see Carreres 2006 for an extensive discussion). Therefore, language pedagogy placed emphasis on the direct use of L2 only and abandoned translation as a learning tool altogether.

The resurgent—in fact, the never really absent (cf. Carreres 2006)—interest in translation as a tool for language learning was soon reflected in the typology of translation within translation studies, leading to a differentiation between pedagogical and professional translation already in the last two decades of the previous century (see also Ladmiral 1979, Pym 1992, Gile 1995, Klaudy 2003, and Vermes 2010 on this differentiation, though some are using different terminology). The former type referred to a mode of translation ‘practiced as an exercise for the purpose of learning a foreign language’ (Delisle, Lee-Jahnke and Cormier 1999: 167), while the latter referred to the profession of ‘transferring ideas expressed in writing from one language to another in order to establish communication […]’ (ibid.: 189). As regards pedagogical translation, Delisle, Lee-Jahnke and Cormier (1999: 168) note (my emphasis):

In language pedagogy, these exercises are designed to enrich vocabulary, to promote the assimilation of new syntactic structure, to verify comprehension and to assess the acquisition of new vocabulary. […] Pedagogical translation is practiced both into the student’s dominant language and into the foreign language. The preferred translation strategy is literal translation of phrases out of context and of text fragments (sometimes fabricated texts), analyzed from a comparative point of view.

Professional translation, on the contrary, takes functional and communicative parameters into consideration, according to Delisle, Lee-Jahnke and Cormier (1999: 189):

Professional translation is generally practiced into the translator’s dominant language […]. The translation strategies applied to any given text depend on the text type and on the intentionality of the text being translated as well as on the envisaged target audience. Performance quality is judged according to communication parameters.

It was therefore to be expected that a communicative approach to language pedagogy would distance itself from a type of translation concerned with literal translation of lexemes and structures. The communicative turn in language pedagogy has affinities to professional translation, rather than to pedagogical translation.

Unfortunately, despite the apparent epistemological affinities between language pedagogy and translation studies as disciplines in their own right, the somewhat rigorous differentiation between pedagogical and professional translation is symptomatic of the fact that language learning and translation studies have long resisted the establishment of a serious and fruitful epistemological traffic between them. That is to say, the two disciplines have taken surprisingly long to inform each other effectively on the methodological level. Translation studies can be held responsible for this to a large extent, owing to an inadequate attempt on its part to examine ways of informing other domains of language-related activity in a manner similar to the way translation studies has consistently been informed by other disciplines. Nevertheless, as mentioned before, the situation seems to start being reversed lately (see Malmkjær 1998 and Bayram 2000 for the synergies emerging). The reasons for the resurgent interest of language pedagogy in translation seem to be that a) the balance between structural and communicative approaches has been redressed in language pedagogy, thus translation of vocabulary and syntactic structures is regaining ground within a new context, and b) language pedagogy seems to be discovering possible applications of the functional-communicative approaches to translation for its own purposes. Some of the latest additions confirming the resurgent interest of language learning in translation include Witte, Harden, and Ramos de Oliveira Harden (2009), Cook (2010), Leonardi (2010), Tsagari and Floros (2013), and Laviosa (2014). 

It could be argued that the above strict differentiation featuring in translation studies is rather a myth. As Stewart (2008) aptly points out, in practice, ‘[p]edagogical translation is much more widespread in language faculties than in translation faculties and translator training institutions, but it would be simplistic to argue that there is a hard and fast division in this sense’. The conceptual divide between pedagogical translation and professional translation is therefore not always sustained: ‘pedagogical translation is often adopted in more professionally-oriented environments for the consolidation of foreign language skills, while vocational translation is frequently present in language faculties’ (ibid., see also Ulrych 2005 and Klein-Braley 1996 for further discussion). Stewart (2008) provides a detailed account of the similarities between pedagogical translation and translation into L2 and concludes that there is an overlap between the two types. Stewart reintroduces the term vocational translation as the professionally-oriented translation in pedagogical settings, a concept lying somewhere between pedagogical and professional translation (ibid.). He stresses not only the conceptual overlaps between vocational translation and pedagogical translation (since they are both applied to learning settings), but also the view that ‘the divide between the teaching of translation as a language-learning tool and as a professional activity has been overemphasized’, as Carreres puts it (Carreres 2006, but see also the very interesting discussion in Carreres and Noriega-Sánchez 2011).

