Volume 4 (2013) Issue 2 - Article De Florio-Hansen
JLLT Volume 4 (2013) Issue 2.pdf

Journal of Linguistics and Language Teaching

Volume 4 (2013) Issue 2 (PDF)

pp. 39-68

Translation Competence in Foreign Language Learning -

Can Language Methodology benefit from Translation Studies1?

Inez De Florio-Hansen (Kassel, Germany)

Abstract (English)

With the advent of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), translation and interpretation advanced from learning tools to complex components of communicative competence. Although there is an increasing demand of oral and written mediation in the workplace, mediation activities in foreign language classrooms, up to now, are mostly limited to language transfer in informal situations. In the author’s opinion, at least advanced learners of second / foreign languages should, in addition to mediation in informal situations, acquire basic translation and interpretation skills / abilities for their professional lives. This leads the author to the conclusion that foreign language methodology could benefit from the detailed definitions of translation competence and the respective methodologies elaborated by academic translation studies. On the basis of various concepts originating from both disciplines, translation studies and foreign language methodology, a revised model of mediation competence, composed of knowledge, skills / abilities and attitudes, is presented and discussed.

Key words: foreign language learning, language methodology, mediation (competence), translation (skills and abilities), interpretation (skills and abilities)

Abstract (Deutsch)

Eine wesentliche Neuerung des Gemeinsamen europäischen Referenzrahmens (GeR) besteht darin, dass Übersetzen und Dolmetschen nicht länger (nur) als Lernhilfen betrachtet, sondern als entscheidende Komponenten der Interkulturellen Kommunikationsfähigkeit ausgewiesen werden. Trotz des gesteigerten Bedarfs an mündlicher und schriftlicher Sprachmittlung am Arbeitsplatz bleiben Mediationsaktivitäten im Fremdsprachenunterricht auf informelle Kontexte beschränkt. Nach Ansicht der Autorin sollten zumindest fortgeschrittene Fremdsprachenlernende - zusätzlich zur Mediation in informellen Situationen - für ihr zukünftiges Berufsleben grundlegende Fähigkeiten im Dolmetschen und Übersetzen erwerben. Daraus folgert die Autorin, dass die Fremdsprachenlehr- und –lernforschung von den detaillierten Definitionen des Begriffs Übersetzungskompetenz profitieren kann, welche die Übersetzungswissenschaft erarbeitet hat. Auf der Grundlage von Konzepten beider Disziplinen, der Übersetzungswissenschaft sowie der Fremdsprachenlehr- und –lernforschung, wird ein überarbeitetes Model der Übersetzungskompetenz, das in Wissen, Können und Einstellungen unterteilt ist, vorgestellt und diskutiert.

Stichwörter: Fremdsprachenerwerb, Fremdsprachendidaktik, Mediation(skompetenz), Übersetzung, Übersetzen, Dolmetschen

1 Introduction

With the advent of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (Council of Europe 2001), Translation2 is no longer considered only as a learning aid and an assessment tool in foreign language classrooms and university courses. Mediation, i.e. formal and informal translating and interpreting, becomes part of intercultural communication competence (CEFR, Council of Europe 2001; chap. 3). Until now, language methodology limits mediation activities in the foreign language classroom to informal situations, leaving formal translation to professional translators and interpreters. Although mediating in informal contexts is already a challenging goal for foreign language learners, there are good reasons to prepare students for more than informal talks. With the growing importance of translation and interpretation in Europe and all over the world, many lay persons need to develop skills for their jobs that are close to formal translation. On the other hand, professional translation underwent substantial changes which, in the author's opinion, justify insights into translation studies with the overall aim to ascertain if and how foreign language methodology can benefit from Translation Studies. These analyses refer to definitions of translation competence as well as to the methodology of translation.

In Chapter 2, it will be pointed out in which different forms the growing importance of translating and interpreting manifests itself.

Chapter 3 is dedicated to the revised goals of translation and interpretation in foreign language teaching and learning in the aftermath of the CEFR.

Taking a representative definition of mediation developed in the field of foreign language methodology as the starting point, a detailed example from the school context illustrates the challenge of informal written mediation among lay persons (Chapter 4).

Not only in informal contexts, but especially in (semi-)formal work-place situations is it of great help for foreign language learners and users to know that there are different ways of translating and interpreting the same source text. Therefore, in Chapter 5, a succinct overview of the evolution of translation studies from their emergence in the 1950s to recent times of (web) globalization will be given. In Chapter 5.1, an excerpt from a French novel translated into German by future teachers of French drawing on the concept of equivalence is employed as an example.

In Chapter 6, definitions of mediation competence elaborated in the field of foreign language methodology in the aftermath of the CEFR are compared to the more focused description of (professional) translation competence of the PACTE (Process in the Acquisition of Translation Competence and Evaluation) group (Chapter 6.1 – 6.4). This comparison leads to a (revised and extended) model of mediation competence of foreign language learners and users (Chapter 6.5). An example drawn from German dual vocational education and training illustrates which goals can be reached in the foreign language classroom.

Whereas conceptualizations of translating competence contribute to specifying mediation sub-competences (cf. especially Chapter 6.5), methodology of translation (Chap. 7) lacks a systematic and transparent approach. When designing professional trainings for translators and interpreters, translation scholars have, up to the present day, neither taken the suggestions of the CEFR into account, nor have they developed graded objectives (can do descriptors) that facilitate teaching and learning (Chapter 7.1). This is due to the fact that there is no general curriculum but a collection of self-standing courses and modules (Chapter 7.2). At the end of the chapter, a brief overview of general methodological approaches, practised in translation programs as well as in foreign language classrooms, is given.

In the conclusion (Chapter 8), the most evident points of contact between translation studies and foreign language methodology will be summarised in order to show that there is a shared path to effective translation and interpretation.

2 The Growing Importance of Translation and Interpretation in Europe

2.1 Official Languages and Working Languages in the European Union

Multilingualism is one of the most important characteristics of Europeanness. The maintenance and promotion of European languages is a widely accepted goal of the European Union (EU). The European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth is not only responsible for language policy; his or her portfolio also includes the extensive interpretation, translation and publication services in the 23 official languages of the EU (including the 3 working languages)3.

In order to guarantee the adequate quality of the language service, the European Commission engages in Studies on translation and multilingualism. The 10 to 15 publications of the Directorate-General for Translation per year comprise the annual Activity Report, studies in translation and multilingualism as well as collections of translation tools. In the Final Report on The Status of the Translation Profession in the European Union, published in July 2012, considerable shifts are mentioned. The main changes refer to the cross-border recognition of qualifications and certifications: “It should be coordinated with certification systems operative in other countries (particularly the United States, Canada, Australia and China)” (European Commission 2012: 5). Furthermore: “It should address the paraprofessionals who are translating and interpreting in many ‘immigrant’ languages” (European Commission 2012: 4), i.e. more than the official languages of the EU should be taken into account.

2.2 Interpretation into Immigrant Languages

In addition to translating and interpreting in official contexts such as national and international organizations and intercultural business encounters, a great variety of interpretation occurs in the social sphere of multicultural societies all over the world and especially in Europe. These forms of mediation are summarized under the term ‘Community Interpreting’ coined in analogy to the term community worker. This specific type of interpreting in community-based situations enables minorities to access medical and social services.4

Meanwhile, official conference interpreting in most cases occurs simultaneously, mediating in medical and social situations in general involves consecutive interpretation in two directions. Furthermore, the above-mentioned “paraprofessionals” (European Commission 2012: 4) have to be acquainted with the respective public services and the different cultural backgrounds involved in order to enable the client and the service provider to communicate to their mutual satisfaction. Community interpreters are facilitators or mediators who take an active part in the triad. To some extent, their role is similar to that of foreign language learners and users mediating between people of different languages and cultures described in the CEFR (Council of Europe 2001; see below Chapter 3). One of the challenges of foreign language learners and users consists in mediating between the messages of the members of different cultures in a way that intercultural communication is achieved to the satisfaction of the individuals involved.

