Sara Laviosa and Valerie Cleverton
by Translating: A Contrastive Methodology for ESP Learning and
Over the last few years
applied linguists have explored the possibility of integrating the
insights of second language acquisition theories, contrastive analysis,
foreign language teaching methodologies, and translation studies with a
view to enhancing current communicative models and techniques for L2
teaching and translator training (see for example Sewell and Higgins
1996; Laviosa-Braithwaite 1997; Campbell 1998; Malmkjær 1998;
Laviosa 2000; Colina 2002). We intend to make a contribution to this
interdisciplinary orientation by putting forward a translation-based
methodology for learning ESP vocabulary and grammar through real life
mediating communicative activities. With particular reference to the
translation task itself, we endeavour to provide teachers of English
for special purposes and translator trainers with a methodology for
guiding their students in producing, to the best of their abilities, a
target text which meets the quality criteria of terminological accuracy
and stylistic fluency, and is also effective in terms of the
communicative situation it is intended for. After outlining the
rationale and main theoretical approaches underpinning our work, we
will illustrate our methodology for learning ESP vocabulary and
translation skills from a contrastive perspective, as in our book
Learning by Translating (Laviosa and Cleverton 2003).
Scripta Manent. Slovensko društvo učiteljev tujega strokovnega jezika.
Following the university reform approved in the year 2000, Italian
Universities have set up three year degree courses offering a variety
of curricula aimed at attracting a new kind of student with more
vocational, rather than pure academic interests. One of these
curricula, Lingue e Culture per il
Turismo, is directed towards tourism and its ramifications,
given the interest now being shown in a growing tourist industry in
southern Italy, in particular in Apulia which is the region we come
from and which is now opening up on the market.
The other curriculum, Intermediazione
Linguistica per la Comunità Europea, has a more
entrepreneurial slant, aiming at enabling graduates to find work in
international companies or organisations. Both curricula put emphasis
heavily on translation competence in ESP, both from and into the
This new orientation has implied a search for texts and a teaching
methodology which could meet this demand satisfactorily, and this
proved a fairly difficult task as most textbooks in translation were
either too theoretical or too difficult, at least for first year
students. Given these premises we decided to draw up a compendium of
English and Italian passages of graded lexical and syntactic difficulty
and concerning diverse subject-specific communicative settings, which
would enable the students to acquire and develop language and
translation skills, from the first to the final year, particularly in
the specialized domains of tourism, business and economics, and
science. Our approach draws on:
a) contrastive pedagogic grammars (Adorni
1999; Vince and
Pallini 1999; Maiden and Robustelli 2000);
linguistic approaches to translation studies (Baker 1992; Ulrych
1992; Nord 1997; Taylor 1999; Scarpa 2001);
foreign language pedagogic techniques conceived within the context
provided by Balboni’s operational model built around the so called unità didattica (teaching
unit), of which more later (Balboni 1994, 1998).
Steps in drawing up our translation manual
1 Establishing the criteria for
selecting suitable texts
Our first step was to collect mainly tourist, business and scientific
texts that had already been translated into one or more languages so
that we would be working with authentically commissioned translations.
This meant writing to a number of sources both in Italy and in England
in order to get permission to be able to use the selected texts for
publication. Another criterion that came into play here was whether
they were free or not, as our financial resources were considerably
limited (and permission given free in England is quite difficult to
2 Sorting out the texts
Having once collected a fair-sized amount of material we sorted out
which could be applicable to which areas and registers, since we wanted
to cover as many as possible particularly in the tourist field as this
course attracts the greatest number of students in our university.
Business English is also important in so far as the new curriculum
Intermediazione Linguistica per la Comunità Europea is concerned
with trade and its contingent activities (advertising, marketing etc.).
We also decided to include areas of specialisation such as scientific
and medical texts since there is a demand for translators in these
3 Grading the texts
The third step was to grade the passages according to difficulty and in
doing so we examined the potential exploitation of our selected texts
for teaching specialised vocabulary and grammar from a contrastive
perspective, thus paying particular attention to areas of
lexico-grammar which are notoriously difficult for Italian learners of
English and translation trainees working into and out of English. In
order to explain and illustrate a particular area of specialised lexis
and syntax (e.g. culture-bound words, subject-specific and non
subject-specific terms, collocations, noun phrases) we collected and
then analysed additional parallel texts (originals and their
translations) and comparable texts (English and Italian originals).