Teaching practices in pedagogical translation do not always differ from those applied to professional (or vocational) translation to the extent suggested by the definitions mentioned above. Especially as concerns phrases out of context, text fragments and, often, fabricated texts, research has shown that in language pedagogy settings, this is not necessarily the case (see, for example, contributions in Tsagari and Floros 2013, but also the discussion provided by Kobayashi and Rinnert 1992 on text production of various types), since fabricated texts are largely avoided, while instructors at least inform about the larger context when it comes to discussing text fragments. On the other hand, giving text fragments to student translators (vocational translation) also happens quite often, since the particular time constraints of translation courses impose such compromises time and again. As for the assumption that vocabulary and grammatical structures are traditionally associated with pedagogical translation only, this again seems to be a myth, since everyone who teaches student translators knows that these two areas are among the first that need to be tackled in the translation classroom as well. Despite the widespread assumption that student translators already possess the essential linguistic competence when starting a translation program, it soon becomes evident that such competence cannot be taken for granted. Interference is a phenomenon not only restricted to language learners and it is precisely for this reason that most translation courses start with the enhancement of linguistic skills and competences before they embark on other competences such as the cultural and the translational ones (on interference in translation see, among others, Mauranen 2004; Toury 2012). In order to combat interference[2], we need not refrain from contrasting L1 and L2 when teaching professional translation. However, what really matters in this respect is the conceptual means with which such contrasting is made. I am referring here to the notion of equivalence as opposed to the notion of correspondence. But this is a point that will be taken up again further down.

The point where a rigid distinction between pedagogical and professional translation still seems to hold is the envisaged target audience. Generally, according to Stewart (2008), in pedagogical translation,

[…] those factors which are so crucial in translation training proper, such as the target readership, the translation commissioner, the context and the ‘real-world’ purpose of the text, are given less priority, if any at all. The target readership of a pedagogical translation—though rarely expressed as such—is most commonly either an evaluator (teacher/examiner), the student her/himself (for example when checking versions against solutions in a self-study manual), or classmates (if a student’s version is submitted to the rest of the study group).

As a consequence, pedagogical translation favors the literal mode, while professional translation aims at functional-communicative renderings of texts. This might also be a reason why pedagogical translation is caught in a sort of vicious cycle, or in an oxymoron: the communicative approach to language pedagogy discarded translation practically because of the literal—and therefore not communicative—mode of translation. But although (professional) translation has moved beyond the appreciation of the rigidly literal mode and translation has regained ground in language pedagogy, the literal mode has remained a core characteristic of the classification still prominent in translation studies, thus perpetuating the divide instead of taking this shortcoming on board for a reconsideration of what pedagogical translation should be or should offer. After all, translation studies should wish to comply with the demands posed by contemporary functional approaches to language pedagogy, since such approaches form one of the most prominent paradigms in translation studies. The recent study by Pym et al. (2013: 37), prepared on behalf of the Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission with the aim to examine the use of translation in language learning and teaching, confirms that (my emphasis):

The contribution of translation would nevertheless appear to be less when:
– […]
– ‘translation’ is understood in a narrow word-for-word or sentence-for-sentence sense, which can interrupt fluency in L2;
– […].

While it is true that translation in a pedagogical setting will not reach an audience other than the teacher and the classmates, the demands regarding the preferred translation strategy could very well be attenuated, again on practical grounds. Even though language learners are not trained to become translators, one way or the other they will translate during learning as well as on many occasions in their life. Research has shown that L2 is always acquired through recourse to L1 and through processes largely resembling those of translation (see, for example, Titford and Hieke 1985 as well as Hurtado Albir 1999, both as quoted by Carreres 2006, but also research in second language acquisition, for example Vygotsky 1986 on inner speech, Kern 1994 on mental translation, Lengyel and Navracsics 1996 on translation as a latent component of language competence, Upton and Lee-Thompson 2001 on L2 comprehension).

Kern (1994: 442) defines mental translation as the ‘mental reprocessing of L2 words, phrases or sentences in L1 forms while reading L2 texts’. Titford (1985: 78) talks about students who ‘translate silently’ in the sense that they refer to their mother tongue while acquiring L2. The use of L1 is also confirmed when it comes to L2 text production (see, for example, Cumming 1989; Kobayashi and Rinnert 1992). Thus, since reliance on L1 through translation seems to be rather strong and an essential factor in L2 learning, it is important to assume some kind of translation in all L2 learners and for quite a long time, despite the unwanted interference, which decreases anyway as L2 acquisition grows higher (see, for example, Newmark 1966; Krashen 1981). Again, the study by Pym et al. (2013: 37) confirms that:

Our review of the empirical research has also shown not only that translation can make an effective contribution under some circumstances, but also that there is considerable evidence of ‘mental translation’ occurring when translation is not an explicit learning activity.