With the increase of immigration and the needs of migrants who do not speak the official or dominant language, there is growing concern about common standards5, adequate training and the professionalisation of community interpreters (e.g. Slapp 2004).6 The growing importance of Community Interpreting has led to a number of empirical studies since the end of the 20th century (e.g. Wadensjö 1998). With regard to learning and teaching mediating skills in (multilingual and multicultural) foreign language classrooms, it is worthwhile mentioning a study that includes the main features of the migration discourse. Based on 42 interviews with children and young people often involved in interpreting between family members and medical staff, Ahamer (2012) points out the effects of this activity on the children of migrants and their family members. In her conclusion, she shows the great potential these bilingual children and young adults possess and demands an adequate training and possible professional perspectives for young migrants as community interpreters.

2.3 The Common European Framework of Reference: Mediating

Multilingualism in Europe does not only bring professional translators and interpreters and paraprofessionals to the fore. According to Knapp (42006: 175), non-professional interpreting in everyday situations is probably the most frequent form of interlingual and intercultural transfer in the world.7 Due to its importance in multilingual societies, the CEFR introduces mediation as an important communicative sub-competence in private and professional life. The respective passage of the CEFR clearly shows that, underscoring the communicative function of translation, mediation not only comprises informal talks between lay persons, but “formal” spoken and written translation as well (Chapter 3). Foreign language learners and users should, thus, no longer be limited to informal interpreting and translating activities. Not only in Vocational Education and Training (VET), but also during regular schooling, at least advanced language learners have to acquire skills in formal translation and interpretation.

With the modified perspective on translation, the CEFR makes it possible to overcome boundaries which, up until now, separate translation studies and foreign language pedagogy. In the past, translation studies excluded to take into consideration interpreting and translating in the foreign language classroom because of its lack of communication-oriented activities (Rogers 2008: 118). As the authors of the CEFR underscore the communicative aspects of translation, both disciplines, generally speaking, consider translation and mediation as part of intercultural communication competence. Although there are notable differences between translation studies and foreign language methodology, there is a raising awareness of the similarities, especially when it is taken into account that “lay” persons need more and more professional or at least semiprofessional translation and interpretation skills. Thus, in the author's opinion, for foreign language teachers, it is worthwhile knowing if and how foreign language pedagogy can benefit from translation studies.

2.4 The Necessity of Providing Professional Experts with Translation Competence

The necessity of providing professional experts with translation competence was seen by Nord (1997) long before the publication of the CEFR, calling translation an imperative cultural technique of the new millennium. She opposes the “Übersetzungsexperte mit Fachkompetenz”, i.e. the professional translator and interpreter with subject knowledge in some fields, to the “Fachexperte mit Übersetzungskompetenz”, i.e. the professional expert, e.g. a technician, with translation competence (Nord 1997: 117). In the main part of her paper, Nord describes the necessary competences which such a professional expert should possess when engaging in translation and interpretation in his field of work. She lists six sub-competences a lay person should have when he or she wants to engage successfully in spoken and written translation:

      • awareness of the fact that comprehension is culture bound;
      • knowledge of culture specific forms of behaviour in contrast to one’s own culture;
      • methodological skills of analysing the (source) text;
      • knowledge of the most important approaches to Translation Studies and of their application to the practice of translation;
      • the ability to discern translation problems and to find adequate solutions;
      • the ability to apply the knowledge about genres to the production of functional translations (Nord 1997: 122).

It goes without saying that the aforementioned technician is not to replace the professionally trained translator or interpreter. With her proposal, Nord shows her awareness of the fact that in modern work-place situations and intercultural business encounters, it will no longer be possible to draw on professional translators and interpreters.

3 Revised Goals of Translation and Interpretation in Foreign Language Teaching and Learning

3.1 The Traditional Role of Translation in Foreign Language Learning and the Teacher Training

Although we can assume that in Europe and in the entire West nowadays, most interaction in the foreign language classroom takes place in the target language, there are always situations in which the use of the mother tongue is justified or at least tolerated, provided that students (and the teacher) speak the same language. Such examples are the explanation of unknown vocabulary or of grammatical structures for which explanations in the target language would be too time-consuming. Quite often, the students' mother tongue is used in textbook exercises and activities in order to avoid formulations in the target language which students might simply copy when writing a dialogue, for example. These uses – and there are many other examples – function as learning aids.

In addition to facilitate learning processes, translating also occurs for other purposes in the language classroom and teacher training. It is assumed that translations into the target language and vice versa are a good means to evaluate students' language competence by analysing their performance. This function is more prominent in university courses in which the pairing of languages is considered an opportunity to gain better insights into the main features of both languages concerned.

3.2 The Advent of the Common European Framework of Reference: Mediation

More than any other document published by the Council of Europe (e.g. Threshold Level from the 1970s on) the CEFR (Council of Europe 2001) brought about substantial changes in foreign language methodology, especially in assessment, not only in Europe but all over the world. What makes the CEFR suitable for application to many different teaching and learning situations is its non-prescriptive style. Another prominent feature of the document is its action-oriented approach (Camerer & Mader 2012: 43-45).

Critics of the CEFR (Bausch et al. 2002) seem to leave out the essential keywords in the title of the framework: “of reference”. Morrow (2004: 7) puts it as follows: “It [the CEFR] is a descriptive framework, not a set of suggestions, recommendations, or guidelines.” This point is not only mentioned in the Introduction to the Framework, but it is repeated several times throughout the document, e.g. with regard to mediating (Council of Europe 2001: 88):

Users of the Framework may wish to consider and, where appropriate, state:

• the mediating activities in which the learner will need/be equipped/be required to engage.

As mentioned above (Chapter 1.3), one of the changes the CEFR brought about, is the re-evaluation of translation and interpretation in the form of mediation from a learning aid to an important communicative sub-competence of foreign language learners and users. The full text of the CEFR (Council of Europe 2001: pp. 87-88) is quoted below as didactics and foreign language mothodology tend to limit mediation to informal everyday conversations excluding “exact” translation and interpretation:

The CEFR (Council of Europe 2001: 87-88) states:

4.4.4 Mediating activities and strategies

In mediating activities, the language user is not concerned to express his/her own meanings, but simply to act as an intermediary between interlocutors who are unable to understand each other directly – normally (but not exclusively) speakers of different languages. Examples of mediating activities include spoken interpretation and written translation as well as summarizing and paraphrasing texts in the same language, when the language of the original text is not understandable to the intended recipient e.g.: Oral Mediation:

• simultaneous interpretation (conferences, meetings, formal speeches, etc.);

• consecutive interpretation (speeches of welcome, guided tours, etc.);

• informal interpretation:

• of foreign visitors in their own country

• of native speakers when abroad

• in social and transactional situations for friends, family, clients, foreign guests, etc.

• • of signs, menus, notices, etc. Written Mediation:

• exact translation (e.g. of contracts, legal and scientific texts, etc.);

• literary translation (novels, drama, poetry, libretti, etc.);

• summarising gist (newspaper and magazine articles, etc.) within L2 or between L1 and L2;

• paraphrasing (specialized texts for lay persons, etc.). Mediation strategies reflect ways of coping with the demands of using finite resources to process information and establish equivalent meaning.

• Planning Developing background knowledge;

Locating supports;

Preparing a glossary;

Considering interlocutors’ needs;

Selecting unit of interpretation.

• Execution Previewing: processing input and formulating the last chunk

simultaneously in real time;

Noting possibilities, equivalences;

Bridging gaps.

• Evaluation Checking congruence of two versions;

Checking consistency of usage.

• Repair Refining by consulting dictionaries, thesaurus;

Consulting experts, sources.

Illustrative scales are not available yet.8

Among the communicative and intercultural competences described and discussed in the CEFR, mediating tasks and mediation strategies gain importance as possible tools for bridging gaps of language and culture in multi-ethnic societies and in a more and more globalized world. The shift is considerable: translation and interpretation are no longer seen as instruments for learning and assessing language performance, but they are considered as objectives in their own right. Furthermore, the description of mediation in the CEFR approximates these activities and strategies to those of professional interpreters and translators, for example

simultaneous interpretation (conferences, meetings, formal speeches, etc.)” and “consecutive interpretation (speeches of welcome, guided tours, etc.)


exact translation (e.g. of contracts, legal and scientific texts, etc.)” and “literary translation (novels, drama, poetry, libretti, etc.).

