AD's English Literature : Translation Method In Teaching English as a Second Language : Merits and Demerits

Translation Method In Teaching English as a Second Language : Merits and Demerits

According to Thompson and Wyatt (Teaching of English By Tiwari) there are four specific aim of teaching English at the school stage. They are-
  1. To understand spoken English.
  2. To speak English
  3. To understand written English
  4. To write English.

At school level, the students should have the ability to understand spoken English, needed in ordinary conversation, exchange of directions and listening to lecture, talks, running commentary on matches, and news bulletins etc. To achieve this aim, students should be given opportunities to listen radio, gramophone, tape recorders etc. The aim should be enable the students to understand English spoken by the native speakers.

Speech is of unique importance in learning a language. It is the base of all language learning. At the end of 5 or 6 years of learning English, we expect the students to talk fluently in English. Their speech should be fairly intelligible to the native speakers.

Aims of teaching English should be to enable the students to read with understanding printed materials in English. It is expected of a school leaver in India to be able to read should, if he joins a college, be able to adopt English as the medium of instruction and examination in his studies.

One of the aims of teaching English should be to enable the school leavers to write in English simple letters, application, description, and account of events. The ability is also needed in college and university where he has to take notes from lectures delivered in English as well as write himself.

Translation method is one of the traditional methods which helps in achieving the fourfold specific aim of teaching English at the school stage. Thomson and Wyatt have laid down the following fundamental principle on which this method is based:

  1. That translation interprets foreign phraseology the best.
  2. Mother tongue dominates the teaching of English.
  3. The unit of teaching is word not sentence.
  4. The linguistic material presented for study is graded on a grammatical plan.
  5. That in the process of interpretation the foreign phraseology is assimilated.
  6. The method lays stress on reading.
  7. The structure of a foreign language is best learnt when compared and contrasted with that of mother tongue.
  8.  “Under the Translation method the meaning of English words, phrases and sentence was taught by means of word-for-word translation into the mother tongue”.
From the above principles it is glorious that according to this method English is taught through the process of translation into the mother tongue.

        Translation method, though it is one of the oldest methods of teaching English, is still in vogue in most of the schools in Asia. This method has the following merits and demerits:-

  1. This method is very helpful in learning foreign language if it is used judiciously and not in excess.
  2. Where explanation in English or direct illustration fails, translation serves the purpose best in giving the meaning of a new word.
  3. The association between a foreign word and a native word strengthens the learning bond.
  4. The child proceeds from the known to the unknown.
  5. The difference between the structures of sentences in English and those in the mother tongue can be effectively pointed out through translation.
  6. It is comparatively easy on the part of the teacher to follow this method.
  7. It prevents unnecessary wastage of time.

  1. This method gives no scope for training in speech.
  2. It gives the pupils no scope for thinking in English by creating an atmosphere of the foreign speech.
  3. This method proves the impossibility of word-for-word translation.
  4. It prevents the pupils from self-expression in English.
  5. It fails to cultivate the rapid reading in the pupils.
  6. The whole approach to English being through translation, there is every possibility of pupils English unidiomatic and therefore bad English.
  7. It is an important drawback of this method that the whole approach to English is made through the translation of the mother tongue.

Ardhendu De

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