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Translation as an enabling strategy for students reading comprehension of it texts

VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI
UNIVERSITY OF FOREIGN LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
POST GRADUATE DEPARTMENT

TRANSLATION AS AN ENABLING STRATEGY
FOR STUDENTS’ READNG COMPREHENSION
OF IT TEXTS
(Sử dụng dich thuật như một chiến lược trong việc day
đọc hiểu các bài khóa chuyên ngành công nghệ thông tin.)

M.A THESIS
FIELD : English teaching methodology
CODE : 601410

SUPERVISOR: VU THI THU THUY, M.A
BY

: DANG THI THANH VAN

HA NOI – 2010



TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ............................................................................................. i
DECLARATION…………………………………………………………………………ii
ABSTRACT .................................................................................................................... iii
ABBREVIATION .......................................................................................................... iv

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
1.1. Rationale .................................................................................................................. 1
1.2. Identification of the problem ..................................................................................... 1
1.3. Scopes, objective and research questions for the study .............................................. 4
1.4. Methods of the study ............................................................................................... 5
1.5. Design of the study .................................................................................................. 5

CHAPTER 2: REVIEW OF LITERATURE
2.1. Challenges of comprehending IT texts ..................................................................... 6
2.2. Use of language 1 as support of students’ reading comprehension ............................ 7
2.3. Translation as a classroom technique ....................................................................... 9
2.4. Strategy for using translation to support students’ comprehension of IT texts ........... 10
2.4.1. Clarifying the exact meanings of technical terms. ......................................... 10
2.4.2. Performing translation activities in post-reading for clearer comprehending the
IT texts. ............................................................................................................ 11
2.4.3. Improving students’ knowledge of the language. .......................................... 12

CHAPTER 3: THE STUDY
3.1. Context of the study .................................................................................................. 13
3.1.1. The learning context ..................................................................................... 13
3.2.2. The learning materials ................................................................................. 13
3.2. Methods of data collection ........................................................................................ 14
3.3. The participants ........................................................................................................ 15
3.3.1. The students ................................................................................................. 15
3.3.2. The teachers ................................................................................................. 16
3.4. The procedures of the study ...................................................................................... 16
3.4.1. Problem identification .................................................................................. 16


3.4.2. Plan of survey ............................................................................................... 17
3.4.2.1. Determining the students’ challenges in reading comprehension of IT texts........17
3.4.2.2. Helping students come over their challenges in comprehending IT texts. ... 17
3.4.2.3. Applying translation activities in post-reading, the direct observation in class


and strategy for using translation to support students in reading comprehension of
IT texts. ............................................................................................................. 18
3.4.2.4. Evaluating students’ attitude to translation in post-reading process. ........... 19
3.4.3. Analyzing the data ........................................................................................ 20
3.4.4. Findings........................................................................................................ 21
3.5. Conclusion ............................................................................................................... 21

CHAPTER 4: DATA ANALYSIS
4.1. The effects on the students’ attitude towards translation in post-reading process. ...... 22
4.2. The students’ perception of usefulness of translation to reading comprehension........ 34
4.3. Discussion of the above findings............................................................................... 36
4.3.1. What are the effects of translation on students’ reading comprehension? ...... 38
4.3.2. What are the students’ attitudes towards translation in post-reading? ............ 38
4.3.3. What do IT students perceive of the usefulness of translation to their reading
comprehension? ................................................................................................. 39
4.4. Conclusion ............................................................................................................... 39

CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION
5.1. Summary of the major findings ................................................................................ 40
5.1.1. Students’ positive attitudes towards translation in post-reading process. ...... 40
5.1.2. Students’ perception of usefulness of translation to their reading comprehension
related the strategy for using translation mentioned above. .........................................40
5.1.3. Students’ opinion on the role of translation to their reading comprehension of
IT texts. ............................................................................................................. 41
5.2. Limitations of the study and suggestions for further studies ...................................... 41
5.3. Pedagogical implications of the study ....................................................................... 42
5.4. Conclusion ............................................................................................................... 42
REFERENCES
APPENDIX


ABBREVIATIONS
L1: Language 1
L2: Language 2
SL: source language
TL: target language
IT: Information Technology
ESP: English for Specific purposes
FLT: Foreign Language Teaching
HUBT: Hanoi University of Business and Technology
E.T.M: English Teaching Methodology

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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
This chapter is concerned with the rationale behind the researcher‟s decision of choosing
the thesis subject, and the way she investigates the effects of translation activities on
students‟ achievement in reading skills for IT students.
Besides, the scope, the objectives, and the research questions as well as the methods and
design of the study are also stated clearly.
1. 1. Rationale
Never before has English become so pervasive as nowadays, and English has formally
been an important subject in our educational system. English is one of the languages in the
world that masters in various fields globally. “Better English, more opportunities” is the
answer given by most Vietnamese university students when asked about their goal of
learning English. English can help students prepare well for their future careers as it can
not only equip them with a useful source of personal, linguistic, social and cultural
knowledge but also provide them with access to modern technology and information
concerning a variety of issues in modern society. Getting students to read English texts is
an important part of our job at HUBT. IT students should be able to read specialist texts in
English either for careers, or for study purposes. Understandably, reading is useful for
language acquisition provided that students more or less understand what they read, and
the more they read, the better they get at it. Reading also has a positive effect on students‟
vocabulary knowledge, on their spelling and on their writing. However, it is observed that
IT students at HUBT who have to read to get gist information about new technology
always have difficulties in translating IT texts for thorough understanding in their mother
tongue.
For all the above reasons, it is strongly desirable for the researcher to propose
“Translation as an enabling strategy for students’ reading comprehension of IT
texts” as the subject of this study.
1. 2. Identification of the problem