When revising the goals to be achieved by learners in the foreign language classroom or in teacher training, it should be taken into consideration that “exact” translation is no longer an irrevocable option in professional fields. What may be true for many forms of translation to reduce costs is not so extensively practised with official documents. Many courts still demand exact translation of deeds, big companies call for the accurate translation of contracts. With the myriad of documents published by the EU, simplified versions of discussion papers or proposed laws may be sufficient for insiders. Official publications, however, are not simplified or adapted. A proof is the CEFR itself, which was translated into many languages (as most other publications with regard to the language policy of the Council of Europe and the EU). Be it as it may, foreign language methodology has to carefully consider whether and in what ways learning to interpret and translate, to summarize and paraphrase can benefit from translation studies.

4 Current Mediating Activities in the Foreign Language Classroom

4.1 Definition of Mediation in Foreign Language Pedagogy

In more than a decade since the advent of the CEFR, translating and interpreting activities in the school context are in general limited to informal mediation, at least as far as official curricula and publications in the field of foreign language methodology are concerned. This seems to be reasonable because “communicative translation” (Hallet 1995: 277) is rather challenging for language learners and their teachers as well.

The term mediation (in German: Sprachmittlung) is generally defined as transfer of (selected) oral or written information from one language into another, taking the addressee(s), the sense, the purpose and the situation into account. The overall aim of a so defined mediation is to enable the interlocutors to benefit from information which they could otherwise not or only partly understand because they don’t know the respective foreign language(s) (cf. Philipp & Rauch 2010: 4).

This definition shows that mediation is far more than helping a tourist to get along in a country whose language he or she only has some basic knowledge of. An example will show the wide range of current mediating activities in the classroom.

4.2 An Example of Written Mediation in a School Context

The mediation task: Un dessinateur de BD

The following text is adapted from an article in Spiegel online9:

Die Besessenheit des Art Spiegelman

Der international bekannte und vielfach ausgezeichnete Comic-Künstler vergleicht die eigene Besessenheit mit der der Deutschen: besessen vom Thema Holocaust.

In seinem weltberühmten Comic „Maus – Die Geschichte eines Überlebenden“ (“Maus. A survivor’s tale“) erzählt Spiegelman die Geschichte seiner Eltern, die mehrere Konzentrationslager überlebt haben. Sein älterer Bruder und die übrigen Verwandten wurden von den Nazis ermordet. Nach dem Krieg wanderten die Eltern zunächst nach Schweden aus, wo Art 1948 in Stockholm geboren wurde. 1951 ließen sich die Spiegelmans dauerhaft in New York nieder, dem der Künstler bis heute treu geblieben ist.

„Maus“ wurde 1992 mit dem Pulitzer-Preis ausgezeichnet – als erster Comic überhaupt. Das liegt nicht zuletzt an der vielschichtigen Struktur dieser Graphic Novel: Spiegelman schildert nicht einfach nur das schreckliche Geschehen: Er fügt eigene Reaktionen ein und zeigt den Vater auch als wohlhabenden, unglücklichen alten Mann. Ein Kunstgriff, der auf Spiegelmans Humor hinweist, besteht darin, dass er seinem Comic die Form einer Fabel gibt: Die Juden sind die Mäuse und die Deutschen die Katzen. Auch für die anderen Nationen hat Spiegelmann Tiere gewählt: Hunde für die US-Amerikaner, Frösche für die Franzosen, und Schweine für die Polen – aufgebrachte Polen haben Spiegelmans Werk öffentlich verbrannt.

Überhaupt ist der Humor ein prägender Charakterzug des Künstlers: Wenn er in der Greene Street in Soho, Lower Manhattan, etwas zum Essen kaufen will, kann es schon vorkommen, dass das italienische Lebensmittelgeschäft von einem zum anderen Tag einem Schuhladen weichen musste. „Dann esse ich eben Schuhe!“ sagt Spiegelman lachend.

Ohne seine Distanz zu den Dingen hätte er einen weiteren Schicksalsschlag nicht überwinden können. Im Jahre 1968 beging seine Mutter, die sich niemals von den traumatischen Erlebnissen im Konzentrationslager erholt hat, Selbstmord - ohne irgendeine Nachricht zu hinterlassen. Art Spiegelman hätte erwartet, dass sie ihn von Schuld freispricht oder aber, dass sie in einem Abschiedsbrief gesagt hätte: „Wenn Du Dir öfter die Zähne geputzt hättest, würde ich noch leben.“ Aber dieses ‚tödliche‘ Schweigen, das durch nichts mehr zu durchbrechen war, traf ihn zutiefst. Das dunkle Geschehen hat er in dem kurzen Comic „Gefangener auf dem Höllenplaneten“ (“Prisoner on the Hell Planet“) aufgearbeitet.

Auch wenn der Holocaust das Thema seines Lebens ist und Spiegelman deshalb gern mit Deutschen spricht, ist er durch und durch New Yorker. Hier lebt er, hier zeichnet er, hier hält ergleichsam die Linse, durch die er die Welt sieht, auf vergangene und aktuelle Ereignisse und verdichtet sie zu komplexen Graphic Novels. Schon kurz nach dem Anschlag vom 11. September 2001 auf das World Trade Center entstand aus Protest gegen die Politik der Bush-Administration die zehnteilige Comic-Serie “In the Shadow of No Towers“, die unter dem Titel „Im Schatten keiner Türme“ in der deutschen Wochenzeitung Die Zeit veröffentlicht wurde.

Irgendwie erinnert Spiegelmans Streitbarkeit an die Positionen des über 90 Jahre alten Stéphane Hessel: Er hat als einziger aus seiner Familie unter wirklich grauenhaften Umständen den Holocaust überlebt und lebt in Frankreich. In seiner 2010 erschienenen kurzen Streitschrift ruft er uns zu: « Indignez-vous » („Empört Euch!“).

Description of the mediation task:

Ton ami français, Émanuel, est un fan des bandes dessinées, surtout de celles de Art Spiegelman, un Américain juif d’origine allemande. Émanuel t’a envoyé comme pièce jointe l’article ci-dessus. Il voudrait savoir les informations les plus importantes et surtout les détails qui concernent le rapport de Spiegelman avec les Allemands. Travaillez en équipe de trois ou quatre.

      1. Lisez d’abord le texte (chacun pour soi) et notez en marge de chaque paragraphe un mot-clé ou un titre. De quoi parle le journaliste ? Comparez (et, peut-être, améliorez) vos notes.
      2. Sans doute, selon le journaliste, tous les détails servent à caractériser Spiegelman. Mais sont-ils tous intéressants pour Émanuel ?
      3. Qu’est-ce qu’on pourrait omettre dans le courriel à l’ami français ?
      4. Quelles informations ne devraient être mentionnées que brièvement ?
      5. Quels passages du texte sont vraiment intéressants pour Emanuel (et, donc, à traiter plus en détails) ?

Après avoir comparé la liste de votre équipe avec celle d’une autre équipe ou en discutant en plénière, écrivez ensemble le courriel (une version par équipe). Il n’est pas nécessaire de formuler toujours des phrases complètes ; parfois, il suffit d’énumérer les points que vous avez choisis.

Corrigez vos courriels (par ex. à l’aide d’un dico et/ou de votre professeur) et exposez les versions finales en classe. Sont-elles semblables ou différentes ? Pourquoi diffèrent-elles ? Parlez-en en plénière.

This mediation task was an assignment students did in seat work. The following solution (Grade 10, French: second foreign language taught since grade 6) shows in what way a student summarized and paraphrased an article of a German online magazine for his Jewish friend in France. According to the learner, he searched the Internet for information and entered some formulations in a search engine. He corrected the final version with a French spelling program.