These comparative and contrastive analyses formed the basis of short
synopses which highlighted for each source text some important
contrastive elements between English and Italian. Given that
“specialized discourse is usually distinguishable for its specific
lexis, which diverges from the standard vocabulary employed in general
discourse, and for the higher frequency of certain rules and items
occurring in standard language” (Gotti, 2003: 307), we concentrated on
the use of discipline-specific vocabulary when grading our texts. Thus
the grading of the first source texts is based on a comparative study
of English and Italian culture-bound (or culture-specific) words, which
are often encountered in tourist texts and translated with a variety of
procedures, such as borrowing, translation couplets, amplification, or
substitution. In later texts questions of syntax are tackled,
especially the lexically dense noun phrases used in specialised English
texts where the head noun is premodified by strings containing
adjectives, nouns, and participles, which in Italian need to be
unpacked and explicated with noun phrases where the head noun is
postmodified by non-finite or finite clauses, and/or prepositional
phrases, adjectives and adverbs. Examples of complex noun phrases can
be found in many specialised registers as for example in the language
of tourism (e.g. unusual whitewashed limestone dwellings), economics
(e.g. the continuing post-industrial transformation), medicine (e.g. a
severe hepatic artery stricture), and computing (e.g. an HTML editing
4 Macroanalysis of the source
Before moving onto the next phase of actual translation, the ST was
analysed for its communicative and rhetorical functions which would be
introduced in the description of the passage immediately after the
discussion on the contrastive lexical and grammatical points.
5 Translating the source text
The last stages of our work involved translating the STs ourselves and
in doing so annotating the main difficulties the passages offered from
a lexical/terminological, grammatical, conceptual, cultural, or textual
point of view. The difficulties encountered formed the basis for
devising a series of questions which would guide the students’ analysis
of the source text prior to the translation task itself. Our annotated
translations can be found in the Translation Guide, the 9th chapter of
6 Writing up a complete teaching
unit for each text
Thus, after an introduction outlining some of the lexical, grammatical
or textual features of the source text and sometimes suggesting
potential translation strategies to overcome the differences between
source and target language, each ST is preceded first by authentic text
samples of English and Italian illustrating the main contrastive points
in question, then by the communicative situation that gives rise to the
translation assignment together with the translation brief which
specifies the commissioner, the target readership, and the main
communicative function of the source and target text. Finally the
source text is followed by a series of questions for the students to
render the lexico-grammatical analysis of the text more accessible.
Their task is to read the passage through first in order to have a
global idea of the subject, and the main communicative and rhetorical
functions involved, and then to read and answer the questions that are
intended to isolate various moments in the translation and to arouse
their awareness of certain difficulties that they may need to tackle at
the lexical/terminological and morpho-syntactic level.
Perhaps it needs to be said that our students who often come directly
from high school with little or no knowledge of parsing and discourse
analysis in general, have already done a preliminary course on some
elements of English linguistics, and are introduced to the
communicative and rhetorical functions of a text at the beginning of
the translation module. Terminology used is consistent with
Nord’s (1997) text-analysis model in which she emphasises three aspects
of the translation process: the importance of the translation brief,
which is the set of instructions that accompany a given assignment, the
role of the source text analysis, and the functional hierarchy of
translation problems. As the translation proceeds so the students come
into contact with the nine translation strategies proposed by Malone
(1988), that is: equation, substitution, divergence, convergence,
condensation, diffusion, amplification, reduction, and re-ordering, and
thus they learn how to cope with problems of non-equivalence as they
arise at different levels of language analysis, particularly at the
level of specialised vocabulary.
Sample material and teaching methodology
In this section we will illustrate how we teach ESP vocabulary and
translation from a contrastive perspective drawing on the pedagogical
model proposed by Paolo Balboni (1994, 1998). Each chapter of our book
is organised in such a way as to constitute one teaching unit, which in
turn consists of six interrelated phases, i.e. motivation, global
comprehension, analysis, reflection, synthesis and control. Each phase
is characterised by specific teaching techniques. In Balboni’s model,
the teaching unit begins with motivation aimed at stimulating students’
interest by arousing their curiosity and meeting their communicative
needs. Global comprehension is guided through reading activities such
as multiple-choice questions or grids. Analysis focuses on identifying
the specific lexico-grammatical and textual features of a given text.
