Volume 14, Issue 6 (2024)                   LRR 2024, 14(6): 1-36 | Back to browse issues page


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Nowroozzadeh N, Bayat A, Mehrpooya A. Boosting a Language Skill by Employing Translation in Task-based Language Teaching: News- Story Writing in Focus. LRR 2024; 14 (6) :1-36
URL: http://lrr.modares.ac.ir/article-14-52019-en.html
1- Assistant Professor at Department of Foreign Languages, Hamedan Branch, Islamic Azad University, Hamedan, Iran
2- Assistant Professor at Department of TEFL, Malayer Branch, Islamic Azad University, Malayer, Iran , bayat305@yahoo.com
Abstract:   (4178 Views)
This study aims to examine the effects of employing a mere Task-Based Approach (TB) and a Translation-Assisted Task-Based Approach (TATB) in promoting EFL learners’ news-story writing skill. The subjects who participated in this study were 82 Iranian BA sophomores majoring in translation at Islamic Azad University, Hamedan Branch. To this aim, the participants were homogeneously assigned to two groups, i.e. control group (TB) and the experimental group (TATB). Both groups passed through the different phases of Willis’ TBL framework and the translation task was given only to the experimental or the TATB group. In other words, both groups were exposed to a 6-week TB intervention with only the experimental group benefiting from the translation practice at the end of the third phase. To obtain the related data, the researchers administered an evaluation exam on news-story writing at the pre- and post-task evaluation phases, prepared by the researchers and put to the test of expert judgment. The results showed that TATB group outperformed the mere TB group which indicates that applying translation-assisted task-based approach in teaching news-story writing could significantly improve both the experimental group’s overall performance on news-story writing and some of its different aspects such as the use of Wh/H data, word choice, context, consistency, structure, and simple language.   

1. Introduction
The present study is in pursuit of investigating the question of whether a translation-assisted approach to task-based language teaching can boost the development of English news writing skills in comparison with the application of a mere task-based language teaching approach that is lacking the translational side. As such, aiming to investigate the influence of incorporating translation into a task-based approach to teaching news-story writing, the present study has compared two groups of subjects, i.e. an experimental group, Translation-Assisted Task-Based Approach (TATB) and a control group, Task-Based Approach (TB), both receiving pre- and post-task evaluations and a six-week interventional treatment in between. Accordingly, this study works under the premise that an amalgamation of a task-based approach to teaching English news writing with translation practice can reinforce news-story writing and its sub-skills. In so doing, it has been assumed that, on the one hand, the task engagement, via authentically involving the learners with the due material, can help institutionalize the technical knowledge or the know-how related to the skill or its related sub-skills; and on the other hand, it is hypothesized that the translational practice can promote the learners’ intake of the covered material through raising the learners’ awareness or consciousness of the teaching activity at hand as well as elevating their ability in favor of a more efficient development of the skill at hand, i.e. news-story writing.
 
1.2. Research Question(s)
The present study has planned to examine both experimental (TATB) and control (TB) groups’ performance on news-story writing by addressing the following research questions:
RQ1: How significant is the difference between the OVERALL performance of the translation-assisted task-based group and that of the mere task-based group before and after the treatment?
RQ2: How significant is the difference between the performance of the translation-assisted task-based group and that of the mere task-based group regarding each of the nine SUBSKILLS under study before and after the treatment?

2. Literature Review
In line with the growing interest in the social constructivist approach to second/foreign language learning, task-based language teaching (TBLT) emerged as a reaction against the shortcomings of the conventional approach. Extensive research advocates the advantages of TBLT over conventional ones (Long, 1985; Prabhu, 1987; Nunan, 1989, 2004; Willis, 1996; Skehan, 1998a; Lee, 2000; Bygate, 2001; Willis & Willis, 2001; Carless, 2003; Ellis, 2003, 2009; Frost, 2006; Bowen, 2018; to name a few). In this regard, Bowen (2018) states:
The main advantages of TBL are that language is used for a genuine purpose meaning that real communication should take place and that at the stage where the learners are preparing their report for the whole class, they are forced to consider form in general rather than concentrating on a single form (as in the PPP model). (Bowen, 2018, p. 2)
In trying to give a hint at what a task is, Ellis (2018) writes, “the ‘task’ is a work plan and should be specified solely in terms of its design features” (p. 179). Accordingly, he also notes that as a ‘workplan’, a ‘task’ typically involves the following: (1) some input (i.e., information that learners are required to process and use); and (2) some instructions relating to what outcome the learners are supposed to achieve (Ellis, 2018, p. 23). This is while Prabhu (1987) has seen the learners as occupied with “understanding, extending (through reasoning) or conveying meaning”, which indicates a task as a meaning-centered activity (p. 27). In the same vein, Nunan (1989) has confirmed that a task makes the learners center primarily on meaning rather than form. With a view to the centrality of meaning in the act of translating texts of different languages, Duff (1994) underlines the role of ‘translation’ by stating that “translation helps us to understand better the influence of the one language on the other, and to correct errors of habit that creep in unnoticed” (p.6). Pedagogically speaking, one can also pinpoint the idea proposed by Izumi (1995) where he points to the fact that the role of translation in second language learning is noticeably minimized or even overlooked with no clear reason. This is while Danechev’s (1983), as cited in Randaccio (2012), speaks in favor of incorporating translation in language teaching classes by highlighting the benefits it will offer. In the same vein, one can refer to Sheen (1993) where he points to translation as a rich pedagogical tool for promoting the learners’ accuracy and precision of understanding. Looking through the lens of ‘bilingual teaching’, Hammerly (1994), too, maintains that bilingual education is more productive in second language learning classrooms. Having these in mind, the present study has attempted to comparatively examine the effects of employing a TATB versus a mere TB in an attempt to promote EFL learners’ news-story writing skill.

