Text Difficulty and Translation

determining text difficulty and problems during translation

Students of all ages are subject to the difficulty of text comprehension through translation. At some point in every student's academic career they will be faced with the task of translating a text. As an instructor, many different components must be taken into account prior to supplying a student with a text for translation. First and foremost, teachers must be knowledgeable in how to assess text difficult. They have to be aware that determining text difficulty is a complex task that focuses on different criteria specific to the text. Text difficulty has a direct link to student troubles during translation. As diversity of classrooms grow, teachers must be competent in assessing text difficulty and the components of a difficult text when helping their students with a translation and reading comprehension.
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The Importance of Translation

Translation has begun to have a larger impact on todays society, for it serves many different purposes and is a gate way for understanding others and their civilizations. Translation from one language to another acts as a communication tool for the people of the world. The translation of a text allows people to interpret and understand concepts and ideas of others. Translation in the classroom is often times necessary to help students with comprehension of a text.

Characteristics of Difficult Text

  • Sentence difficulty: including vocabulary, syntax, and the prepositional text base.
  • Structure: including the rhetorical composition and coherence.
  • Style: including expression, presentation, vocabulary, paragraphs, method of presentation, tone of the author, and language for special purposes.
  • Content: including concepts, logic, theme, nature of the subject matter, and the content unity.
Text Complexity with Carol Jago

Ways of Assessing the Difficulty of Text

  • Assessing text difficulty can be made into an objective and systematic process by following the following 5 criteria:
1. The subject matter (semantic aspect)
2. The register (material aspect)
3. They type of language used (functional aspect)
4. The pragmatics of the reader (pragmatic aspect)
5. The historical-cultural context (temporal, local, or cultural aspect)

  • Assessing text difficulty can also be accomplished through counting the number or renditions (interpretations) in the group of the subjects translation the text.

  • Formulas such as the Flesch Reading Ease Formula and the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Formula provide instructors with an equation to measure the difficulty of a text. These formulas take into account the number of words, the number of sentences and the number of syllables.

Flesch Reading Ease Formula:

2.06.835-1.015(number of words/number of sentences) - 84.6 (number of syllables/number of words

Flesch-Kincaid Readability Formula:

39(# of words/# of sentences) + 11.8(# of syllables/ # of words) – 15.59

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Common Difficulties in Translation

Often times when translating a text, one can run into many different kinds of simple issues. Here are some of the most common:

  • From one language to another words take on different and multiple meanings. When translating a text, words rarely take on a one-to-one substitution for meaning.
  • Distinguishing general vocabulary from specialized terms - determining the difference in these words comes down to if the word is understood by all of its native speakers (general vocabulary) or if the word can be classified under a certain domain (specialized term).
  • Distinguishing between various meanings of a word of general vocabulary - determining the use of a word and understanding its meaning in the context. To master this section of difficulty, one must be able to understand the text, which includes understanding the situation being described.
  • Taking into account the total context, including the intended audience and important details such as regionalisms - Being sensitive to the receiving audience of a translation will allow for understanding (or not) and the cultural connections and understandings to be made clear

Recommendations for Overcoming DIfficulties in Translation

1. Simplifying the translation for all students

2. Teaching English (or the native language) and comparing and contrasting it with the foreign language with reference to style, tenses, vocabulary, structure, culture

3. Encouraging students to write essays and paragraphs in both the native language and foreign language to identify their own translation errors and weaknesses

4. Boosting and encouraging translating of different kinds of text from the native language to the foreign language, and vice versa

5. Paying attention to the text for cultural, conceptual/semantic, idiomatic, and grammatical difficulties in translation

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How Teachers Can Improve Translation

  • A taxonomical list of abbreviations composed of the most frequent errors in translation among students:

nonsense (N)

misunderstanding (M)

grammar (G)

structure (STR)

  • Introduction of passages - allows for an introduction of a new topic that can be compared to the subject at hand.
  • Back-translation of student work - after a text has been translated the student can recopy the text to a clean sheet of paper and store for future use. This allows students to see where their translation started and where it ended up.
  • Collaborative translation - the students can partner up and compare/contrast their translations. This allows for students to see a better translation and lets students help one another.
  • Transcribing and translating - allows students to use their listening skills for listening to a text and transcribing it.

Tools to Assist with Translation

Online translation services have become readily available for a fast and informal translation. Machine translation services have begun to meet the needs of translation for short passages and sentences of text. Although there currently is no one universally accepted and reliable measure of translation service, SYSTRAN is one of the best known and most comprehensive online translation systems. This machine service offers a 36 language pair translation. For best results and the most accurate translation, it is recommended to use shorter sentences when translation because long sentences may be difficult to understand.

Nicola Ferraro

I am currently a rising senior at ECU with a double major in elementary education and dance performance. I hope to one day teach in an elementary classroom while providing students with a rich and positive learning experience!