Solution of the task

Cher Émanuel,

merci beaucoup de ton courriel. J’étais très content d’avoir de tes nouvelles.

C’est avec beaucoup d’intérêt que j’ai lu l’article que tu m’as envoyé en pièce jointe. Je ne connaissais que le nom de ce dessinateur de BD. Mais tu es un expert ; c’est pourquoi j’omets tous les détails biographiques (origine, destin de la famille, l’émigration) et les références au contenu de « Maus ». Savais-tu que le prix Pulitzer que Spiegelman a remporté était le premier attribué pour une Bande Dessinée et que les Polonais ont brûlé le livre publiquement parce que Spiegelman les a représentés comme des cochons dans sa fable ?

Le journaliste allemand donne un exemple de l’humour du dessinateur dans la vie quotidienne à New York, ville en changement perpétuel. Mais l’auteur de l’article voit dans ce sens de l’humour et de la distance surtout le moyen par lequel Spiegelman a réussi à surmonter un terrible choc, le suicide de sa mère. Tu connais sans doute la BD « Prisoner on the Hell Planet »dans laquelle le dessinateur aborde un sujet encore plus terrible, le fait que sa mère n’a laissé aucun message pour le consoler ou même pour l’accuser. Spiegelman ajoute qu’elle aurait pu dire : « Si tu t’étais lavé les dents plus souvent, je serais encore en vie » – autre signe de l’humour de l’artiste.

L’engagement politique de Spiegelman qui ne se limite pas à l’Holocauste est important pour le journaliste. Il prend position face à l’actualité mondiale, mais surtout à celle de New York, par exemple avec la BD « In the Shadow of No Towers » publiée peu après le 11 septembre par l’hebdomadaire « Die Zeit » en Allemagne.

L’engagement politique et le destin de la famille sont probablement les ressemblances que le journaliste voit entre Spiegelman et Stéphane Hessel, un survivant de l’Holocauste.



This example shows that (informal) mediation is rather a complex task. The greatest challenge is to decide what is important for the addressee, what can be left out and what has to be translated in a more or less “exact” way. Even in the informal context of the task above, it would be of great help for the learners to know that there were different ways of translating and interpreting the same source text. Nord’s claim for “knowledge of the most important approaches to Translation Studies and of their application to the practice of translation” (Nord 1977: 122; see Chapter 1 above) is rather justified. It is even more reasonable for advanced foreign language learners who want to study abroad and / or prepare for a job in a multilingual context.

5 Concepts of Translation and Interpretation

5.1 The Emergence of Translation Studies as an Academic Discipline

Although translation (cf. footnote 2), comprising translation and interpretation (cf. Kade 1968: p. 35 and passim), had been practised for millennia, a scientific interest in products and processes of translation did not emerge in Europe and the entire West before the 1950s (Munday 2010: 420, also for the following). Earlier writings, from the observations of Cicero, Horace and St Jerome in Ancient times to those of Martin Luther and particularly Friedrich Schleiermacher only form part of the history of translation studies. The main focus of these essays is on the question whether a translation should be ‘literal’ or ‘free’. This dichotomy was influenced by the fact that translation was crucial for the spread of Christianity and that the relationship between source text and target text was, thus, of paramount importance. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that the emergent discipline of translation studies was dominated by (linguistic equivalence).

In the past, translation studies favoured linguistic approaches. For several decades, the new discipline had been dominated by language pairing, i.e. the analysis of lexical and grammatical structures of two languages, e.g. English and German or Spanish and French. It is evident that translation activities, as learning aids in the foreign language classroom and the university training of (future) language teachers, followed similar linguistic options.

A key term of these contrastive-linguistic approaches is equivalence. As lexical and structural comparisons proved inapplicable to translation or even non-productive, it was mainly Koller who offered a more differentiated model of equivalence (Koller 51997: passim). He distinguishes between five types of equivalence, i.e. 1. denotative, 2. connotative, 3. text normative, 4. pragmatic and 5. formal aesthetic equivalence, leaving it to the translator to choose which type and which degree of equivalence to prefer when confronted with certain translation problems. It is quite evident that Koller’s typology is inspired by literary translation.

The fact that the awareness of the role of equivalence in literary translation is important for foreign language learners is underscored by the following problem-based activity in a translation course at Kassel University (Germany). Students – future teachers of French as a foreign language – compared excerpts of French novels with German translations. One example referred to the novel Syngué sabour – Pierre de patience by Atiq Rahimi, an Afghan author living in France. His first novels were written in his mother tongue Persian (Farsi). With Syngué sabour – Pierre de patience he started publishing in French and immediately won the prestigious literary prize Prix Goncourt in 2008. The novel was translated into German by Lis Künzli (2011).

[A wife is keeping watch over her deathly ill, unconscious husband.]

Confuse, elle se retourne, revient à sa place pour jeter un regard sur la page ouverte du Coran. Elle vérifie. « Seize jours … aujourd’hui c’est le seizième nom de Dieu que je dois citer. Al-Qahhâr, le Dominateur. Voilà, c’est bien ça, le seizième nom … » Pensive. « Seize jours ! » Elle recule. « Seize jours que je vis au rythme de ton souffle. » Agressive. « Seize jours que je respire avec toi. » Elle fixe l’homme. « Je respire comme toi, regarde. » Elle aspire l’air profondément, puis l’expire douloureusement. Au même rythme que lui. « Même si je n’ai pas la main sur ta poitrine, je peux maintenant respirer comme toi. » Elle se courbe vers lui. « Et même si je ne suis pas à tes côtés, je respire au même rythme que toi. « Elle s’écarte de lui. « Tu m’entends ?“ Elle lance des cris: « Al-Qahhâr », et recommence à égrener le chapelet. Toujours à la même cadence. Elle sort de la pièce. On l’entend : « Al-Qahhâr, Al-Qahhâr … » dans le couloir et ailleurs …

« Al-Qahhâr … » s’éloigne.

« Al-Qahhâr … » devient faible.

« Al … » imperceptible.

Disparaît. (Rahimi 2008: p. 21)

German translation:

Verwirrt dreht sie sich um und kehrt an ihren Platz zurück, um einen Blick in den aufgeschlagenen Koran zu werfen. Sie vergewissert sich. „Sechzehn Tage … heute ist es der sechzehnteName Gottes, den ich aufsagen muss. Al-Qahhar, der Überlegene. Doch, doch, genau, der sechzehnte Name…“ Nachdenklich. „Sechzehn Tage!“ Sie weicht zurück. „Sechzehn Tage, die ich im Rhythmus deines Atems lebe.“ Aggressiv. „Sechzehn Tage, die ich mit dir atme.“ Sie fixiert den Mann. „Ich atme wie du, schau!“ Sie saugt die Luft tief ein, atmet sie schmerzlich wieder aus. Im selben Rhythmus wie er. „Inzwischen kann ich sogar atmen wie du, wenn meine Hand nicht auf deiner Brust liegt.“ Sie beugt sich zu ihm. „Und selbst wenn ich nicht bei Dir bin, atme ich im selben Rhythmus wie du.“ Sie rückt etwas von ihm ab. „Hörst du mich?“ Sie fängt an zu schreien: „Al-Qahhar, Al-Qahhar, …“ und betet wieder die Gebetskette herunter. Immer im selben Takt. Sie verlässt das Zimmer. Ihr „Al- Qahhar, Al-Qahhar, …“ ist erst im Flur, dann weiter weg zu hören …

„Al-Qahhar…“ entfernt sich.

„Al-Qahhar…“ wird schwächer.

„Al-Qahhar…“ undeutlich.

Verstummt. (Rahimi 2011, pp. 24-25)10

Before reading the translation, every student made his own German version of the French text. Comparing their translations to the version by Liz Künzli, they realized that equivalence did not cause great problems, besides one word: le Dominateur translated by der Überlegene in Künzli's version. For the students, the connotations of the two words were quite different and they asked themselves how the German translator arrived at der Überlegene. So they entered Al-Quahhar in a search engine and discovered that the proposed English translation was very close to dominator. They hypothesized that Künzli chose der Überlegene in order not to denigrate Islam.

