What kind of translation is best for a language learner?

There are people who favour word for word translations for language learners. The Birkenbihl method is an example of this approach. Assimil relies on natural, or native like translations, and so do all the bilingual books on the market. LingQ now makes it easier for our content providers to add translations to help our learners. We have had a discussion on our Forum as to what kind of translation is better, word for word or native-like. Here is my point of view.

To me the translation is a slight help, a momentary crutch. It really does not matter too much if it is word for word or natural, or even has the odd mistake. It is just a temporary crutch. Ultimately the learner has to piece the meaning together from the text in the target language, looking up words, reading and reading again, and then listening and listening again.

It may not be until weeks or months later, when going back over a lesson, that the learner fully understands it. If the translation is taken too seriously, the learner may miss the benefit of working through the text on his or her own.

In my view, any translation will do. But that is only my view.


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