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L2 Journal

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The L2 Journal is an open access, fully refereed, interdisciplinary journal which aims to promote the research and the practice of language learning and teaching. It publishes articles in English on all aspects of applied linguistics broadly conceived, i.e., second language acquisition, second language pedagogy, bilingualism and multilingualism, language and technology, curriculum development and teacher training, testing and evaluation.

The Future of Translation in Higher Education

Preface and Introduction to the Special Issue

General Editor's Preface

Claire Kramsch introduces the special issue on 'The Future of Translation in Higher Education'.


The Future of Translation in Higher Education: Introduction to the Special Issue

This special issue brings together a set of papers which look to the future of translation in higher education. It is a direct response to the flurry of publications which over the last two decades have highlighted and explored the value of translation as a pedagogical tool in modern language learning. In a now oft-cited early example, Cook (2007, p. 396) decried the marginality of translation in “mainstream applied linguistic and English language teaching theory” and called for a return to translation both in the language classroom and as a “major topic for applied linguistic research”. This call echoes through subsequent publications and now, at the start of the third decade of the millennium, there certainly is an ample body of scholarship, theory, and methodology that centers on translation in the language classroom. The changes are so dramatic and the signs so positive that some have gone so far as to speak of a “translation turn” in language teaching (Carreres, Muñoz-Calvo, and Noriega-Sánchez, 2017b, p. 99, our translation). On the ground, however, things are not always so rosy and we are still very far today from a situation in which translation is systematically used in language instruction, especially in the Anglophone countries where translation was long overlooked. Rather than adding to the now numerous calls for the use of translation in the language classroom, the papers in this special issue seek to move the debate forward by exploring what we refer to as the implementation problem and the question of impact. The papers exploring the implementation problem address the gap that can exist between scholarly literature where translation is now valorized and classroom practice where it can often remain marginal. The papers exploring the question of impact, on the other hand, draw attention to the wider effects that the (re-)introduction of translation into the language classroom will have in order to reimagine translation right across higher education.

Language Teaching in Higher Education within a Plurilingual Perspective

The pedagogies that are currently being put forward within a broad multilingual paradigm in languages education endorse the general principle that learning is a collaborative and dialogic process engaging learners and teachers as partners that bring diverse linguistic, cultural and other knowledge into the classroom. The plurilingual approach to modern languages education adopted by the Council of Europe at the turn of the century is in line with the multilingual orientation embraced by educational linguists in the wake of migration and displacement on a global scale. This article deals with the implementation of the plurilingual approach in higher education, by focusing on the use of a particular type of cross-linguistic mediation in language teaching, namely written translation. Firstly, the article investigates how pedagogic translation is conceived of in applied linguistics. Secondly, it gives two examples of how translation is becoming an integral part of language teaching and testing in European universities. The concluding section contains some recommendations for future research.

Current Practices in Translation and L2 Learning in Higher Education: Lessons Learned

This paper examines current practices that embrace the union between foreign language (L2) teaching and translation in higher education (HE). The rejection of monolingualism and prescriptive principles in favour of bi-, multi-, or plurilingualism; a diversified interdisciplinarity; new sociocultural realities characterised by greater international mobility; different needs and challenges in foreign language teaching; and an openness of translation studies, are only some of the reasons why the link between both areas remains pertinent. However, while the advocacy of integrating the use of translation in language teaching seems to be gaining steady ground in the last decade, specific ways of introducing translation into the L2 curriculum are not always clear. This paper discusses issues related to the design and implementation of a module that would tackle L2 learning while serving as an exploratory course on translation within a degree in languages in HE. The discussion aims to add to the debate on practical issues by explaining the rationale of the module, as well as any difficulties prior to designing the module, and those encountered in the implementation phase.


The Challenges and Promise of Classroom Translation for Multilingual Minority Students in Monolingual Settings

Largely banished from language instruction following the adoption of communicative approaches, some researchers now encourage the use of translation as a valuable resource for the language classroom. While increasingly embraced in theory, there remains a need to better understand, through empirical research, the implementation of translation-based activities in language instruction (Carreres, 2014; Källkvist, 2013), as well as their impact. As this contribution argues, the implementation of translation presents unique challenges and opportunities for multilingual minority students who “operate between languages” (MLA, 2007, p. 237) in their daily lives but who are typically expected to behave monolingually in the classroom. This article contributes to empirical research on the implementation of a translation activity in one such setting. The data are drawn from a larger ethnographic project carried out in elementary and middle school classrooms in Perpignan, France. The focal classes were exclusively attended by Roma learners who self-identify as “Gitan” and as L1 speakers of Gitan, their local variety of Catalan. For the purposes of the present study, the analysis focuses on an activity that required Gitan learners in a middle school French language class to translate a Catalan comic into French. The case study was selected for its insights into some of the challenges and potential benefits of classroom translation for minority learners within but also beyond K-12 settings.