Therefore, the occurrence of mental translation confirmed by many researchers (for an extensive account of the relevant literature see Pym et al. 2013: 22f.) points to the conclusion that what is in fact researched in many experimental studies on writing modes is not a comparison between translation and the direct method, but a comparison between explicit and implicit (mental) translation (ibid.). The study by Pym et al. (2013) also proposes classroom activities involving translation, such as activities with audiovisual translation and interpretation, which will be discussed further down. One of the very interesting suggestions for future research is the investigation of the students’ perspective, both socially (classroom interaction and motivation) and cognitively (eye-tracking) (cf. ibid.: 136).

The empirical research by Källkvist (2013) provides some important insights into social aspects of the students’ perspective. Källkvist applies an ethnographic approach together with experimental methodology for action research on classroom student-teacher interaction and has found (2013: 130) that:

[S]tudents […] were particularly motivated to initiate and engage in communication in the L2 during teacher-led discussion that was based on a translation task. [T]his suggests that translation may have particular value as an ice-breaking activity in student groups where engendering communication involving many of the students present is a high priority.

On another note, especially if L2 learners aim to become teachers of the language they learn, translation becomes even more important to them, not only as an indispensable cognitive activity, but also as a methodological tool. As a result, it is rather restrictive to assume that pedagogical translation only aims at learning structures and vocabulary, as it will actually be used by L2 learners in a wider scope and as a useful cognitive tool even after the completion of the training period, in order to communicate in the real world and not simply within the limits of a pedagogical setting. It is therefore important to use pedagogical translation as a means to encourage L2 learners to also aspire to communicative parameters (besides ‘structural’ correctness) when it comes to output quality, in almost the same way professional translation is also judged on the basis of such parameters.

The above discussion makes obvious that the difference between pedagogical and professional translation cannot be sustained in the way it has been described so far on the theoretical level. The practical realities described above call for a reconsideration of the way in which pedagogical translation should be perceived. As mentioned earlier, such reconsideration could best be implemented through transferring some distinctive qualities of professional translation to pedagogical translation. The next section discusses possible ways of achieving such ‘convergence’.

2. Towards a reconsideration of pedagogical translation

As mentioned earlier, the reconsideration of pedagogical translation is made as an attempt to expand and enrich the concept so as to meet practical realities and follow new developments in language pedagogy and translation studies. It is not an attempt to marginalize this concept or prove the distinction between pedagogical and professional translation to be ineffective. In so doing, this paper will propose a convergence of the two types at the level of conceptualization, seen from a theoretical perspective as well as from a methodological one.

2.1 Theoretical considerations

Conceptually, perhaps the first aspect that should be touched upon concerns the reformulation of purpose for pedagogical translation. From merely learning a foreign language, the term pedagogical translation should rediscover the richness of the term pedagogy itself, in order to expand the scope of this type of translation in such a way as to refer to learning a foreign language and culture, as well as acquiring a modus operandi in the realm of this new language. Beyond training in the rules and in a more or less sufficient number of lexemes, language pedagogy implies education in and cultivation of socio-cultural aspects expressed through structural features and the vocabulary of a language. Such a socio-cultural comparative perspective seems to be the ultimate contribution of translation when it is deployed with the aim to teach a language.

An important part of this comparative perspective—that of comparing structures and vocabulary—has already been provided by comparative (or contrastive) linguistics. Therefore, pedagogical translation cannot merely become a ‘synonymic’ variant of a sub-discipline of linguistics, which already informs translation studies to a large extent. Pedagogical translation should feature itself as a necessary complement to comparative linguistics. Otherwise, translation will simply remain a tool for what a different discipline can already afford. After all, it is the specific way of thinking, retrieving meaning and negotiating it in order to move across cultures through language that the study and practice of translation can offer to social activities other than translation itself (such as language learning, teaching, mediating, writing and so on). This kind of thinking is of paramount importance to language learners; it is not by chance that most of them experience huge difficulties in finding the way to communicate and operate in a culturally appropriate and acceptable way in a different language setting, despite having reached impressive levels of structural knowledge of that language.

