Anecdotally, I've encountered people online who consider language learning closely related to translation. This took me by surprise, since I consider learning foreign languages to be weakly associated with translation (maybe translation could function as a form of scaffolding to get early learners started), and if anything, I feel the student should avoid translation, and the advanced student in particular should use monolingual dictionaries.

The thing is, I'm learning Chinese (Mandarin) as a native English speaker, which are fairly distinct languages. But maybe if I were learning, say, German, translation skills might be more relevant.

Question: Is translation a more relevant skill when learning a foreign language more closely related to your native language?

  • Use whatever tools help you to understand/learn/remember the words. For example, to learn the French word "pierre", I could just write down the translation 'stone'. But in this case, if I look at the etymology (in a monolingual dictionary), I see that it comes from 'petra', which I can recognize as related to the word family "petrify", so in this case that's more memorable for me than a simple translation. Of course it takes longer to look up etymologies and monolingual explanations, so that's sometimes a disadvantage in some contexts (e.g. you've got a lot of words to look up).
    – Brandin
    Aug 22 at 6:52
  • Translation unless used by a professional trying to learn another related language is useless to students. The translation methods of language learning are widely discredited.
    – Lambie
    Sep 2 at 17:01


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.