According to the researcher‟ observation and her teaching experience she realizes that her
IT students always encounter difficulties in understanding specialist reading texts


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thoroughly after they have done many reading comprehension exercises. They always have
to use their mother tongue as an understanding aid. Therefore, there is an additional task
after doing reading comprehension known as translation or translating the text into
Vietnamese (as IT students do at HUBT). In the past, the prevalence of grammartranslation method led to an extraordinary phenomenon: students were unable to speak
fluently after having studied the language for a long time and until recently, translation was
out of favour with the language teaching community. As pointed out by Duff (1994),
translation was labelled “boring”, “uncommunicative”, “difficult”, “pointless” and the like,
and suffered from too close an association with grammar. For this reason, translation has
been defined as “uncommunicative, boring, pointless, difficult, and irrelevant”.
However, Duff (1994) also sees there has been a revival of interest to translation due to the
shift of its emphasis - to using a mother tongue as a resource for the promotion of language
learning. Duff (1989:7) also notes that translation is of a great value because it “develops 3
qualities essential to all langage learning: flexibility, accuracy and clarity... This
combination of freedom and contraint allows the students to contribute their own thoughts
to discussion which has a clear focus- text.” Therefore, translation can be considered as a
tool for improving language skills.
Today, thanks to the new communicative approach to language teaching, translation is
gradually becoming recognized as a valid activity for language practice and improvement.
The three qualities essential to all language learning should be taken into details.
Firstly, accuracy is very important for IT students, who always deal with professional
technical terms as well as complicated grammar structures in their specialist reading texts.
The accuracy quality can be seen in the real usefulness of translation in English classes in
exploiting it in order to compare grammar, vocabulary, word order and other language
points in English and the student‟s mother tongue. According to N. J. Ross (2000), if
students are aware of the language differences, language interference (transfer) and
intervention from their own language are likely to be reduced.
Secondly, clarity depends a lot on students‟ language proficiency. It is observed that the
students may understand the text in general. However, it is sometimes difficult for them to
clarify some professional terms and complicated grammar structures - syntactic IT texts
feature.


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It is noteworthy that in teaching / learning ESP there has been a long-felt dissatisfaction,
mainly on the students‟ part, about the exclusion or minimal use of translation in mastering
complex issues. Learners constantly wished to check the exact meanings of the professional
terms in their native language by consulting bilingual dictionaries or asking for teacher‟s
explanations.
There is an opinion that “rigidly eliminating or limiting the native language does not appear to
guarantee better acquisition, nor does it foster the humanistic approach that recognizes
learners‟ identities (Mattioli 2004: 20). Translation as a teaching tool needs to take into
account a number of different aspects, such as grammar, syntax, collocation and connotation.
Uncritical use of translation may give learners insufficient, confusing, or even inaccurate
information about the target language.
Thirdly, flexibility is referred quite a lot to students‟ background knowledge. According to the
researcher‟s observation of her IT students at HUBT she realizes that students with better
background IT knowledge find it easier to understand technical texts and interpret to others
legibly or clearly. This means that in the case their background knowledge leads them to become
more flexible to cope with challenges of comprehending IT texts.
Therefore, raising learners‟ consciousness can be valuable: teachers can explicitly point out
differences between L1 and L2. For this purpose translation may be useful, because it can
be interactive, learner-centered, then it promotes learners‟ autonomy by using
authentic materials (Mahmoud 2006: 28).
Although the use of translation in learning a foreign language is much maligned by
language teachers, translation is widely used in learners‟ foreign language learning
process. It appears that learners often use translation as a learning strategy to comprehend,
remember, and produce a foreign language. Translation has been used by foreign language
learners to facilitate language learning for centuries, but translation has played various
roles under different language teaching methods. While some foreign language educators
may consider translation as a critical means to ensure students‟comprehension and an
important writing exercise, other teachers may totally ban or discourage the use of the
native language and translation in the classroom. As Malmkjar stated, „the issue of the use
of translation in language teaching is one on which most language teachers have a
view‟(1998: 1), but fairly often, teachers‟ views are not strongly in favor of it. However,
relatively little research attention so far seems to have been devoted to a consideration of


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the use of translation in language learning. As an English teacher working with IT students
on ESP at HUBT the researcher always takes this problem onto consideration.
Doing the research the researcher tries to identify the role of translation in post-reading for IT
students at HUBT and to help them use translation well enough for their language learning.
The teacher - the researcher had asked her students to translate their specialist reading into
Vietnamese as a compulsory task in class as well as a homework assignment. She asked them
to translate a simple sentence, then more complicated ones, after that a paragraph, and finally a
whole text orally in order to find out students‟ weaknesses and strengths and help them with
correcting mistakes. Their products had to be written out, which helped them a lot in improving
their language learning. During the research, the researcher had found some articles and
books about implementing translation as learning strategies to improve students‟ reading
understanding and even their language proficiency. According to these articles and books,
the benefits of translation had been explored in Vietnam and should be taken into account.
1. 3. Scopes, objective and research questions for the study
This study was a kind of survey research which was designed and conducted by the
researcher herself. The study was limited to the investigation of students‟ attitudes towards
translation, as well as the effect of translation on students‟ reading comprehension of IT
texts.

