Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 12

Accepted Abstracts

Teaching English communicatively using translation.

Maria Khan, National Research University Higher School of Economics, St.Petersburg (Russian Federation)


Teaching English communicatively using translation.

Maria Khan

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Russian Federation

[email protected]


Russian educational system, of a higher education in particular, inherited all the traditions of teaching languages from the Soviet Union, where the grammar-translation method was the prevailing one. This method included translation of texts on specific topics, making lists of vocabulary and explicit learning of grammar with a focus on reading skills to the disadvantage of speaking and listening. However, the wave of more communicative methods, such as the communicative approach and the direct method, has overrun the market of teaching English in Russia in recent years. One of the principles of these approaches is to avoid totally or at least to minimize the usage of students’ mother tongue in class. Following this trend, more and more Russian teachers of English in search of their professional recognition on the international market take CELTA courses (designed for multilingual class purposes) that declare rejection of using translation and students’ own language starting from the elementary level. The situation is amplified by the whole industry of TEFL, where authentic course books written presumably for native speaking teachers do not refer to translation. It can be explained by the fact that native speakers teaching English often have little or no command of their students’ language. This leads to almost total exclusion of the native language from class. Russian non-native teachers in turn feel guilty about using translation as return back to out-of-date methods. However, recent studies [1,2,3] and our experience of teaching students proves that thoughtful using of mother tongue and translation in particular can be a real source of raising awareness of how language works. We are going to suggest a number of activities in the framework of lexical approach [4] for a monolingual class purposes (this is the typical situation not only for Russia). These activities focus on noticing chunks and collocations the skill of which is identified as an issue for students of all levels of proficiency. Translation here is not considered as the only part of teaching but as a fresh look at how it can be used to maximum effect in a combination with approaches aimed at immersion students in the language environment.



1.     Cook, Guy. 2010. Translation in language teaching. Oxford University Press.

2.     Hall, Graham, and Cook, Guy. 2013. Own-language use in ELT: exploring global practices and attitudes. London: British Council.

3.     Kerr, Philip. 2014. Translation and own-language activities. Cambridge University Press.

4.     Lewis, Michael. 1997. Implementing the lexical approach: putting theory into practice. Heinle, Cengage Learning.


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