3. Methodology
According to the objectives of the study and the stated research questions, the researchers employed a quantitative method to investigate the performance of several sophomore students as participating subjects. The subjects who participated in this study were 82 Iranian BA sophomores majoring in translation at Islamic Azad University, Hamedan Branch. To this end, the Oxford Quick Placement Test (OQPT) has been administered to gain an estimation of the participants’ language ability. Both groups passed through the different phases of Willis’ TBL framework, i.e. pre-task, main task, post-task stages, while the translation task was given only to the TATB group as the experimental group. Both groups went through the pre and post-test evaluation exams and the evaluation exam itself was developed on the basis of an English-written news-story passage provided online. The evaluation exam that was put to the test of expert judgment to ensure its intra- and inter-rater reliability, was employed to measure the subjects’ ability on the news-story writing before and after the treatment. The exam contained two parts, a headline section to be written (64 characters at most) and a news-story section (100 words at most); the exam sections and their size were determined based on Thomson Reuters Handbook of Journalism (2020). Between the evaluation phases, both groups were exposed to a 6-week TBLT intervention with only the experimental group being provided with the translation task at the end of the third phase. In the ‘pre-task’ stage, the participants in both groups were provided with an introduction to the topic and the task at hand. Then, the participants in both groups were engaged in the ‘main-task’ stage which includes ‘task planning’. However, the ‘post-task’ stage, which involved ‘focus on form’, or simply put the practice on language, was organized in such a way that the task implementation for the experimental group in all treatment sessions could be joined with the translation practice. As such, the participants, having completed the task, were to translate a text on a related topic. To provide for a learner-centered setting, the teacher only observed and provided consultations, if necessary, to ensure the learners’ active involvement. It was hypothesized that the subjects in the experimental group, i.e. translation-assisted task-based treatment, would benefit from a learning situation where the skill of news-story writing and its essential sub-skills can be gained via a two-way exchange between writing and translation. This is while the mere-task-based group as the control group did not receive the translational practice of any sort. Upon the completion of the experiment and the pre- and post-test evaluation, two raters scored the test takers’ news-story writing products belonging to the two evaluation stages using a scoring rubric. The scoring rubric itself was designed based on a combination of two sets of criteria, one set of criteria was extracted from the Thomson Reuters Handbook of Journalism (2020), i.e. spelling and punctuation, context, consistency, structure, simple language, length, and headline, and the other including two more objective measures as an add-on, i.e. use of Wh/H data provided and vocabulary given. The quantitative data belonging to both groups were then analyzed using the proper statistical tools, i.e. descriptive and inferential statistical tests provided by SPSS, to be able to compare the experimental and control groups’ performance at pre- and post-test evaluation phases.