Reflection consists in examining in greater depth the norms governing
language use in specific text types. Synthesis consists in applying
these norms in task-based activities which involve the simulation of
real-life communicative situations. Control aims to assess the
acquisition of monolingual as well as cross- and inter-linguistic
competences. In our application of Balboni’s model each teaching unit
is used to achieve a variety of learning objectives identified in the
areas of specialised lexis and translation competence. In the following
teaching unit, for example, which involves the analysis and translation
of a promotional brochure advertising the tourist facilities provided
by a camping site, the pedagogic objectives are: a) the propositional
and expressive meaning of words typically used in this particular text
type; b) culture-bound words and translation procedures to deal with
the lack of one-to-one equivalents across source and target language;
c) the correct order of premodifiers in English noun phrases.
In the motivation phase the lexical features of the source text are
introduced. Potential strategies to overcome the lexico-grammatical
differences between source and target language are suggested and
illustrated with examples, as in the following extract adapted from
Chapter 2.1 in Learning by
Translating (Laviosa and Cleverton 2003: 35-36):
Multilingual brochures which advertise the facilities offered by
private enterprises in local beauty spots, such as hotels, campsites,
or farmhouses, generally contain many colourful photographs and short
texts. They are on display in locations such as Tourist Information
Offices and Travel Agencies, where local and foreign tourists are
likely to stop or pass by. Their communicative functions are
appellative and informative. The vocabulary is rich in words that
convey not only a propositional meaning (i.e. the meaning of a word
that relates to what a word refers to in a concrete or abstract world),
but also an expressive meaning (i.e. the meaning of a word that
relates to the speaker’s feelings and attitudes) (Baker 1992). Examples
of such words in English are fantastic, wonderful, breathtaking,
magnificent. The expressive meaning of words has the function of
arousing and maintaining the reader’s interest as well as creating a
pleasurable atmosphere that stimulated and fires the audience’s
imagination (in this regard see Dann 1996 for a full account of the
varied functions of the language of tourism).
In this text type English nouns are often premodified by two adjectives
(Table 1), while in Italian the lexis often consists of noun phrases
where the head noun is premodified and/or postmodified by one or more
adjectives (Table 2). When translating Italian noun phrases into
English it is often difficult to place the premodifiers in the correct
order since it is still not entirely clear what makes one sequence
acceptable rather than others. Current rules suggest that, when the
head noun is premodified by a multivariate string comprising ‘opinion’
adjectives, ‘fact’ adjectives, and nouns used as adjectives, they
normally take the following order: opinion + size + other qualities +
age + shape + temperature + colour + pattern + origin/nationality +
material + purpose/type + head noun. The examples below taken from a
sample of promotional brochures confirm the order suggested by current
- a simple 4 star hotel (opinion +
- pleasant landscaped gardens
(opinion + type)
- dazzling white sand (quality +
- magnificent Greek temples (opinion
- a small private garden (size +
- tranquil rock pools (opinion +
- the impressive modern entrance hall
(opinion + quality + type)
- the large heated swimming pool (size
+ quality + purpose)
- lush, green semi-tropical vegetation
(quality + colour + origin)
- unusual whitewashed limestone dwellings
(opinion + colour + material).
|Santa Maria di Leuca is a pretty coastal resort (…) and the oldest
part of town has treasures such as a byzantine castle, an intricate baroque cathedral and an ancient Greek fountain.
(…) the Costa Smeralda stretches for about 30 miles across the
north-east corner of Sardinia where idyllic sandy coves fringe a crystal clear sea.
Relax on the dazzling white sand (…).
This fashionable and well established resort is backed by the lush, green semi-tropical vegetation of the surrounding
Table 1. Examples of English noun
the head noun (in bold) is premodified by two or more adjectives (from
Citalia's Italy Croydon 1999).
|I nostri cuochi ti
offriranno ogni giorno piatti diversi e prelibati
L'ospitalità è anche nel sapore della tipica, generosa cucina regionale (…).
Table 2. Examples of Italian noun phrases where the head noun (in bold)
is modified by two or more adjectives (from Vivi la tua vacanza a
colori Silvi (TE) 1998).
Another lexical feature of promotional brochures of tourist resorts is
the use of culture-bound words, that is to say words or expressions
which convey an idea, custom, tradition, or phenomenon linked to a
cultural situation that may be unfamiliar to a non-native language
speaker. Culture-bound words do not normally have one-to-one
equivalents in the target language, so they may need explaining to the
target readership through paraphrasing, an example of the translation
strategy known as "amplification" (Malone 1988 in Taylor 1998: 55-56).