Tandem and Translation: A bilingual telecollaboration course in social science translation

We describe here strategies inspired by translation studies and implemented in a bilingual translation class pairing two student groups of native speakers of English (from Barnard College, Columbia University) and of French (from the École Normale Supérieure, Lyon). Student etandems use CMC (computer mediated communication) to collaborate on the translation of a set of French and English source texts from the human and social sciences, giving the language learners the experience of translating both into and from their own language. Using a workshop format, our approach emphasizes horizontal language learning through linguistic sharing, with students reciprocally developing their language skills by being paired with a learner whose mother tongue is their target language. To provide continuous stimulation for the linguistic exchanges, we assign each student pair a "real-life" task: that of translating two book reviews that are then submitted for publication in academic journals. This goal provides them with strong motivation to produce a careful and better-informed translation, while sensitizing them to the broader academic usefulness of their work. Our objective is to broaden language exchange by advancing collaborative translation into the realm of knowledge-sharing in the human and social sciences.

Translation Pedagogy in the Comparative Literature Classroom: Close Reading and the Hermeneutic Model of Translation

This paper considers how an increased awareness of translation in the language classroom might impact the instruction of Comparative Literature, and literary studies more broadly. Despite the arguments for translation’s centrality to the study Comparative Literature (Apter, 2006; Bassnett, 2006; Newman 2017) translation pedagogy is still under-studied and under-practiced in the Comparative Literature classroom. Among Comparative Literature instructors, close reading is often given pride of place, an emphasis echoed in commonly-assigned textbooks such as Writing Analytically (Rosenwasser and Stephen, 2014). Yet the practice of close reading is arguably one of the most challenging concepts for beginning literature students to master, in part due to the resistance of some instructors and other literary professionals in modeling how to close read a translated text (Venuti, 2004; 2017). By outlining specific lessons, this article shows how employing a hermeneutic translation model (Steiner, 1975; Venuti, 2017; 2019; Laviosa 2019) in the literature classroom can help literature students conceptualize this central building block of literary studies. The article closes with a discussion of some of the ways in which a greater awareness of Translation Studies in the Comparative Literature classroom could unite theory with practice.



This final article brings together reflections written by all of the contributors to the special issue on “The Future of Translation in Higher Education”. In August 2021, the final versions of each article were circulated to all of the contributors. Each person had the chance to read all of the articles together and to see the context in which their own contribution would appear. Each person was then asked to submit a short reflection. There was no set formula for the reflections: some general questions were shared to get the ball rolling but each person was free to focus on whatever they found to be most important.

Before submitting the reflections, most of the contributors were able to meet on Zoom in late September 2021. The aim of the virtual meeting was to personalize the process of contributing to—and editing—a special issue and to share ideas for the reflection pieces. That conversation was a highpoint for all of us as we talked about the experiences, both rewarding and challenging, that we had all had as educators and scholars, as members of fields and of institutions. There were moments where experience, contexts and perspectives overlapped but there were also moments where sharp differences were revealed and those moments were often the most instructive. The conversation that we had on Zoom was inspiring both during the process of writing the reflection pieces but also more generally since such moments of connection and personalization had been so lacking since March 2020.

In what follows, each reflection is presented in turn following the order of the articles in the special issue. As we will see, the contributors intervene in a diverse range of ways. Some pieces bring out the most important themes and questions which cut across the special issue. Others situate the work done here more broadly, drawing attention to gaps in the field which should be filled by future research. Some contributors explore how their own take on translation in higher education evolved as a result of reading their work in the context of the rest of the special issue. Still others reflect on the changes that they will make to their own pedagogy after taking part in this special issue. However they chose to intervene, the contributors’ reflections offer a precious glimpse of the possibility of change coming out of activities such as this which are designed to promote the bridging of theory and practice, or of research, policy and pedagogy.