Another hypothesis contributed much more to their learning about equivalence and literary translation. Invited by the teacher to reflect why, in their opinion, their versions were not far away from that of a professional translator, they found out that Rahimi, with the transition from Persian (Farsi) to French, did no longer write for an Afghan public but tried to explain Afghan life, mentality and culture to French (and other European) readers through his novels. Students of Turkish origin confirmed this view.

When comparing the original version of a novel with translations, the difference between the source and the target text increases with the differences between the cultures involved. This can be seen when confronting Orhan Pamuk’s Turkish novel Kar (2002) with the German translation (2005).

5.2 From the Cognitive to the Functionalist Approach

From the outset of academic translation studies, especially from the late 1960s onwards, translation scholars have been interested in exploring not only the linguistic features of the translation product but also the processes that occur while translating, drawing on disciplines like cognitive psychology. The translation process is considered as a complex cognitive activity requiring a set of specific knowledge and abilities, mainly problem solving, decision making and the use of translation strategies (see Chapter 6, Translation Competence). Due to concomitant paradigm shifts caused by semiotic, cultural / intercultural and social turns11, different theoretical models were created. These shifts have led to revised objectives of foreign language methodology.

With the increasing number of translations, particularly those of non-literary texts, translation studies began concentrating more and more on characteristics inherent in the target text. Formerly neglected ‘outward’ perspectives, especially the function of the translation in target cultural contexts, became more and more prominent. In the context of this more functional and sociocultural concept, translation means text production. Critics point out that adaptation can lead to an inadequate translation (Koller 2002: pp. 127-129). Coping with the myriad of diversified texts coming up through globalized digital media, such considerations do not lead to realistic objectives, neither in translation studies nor in the field of foreign language methodology.

5.3 Translation in Times of (Web)Globalization

The debate about adaptation, more precisely about coherence of function or functional changes, becomes obsolete when translating and interpreting activities focus on localisation. Language localisation, in reality delocalisation, is the process of translating a product into different languages or adapting it for a specific country or region. Examples of localisation are computer software, video games, movies or television series which have to be adapted so that they “function” in several parts of the world. A particular type of localisation is the immediate translation of a website.

A huge majority of current translation activities are concerned with non-literary texts, especially with the localisation of products. Shreve12 focuses on the obvious evolution of translation and interpretation caused by globalisation. In the last decades, the advent of new texts was mostly caused by radio, film and television. In recent times, cyber-media brought up new electronic text forms with an enormous impact on translation. What formerly was called translation service has developed into huge language industries comprising producers (of source texts, e.g. enterprises, organisations), providers (not only translators, but also experts concerned with editing, proofing, writing), trainers, tool makers of specialised language processing tools (including terminology managers, machine translation tools and corpora managers) and facilitators, i.e. standards and norms.

The following summary of Shreve is, in the author's opinion, valid not only for professionals but also for lay persons, such as foreign language learners and users, engaged in translation and interpretation. It is a viable basis for having a closer look at sub-competences that, in different combinations and constellations, constitute translation competence today.

The increasing volume of information, growing differentiation of text / document types, the explosion of specialized terminologies and usages, the diversification of distribution media and the increasing digitization of information have literally transformed the context in which the profession of translation exists. As a result, the profession has been forced to change (Shreve 2000: 225).

More than before, in times of globalisation and digitisation, translation and interpretation call for creative transpositions to be accomplished not only by professionals but also by lay persons.

6 Translation Competence: a Cluster of Sub-Competences

This chapter has at least five objectives.

Translation Competence is described as a combination of knowledge, ability and attitude.

The ways mediation competence has been defined in the field of Foreign Language up to now will be delineated. These definitions, mostly in form of strategies, follow a broad concept of competence. However, they are not specific enough to allow for translation activities in the foreign language classroom that cover the future needs of language learners and users in times of internationalisation and globalisation (6.2).

On the basis of an example drawn from vocational education and training (VET), new challenging goals are illustrated that go beyond the informal interpreting and translating by lay persons. In many professional contexts, foreign language learners and users will need formal or at least semi-formal translation and interpretation skills (cf. section 2.4: Nord 1997: 117).

It is worthwhile to consider the natural translation ability of bilinguals who receive no special training. But these “natural” translation skills are no longer sufficient. Furthermore, mediation sub-competences of learners and users are already part of current training programmes. As they should be trained in more differentiated ways in the foreign language classroom, a closer look at competence models of translation studies is useful in order to specify the necessary mediation competence in the field of foreign language teaching and learning.

An updated and enlarged model of Mediation Competence of foreign language learners and users will be proposed.

6.1 Broad Concepts of Translation Competence

In translation studies as well as in foreign language methodology, translation competence – according to more recent concepts (Lersch 2007: 36 on the basis of Weinert 1999) – can be defined as a cluster of knowledge, skills or abilities that enable a person to act effectively and responsibly in everyday situations as well as on the job. Content-related knowledge and intellectual abilities, e.g. knowledge of the most important approaches to translation studies and of their application to the practice of translation (Nord 1997: 122), do not suffice to guarantee performance quality and quantity. Competence must be completed by meta-competence, i.e. the skills to apply sub-competences to a concrete task, to consciously monitor one’s own behaviour during problem solving phases and to become more and more aware of one’s actions. Furthermore, competence-related motivation plays a crucial role in actual problem solving behaviour and in the long-term acquisition of expertise.

Beyond knowledge and skills, translation competence is based on an attitude towards the necessity and utility of translation and interpretation in modern societies forged by migration, globalisation and digitisation. (cf. details in section 6.5: A Model of Mediation Competence: Attitude).

6.2 Mediation Competence in Foreign Language Methodology

Although Wolfgang Hallet already in 1995 considered translating and interpreting as communicative goals of foreign language teaching and learning, it took more than a decade until he tried a more specified definition of the sub-competences of Mediation.

      • In 2008 he defined interlingual mediation competence (“Interlinguale Sprachkompetenz”) on the basis of the CEFR as a complex communication task which combines personal, social, interactional and intercultural competences. Hallet’s distinction between (professional) translation (according to him, literal translation and interpretation in formal contexts) and mediation is rather obsolete nowadays (see above). Furthermore, the four sub-competences described by Hallet are too generic as to really facilitate the teaching and learning of mediation skills in the foreign language classroom. They refer to the overall aim of intercultural communication competence. Hallet (2008: pp. 4) differentiates between the following sub-competences:
      • linguistic-communicative competence
      • intercultural competence
      • interactional competence
      • strategic-methodological competence.

In foreign language methodology, great attention is paid to interactional competence illustrating the role of the mediator in the triad (cf. Knapp 42006). Taking as a starting point the description of the CEFR (4.4.4; see Chapter 4.3), referring to the “neutrality” of the intermediary, the ability of a foreign language learner and user mediating in informal contexts consists in being able to comprehend the demands and particularities of the social situation as well as the relationship of the interlocutors, their objectives, interests and sometimes their previous knowledge. This requires a considerable amount of empathy of others’ positions and the ability to mediate in an accurate way, taking into account the cultural positioning of both interlocutors. In this sense interactional and intercultural competence are entwined. Hallet (2008: 6) himself is aware of the fact that the four sub-competences refer to any type of intercultural communication. It is probably this lack of specific characteristics that may induce foreign language teachers to focus more on strategies and tasks and to limit mediation strategies to informal translation and interpretation (Rössler 2009). A strategy, however, is a means to an end, i.e. clear objectives are needed before suitable strategies to meet these goals can be described.

6.3 Mediation Competence in Vocational Education and Training (VET)

As aforementioned, the authors of the CEFR invite the users of the framework “to consider and where appropriate state the mediating activities in which the learner will need / be equipped / be required to engage” (Council of Europe 2001: 88). The CEFR proposes a wide range of competence reaching from informal translation and interpretation in everyday contexts to formal mediation activities. Up to now, the whole field of VET has only received marginal attention in foreign language teaching and learning. A borderline seems to separate informal mediation tasks that every foreign language learner and user may need and formal translation on the job left to professional translators and interpreters.