For example the Italian salami
(plural of salame, a type of
pork sausage containing pepper, cut thin and served cold) can be
translated as salted (pork) meats, as found in the tourist guide
entitled Chianciano Terme: tra la
Val di Chiana e la Val d'Orcia (1997: 78-79). Alternatively one
may use the so-called "translation couplets" (Newmark 1981: 31), which
consist of a combination of borrowing and a target language explanation
or a literal translation (Table 3).
Delicious prosciutto (cured
ham) and salsicce
(sausages) are similar to those eaten in Corsica.
Sardinian pasta specialities include malloreddus (small dumplings)
or culingionis (a version of
ravioli) and are often accompanied by robust red wines.
The 'trulli' capital
of Puglia, Alberobello has over a thousand of these unusual whitewashed
limestone dwellings (…).
Table 3. Examples of Italian culture-bound words in original English
tourist guides (from Citalia's Italy Croydon 1999).
Global comprehension and
In the global and analysis phases combined, we first of all provide the
translation brief and background information about the communicative
situation that has given rise to the translation assignment. Secondly
the ST is read and analysed through a series of questions focusing on
the most salient lexical and grammatical features to be considered and
examined in order to decide on translation strategies and solutions.
This is exemplified by sample material adapted from Chapter 2.1 of Learning by Translating (Laviosa
and Cleverton 2003: 37-38):
Communicative situation and translation brief: the Centro Vacanze
Europe Garden, situated in Silvi (TE), a seaside resort on the Adriatic
Riviera in Abruzzo, commissions you to translate their multilingual
brochure Vivi la tua vacanza a colori which describes and illustrates
the facilities offered by their Camping-Village. The brochure consists
of large and small photographs illustrating the village and the
surrounding area. At the bottom of each page there are two descriptive
paragraphs of equal length and in the following languages: Italian and
German on the left hand page; French and English on the right hand
page. After reading and analysing the source text, produce a draft
translation, then revise and edit it by checking for accuracy,
completeness, consistency, fluency, and acceptability for the
communicative situation it is intended for.
1) Il Camping-Village Europe Garden è sito all’ombra di 300
ulivi secolari, tra il verde della collina e l’azzurro del mare, su
un’area di 40.000 mq da cui si gode un panorama stupendo. Comode
piazzole erbose, bungalows in muratura, 2 piscine, tennis, spiaggia
privata, animazione, giochi: tutti gli ingredienti per vivere una
indimenticabile vacanza a colori.
2) Un relax ideale a contatto con la natura, da maggio a settembre.
Confortevoli villini in muratura completamente arredati, immersi in un
mare di verde: un’oasi di pace distante dai rumori della città,
ma vicina alle assolate e incantevoli spiagge di Silvi, facilmente
raggiungibili grazie al continuo e gratuito servizio navetta.
3) Il Camping-Village Europe Garden dispone di un’ampia spiaggia
privata, dotata di tutti i servizi e di finissima sabbia dorata. Tanto
sole, il clima mite del centro-Adriatico, un lunghissimo arenile per
distensive passeggiate, tra il limpido mare azzurro e il fresco della
pineta alle spalle: una combinazione ideale che solo il Camping-Village
Europe Garden può offrirti.
4) Tra l’abbronzatura e un bagno, il Camping-Village Europe Garden
offre la possibilità di dedicarsi al benessere del proprio
corpo, di ritrovare la forma smagliante praticando gli sport preferiti,
in splendidi scenari naturali: nuoto, tennis, ginnastica, aerobica,
tiro con l’arco, ping-pong, bocce, percorso vita e, per i più
esigenti, pesca subacquea e avvincenti escursioni a cavallo nelle
5) Una vacanza indimenticabile è anche divertimento e
spensieratezza. Una simpatica équipe di animatori è a tua
disposizione per allietare le tue giornate con giochi, tornei, spassosi
siparietti, nel Camping e in spiaggia. E se vuoi trascorrere in
allegria anche la serata: attrazioni, cabaret, spettacoli, dancing,
Folklore, grigliate e spaghettate, ti attendono in uno stupendo
Analysis of the
1)Identify the words that convey at the same time an expressive (i.e.
the speaker's feelings or attitude) and a propositional meaning (i.e.
what a word refers to in the speaker's real or abstract world). Suggest
appropriate English equivalents for these words.
2)Identify all noun phrases where the head noun is modified by two or
more adjectives and suggest suitable English equivalents.
3)Are there any culture-bound words which may present problems of
understanding? Which translation strategy would you adopt to convey
their meaning to an English audience?
