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Thursday, June 16, 2005

English in the textbook, is it good?

When you flip through the dictionary, and try to pick a meaning out of many to fit into the text, do you think “Oh, I wish there were English translations! So I don’t need to spend so much time doing this!” Or do you think English translations can help people in the class to know all the meanings of the words, and thus there will be more time devoted into exercise?

The truth is looking up the dictionary has greater benefits than simply flipping the pages. You will have a better understanding on how flexible Chinese characters and words are. Once you decide which meaning it is by judging through the context, you know you have improved.

More over, looking up dictionary can help you avoid some traps which translations in the textbook create. Translations can tell you the meanings of a sentence. At the same time, it can also be confusing:

The first problem is that people tend to tally word by word. The result is you get the wrong meaning. And sometimes there are not enough words for you to tally. Then you get confused. For example:

For example:

Qing ni zai shuo yi bian. (Please repeat.)

There are six words for ‘please repeat’. Which one is which one?

In this way, translation loses the very important structure in Chinese.

The next questions raised will be “Can a textbook have word by word translation?” They can, but you wouldn’t be able to figure out the meaning of the whole sentence. That’s the trouble you face when somebody speaks bad English, you feel strange and sometimes couldn’t understand at all. Imagine the textbook is written using this language.

Therefore, translations can be misleading. And it has first time impression on you. And the first time impression is hard to change.

Dictionaries and reference books are far more useful than translations in a textbook.

(MSL Learning Center)http://www.msllearningcenter.com