Languaging in Translation Tasks Used in a University Setting: Particular Potential for Student Agency?
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This paper explores the value of judiciously used L1-to-L2 translation in meaning-focused, advanced-level academic language (L2) education. It examines the teacher-led discourse (TLD) arising when translation tasks were used and compares it to the TLD engendered when four other grammar-focused tasks were used with three different groups of students within a functioning university course in English at a Swedish university. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of audio-recorded lessons revealed that, when translation was used, (i) there were particularly high levels of student-initiated referential questions that break the initiation-response-feedback (IRF) pattern, whereas (ii) there was a less-frequent focus on targeted L2 grammar as student attention tended to be drawn to vocabulary. Qualitative analysis of teacher scaffolding suggests that the teacher used translation to create a forum for student-centered discussion of various aspects of English language use in order to meet one of the course goals. The relatively strong presence of student-initiated interaction suggests that translation may have particular potential to engender student involvement and attention. It is argued that translation therefore may have an important yet limited place in academic-level language education where knowledge of the L1 is shared.