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ESL forum > Techniques and methods in Language Teaching > Asking translation questions in exams and quizzes    

Asking translation questions in exams and quizzes


Asking translation questions in exams and quizzes

I ´m sorry to start a topic late at night. Here in Turkey it is considered to be old fashioned to ask translation questions. Do you or how often do you use this method. I think it ´s okey.

14 Apr 2010      


I always include a short translation in my tests. In my opinion, translations are one good way to assess language skill because students are foced to make sentences using the exact structure, grammar point and vocabulary you tried to teach them. This is quite demanding and helps you find out whether they really understood what you ´ve been going on about.

14 Apr 2010     

banska bystrica


I do the translation from Slovak into English quite often, not during every lesson, but often. My students like it, they find it very useful, as they can learn a lot from our discussing grammar, vocab and syntax and they also like comparing English to our way of saying something. Sometimes, they ask me for more sentences to translate, also that is why I ´m sure they need it and like it. In my opinion, it cannot be useless to do translation exercises, but if you want to be really sure, you can always ask them (well, I don ´t know the age of your students, but anyway, I do the translation with kids, too).

Good night,


14 Apr 2010     


I think it depends. I start intermediate classes with vocabulary from the lesson which students look up in dictionaries, although that is partly to teach dictionary skills. Generally I discourage direct translation because of the problems it causes at higher levels. Too many students translate things literally which doesn ´t always work.

Having said that, I do highlight parallels between Spanish and English if it helps the students to understand. I almost never do translation exercises though.

You ´re right that the grammar-translation method fell out of favour a long time ago. However, in recent years there has been a lot of work on the use of the mother-tongue as a resource  in teaching monolingual classes. I saw a wonderful talk by Mario Rinvolucri (I think!) who told a very funny story about having tried to mime the word ´although ´ to a monolingual class before realising what a complete waste of time it was. He made the point that sometimes translation can be helpful.

I think the problem is that the majority of teaching qualifications are designed for multilingual classes where the teacher can ´t reasonably be expected to speak every language. If you work in a monolingual environment then the mother tongue can be incredibly useful in teaching, especially as the aim is for students to understand. I would certainly never try to mime ´although ´!

14 Apr 2010