The overall objective of the present article is a plea for at least semi-formal mediation competence which every foreign language learner and user, being trained in adequate strategies in the foreign language classroom, should acquire step by step.

With the following example taken from an English lesson in a vocational school, the necessity of (semi-)formal training of language learners and users is to be underscored. The activity is taken from a unit entitled: How to deal with complaints? (CEFR B1) (De Florio-Hansen 2013a):

The Context of the Unit: a Simulation

Nina Seidl and Aryan Avendi work together in the office of HighTechSolar, a worldwide operating German company that produces solar collectors. In comparison to Nina Seidl, who finished her vocational training only some month ago, the young man from India has a longer experience with business relationships due to the background of his family, his studies and his working period / experience in Great Britain. In general, we can expect him to be more conciliatory than Nina because of its Asian origin. In dealing with complaints - justified or unjustified -, Aryan will be more professional, more factual and more considerate. Nina, on the other hand, has an undeniable asset, her mediation ability. She translates from German into English and vice versa.

Activity: Damaged goods – how to formulate a written complaint

We are sorry to inform you, but … – writing a complaint via e-mail

Task 1

On checking the delivery of an Asian supplier, Mr Lehmann, the sales manager of HighTechSolar, found that most goods were unusable. As he wanted to complain immediately, he called Nina and Aryan to his office.

Please, help Nina to translate Mr Lehmann’s specifications into English so that Aryan can take notes.

Vocabulary: to meet sth. or to correspond to sth. (etw. entsprechen); due to sth. (zurückzuführen auf etw.); replacement (Ersatz, Ersatzlieferung); to enclose sth. (etwas beifügen)

Mr Lehmann: Insgesamt entsprechen die gelieferten Waren nicht unseren Qualitätsstandards.


Mr L.: 3 Items sind kaputt und 10 sind verkratzt.


Mr L.: 2 weitere Items sind feucht geworden und verschmutzt.


Mr L.: Das ist auf mangelnde Verpackung zurückzuführen.


Mr L.: Wir dokumentieren das alles durch Fotos, die wir beifügen.


Mr L.: Wir erwarten schnellstens Ersatz. Außerdem soll die Firma uns sagen, was wir mit den beschädigten Waren machen sollen.


Mr L.: Es sollte deutlich werden, dass wir die Geschäftsbeziehung nicht fortsetzen, wenn die Ersatzlieferung nicht zu unserer Zufriedenheit ausfällt.

Task 2:

Write a draft of an e-mail complaint to Mr Chung on the basis of Aryan’s notes. Work in pairs:

delivered goods do not meet the quality standards of HTS;

3 items broken, 10 scratched;

further 2 items damaged by moisture and dirt;

the damages are caused because of poor packing;

enclosure: photographs;

request of immediate replacement of the damaged goods; what to do with the damaged items?

If next delivery not to full satisfaction, HTS will not continue the business relationship with the supplier.

To: Kim.Chung@AsianPacificTechnology.com

From: Lehmann.M@HighTechSolar.de

Subject: complaint, order no. 16459

Dear Mr Chung

We are sorry to inform you, but …………………………………………………………….................................................................

Task 3:

As the complaints are numerous, it would be better to give the body of the e-mail a clearer structure. Please add expressions like: first, second, third, fourth or first of all, second / secondly etc. and rewrite the whole e-mail complaint in your notebook.

Solution of the task

In the following, the solution elaborated by a student tandem in a vocational school in the context of dual vocational education and training in Germany is reproduced:

To: Kim.Chung@AsianPacificTechnology.com

From: Lehmann.M@HighTechSolar.de

Subject: complaint, order no. 16459

Dear Mr Chung

We are sorry to tell you that on checking the delivered goods we have several complaints.

First of all, the goods do not meet our quality requirements.

Furthermore, we found that 3 items are broken, 10 are scratched, 2 are damaged by moisture and dirt because of insufficient packing.

We regret to inform you that the delivered goods are unusable. Please find enclosed photographs of the damaged items for your information. We are holding them for your instructions.

Please let us know by return when you will replace the damaged items.

If you want us to continue our new business relationship, we shall expect your immediate action.

Markus Lehmann

Sales Manager

HighTechSolar AG

Heinrich-Hertz-Str. 29

D – 34123 Kassel



It may be asked if this is not too demanding an objective for (advanced) learners in the “ordinary” foreign language classroom. In the author's opinion, it is not demanding at all. Most students in German vocational schools start at best with CEFR level A2. Another question that may be asked is about the content of the unit: Why should a foreign language learner deal with complaints? With the increase of Internet shopping – to think of only one example – most consumers will sooner or later be confronted with writing a complaint in English. The success, i.e. the disponibility of the trader to correspond to our requests, will in large measure depend on the grade of formality we will be able to express.

6.4 Translation Competence and Sub-Competences

In general, all interlingual and intercultural communication has to take into account the (cultural) environment, the particular circumstances, the sphere of life (personal, official, professional), the field of communicative activity (e.g. a debate, a phone call, small talk) as well as the roles and functions of the interaction partners. A further implication of the above considerations is a preference for top-down strategies (bottom-up processes being a characteristic of translation theories based mainly on formal linguistics and language pairing).

What are, then, the differences between the competence of a professional translator and interpreter and that of a foreign language learner and user? Shreve (1997: 120) subsumes translation competence under the general heading of Communication Competence. This specialized form of Communication Competence “is both knowing about translation and about knowing how to do translation” (Shreve 1997: 120). Already in the 1970s, professional translation competence was compared to the natural translation competence of bilinguals, the latter being considered as a by-product of evolving bilingualism (Harris 1977). Shreve points out the different function-form combinations of translation competence and continues: “Natural translation is a result of a translation ability evidenced by bilinguals communicating in real mediating situations. This kind of translation […] is sense oriented.” (Shreve 1997: 122). As aforementioned, this by-product of bilingualism is not trained, but it can be considered as the basis of every type of translation training.

A great number of models of Translation Competence were developed, drawing on different disciplines such as applied linguistics, cognitive psychology and pedagogy, Most of them are componential models with different accentuations of the core components of translation competence. In the following, the model of the PACTE group (2003) will be described for two reasons: Firstly, it is one of the few models based on (greater) empirical research. Secondly, as it comprises many sub-competences, it allows for partial application to mediation in foreign language methodology more than is the case for minimalist conceptualizations such as the model by Pym (2003) based on only two skills: “the ability to generate a series of more than one viable target text for a pertinent source text, and the ability to select only one target text from this series” (Hurtado Albir 2010: 58).

In 2003, after six years of research, the PACTE (Process in the Acquisition of Translation Competence and Evaluation) group presented a revised holistic translation competence model, which is made up of five sub-competences (PACTE group 2003: pp. 58-59):

      1. Bilingual sub-competence: pragmatic, socio-linguistic, textual, grammatical and lexical knowledge in the two languages plus inference control when alternating between the two languages;
      2. Extra-linguistic sub-competence: bicultural knowledge, encyclopedic knowledge (about the world in general), subject knowledge (in special areas);
      3. Knowledge about translation sub-competence: mainly knowledge about how translation functions;
      4. Instrumental sub-competence: knowledge related to the use of documentation sources and information and communication technologies applied to translation;
      5. Strategic sub-competence: procedural knowledge to guarantee the efficiency of the translation process and solve the problems encountered: a. to plan the process and carry out the translation project; b. to evaluate the process and partial results obtained in relation to the final purpose; c. to activate the different sub-competences and compensate for deficiencies in them; d. to identify translation problems and apply procedures to solve them.

In addition, the researchers of PACTE include psycho-physiological components such as memory and emotion, intellectual curiosity, critical spirit and confidence in one’s own abilities, creativity and logical reasoning (e.g. Kelly 2010a: pp. 89-90).