4. Results
As previously stated, the OQPT has been administered to gain an estimation of the participants’ language ability. The results showed the sophomores’ mean score and standard deviation to be 39.78 and 6.46, respectively; as such, the participating subjects whose scores were between 33.32 (M-1SD) and 46.24 (M+1SD) were chosen as the homogeneous sample (82 out of the total number of 107), who were then assigned to translation-assisted task-based group (N = 39) and mere task-based group (N = 43) within the university classroom enrolment requirements. Taking into account the results of the due assumptions, both parametric (one-way ANCOVA) and non-parametric tests (Mann-Whitney) were run to make sure about the validity of the findings and the results went hand in hand. As such, the independent variable (i.e. treatment) consisted of two categorical independent predictors for two groups, i.e. TATB and mere TB. Observations were independent; that is, there was no relationship between the observations in each group or between groups. Comparing the effects of the methods of TATB teaching and mere TB teaching on the subjects’ overall ability of news-story writing and its nine subcomponents at pre- and post-task evaluation stages, the following results were obtained (Table 1):
Table 1
Descriptive Statistics
No Skill Test Group M SD N
1 WH Words Pretest TATB 1.30 .18 33
TB 1.20 .35 33
Posttest TATB 1.34 .17 33
TB 1.23 .17 33
2 Given Words Pretest TATB 1.19 .30 34
TB .84 .46 36
Posttest TATB 1.11 .36 34
TB .72 .50 36
3 Spelling and Punctuation Pretest TATB .47 .51 35
TB .61 .57 36
Posttest TATB .67 .62 35
TB .77 .54 36
4 Context Pretest TATB 1.42 .70 35
TB .87 .65 29
Posttest TATB 2.01 .74 35
TB 1.08 .38 29
5 Consistency Pretest TATB .88 .57 35
TB .74 .59 32
Posttest TATB 1.70 .74 35
TB .39 .32 32
6 Structure, Language,
Context and Color
Pretest TATB .76 .48 35
TB .59 .49 34
Posttest TATB 1.46 .72 35
TB .47 .39 34
7 Simple Language Pretest TATB .67 .38 35
TB .43 .37 31
Posttest TATB 1.01 .35 35
TB .44 .30 31
8 Length Pretest TATB .23 .10 35
TB .25 .11 36
Posttest TATB .25 .04 35
TB .25 .11 36
9 Headline Pretest TATB .18 .16 35
TB .25 .19 36
Posttest TATB .31 .17 35
TB .25 .17 36
10 Overall Performance Pretest TATB 7.25 2.34 34
TB 5.72 2.50 31
Posttest TATB 10.02 2.62 34
TB 5.54 1.49 31
It was found that there was a significant difference between the two groups, i.e. TATB and TB, in terms of news-story writing post-test and most of its sub-skills including (1) Wh/H data, (2) Given Words, (4) Context, (5) textual Consistency, (6) texual Structure, and (7) Simple Language. More importantly, the overall performance score in TBTA group was statistically significantly higher than the mere TB group (F = 57.20, P = .00; U = 68, P = .00). However, the results indicated that TBTA group and the mere TB group did not significantly differ in terms of (3) Spelling and Punctuation, (8) Length, and (9) Headline scores (Table 2).

Table 2
One-way ANCOVA and Mann-Whitney
No Skills Sum of
Squares
df Mean
Square
F Sig. Mann-
Whitney U
Sig.
1 WH Words .22 1 .22 7.43 .00 371.50 .01
2 Given Words 1.32 1 1.32 7.15 .00 335.50 .00
3 Spelling & Punctuation .11 1 .11 .33 .56 558.50 .40
4 Context 7.26 1 7.26 23.27 .00 142.00 .00
5 Consistency 26.65 1 26.65 85.19 .00 44.50 .00
6 Structure 14.54 1 14.54 46.02 .00 127.50 .00
7 Simple Language 4.27 1 4.27 39.98 .00 129.00 .00
8 Length .00 1 .00 .05 .81 629.00 .98
9 Headline .12 1 .12 4.24 .04 508.50 .12
10 Overall Performance 229.15 1 229.15 57.20 .00 68.50 .00

The graphic representation (Figure 1), as it can be seen, more expressively depicts the significance of the difference between the TATB group’s performance on news-story writing in terms of the overall score and its sub-scores as compared with those of the mere TB group after the treatment.
Figure 1
 News-Story Writing Posttest Between TATB & TB (Overall Peformance &Sub-skills)
 
5. Discussion
The occurrence of such marked improvements in the performance of the TATB group on the news-story writing skill and the majority of its sub-skills gives objective evidence in favor of fostering the inclusion of translation practice in the language writing plans specifically when teaching writing for specific purposes is in perspective. It should be noted that the participants taking part in this study have been chosen via convenience sampling that is they “possess certain key characteristics that are related to the purpose of the investigation” (Dörnyei 2010, p. 99), which might impose its own limitations in regard to the generalizability of the results; however, the mere fact that the conclusive results have been obtained via experimenting with university subjects in an authentic learning situation is itself a positive experimental fact that cannot be ignored in pedagogical terms, where the preferability of a learning environment with communicative purposes duly matters. The main findings of the present study are in line with the positive view towards incorporating a practice of ‘translating’ via the native tongue in a language learning environment as expressed in the related literature (see Ferreira, 1999); this in itself supports the findings of other studies which have been carried out with the same objevtive in mind, that is the positive role of ‘translation’ in language teaching/learning (Navidinia et al., 2019; Lee et al., 2015; Koletnik Korosec, 2013; Lee, 2013; Chang, 2011; Cianflone, 2009; Vaezi & Mirzaei, 2007; etc.).

6. Conclusion
Though the use of a translation-pro approach to language teaching and learning has been notoriously criticized in some language teaching and learning scenarios, the employment of TATB approach showed that the practice of translation when aligned with a related writing task could enhance the news-story writing ability of the Iranian EFL learners as compared with those learners who were taught via the task-based approach only. The results of this study showed that TATB had significantly outperformed the mere TB, which indicates that applying a TATB approach in teaching news-story writing could improve both the experimental group’s overall performance on news-story writing and some of its different aspects such as the use of Wh/H data, word choice, context, consistency, structure, and simple language. As such, the rational justification for the translation-pro improvement can be sought in the students’ active engagement in the task of writing while translating a text that is related to the aimed-for product. This in itself confirms the advantage of using the native language in a foreign language learning situation
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Article Type: مقالات علمی پژوهشی | Subject: language teaching
Published: 2024/01/30

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