The study was conducted on the third-year IT students who were studying English

as a compulsory subject at Hanoi University of Business and Technology. Thus, the first
and foremost objective of the study is for the sake of the students at Hanoi University of
Business and Technology, where the researcher worked as a teacher of English. Although
any generalization of the findings should be made with caution, it is expected that this
study will serve as a source of references for teachers of English on the teaching of reading
skills for IT students, especially for those who consider translation in post-reading for IT
students as one of the suggested educational innovations.
To be more specific, in realizing this study, the main objective is:
-

To investigate the effects of translation activities on students‟ achievement in
reading skills for IT students.

With this objective, the research questions are:
-

What are the IT students‟ attitudes towards translation in post-reading process?


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-

What do IT students perceive of the usefulness of translation to their reading
comprehension?

1.4. Methods of the study
This study primarily involved a survey questionnaire (for students). Moreover, in order to
clarify learners‟ attitude to translation and their perception of the usefulness of translation
to their reading comprehension, interviews were conducted with students as well.
On the other hand, the research was based on the students‟ attitudes to translation learning
through researcher‟s direct observation herself during her teaching process at HUBT.
1. 5. Design of the study
The study is divided into five main chapters:
Chapter one is the Introduction, which states the rationale, the scope, the objective, and the
research questions as well as the methods and design of the study.
Chapter two presents all necessary literature review that relates to the study.
In chapter three, the study solves the two research questions:
1. What are the IT students‟ attitudes towards translation in post-reading process?
2. What do IT students perceive of the usefulness of translation to their reading
comprehension?
One of the main contents of the study, the data analysis is reported in chapter four. In this
chapter, the researcher analyzes the data collected using a survey questionnaire and
interviews to reach the findings of the study. The discussion of the findings related to the
research questions with reference to the literature review is mentioned.
Chapter five is the conclusion where the main contents of the study are summarized. In
addition, the pedagogical implications of the study as well as the limitations of the study
and the suggestions for further studies are discussed in this chapter.
Besides, the list of references and the appendixes are also parts of this study.


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CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
This chapter presents some of the most important issues in theory of teaching translation in
general and in language teaching in particular. The main features are taken into
consideration, namely, the concepts related to the study including

challenges of

comprehending IT text, use of language 1 as support of students’ reading
comprehension, translation as a classroom technique, strategy for using translation
to support students’ comprehension of IT texts.
2.1. Challenges of comprehending IT texts
It is observed that the most difficult task for IT students at HUBT in their course book is
specialist reading because nearly all students have trouble comprehending technical
expository text at deep levels even though some of them are really skilled readers. Deep
comprehension of technical texts is a difficult challenge, because the students have
minimal knowledge of technical terms as well as key forms background knowledge.
Technical terms are categorized as single terms, compound terms, acronyms and
abbreviations etc. The background knowledge may have some effects on reading
comprehension even though with high relevant background knowledge and general reading
skills and struggle. According to Wolff (1987) low students used background knowledge to
help to make sense of incomprehensible material. However Bernhardt (1991) suspects that
background knowledge becomes less important as students become more linguistically
proficient. Even in their first language, readers have different level of reading ability,
which is the reason why some theorists argue that whereas good readers can take
advantage of background knowledge and context, readers who are slow at decoding
symbols and words overburden their short-term memory and cannot call up the appropriate
schemata. This means that good professional knowledge helps IT students have
professional understanding of specialist reading, which helps them easily follow the ideas
presented in an IT text and comprehend it better.
The second thing that must be taken into account is the typical syntactic features of IT
texts. As pointed out by Phuong Nguyen Thi Mai (2004) the typical syntactic features of IT
texts are much related to sentence structures which are categorized into complex sentence
structure, which is often formed as one main clause followed by a dependent clause such


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as relative clauses, or - ed participle clause, and passive structure. These phenomena,
which typically appear in IT texts, sometimes make students frustrated due to its
complexity. Most linguists of Vietnamese (Nguyen Anh Que, Diep Quang Ban, Hoang
Trong Phien etc.) have concluded that this grammatical category does not exist in
Vietnamese. Although it seems that it is not difficult to understand those clauses in
English, the translation of such clauses from English into Vietnamese is considered as a
difficult and sophisticated task particularly for IT students.
The next feature of IT texts that should be considered is common pitfalls of the language
such as multi-meanings, complex phrases or sentence structures caused by the differences
in expressions between languages. It is really a difficult task because it conversely affects
the reader‟s understanding as an awkward translation would hinder the ideas in the SL text
to be transferred smoothly and naturally into the TL text.
2. 2. Use of language 1 as support of students’ reading comprehension

The state-of-the-art teaching of languages is based on the communicative method which
only emphasizes teaching English in practical context. However, the idea of abandoning the
native tongue is too stressful to many students of English for IT at HUBT, who need a sense
of security in the experience of learning a foreign language.
Several studies (Block, 1986; Chamot, Kupper, & Impink- Hernandez, 1988a; Chamot,
Kupper, & Impink-Hernandez, 1988b; Chamot, O'Malley, Kupper, & Impink-Hernandez,
1987) have shown that translation, using the first language as a means for understanding
and/or producing the second language, is not an uncommon cognitive strategy for high
school and adult language learners. However, Cook (1992) argues further that all second
language learners access their L1 while processing the L2. Cook also suggests that "the L2
user does not effectively switch off the L1 while processing the L2, but has it constantly
available" Cook (1992: 571). Cook also maintains that when working with second language
learners, teachers must not treat the L2 in isolation from the L1. In fact, according to Cook,
one cannot do so: "The L1 is present in the L2 learners' minds, whether the teacher wants it
to be there or not. The L2 knowledge that is being created in them is connected in all sorts
of ways with their L1 knowledge" Cook (1992: 584).