Reflection and synthesis
In carrying out the translation task itself, normally in pairs or small
groups, students reflect on translation problems concerning specialised
lexis and grammar and suggest possible solutions with the help of the
teacher who acts both as informant and facilitator. The outcome of
these activities is a draft translation.
In the final stage the students’ draft translations are compared and
evaluated in terms of accuracy, completeness, consistency, fluency and
acceptability for the communicative situation the translation
assignment is intended for. During the control phase students revise
and edit their target texts. Finally, the translation suggested by the
authors in the Translation Guide may be the object of further
comparisons and discussions. Below is the suggested translation adapted
from Chapter 9, Learning by
Translating (Laviosa and Cleverton 2003: 187-188):
1) The Europe Garden Camping-Village is situated in the shade of 300
centuries-old olive trees between green hills and the blue sea and
extends over an area of 40,000 sq.m. from where you can enjoy a
magnificent view. Comfortable grassy tent sites1,
bungalows, 2 swimming-pools, tennis courts, a private beach, animation,
games: all the ingredients you need to experience an unforgettable
holiday full of colour.
2) The perfect setting for relaxing in the peace and quiet of the
countryside from May to September. Comfortable little brick homes2,
fully furnished, nestling in a sea of green: an oasis of peace far from
the noise of the city but close to the enchanting sunny beaches of
Silvi, easily reached by a regular free shuttle service.
3) The Europe Garden Camping-Village has a large private beach of fine3
golden sand offering all the necessary facilities. Lots of sun, the
mild Central-Adriatic climate, a long stretch of sandy shore for
relaxing walks between the clear blue sea and the cool pine woods
behind: an ideal combination which only the Europe Garden
Camping-Village can offer you.
4) In between sunbathing and swimming, the Europe Garden
Camping-Village offers you the opportunity to dedicate yourself to the
well-being of your body and to regain your sparkling shape by playing
your favourite sports in beautiful natural settings: swimming, tennis,
gymnastics, aerobics, archery, table-tennis, bowling, nature trails,
and for those who require more demanding sports4,
fishing and exciting excursions on horseback in the surrounding areas.
5) An unforgettable holiday also means fun and time free from worry5.
A pleasant team of animators are there for you to enliven your days
with games, tournaments, amusing shows, both on the camp site and on
the beach. And if you wish to carry on having a good time in the
evening too: attractions, cabarets, shows, dancing, folklore, barbecues
and spaghetti suppers6 – all these are
waiting for you in a
breath-taking night-time setting.
On the basis of feedback from students and the lively classroom
discussions arising from the evaluation of the most appealing and
effective translation solutions, particularly in the area of
specialised vocabulary and culture-bound words, we can say that our
teaching approach has stimulated a great deal of interest among our
students, who, on the basis of guided comparative and contrastive
analyses involving translated and comparable original texts, have been
able to reflect on lexico-grammatical mismatches between the source and
target language and propose well reasoned translation solutions in the
specialised area of promotional language in the variegated field of
1 The rather vague meaning of Italian “piazzole”
has been explicated through paraphrase. This strategy is called
"amplification" (Malone 1988 in Taylor 1998: 55-56).
2 The Italian synonym for the anglicism
"bungalows", is rendered by the superordinate “homes” premodified by
"little" to give the idea of cosiness implicit in “villini”.
3 The Italian absolute superlative is rendered
better by the simple adjectival form.
4 The Italian adjectival noun “i più
esigenti” needs greater specification in English through a relative
clause, another example of amplification.
5 Alternative: “light heartedness”, which is a
direct equivalent of "spensieratezza". Malone (1988 in Taylor 1998:
48-49) would call this type of translation strategy "equation".
However, the explanatory noun phrase, which represents an example of
amplification, probably has more appellative impact.
6 "Spaghettate" is a culture-bound word which has
been explained through amplification. Another strategy would be to use
"translation couplets" (Newmark 1981: 31), i.e. loan word and
explanation, "'spaghettate' (spaghetti suppers)".
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Authors 2006. Published by SDUTSJ. All rights reserved.
Scripta Manent 2(1)
» S. Laviosa and V. Cleverton
Learning by Translating: A Contrastive Methodology for ESP Learning and
» M. Jarc
Vers une approche fonctionnelle de l'enseignment de la terminologie:
Action recherche en classe de Français
» V. Juković
Vocabulary Learning Strategies in an ESP Context
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