This is the second part of The Best Translators – A Product of the ‘Old School’
Some smart teachers (thankfully) break the rules
Most students of English at the several hundred language schools in the UK are at least intermediate. They previously studied English in their home country with teachers prepared at and certified by local universities and who did not always make use of the most fashionable methods and techniques in order to teach their students the ABC of English. Some of them may not openly admit it, but in most European schools translation is still used at least with pre-intermediate students and this is a salutary conduct. Whether you are ready to admit it or not, translation does make things a lot clearer in the process of learning any foreign language on Earth.
Teachers of English as a second language have several reasons for selectively using their mother tongue in the classroom and should not be blamed for doing so. A concept may be too difficult to explain to a 10-year-old in L2, or the natural word order in an English sentence may look mind-blowing to a student unless the teacher pinpoints the L1 – L2 differences and so on. Let’s also remember the common situation in most European state schools where there are roughly two, even three, English levels to detect in an apparently homogenous group of students. Some students will always need extra care and attention when a new lesson has to be taught and choosing selective translation can considerably save time.
Even with upper-intermediate or advanced students, translation can turn into a reliable teaching aid. Think of the English idioms which can be more easily visualised and remembered when a translation is made available (not to mention that some of them can be found in most Indo-European languages and they allow word-for-word translation) – preferably by the best students in the group. Similarly, teaching register and comparing informal and formal English vocabulary may be clarified more quickly by means of providing proper words and synonyms in L1.
Be prepared for whatever life may have in store for you
Take a moment and think: how can one become a professional translator overnight, without having years of experience handling both foreign language and mother tongue together, as a whole? I don’t like to say this, but contemporary foreign language students do not get enough practice in the field of translation and, if things do not improve from inside universities, students should go the extra mile on their own and acquire the necessary experience before they send out their CVs to translation companies for their first job (besides, being able to provide a varied and comprehensive portfolio containing their translation work can considerably improve their chance to obtain such a job).
It is a fact that not many of those who study foreign languages nowadays are willing to become language teachers. A translation/interpreting job looks far more attractive and is better paid. Thus, keeping L1 at hand in foreign language learning from an early age will pave the way for a thorough education and a good position in the field of translation/interpreting later on in life.