The PACTE group (2003: p. 58) defines translation competence as the underlying system of knowledge needed to translate. “It includes declarative and procedural knowledge, but the procedural knowledge is predominant” (PACTE group 2003: p. 58). Particular attention is given to the strategic sub-competence “that affects all the others and causes inter-relations amongst them because it controls the translation process” (PACTE group 2003: p. 59).

Although between the conceptualizations of translation competence in the different disciplines, there are differences in detail, the overall similarities become more and more evident. This is, on the one hand, due to the changes in professional translation and interpretation caused by globalisation. On the other hand, the growing importance of mediation competence of lay persons calls for more challenging goals in the field of foreign language methodology.

6.5 A Revised Model of Mediation Competence in Foreign Language Learning

The aim of the preceding chapters was to show that foreign language methodology can benefit from translation studies for two main reasons: In the field of professional translation, the purposes of target texts have become more and more prominent and often cause changes or even adaptations of the source text in order to reach the addressees of the respective target cultures. This fact brought about a more flexible attitude of professional translators and interpreters (De Florio-Hansen 2013b). At the same time, foreign language learners and users are no longer limited to the natural translation ability of bi- or trilingual people. In the aftermath of the CEFR, mediation tasks - often in form of simulations - have become part of foreign language teaching and learning focusing on informal talks between lay persons.

These evolutions call for more specified definitions of the mediation competence of foreign language learners and users. In the author's perspective, the curricular goals fixed for mediation should go beyond more or less general descriptions of communication (cf. Chapter 6.2; e. g. Hallet 2008). Knowledge, skills / ability and attitude ought to be more clearly specified with regard to translating and interpreting. Declarative knowledge has to be automatized so that learners can apply their knowledge about translation and interpretation in a more or less effortless way, i.e. it has to be transformed into skills and ability. This is what the scholars of the PACTE group describe as “procedural knowledge” (cf. Chapter 6.4). Knowledge and skills / ability, however, are not a sufficient prerequisite for satisfying mediation. Furthermore, the way to communicative success in mediation activities is not only paved with good intentions, but it is grounded in empathy and respect of others and the firm will to contribute to interlingual and intercultural communication.

Models of translation competence elaborated by translation scholars (cf. Chapter 6.4) are taken as a basis for the following proposal of a revised model of mediation competence in foreign language teaching and learning. Although the three components of (any) competence are inextricably entwined, they will be separated in order to allow for a step-by-step learning and training.

Mediation Competence of (Second / Foreign) Language Learners and Users


Foreign language learners and users

- know that there are different approaches to translation;

- know that the same source text can be translated and interpreted in different ways;

- know that comprehension depends on the cultural background of the interlocutors involved in the mediation activity;

- are aware of the fact that there are close to never one-to-one correspondences between linguistic features of two languages;

- know that communicative success, not equivalence, is the overall aim of mediation;

- are aware of the impossibility and inadequacy of literal translation;

- know that summarizing and paraphrasing are important activities in the mediation context;

- know that there is a risk of inferences when alternating between two or three languages,

- are aware that strategies are needed to gap their insufficient knowledge of the foreign language(s) concerned;

- have adequate knowledge of the main web-based translation tools and documentation sources (besides print and online dictionaries).

Skills / Ability

Foreign language learners and users

- can, in a given informal or formal mediation activity, take the needs and interests of the addressee(s) or interlocutor(s) into adequate account;

- can analyse the source text in order to prepare mediation;

- are able to select, from an oral or written source, the units to be translated in a more or less “exact” way, those to be summarized or paraphrased and those to be left out with regard to the communicative affordances;

- can, on the basis of the communication purpose, choose the adequate form of translation and interpretation regarding text type and genre;

- can detect culture-bound expressions which need to be explained and / or commented;

- can, if time permits and if necessary, take notes and / or prepare a glossary;

- can use tools and sources in order to gap insufficient knowledge regarding language and culture;

- are, especially in oral mediation, able to select the unit of interpretation by intervening between the turns or by limiting the utterances of the interlocutors in a polite way;

- can, if necessary, ask the addressees or interlocutors for explanation of the meaning they want to convey;

- can apply strategic sub-competence to identify translation problems and apply procedures to solve them;

- have recourse to meta-cognitive sub-competence in order to evaluate the mediation process and the partial results obtained in relation to the purpose;

- are able to check the consistency of usage;

- can bridge linguistic, cultural and situational gaps by reconciling differences;

- can evaluate the congruence of two versions;

- can draw on strategic and meta-cognitive sub-competences to activate the relations between all necessary sub-competences involved in the mediation processes of a given task.


Foreign language learners and users:

- are willing to engage in translation and interpretation activities with the aim to facilitate intercultural communication;

- have respect of others and do their best to understand the needs and interests of the counterparts that lack sufficient knowledge of the language(s) involved;

- consider mediation as a support of others; they do not impose their opinions on the interlocutors or addressees;

- have sufficient intellectual curiosity, creativity and emotion to engage in mediation;

- have developed an adequate self-concept, e.g. are critical, but at the same time confident of their own abilities to perform the mediation tasks satisfactorily.

Since ancient times, translation and interpretation have contributed to the evolution of mankind. Translation facilitates communication and, what is more, it offers insights into cultures different from one’s own (Kontrast-Kultur in Mudersbach's (2002: 170) German terminology. According to Mudersbach (2002: 188), every community and every individual needs at least one other cultural system in order to shape individual and collective identities. Multilingualism in Europe, as in most globalized societies, thus, requires translators and interpreters – professionals or lay persons – aware of their eminent cultural and social function.

7 Translation Methodology

Although we can state an approximation of translation studies and foreign language Methodology with regard to the definitions of translation and mediation competence and the respective sub-competences, it is difficult for foreign language teachers to benefit from the professional training of interpreters and translators. Up to the present day, foreign language teaching and learning cannot draw on methodologies developed during the past few decades by scholars of translation studies. This does not mean that there are not methods worthwhile to be taken into consideration, but the different forms of education and training of professionals suffer from a lack of transparency. There is no systematic approach and no general curriculum of translation methodology (cf. Chapter 7.2). What is even more problematic is the fact that translation studies did not develop graded can do descriptions. In general, there is very little research done by translation scholars that even mentions the chapter about mediation in the CEFR.

7.1 Graded Objectives to Reach Mediation Competence

In general, at least at schools and universities, teaching and learning follow an explicit or implicit curriculum. Its design is based on links between planned intentions (expressed as objectives), course content, teaching and learning methods, and the assessment of student learning outcomes, taking into account student characteristics (Cannon & Newble 2000: pp. 142-143).

In most European countries, efforts were made to deduct objectives for mediation from the CEFR and describe the many situations in which interlingual and intercultural transfer may occur. Teaching and learning methods are adapted from the various suggestions in foreign language curricula which, in general, follow the competence-based approach of the CEFR. During the last ten years, the assessment of mediation competence has been included in benchmarking tests and final examinations.

As the CEFR does not contain illustrative scales (see above Chapter 3.3), these were elaborated in detail by experts of Goethe-Institute (Glabionat et al. 2005). General can do descriptors for German as a second or foreign language are always accompanied by concrete can do examples for each level of the CEFR from A1 to C2 (Glaboniat et al. 2005)13. Whereas the CEFR only distinguishes between interpretation (‘oral mediation’) and translation (written mediation’), the can do descriptions of Goethe-Institute in addition differentiate between oral and written target texts and oral and written source texts, considering the multiple demands for mediation in globalized societies. The scales of Goethe-Institute also pay tribute to European multilingualism, including oral and written translation from or into languages other than the foreign language that is in the primary focus of the respective language class.

The descriptions and examples of Goethe-Institute (Glaboniat et al. 2005: 173 f.) point out that there is more than interlingual and intercultural transfer in informal everyday situations to be incorporated in the mediation curriculum. The author's repeated pleas on this behalf are not to be taken as criticism of methodologists and teachers. Foreign language teaching and learning had a long way to go from translation as a learning aid and an assessment tool to mediation as an additional communication goal. Increasing internationalisation and globalisation in the decade after the publication of the CEFR, however, call for further steps toward formal mediation on the job to be carried out by foreign language learners and users, as professional translation can no longer be afforded in all situations in which language transfer is needed.