For acquiring such a modus operandi, that is a way to operate through a L2, language learners need to acquire skills comparable to those applied by professional translators. A significant conceptual means for contrasting L1 and L2 through translation is the notion of equivalence as opposed to the notion of correspondence. Without wishing to enter into the still ongoing essentialist debate on how equivalence is to be defined, it must be made clear that the above notions differ from each other considerably, despite being sometimes used interchangeably in the relevant literature of both translation studies and linguistics. Correspondence is a term from comparative linguistics and works at the langue level, while equivalence is the concept preferred by translation studies, since it works at the parole level. Comparative linguistics can inform about differences and similarities between languages, but translation is concerned with overcoming the instances where languages differ and translation problems emerge. Through the concept of equivalence, translation does not attempt to show which elements of one language are similar to elements of the other language, but to show which elements of one language might function similarly to elements of the other language, so as to overcome impasses (see also Beecroft 2013 for the benefits of Skopos-theory to language learning). Also, translation attempts to show that even in cases where there exists a correspondence at langue level, the linguistic material chosen might perhaps differ, in order to comply with (stylistic or other) constraints beyond syntax or lexis.

A very simple example is given by the English please and you’re welcome: while in some other languages there is a single correspondence to both, for example in German Bitte and in Greek παρακαλώ [parakaló], when translating from these languages (as L1) into English (as L2), a choice must be made according to situation. For a request, the English equivalent is please, while for replying to thank you, the English equivalent is you’re welcome. But even within the first case (request), there can be differences in the way languages formulate politeness. To give an example regarding the use of please, Skuggevik (cf. 2009: 201) stresses the fact that, in Norwegian, the denotative equivalents (correspondences) to please are often omitted in Norwegian subtitles not because of space and time constraints, but because these correspondences might often seem excessively polite and therefore evoke the connotation of irony or sarcasm. This holds true for Danish and Swedish as well, as the author notes. Thus, since the use of please tends to be less frequent in these languages, it is important for Norwegian, Danish and Swedish learners of English, but also for learners coming from many other language backgrounds, to learn to use please rather than omit it when intending a polite request through written or spoken discourse, as this is the way to produce an equivalent effect in English.

Last but not least, when translation is used in a language pedagogical setting, the communicative character and nature of professional translation cannot be taken for granted. What is self-evident in translation studies is not necessarily commonplace belief in language learning as well, since the translation output never reaches beyond the limits of the classroom. Therefore, it is not sufficient to know that translation is a communicative activity; it should also look communicative when used in language teaching. And since the audience of pedagogical translation is limited to the teacher and classmates, the best way to convince both teachers and students of the communicative benefits of translation is to turn them into imagined audiences of imagined translation situations, by simulating such translation situations and by using games involving translation, since games per se have a communicative character. This leads us to the methodological considerations to be discussed in the next section.

2.2 Methodological and practical considerations

Translation cannot prove effective in language learning if it is not promoted and deployed as a social activity. Therefore, the first concern of language teachers should be to integrate translation not only as individual exercise, but also as a group activity. Following Kiraly’s (2000) work on the social-constructivist approach to training translators, one can easily assume a parallel to training for language acquisition through translation exercises. If we accept that translation knowledge is constructed through thinking processes that an individual undertakes as well as through interpersonal activity, the same can be assumed for how knowledge is constructed within the language classroom. It is therefore essential for students of any level to keep interacting with their peers when translation tasks are given, especially since such tasks can be cognitively demanding for language learners.  Having said that, the general framework in which translation exercises can best be deployed requires that students be prompted to engage in interpersonal interaction both within the classroom and for take-home tasks.

Furthermore, as shown in previous sections, research suggests that the literal mode is not efficient in pedagogical translation, especially in primary classes. Nevertheless, there is a tendency in beginners to resort to the literal mode, since, as Pym et al. (2013) point out, the literal mode is the safest to resort to. But if pedagogical translation is to prove an efficient pedagogical tool in promoting communicative abilities, it needs to abandon the literal mode, especially in higher educational levels. One of the best ways to abandon the literal mode is to introduce translation exercises which foster the understanding of translation as a communicative activity, simulate real-life conditions and integrate new technologies. In this way, the (inter)cultural dimension of translation will be stressed and the need to avoid literal renderings will be recognized and highlighted. Pym et al. (2013: 127ff.) provide a range of different activities to achieve the above, including games, activities following the watching of videos, liaison interpreting and experimenting with machine translation systems (such as Google-translate).