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Kern (1994) in his study on the language of thought used by L2 learners in comprehending
L2 texts, looks at the role of translation as a cognitive strategy in the L2 reading
comprehension process. (For his study Kern has used verbal report interviews while
reading and 51 students (L1=English) in a third- semester, college French class were
asked to report what they were thinking as they read a text in French as well as how they
went about making sense of what they read.) Kern (1994: 441) found that not only did
these subjects make frequent use of translation as a strategy to understand the L2 text, but
that "mental translation during L2 reading may facilitate the generation and conservation
of meaning". A partial replication of this study by Hawras (1996) supports Kern's (1994)
findings. Hawras in fact argues that, for beginning language learners, "mental translation is
not just the major, but the only comprehension tool at the student's disposal" Hawras
(1996: 65). While this statement seems extreme, it does stress the importance of an L2
learner's L1 in the early acquisition stages.
Haenggi (1992) and Perfetti (1992) suggest two important sources of limitations to reading
comprehension. The former relates to the phenomenon that second language readers have
access to their first language and indeed use this resource as a strategy to help themselves
to comprehend an L2 text. The latter seems likely that the L1 is used as a valuable strategy
for overcoming obstacles in word recognition and propositional integration.
For all above statements the researcher herself can see that it is undeniable that it is very
important for teachers to analyze, to reflect on and to make use of their own situations. It is
observed that no matter how good the students are at comprehending authentic reading or
listening materials, the majority keeps mentally translating from L2 into L1 and vice versa as
a habit for they don‟t have enough knowledge of the language they are learning so they need
to reason through their mother tongue. This fact makes teachers of foreign languages aware
of the importance of translation in language classrooms.
There is a question in Widdowson (1983:20) “will the learner have to use translation once
he has learned L2?” and the answer to this question is positive, for translation is a real life
communicative activity – the learners translate in class for peers, decode signs and notices
in the environment, translate professional IT texts to understand clearly and exactly in their
mother tongue. In addition, one should not lose sight of Duff‟s warning (Duff 1989:6) that


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language competence is a two-way system, that we need to be able to communicate into
and from the language system. Yet little guidance of how to communicate is given back
into the mother tongue, something that many professionals need to do in their daily work.
It is important to remind that the purpose of the use of translation in the foreign language
classroom is neither the major nor minor aim but a tool to promote success in language by
the help of the language 1. L1 is used to clarify meaning, to check the understanding in a
text, to interpret and clarify the new vocabulary by the help of translation. In short,
translation is said to reflect the students‟ abilities to mediate betwween L1 and L2 and
show insight into both languages. Translation appears to be convenient, for students are
said to naturally think in their L1 while learning L2. Translation is seen by sonme as a
reliable test because it measures great deal of language.”( Benssoussan, 1985:45)
2.3. Translation as a classroom technique
According to Duff, there are not only 4 skills in the process of learning in the language
(reading, writing, listening and speaking) but 5, and the fifth is translation. Duff (1989:5)
also stated that four hundreds of years, translation was “right at the heart of language
teaching”.
This means it is worth considering reasons for taking translation as technique in teaching
ESP Reading comprehension. Firstly, as Nunnan (1999) pointed out, what the students
think and feel about language learning is of great importance in language teaching and this
should be taken into account in any course planning. In some cases it is inevitable that
language learners use L1 as a resource. Indeed it is a kind of individual learning style for
some students. They need to be able to relate lexis and structures of target language into
their equivalents in their mother tongue. So a sound pedagogy should make use of this
learning style rather than try to deny it. Secondly, translation makes students develop their
reading comprehension ability in grammar as well as in vocabulary. It is quite obvious that
before translating any text, students should read the text thoroughly trying to make sense
of its features like sentence -structures, context and register. In other words, according to
Chellapan (1982) there should be a kind of textual analysis, which is very important in
reading comprehension. Indeed the difference between translation and reading is the
degree of attention paid by readers or translators, that is, in translation the weight of
attention is far heavier than the sole reading. Thirdly, Herry and Higgins (1992) stated that