7.2 Training Designs for Professional Translators and Interpreters

In translation studies, the process of designing training for students has not been carried out systematically (Kelly 2010a: p. 87), i.e. there are different approaches14. This is due to the fact that institutional translator training began only in the second half of the 20th century, establishing programs in more and more countries. What exists is a collection of self-standing courses and modules. Kelly (2010a: p. 87) describes the difficulties of establishing a coherent curriculum of translation and interpretation as follows:

Some [programs] are fully integrated into the university system and thus linked to departments which also conduct research; these tend to include a higher portion of theoretical elements. Others are offered by institutions which do not belong entirely to the university system, granting vocational diploma which do not lead on to postgraduate education […] (Kelly 2010a: p. 87).

The aims of the programmes vary also from generalist training, to training in specific areas of translation (e. g., literary, technical, legal, audiovisual or screen translation). Length varies from short one year courses to long courses of up to five years.

As in foreign language pedagogy, the approaches to professional translator training and education have evolved. Even though foreign language methodology has not been able to benefit from detailed features of translation methodology, there are nevertheless conformities between both disciplines with regard to broader methodological approaches. The following brief overview is limited to those concepts which closely resemble the approaches prasticed in the foreign language classroom during the past few decades (Kelly 2010b: 390 ff.):

      • Learner-centered approaches underscore the importance of translation with a meaningful realistic purpose (Nord 1988 / 1991). Tasks should be authentic and as close as possible to real life.
      • Process-centered approaches are no longer (only) product-oriented, but emphasize the translation process, especially in the early stages of training (Gile 1995). Learners should be enabled to consider the processes that each of them goes through individually when engaged in interpretation and translation.
      • Cognitive and psycholinguistic approaches improve models of the translation process including affective factors and the self-concept of the translator (Kiraly 1995). Strategic and meta-cognitive competences do not only refer to the process and product of translation itself, but learners should become more and more aware of the aforementioned attitudes towards interlingual and intercultural communication.
      • Task-based approaches draw on task-based learning, “well established in foreign language learning” (Kelly 2010b: p. 394), and have developed a great variety of outcome-oriented activities (Hurtado Albir 1999). This is a claim for tasks which follow the task cycle and comprise a wide range of activities wide-spread in theory and practice of foreign language methodology.
      • Sociocultural approaches advocate collaborative and project-based learning referring to earlier situational approaches (Kiraly 2000). In foreign language classrooms, cooperative and project-based learning should represent the greatest part of mediation activities.

What, in the author's opinion, is missing is a competence-oriented approach, developed out of task-based, situational and sociocultural learning. The efforts of foreign language methodology in this direction might be supported by a respective (holistic) model for professional translator training and education.

8 Conclusion

There is an imperative necessity of more reflection in both disciplines accompanied by empirical research. Malmkjær (2010) concludes her article, entitled “Language learning and translation”, with a statement of interest for foreign language methodology:

It would be valuable to have results of studies examining the use of properly situated translation and even interpreting tasks in language classrooms ( Malmkjær 2010: 189).

In order to prepare language learners for a wide range of informal and formal mediation, foreign language teaching and learning should pay more attention to the following objectives:

      • Translation theories and their application in practice should enter the curricula of language methodology.
      • Existing task formats of professional translator training can contribute to the creation of more challenging mediation activities.
      • Comparing the details of the sub-competences in both disciplines may help foreign language methodology to focus on sub-competence components relevant to more realistic mediation activities (cf. 6.5).
      • Foreign language learners and users will benefit especially from components of (professional) strategic competence.
      • Translation studies should elaborate can do descriptions at least for three levels (A, B, C) in order to create greater transparency.
      • Community Interpreting effectuated by the children of migrants should be incorporated in foreign language classrooms, at least in those with a relevant number of students of foreign descent.

These objectives are of essential importance both for research and practical teaching.


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Prof. Dr. Inez De Florio-Hansen

Kassel University

Foreign Language Teaching and Acquisition Research (Fremdsprachenlehr- und -lernforschung)

Intercultural Communication (Interkulturelle Kommunikation)

Georg-Forster-Str. 3

34109 Kassel


E-mail: deflorio@t-online.de

1 Although theories of translation and interpretation in Europe only follow in part Anglo-American approaches represented by ‘translation studies’, this term is preferred because it is widely accepted (Munday 2010: pp. 420-421).

2 In the following, the term translation is used for translating and interpreting as well. In translation studies, this convention goes back to Kade (1968: 35 and passim). In the field of foreign language methodology, the term translation for translating and interpreting is justified because mediation is rather frequently done from written to oral and from oral to written, i.e. a clear distinction between interpretation (from oral to oral) and translation (from written to written) is not possible. (See the respective examples throughout the present article).

3 The working languages of the EU are English, French and German. The use of German is contested by many smaller states, especially Finland. They would prefer an English-only language regime.

4 For the different terms and areas included cf. Zimmermann (2009: pp. 7)

5 Cf. the common standards for interpreting in criminal proceedings of the EU.

6 Vocational courses (legal, medical), university: B.A. , M. A., specific modules.

7 At Erfurt University (Germany), under the guidance of K. Knapp, several doctoral theses dealing with the interpreting of lay persons in everyday contexts were written, e. g. Cieplinska 2007, Wilton 2009, and Chen 2012.

8 Since 2002, scales for the levels A1, A2, B1 and B2 have existed for German as a foreign language (Glaboniat et al. 2002). These detailed scales, elaborated by experts of Goethe Institute, were completed (C1 and C2) in 2005 (Glaboniat et al. 2005).

9 www.spiegel.de 15-10-2008; 06-10-2013

10 English translation (by Polly McLean:)

Confused, she turns around, returns to her spot an glances at the open page of the Koran. Checks. ‘Sixteen days … so today it is the sixteenth name of God that I am supposed to chant. Al-Qahhar, the Dominant. Yes, that’s right, that is the sixteenth name …’ Thoughtful: ‘Sixteen days!’ She takes a step back. ‘Sixteen days that I’ve been existing in time with your breath.’ Hostile: ‘Sixteen days that I’ve been breathing with you!’ She stares at the man. ‘Look, I breathe just like you!’ She takes a deep breath in, exhales it laboriously. In time with him. ‘Even without my hand on your chest, I still breathe like you.’ She bends over him. ‘And even when I’m not near you, I still breathe in time with you.’ She backs away from him. ‘Do you hear me?’ She starts shouting ‘Al-Qahhar’, and telling the prayer beads again, still to the same rhythm. She walks out of the room. We hear her shouting, ‘Al-Qahhar, Al-Qahhar …’ in the passage and beyond …

‘Al-Qahhar …’ moves away.

‘Al-Qahhar …’ becomes faint.

‘Al …’ Imperceptible.

Is gone. (Rahimi 2011: pp. 7-8)

11 Translation Studies are often referred to as interdisciplinary approaches. Even though Methodology may be more homogenous, it is not less interdisciplinary than translation theories. ‘Interdisciplinarity’, in current scientific contexts, is a characteristic trait of most fields of the Humanities and even of a great part of the Natural Sciences.

12 Gregory M. Shreve is professor at the Institute of Applied Linguistics, Kent State University, Ohio, which, apart from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, is the leading U.S. institution concerned with the training of translators and interpreters.

13 A1 (Glaboniat et al. 2005: pp. 114-115), A2 (Glaboniat et al. 2005: pp. 126-129), B1 (Glaboniat et al. 2005: 144-151), B2 (Glaboniat et al. 2005: 168-174), C1 Glaboniat et al. 2005: 189-194), C2 (Glaboniat et al. 2005: 208-213).

14 The collection of teaching objectives formulated by Delisle (1993), who was inspired by the Canadian tradition of contrastivism, was probably too theoretical as to have a real impact on the practice of translator training and education.