The use of translation has proven fruitful through translation exercises that promote translation as a complex activity (Pym et al. 2013: 135) and through more professionally related exercises (ibid.: 19). This brings us to the question of genres and tools to be used in pedagogical translation. As to the genres, there is by now strong consensus that audiovisual translation, and especially the production of subtitles or dubbing, promotes learning through enhanced student participation and satisfaction (see, for example, Bogucki 2009; Danan 2010; Incalcaterra McLoughlin and Lertola 2014). Ibáñez Moreno and Vermeulen (2013) suggest that yet another form of audiovisual translation be used in the classroom, namely audio description, which is a form of oral narration of a film, originally intended for the visually impaired. Besides typical audiovisual material such as short films, documentaries, sitcoms and other shows, other genres which might prove helpful in the classroom include recipes and songs (particularly when accompanied by a video), comics and facebook posts, which can be from the students’ own facebook pages, so as to increase motivation and involvement. Perhaps one of the most promising genres is short theatrical plays, which the students might even wish to stage themselves after translating them. This is, however, an under-researched possibility that requires much more examination and careful pedagogical design, apart from the logistic problems which might arise. After all, all forms of translation have the potential to be pedagogical, since they all contribute to enhance language and intercultural competence.

As to the tools, it needs to be stressed that along with the literal mode, pedagogical practice has mainly favored dictionaries as research tools for translation tasks so far—a predictable shortcoming, since dictionaries are largely thought to be the only safe source for retrieving correspondences (or equivalences) in a different language and, therefore, are strongly associated with what translators do anyway. Even novice student translators are hard to convince that translations cannot be done merely with the help of bilingual dictionaries, on which they tend to rely heavily (see, for example, Fraser 1999). Beyond bilingual and monolingual dictionaries, language learners need to learn to work with parallel texts (texts in L1 or L2, similar to the source or target text in terms of genre or topic, see Floros 2004), an idea already suggested by Leonardi (2010: 88). Parallel texts are one of the most powerful tools for professional translators in their effort to retrieve equivalent terminology or expressions. But they also offer a wide source of information on how language is used in context, which is particularly useful to language learners, who tend to restrict themselves to the material contained in textbooks. Parallel texts will also contribute to the ability to recognize different genres and to the acquaintance with language particularities imposed by genre and text type. In so doing, the use of parallel texts—a tool widely used especially by professional translators working into the foreign language—will support language learners in a comprehensive way, while cultivating an explicit communicative-functional focus within pedagogical translation.

At the same time, there is a variety of other electronic tools and online resources for translators, which could prove very fruitful, but above all very fascinating for language learners; an example could be the use of corpora and machine-translated texts (see Zanettin 2014). Without wishing to exclude adult education, it is true that younger people are more familiar with—but also more eager to accept—new technologies and online tools, which without doubt characterize their age and learning style in general. Therefore, online and electronic tools are suggested here not only because of their obvious benefits, but because they come closer to the form of material (language) students are used to anyway and will possibly enhance motivation and learning altogether.

After all, as discussed above, if language students are already translating mentally for a range of activities taking place during their training and education, it seems meaningful to guide them in this implicit—if not indispensable—process in such a way that they can make the most out of it (for a very good example cf. Laviosa 2014). Methodologically speaking, the implementation of a kind of pedagogical translation that comes closer to the professional type through the genres and tools used, can only be effective if language course curricula integrate preparatory sessions. Such sessions should be devoted to alert students and language teachers to the particularities of translation, in order to highlight it as a challenging yet rewarding activity; an activity that is not simply a matter to be left to online translation software, but one that can become a lived, shared and fruitful comparative experience.  

2.3 Further issues

The argumentation presented in this paper points to the necessity of looking at pedagogical translation more in terms of a controlled simulation of professional translation, rather than in terms of a concept that is completely distinct and different from the professional type. Such controlled simulation also entails that the translation exercises deployed should have a sort of performative character. When a real audience, a situation and a translation brief are practically missing, teachers sometimes need to invent imaginary translation situations to enrich a task and make it more engaging, not least through role-play in the classroom. The practical differences between the two types notwithstanding, empirical research, albeit at early stages, lends support to the argument that pedagogical translation can prove effective only if it is informed by practices followed by the professional type. As a first step, the literal mode in pedagogical translation should be restricted to the extent accepted by professional translation as well. The concept of equivalence and the functional approaches need to gain more ground in pedagogical translation, since they serve the same purposes as modern language pedagogy. Finally, translation activities in language pedagogy need to attain a more communicative profile in accordance with results from experimental studies which suggest that translation exercises can contribute more to interaction, motivation and better learning results when they are more professionally-related.