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translation is a conscious process of learning, in which exist two types of activities, both of
them require a full engagement of learners.The former is the understanding the source text
in the language 1 and the latter is formulating it in the target language.This is the
characteristic that distinguishes translation from other activities. Fourthly, Duff (1990)
pointed out that translation is a kind of communicative activity, which is practiced within a
meaningful context. It enhances interaction between teachers and students and students
themselves due to the fact that there is rarely any absolute right rendering of the text.
Finally, translation can be used as an evaluating technique in reading lessons. As reading is
totally unobservable comprehension which should be inferred from the other behavior. It is
important for both teachers and students to be able to assess comprehension precisely.That
is, among the other techniques like doing, transferring, answering, extending and
modeling, we may ask students to translate part of the reading text into their native
language to ensure if they have fully grasped the content.This can be done at the end of the
reading lesson, particularly for specialist reading which is really demanding texts for third
year students at HUBT, known as post-reading activity.
2.4. Strategy for using translation to support students’ comprehension of IT texts
The researcher herself thinks of three essential strategies to support students‟
comprehension of IT texts including:
1. Clarifying the exact meanings of technical terms.
2. Performing translation in post-reading for clearer comprehending.
3. Improving students‟ knowledge of the language.
2.4.1. Clarifying the exact meanings of technical terms.
For all above reasons the researcher herself can come closely to the idea that the purpose of
translation in the language classroom is not to train professionals, but to help learners
develop their knowledge of English. In other words, it is a means to an end, not an end to
be achieved.
Mahmoud (2006) points out that the translation is useful for L2 acquisition because,
firstly, it uses authentic materials, secondly, it is interactive, thirdly, it is learner-centered,
and finally it promotes learner autonomy.
The first strategy is suggested because it is based on the fact that learners constantly
wished to check the exact meanings of the professional terms in their native language by


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consulting bilingual dictionaries or asking for teacher‟s explanations . It is really important
for IT students to clarify technical terms which help them to improve their reading
comprehension. Thus, as for the advantages of translating, the students felt that the ideas
were easier to develop, thoughts and opinions could be expressed more clearly, and words
could be more easily found through the use of dictionary. In addition, translation also can
help in vocabulary acquisition. Prince‟s research results (1996) revealed the superiority of
using translation in learning vocabulary in terms of quantity of words learned Also, researchers
have varied opinions at which stage the use of translation is the most beneficial for learners.
Husain‟s research (1995) suggested that using translation had highly positive effects on the low
and intermediate proficiency learners, but it did not benefit higher level students. Husain also
found that translation strategy could enhance English learning in general.
2.4.2. Performing translation activities in post-reading for clearer comprehending.
According to Mahmoud (2006), raising learners‟ consciousness can be valuable: teachers
can explicitly point out differences between L1 and L2. For this purpose translation may be
useful, because it can be interactive, learner-centered, it promotes learners‟ autonomy, and
uses authentic materials.The ESP learners, specifically IT students use a number of
activities that are beneficial for their linguistic development as well as reading
comprehension. Post-reading activities give students the opportunity to review, summarize,
and react to a reading material through discussions in small or large groups. After having
read a professional passage as a homework assignment or class task, students were
encouraged to generate various comprehension exercises, such as multiple choice
questions, true or false statements, general questions on the contents of a professional text.
Students‟ generated exercises were scrutinized in pairs or small groups. The activity of
writing different types of summaries, e.g. restatement, descriptive summary or opinion
essays, has proved being very useful. It allowed teachers to pin-point errors stemming from
the mother tongue, although checking written work increased teacher‟s load significantly.
Selected texts (at HUBT we have been following scheduled specialist reading texts and
extra reading passages related tightly to the students IT knowledge) for re-translation
should not be too long, or too linguistically complex, or too distant from the students‟ ESP
knowledge. Students in pairs translated different short professional passages from L2 into
L1. Then pairs exchanged their translations and translated the passages back into L2.
Finally translations L2 •¨ L1 •¨ L2 were examined and compared with the original texts.


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The ultimate analysis allowed raising learners‟ awareness of vocabulary, grammar, style,
and language transfer. Benson (2002) accepted that language transfer, or cross-linguistic
influence, does occur, but is a far more complex phenomenon than hitherto believed. Thus,
the second strategy is suggested to help students comprehend IT texts more clearly or
legibly by the application of translation in post-reading process.
2.4.3. Improving students’ knowledge of the language.
It was also discovered in Husain‟s research (1995) that students who used translation
tended to make more gains in learning vocabulary and phrases, compared to a lower level
gain in learning tenses. In other words, the higher level students benefited the least from
translation use.
In contrast, other researchers advocate the use of translation at the advanced level.
Advanced learners may have already developed a somewhat solid foundation of the target
language, and thus can be more likely to discern the subtle differences of vocabulary
meaning and grammar usage between their L1 and L2. For example, Perkins (1985: 53)
indicated that through translation instruction, „the advanced learner will always gain some
insight into points of L1-L2 difference and conflict on a syntactic, semantic and stylistic
level and this may ultimately improve his L2 competence‟. Translation is seen as an
important tool to upgrade high-level students‟ learning as well as reading comprehension.
Titford (1985) shared the same view and proposed that translation is an appropriate
resource for advanced learners. He also argues that translation can serve as a problemsolving exercise as well as a cognitive exercise in the classroom. More importantly, the use
of translation at the advanced level can help learners extend their knowledge of the foreign
language by making reference to their mother tongue, and then help learners clarify the
similarities and the differences between the foreign language and their native language.
Therefore, the third strategy is recommended to improve knowledge of the language
learning which helps students a lot in comprehending IT texts.
Thus, so much benefit is taken from translation activity in post-reading mentioned above,
which is recommended to use translation to support students‟ comprehension of IT texts
which will be made clear by the next section.


