This is a guest post by Peter Palladino.

The jury is still out on whether or not translation is an effective tool for teaching a new language. We coined this type of language learning by utilizing translations as “translation learning”. There are indisputable facts that point to the possibility of translation learning processes furthering a learner’s retention and application of language. One such fact is that when you are involved in the process of translating content from your mother tongue to a foreign language, or vice versa, you can understand the structural differences and similarities between your language and the other language(s). It helps you understand how different word order is in the two languages, and how to direct translation can strip some phrases off all sense and meaning. That understanding expedites your learning process and bolsters your linguistic abilities.

Leveraging Professional Translators for Professional Growth

Helping your employees learn multiple languages is one way of building them professionally. This is because the more languages one can speak, the easier it is for one to interact and work with people of diverse cultural backgrounds. Bilingual employees also have better brain functionality than their monolingual counterparts because switching between languages improves a person’s cognitive abilities.

Where does professional translation come in?

Well, working with professional translation and legalization services can help your employees learn new languages and consequently grow their professional profiles. Have your written policies and other workplace documents professionally translated into as many languages as there are nationalities in your diverse team. Have your conferences and corporate events professionally interpreted as well, use simultaneous translation equipment. When you involve your employees in such processes, professional translators can help them get the fundamental link (and differences) between English and their native languages.

What’s more, professional translators can present content in a format that boosts comprehension of new languages, e.g. pictures, graphs, and simple charts. They can break down complex paragraphs into bullet points, columns, and rows, as well as call-out boxes, to make language comprehension as direct as possible. When teaching English to non-native speakers, professional translators can help you break down colloquialism, phrasal verbs, metaphors, proverbs, and any other linguistic styles that often confuse non-native English speakers.

You might also need help with your online courses because at times you need to go beyond translating content normally and instead translate the material following the local context. Here comes into play eLearning localization where you will have language experts do the work for you.

Using Mother Tongue as a Platform to Learn Foreign Languages

As we already mentioned, learners relate better with structures of a new language when they first understand how different or similar its structures are from their mother tongue. Complex sound bites in a new language, for example, make more sense when they are first translated into the learner’s mother tongue compared to when teachers explain in bulky paragraphs the concept behind each sentence/word. What learners of a new language need to first grasp is the transition of one idea to another- and one concept to another- in the target language. Once learners get a general idea, it becomes easy for tutors to explain the meaning of each word within the sound bite.

Translation Apps and Language Learning

People mainly use translation learning apps to localize and bridge communication gaps when reading materials written in foreign languages, chatting with international business associates, or when watching foreign TV shows or movies. The danger of over-relying on translation apps is that people get comfortable and lose interest in actually knowing how to speak/write in secondary languages.

Instead of using these apps for passive interpretations, just to communicate with people who don’t speak your language, use them to translate and learn from real-world contexts. Most of these apps come with inbuilt languages that are spoken in the accent and pronunciation of native speakers. They come organized in levels and topics. Languages often have practice videos that are captioned in your primary language. For premium apps, you even get images, definitions, interactive transcripts, and adaptive quizzes. All these features combine to help you grasp new languages faster and in a fun way.

Practicing New Language Skills through Translation

It is evident by now that translation learning is a reliable tool for language acquisition. If you still don’t know how you can practice new language skills through translation, here are some tips for you:

  • For newbies, try a repetitive way of translation learning to study basic vocabulary in secondary languages. There are smartphone apps that provide this service.
  • Once you are comfortable with the basics, put your knowledge to the test by translating short paragraphs (about 100 words) from the target language to your language. Don’t shy from consulting dictionaries and other resources. Direct, word-for-word translation is okay at this level.
  • If you did the first two steps right, you are already in advanced levels. Go ahead and translate a longer article (say, 500 words). Focus not only on the words but also the context of the text you are translating. Consult your dictionaries but ensure that the concepts and ideas flow better this time compared to the first translation. Pay special attention to linguistic errors, mainly grammar, spelling, and syntax.
  • Now translate an article without referring to external resources. If you are comfortable doing it, go to the final step. If you struggle too much, you should start over again.
  • Finally, back-translate the documents you had translated to your language back to the foreign language, without consulting the original document. See how close you came to the original text. Rinse and repeat.

Final word

How fast and effectively you learn new languages using translation learning depends on how regularly you practice. Challenge yourself to incorporate translation learning into your regular study routine. And because it is hard to monitor your progress, you should hire a professional tutor to walk this journey with you.

Peter Palladino is from America and he is economics for several companies in Arizona. His specialty business communication and localization, so it is a very specific niche that a lot of people are interested in it. Peter is interested in augmentative communication, community capacity building. Peter is married to Kristina and has two boys.