However, the most important issue that opens up as a consequence of the above is the training of teachers. Pym et al. (2013: 40f.) also investigated the reasons teachers give for not using translation. These can be summarized in that a) they have never considered translation seriously and b) they feel unqualified to introduce translation exercises. Therefore, no reconsideration of pedagogical translation can be fruitful if not accompanied by a reconsideration of the kind of training teachers receive. This does not imply that teacher training is inappropriate altogether. It only implies that it needs to be complemented with training in the particularities and some of the best practices of professional translation, in order for language teachers to be able to a) understand what translation is in the first place, b) understand crucial concepts of contemporary translation studies, c) get acquainted with state-of-the-art research on the affordances of translation in the classroom, d) get acquainted with a selection of methodologies and methods followed by professional translators, and e) learn how to best use these methods disguised as activities within the classroom, in other words ‘translate’ translation practice into language learning techniques.

As concerns new technologies, teacher training has incorporated computer literacy as an indispensable part of the training objectives, which should facilitate the exposure to translation-related electronic tools and technologies. In a nutshell, the reason why pedagogical translation resists moving towards professional translation seems to be more a matter of misconceptions and lack of suitable tools to prepare language teachers for handling translation in the classroom than a matter of theoretical conceptualization. It also seems, though, that translation studies as a discipline has reached a sufficient level of confidence to be able to provide such training to language teachers. As implied above, it is the long overdue systematic and empirically supported epistemological traffic between translation studies and language pedagogy that could cater for such convergence between pedagogical and professional translation. Along with the need to inform teachers about how to best use translation in the classroom, another important aspect is to inform them about using translation in assessment. Although some work has already been done in this area, this is a topic that goes well beyond the scope of this paper.

3. Conclusion

Practical realities concerning a) the way pedagogical translation is conducted and b) the fact that pedagogical and professional translation are not as distant as they are presented through their respective definitions in translation studies, as well as the importance of pedagogical translation itself as a tool in language pedagogy have been taken as the basis for a reconsideration of the way pedagogical translation could be redefined. The functional-communicative focus is a distinctive characteristic of professional translation which could well be applied to pedagogical translation as well, since contemporary needs of language pedagogy impose a more functionally-oriented concept of translation to be applied for language learning purposes. Beyond this, pedagogical translation could also benefit from distancing itself from the literal mode of translation by moving towards other strategies and methodologies which have long been thought to pertain to professional translation only. Finally, an attempt was made to also consider forms of translation beyond written translation proper in terms of their didactic value in language pedagogy.

The functional-communicative focus, the distancing from the literal mode and the examination of the pedagogical potential of new forms of translation, such as audiovisual translation, will hopefully open up new ways for language pedagogy to integrate translation in schools and higher education institutions. Given today’s large scale and worldwide migration, a phenomenon that poses many practical challenges to schools as well as theoretical challenges regarding the pedagogical approaches to be adopted in response to the new situation (cf., for example, translanguaging), an updated conceptualization of pedagogical translation seems to be able to offer not simply a powerful didactic tool, but an effective apparatus to complement other pedagogical approaches that also favor multilingualism (instead of monolingualism) in education.


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[1] This clarification is made here because ‘use of L1 in L2’ learning does not necessarily imply translation.

[2] Interference is meant here only in its ‘negative’ sense, as a problem to be tackled, and not exactly in the sense Toury (2012) confers upon this notion, that is as having either a positive or a negative face.

About the author(s)

Georgios Floros currently holds a position as Associate Professor of Translation Studies at the University of Cyprus, Department of English Studies. He received a BA in German Studies with a major in Translation from the University of Athens in 1996, and a PhD in Translation Theory from Saarland University, Germany, in 2001. He teaches translation theory and translation methodology, text linguistics and theory of interpreting. His research areas also include translation ethics, pragmatics, translation didactics and terminology. He is the author of the monograph Kulturelle Konstellationen in Texten (Narr, 2002), and of several journal articles, a. o. “Legal Translation in a Postcolonial Setting: The Political Implications of Translating Cypriot Legislation into Greek” (The Translator 20(2), 2014), and “‘Ethics-less’ Theories and ‘Ethical’ Practices: On Ethical Relativity in Translation” (ITT 5(1), 2011), as well as co-editor of a volume on Translation in Language Teaching and Assessment (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2013).

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©inTRAlinea & Georgios Floros (2020).
"Pedagogical vs. Professional Translation: Reconsidering a Long-standing Differentiation", inTRAlinea Vol. 22.
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: http://www.intralinea.org/archive/article/2493

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