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CHAPTER 3: THE STUDY
In this section, besides the minor introduction and conclusion, four main categories are
addressed. The first one is the context of the study, which houses the description of the
students‟ learning context and learning materials in their third year at Hanoi University of
Business and Technology. In the second category, the methods of data collection are
presented carefully. The introduction of the survey research lies in the next part. The most
important part of the chapter, which is the procedures of the study, describes in details the
problem identification and the plan of survey.
3. 1. Context of the study
3. 1. 1. The learning context
The students were in their first semester of the third university year, with 180 class hours
of English study. They studied in a small-sized class of 30 ones; each class had one private
room to study. They had just finished the pre-intermediate level of English and attended 10
class hours of English every week. The students, after two years learning English at Hanoi
University of Business and Technology, are expected to communicate appropriately in
various, simple situations in everyday life as well as to read IT texts quite well.
In general, the students at Hanoi University of Business and Technology attend 3 modules
of English in their first year, 4 ones in their second year, and 4 others in their third year. At
the end of each module, they have to take part in an oral progress test which accounts for
20% of the general module score. The written test takes 10%, the on-going assessments get
10%, and the final on-computer-test takes 60%.
3. 1. 2. The learning materials
The course book is Oxford English for Information Technology (Intermediate, second
edition) by Eric H.Glendinning John/ Mc Ewan. The book is clearly laid out with five
different sections of language work, reading , speaking ( with instructions and information
for pair works as well as group work), writing , to help students practice using the language
in the classroom. The book is divided into 25 units covering a wide range of current IT
topics, using authentic texts and visual material taken from textbooks, newspapers, popular
computing magazines, Internet newsgroups, Web pages, manuals and advertisements.
There are additional longer specialist reading texts for students already proficient in


14

computing in their own language. In the case, the specialist reading texts have been
focused following research among teachers to answer the research questions. Besides
reading, the book provides input in speaking, and listening, with guidance for writing
tasks. Each unit ends with a specialist reading which the researcher has chosen to allow
students to practice language they have worked on during the unit and to do the postreading task to enhance their comprehension and to interpret to others in their mother
tongue. There are also other components such as a comprehensive glossary of current IT
terminology, and five progress Tests that consolidate and support the work in the main
units as well as assess students' progress through the course. However, the specialist
reading texts are too professional and demanding for third year IT students at HUBT to
understand and interpret to others. (It is quite a big challenge because the third-year IT
students at HUBT are not proficient in computing in their own language yet). This
stimulates the researcher to work on this issue to help students cope with their difficulties,
so that the use of mother tongue can be solved, and students can quickly make progress in
the process of second language acquisition, as well as meet the course requirements at
university.
3. 2. Methods of data collection
As mentioned above, the study was conducted according to a survey research method. The
purpose of a survey is to learn about characteristics of an entire group of interest (a
population) by examining a subset of that group (a sample). In other words, the purpose of
a survey is to examine one or more variables for larger numbers of entities. The most
prevalent data-collection methods are questionnaires, interviews, and direct observations of
language use.
The sample of the research was 30 students of TH1201 at HUBT. The results of the study
were developed based on the data collected via the direct observation, the survey
questionnaire for 30 students of TH1201, the think- aloud interview. The process of
collecting data was carried out during the students‟ tenth module of English at university.
The first instrument for collecting data was the teacher‟s direct observation during
specialist reading lesson and translation activity in post-reading process to evaluate
students‟ attitude to their class tasks, to translation in post-reading process and their level
of perception, then provides support when it is necessary. The researcher observed the


15

class performance herself during the study. Once she assigned her students any tasks, she
encouraged and silently observed their attitude towards their mission. She walked around
the classroom, kept in touch with every student and helped with difficult vocabulary or
technical terms as well as complicated grammar structures such as relative clauses, -ed
clauses and passive sentences. Specifically, the students were divided into groups based on
their reading abilities and their interests. The observer- researcher- the teacher also noticed
who were really interested in the lesson or who had better reading ability and how each
student deal with vocabulary and grammar structure. Although most of them bring
bilingual dictionaries with them to look up, they still need teacher‟s help.
The second instruments were findings of the survey questionnaires to clarify the two
research questions. The survey questions were designed according to the five-point Likert
scale. The answers to fifteen survey statements were collected. The results of the six
students‟ interviews also were used to clarify the questionnaire data.
3. 3. The participants
3. 3. 1. The students
This study as a survey research was carried out in class TH 1201 with 30 third year IT
students, who studied English as a non-major subject, at Hanoi University of Business and
Technology. The students were at the age of 20 to 21, including 8 females and 22 males.
Their level of proficiency in English was roughly attributed to elementary and preintermediate (after two years studying English at university). In this class female students
seemed to be more hard-working and more interested in learning English than male
students. Most of the students come from different high schools in different regions all
over Vietnam, where traditional methods of teaching English are popularly applied. Before
studying at university, although their English learning had focused on reading and writing,
they had very little chance to read specialist texts in English. However, those coming from
towns and cities seemed to have better reading abilities because it is understood that they
had more chance to come and study at foreign language centres, where they could get more
English resources of vocabulary strategy and better background knowledge; while the
students coming from provinces and remote regions seemed to have less English resources
of vocabulary strategy and worse background knowledge which make them embarrassed
and inactive. Although the students were dynamic, enthusiastic and hard working in the


