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#Portuguese365 Update 10: On Translation

dictionaryThis has been a pretty hectic week for me – but I’m glad to say my plan is still going strong, and I’m almost 20% through my challenge! Today I’m answering one simple question: how can translation help you learn a language? And how does translating help me study Portuguese, in particular?

1. Theory: Mona Baker and Philip Kerr

If you want to know more about translation and how it works, there are two names worth starting with. And, of course, two books worth reading.

The first one is Philip Kerr’s “Translation and Own-language Activities” – a book which provides a fresh look on how translating can be used by language learners and teachers alike. This is great if you’re in a teaching situation – or if you roll your own materials for learning.

The second book is focusing on the theory and nature of translation itself, and has been my textbook of choice when I taught future translators and interpreters! Mona Baker’s “In Other Words” is a great, user-friendly reminder of what a good translator can (or cannot) do with words. At times it’s too technical if your goal is just to learn a language – but makes you think a lot about the power of working between languages.

2. Practice: Google Translate and Quizlet

I mentioned Quizlet earlier, and Google Translate has been one of my favourite tools. Now I found a way to make them work together. The set-up is simple:

  • Use Google Translate to get an English phrase translated to Portuguese.
  • Once you’re happy with the translation, click the “star” symbol below it to add it to your phrasebook.
  • Click the phrasebook icon (top-right-hand corner of the screen.)
  • Click the table icon to export your phrasebook to a CSV file.
  • Use the CSV file to create a new set in Quizlet (click here to find out how I did it earlier).

This is not perfect, but it’s an effective way to get simple phrases done quickly. And Quizlet lets you take them on the go.

3. Reference: Priberam dictionary

This is a more advanced way of learning: Priberam is a monolingual dictionary, which means it won’t give me an English translation that easily. It’s still debatable whether a monolingual dictionary is effective in language learning (see this PDF paper for more research) but at least I’m getting lots of possible definitions, and examples of real usage. This is much more than Google Translate can provide at the time.


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