16

study, their level of reading competence was mixed. Some students (approximately 10)
were really active and interested in post reading activities. Most of the students (about 20)
were relatively involved in translation activities though they were still reluctant as
contributing their own ideas. The rest (around 10) were quiet and passive, they seemed to
do nothing except for copy other students‟ results. Despite the mentioned difficulties, most
of the students were always eager to learn any subjects well, particularly English, as it was
necessary for their future jobs.
3. 3. 2. The teachers
As participants of the survey research study, the teachers who were involved in the study
were the researcher herself, who taught class TH1201, another teacher working with her on
the same class.They were from 34 to 43 years of age. They all had six to over ten years of
experience of teaching English to non-major students. They had all participated in one or
more Teacher In-service Education programs (held by Vietnam-Australia Training
Organizations, the British Council, and some other non-government Organizations...). In
addition, both of them had attended a course on English teaching methodology at the
Department of post-graduate studies in Vietnam National University, and they all showed
their interests in the lectures on teaching reading IT texts.
3. 4. The procedures of the study
3. 4. 1. Problem identification
In her

English class with the students of class TH1201, the researcher found out a

problem: students‟difficulties and lack of interest in reading comprehension of IT texts,
especially the ones including many technical terms and relative clauses, -ed participles or
passive structures.
To clarify the problem, the researcher observed each reading lesson to discover that the
number of students who were really interested in reading took 27% (eight out of thirty
students), whereas the number of students who did it as a compulsory task were 50%
(fifteen students), and the rest of the students was about 23% (seven students) who had no
sense of reading or learning English as well. It is observed that the students who were
really interested in reading IT texts as well as learning English had the best reading ability
of all. They always accomplished the teacher‟s given tasks in advance, then they tried to do
the next tasks themselves and after that they shared the ideas or difficulties among each


17

other. They only asked teacher for help until they had no idea for that. In contrast, the
students who did the teacher‟s given tasks as a compulsory task did not have good reading
ability. They required teacher‟ support and encouragement more often and completed their
tasks more slowly. The worst of all is the rest of the students in the class. It seemed that
they did not read the text or did any teacher‟s given task. They were usually busy talking
with each other or doing their private things or feeling sleepy. They did not pay attention to
their reading passage until the teacher demanded strictly or gave them bad marks. Based on
the fact and the advantages of translation the teacher-researcher tried to apply translation
after reading comprehension as an enabling strategy to support their reading
comprehension. Observing the students‟ attitude to translation activities after doing reading
comprehension in class makes the teacher-researcher more confident do the survey
research.
3. 4. 2. Plan of survey
3. 4. 2. 1. Determining the students’ challenges in reading comprehension of IT texts
After her direct observation has been given to instruct students in post-reading activities,
the teacher-researcher decided to share the problem with the other teacher who worked
with her in the same class and asked for support.The teachers then sat together to elicit the
common problems that students usually encounter during their reading comprehension and
post-reading activities, specifically, translation activity after doing reading comprehension
tasks. After the solutions were suggested and discussed, the teachers decided to apply
translation as an enabling strategy to support the students‟ reading comprehension of
specialist reading in the course book.The teacher of the class then discussed the teaching
and learning methods in post-reading activities, especially focusing on translation, with the
students. Finally, most of the students agreed with the teacher that translation should be
applied to improve their knowledge of the language as well as reading skills.
3. 4. 2. 2. Helping students overcome their challenges in comprehending IT texts.
According to the teacher-the researcher‟s direct observation, she decided to identify the
students‟ background knowledge, and to start her research with this problem. Then, she
tried to understand the students by talking with them directly. After that, she stimulated
them to show their ideas about learning English. Finally, she found out that her students
did not like learning English because they were not good at general English and their IT


18

knowledge was not very related to the University specialist English program and it seemed
to be more difficult to learn technical English. The researcher and her colleague started
with providing them extra reading including all technical terms related to the new lesson
for good preparation for the next reading lesson. The students felt more confident after
clarifying the problem involved their IT knowledge. The teacher-the researcher and her
colleague also provided the students a glossary file (built by group of IT English Teachers
at HUBT with explanation in Vietnamese) including technical terms and difficult phrases
which helped students to comprehend the specialist reading texts better. The result was
considerably encouraged, most students felt more interested in reading IT texts. After
background knowledge was identified, she tried to deal with their difficulties in syntactic
IT text features. Once the students encountered relative clauses in the texts, the researcherthe teacher stopped for a while to explain the use, the structure and meaning of the
sentences carefully, specifically –ed or –ing participle for e.g: “Talking to Professor
Cochrane is probably time travelling without leaving the current dimension, as his vision
stretches far into this century and beyond.” (Oxford English for Information Technology,
Eric H.Glendinning John/ Mc Ewan, p.176). The grammatical category –ing participle
(time which travels) may be confused with a noun phrase if the students are not careful. Or
at the same paragraph there is another extract: “In fact BT (British Telecom) is already
sitting on a host of innovation poised to blow your mind during this century”. Poised here
is like an –ed participle (a host of innovation which are poised) too. However, if it is
considered that, the sentence will be very difficult for Vietnamese students to understand
or interpret legibly. Once “poised” is understood by another grammatical category “ready”,
it will be legible for the sentence.
Understandably, it is important to find out how students themselves feel about the problem.
Once they see the problem themselves, they are expected to be willing to solve it and come
through it successfully.
3. 4.2.3. Applying translation activities in post-reading, the direct observation in class
and strategy for using translation to support students in reading comprehension of IT
texts.
With the IT students, the teacher-the researcher has used a number of activities that are
beneficial for their linguistic development. Post-reading activities give the students the


19

opportunity to review, summarize, and react to a specialist reading text through discussions
in small or large groups. After having read a specialist reading text, the students were
assigned to do various comprehension exercises, such as multiple choice questions, true or
false statements, general questions on the contents of text. The activity of writing different
types of summaries, e.g. restatement, descriptive summary or opinion essays, has proved
being very useful. It allowed teachers to pin-point errors stemming from the mother
tongue, although checking written work increased teacher‟s load significantly. Students,
first in pairs translated different short paragraph of the specialist reading text from English
into Vietnamese, then exchanged ideas with each other, after that reported their translated
paragraph to the teacher and whole class. During post-reading the teacher-the researcher
listened to the about three different students‟ results for each paragraph, took note their
mistakes as well as good ideas. After the students read their translated results aloud in front
the whole class, the teacher-the researcher asked other students to give their comments on
the students‟ translation. The teacher-the researcher gave final comments and corrections.
Finally, she invited one of the best students to translate the whole text again and supported
when it was necessary. The completed translation should be written down on papers as
homework assignment and given back to the teacher-the researcher. She used those
translations as materials to evaluate the students‟ attitude to her post-reading lesson as well
as the students‟ reading comprehension. It was a matter of the fact that not all students do
the homework seriously or successfully. However, the ultimate analysis allowed raising the
students‟ awareness of vocabulary, grammar, style, and language transfer, which may help
them to improve their reading comprehension of IT texts.
3. 4. 2. 4. Evaluating students’ attitude to translation in post-reading process.
The students were supposed to carry out the translation as homework assignment at least
once a week and their homework was checked by the teacher-the researcher herself or by
the other teacher who shared the same class TH1201 with her. The two teachers sat
together and came to the same conclusion that the class might be categorized into three
groups represented by the good reading ability, the fairly good and quite bad reading
ability. Their reading ability may be affected their attitudes to reading comprehension tasks
as well as translation as post-reading activities. This means that there are both positive and
negative attitudes to learning Technical English in general and to reading comprehension
tasks or post-reading activities in particular.


20

Husain‟s research (1995) suggested that using translation had highly positive effects on
the low and intermediate proficiency learners, but it did not benefit higher level students.
Husain also found that translation strategy could enhance English learning in general. It
was also discovered that students who used translation tended to make more gains in
learning vocabulary and phrases, compared to a lower level gain in learning tenses.
Another important finding was that the intermediate level students made more gains than
those higher level peers did, and the gains made by the lower level students were higher
than those by the intermediate level students. In other words, the higher level students
benefited the least from translation use.
In contrast, other researchers advocate the use of translation at the advanced level.
Advanced learners may have already developed a somewhat solid foundation of the target
language, and thus can be more likely to discern the subtle differences of vocabulary
meaning and grammar usage between their L1 and L2. For example, Perkins (1985:53)
indicated that through translation instruction, „the advanced learner will always gain some
insight into points of L1-L2 difference and conflict on a syntactic, semantic and stylistic
level and this may ultimately improve his L2 competence‟. Translation is seen as an
important tool to upgrade high-level students‟ learning. Titford (1985) shared the same
view and proposed that translation was an appropriate resource for advanced learners. He
argued that translation could serve as a problem-solving exercise as well as a cognitive
exercise in the classroom. Advanced learners are often keen to know the underlying rule
behind a particular foreign language, and tend to ask the question how an expression is
translated in the foreign language and what rules are involved. More importantly, the use
of translation at the advanced level can help learners extend their knowledge of the foreign
language by making reference to their mother tongue, and then help learners clarify the
similarities and the differences between the foreign language and their native language.
Those arguments may be made clearer by the result of a survey questionnaire for the
students and the result of an interview for six students in class TH1201.
3. 4. 3. Analyzing the data
The both quantitative and qualitative approaches were applied to analyze the collected
data. The researcher qualitatively depended on the data collected from the

survey

questionnaire, the direct observation , the result of the interview six students in class
TH1201. Qualitatively, the result of students‟ interview and the answers to the survey


21

questionnaire were taken into account to identify the students‟ attitude towards translation
in post-reading process and their perception of the usefulness of translation to their reading
comprehension. The quantitative approach was applied to find the percentage and the
Means and Standard Deviation for evaluation of students‟ attitude towards the two research
questions mentioned above.
3. 4. 4. Findings
The teachers summarized findings of the translation in post-reading process the data
analysis results.

3. 5. Conclusion
This chapter has so far described the study context together with the procedures of the
survey research. The plan of survey is composed of several subsections, namely, the
determination of the students‟ challenges in reading comprehension of IT texts, the
implementation of translation activities in post-reading basing on the specialist reading
texts in the course book and cooperation of the direct observation and strategy for using
translation to support students‟ reading comprehension of IT text. It also includes the
evaluation of the students‟ attitude to translation in post-reading process and their
perception of the usefulness of translation to their reading comprehension.The next chapter
will provide the thorough process of analyzing data.


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