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The problem of modeling educational texts in translation teaching

К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2011

Автор: Васютина К.В.

The term "text type" refers to a specific "mode of discourse" or "mode of presentation" that aims to fulfill a certain rhetorical and communicative purpose (Trosborg, 1997). Neubert recognizes text types as "socially effective, efficient, and appropriate molds into which the linguistic material available in the system of a language is recast" (Neubert, 1985, p. 125). Hatim and Mason look at text types as "a conceptual framework which enables us to classify texts in terms of communicative intentions serving an overall rhetorical purpose" (1990, p. 140). These statements clearly define text types as the functional benchmark against which we may classify or categorize various texts into a certain type for achieving particular functions.

Classification of text types is controversial because a text type tends to be multifunctional and overlaps with certain textual elements of other text types. Nevertheless, for the convenience of translation studies, a number of ways of distinguishing text types have been suggested. Crystal and Davy (1969) classified texts according to field of discourse or subject matter, "giving rise to types such as journalistic texts, religious text, scientific texts and so on". Beaugrande and Dressler (1981) raised a "different classification of texts into types such as literary, poetic and didactic" based on domain. Hatim and Mason (1990) classified text types according to their rhetorical purposes: argumentative, expositive and instruction-based. Argumentation is subdivided into counter-argumentation "in which a thesis is cited, then opposed" and through-argumentation, "in which a thesis is cited, then extensively defended" (Hatim, 2001, p. 179). Exposition is subdivided into descriptive, narrative and conceptual types. In addition, Bühler's theory of functional typology proposed a three-way distinction depending on the foci of "the producer (emotive), the subject-mater (referential) or the receiver (conative)" (qtd. in Bell, 1991, p. 204). This functional typology labels three text types as expressive, informative and vocative. Similar to this functional typology is Reiss's three-way division of texts into "informative texts which convey information, expressive text which communicate thoughts in a creative way, and operative text which persuade" (qtd. in Hatim, 2001, p. 77).

Among Russian linguists the problem of text classification was reviewed many times. Classification of functional styles suggested by V.V. Vinogradov has been developed recently. Other texts focused on the features of different language systems and their functions have been added there. This new functional style is the object of a special philological branch called pragmalinguistics. The problem of modeling educational texts was first viewed in the framework of this science. In our work we stick to Vinogradov’s classification as the only one including educational texts.

Functional style is a variety of literary language, that serves certain function in the communication process. Traditionally there are five functional styles: colloquial, scientific, official, journalistic and bella-letters styles. Each functional style is characterized by at least three properties:

1) Special application;

2) Special conditions of communication (formal/informal);

3) Communicative task. (Solganik p. 173-174 qtd. in Tyulenev p. 310).

But educational texts are not included in this classification. For a long time linguists did not pay attention to these texts, and they were not studied. Moreover educational texts were not considered a functional style. However if we apply the above criteria to educational texts we can see that these texts have their own unique application different from the other five styles. These texts solve their special communicative task – to educate – that neither of the other styles does. Their main task is not to convey the information or influence the feelings and emotions of a reader but show in a clear way all peculiarities of the language system under study. As far as the conditions of communication are concerned we can say that they depend on task of a text. If an educational text includes the most widespread colloquialisms or slang vocabulary the communication conditions reflected there are informal. The other task of a text may require formal conditions. This peculiarity places educational texts in a row with bella-letters texts that is they change their “face” depending on the communicative task.

We propose that study of the educational texts modeling methods is very relevant because principles of teaching a foreign language and teaching translation are very different. That is why teaching aids and methods of their creation are different as well. By the way principles and methods of teaching translation are only at the beginning of their development.

In the books describing methods of teaching translation there are a lot of approaches to what an educational text should look like. Some books offer exercises in which students are supposed to translate certain lexis and grammar units, syntactic constructions and stylistic devices. But the problem of such exercises is that they do not provide a student-translator with broad context that is a text on the whole. We know the drill: it is almost impossible to translate anything without using the context. On the other hand books with sentence and even part of sentence translation are numerous. Their authors claim that the sentences they suggest do not require broad context. However it is difficult to call such a translation a fully-functioning one. Thus we see the contradiction between the teaching principles and existing teaching materials.

Educators should not forget that educational texts should be authentic and full of materials that make students use this or that translation method. If the text is designed specially to satisfy educational requirements it still should be a perfect sample of a foreign language. Being a separate functional style itself the educational text however should bear the features of a functional style under study. That is if students study the journalistic style educational texts should be full of journalistic clichés and lexical units characteristic of that style.

Colina mentions the cultural aspect in modeling educational texts for teaching translation. One step is to "identify which features are indicators of text type and whether the same features are used in the target culture to make the same text types" (Colina, 2003, p. 16). The other step is to "decide, in combination with consideration of the translation brief and the norms for the [target text] and culture, which units are relevant to a translation purpose, which aspects need to be changed, whether the function/purpose of the translation can be the same, and what strategies will be used to accomplish the translation goal" (Colina, 2003, p. 16). The purpose of this teaching is to help students to obtain generalization of language features and pragmatic functions with respect to a certain text type and to consider how to retain the same function in the target language text.

Beside all of the above mentioned characteristics we suggest topical organization of educational texts for the course of translation. We had an opportunity to teach a new subject in the university curriculum – Special translation. Together with O. Vitvitskaya we developed a syllabus for students. The course included 15 weeks, 6 hours per each week. We split 15 weeks into 5 topics; each of the topics contained 3 subdivisions. During this course we primarily focused on two functional styles: scientific and journalistic. Our topical plan included the following items.

1) Head topic – Medicine

Subtopics: - Anatomy

- Diseases

- New technologies in medicine

2) Head topic – Law

Subtopics: - Criminal law

- Contract law

- Law of torts

3) Head topic – Finance

Subtopics: - taxation

- Currency and loans

- Stocks and shares

4) Head topic – Science

Subtopics: - Astronomy

- Archaeology; zoology

- Physics

5) Head topic – Humanities

Subtopics: - History

- Art

- Architecture.

Topical structure of the course helps students acquire knowledge systematically. They have an opportunity to study the features of two functional styles and make topical vocabularies and glossaries to memorize new words.

Now let us view a couple of excerpts taken from the texts that we chose to translate in class.

Most bodies in the solar system with a visible solid surface exhibit craters. On Earth, we see very few because geological processes such as weathering and erosion soon destroy the obvious evidence. On bodies with no atmosphere, such as Mercury or the Moon, craters are everywhere. Without going into detail, there is strong evidence of a period of intense cratering in the solar system that ended about 3.9 billion years ago. Since that time, cratering appears to have continued at a much slower and fairly uniform rate. The craters were caused by the impacts of comets and asteroids. Most asteroids follow sensibly circular orbits between the planets Mars and Jupiter, but all of these asteroids are perturbed, occasionally by each other and more regularly and dramatically by Jupiter. As a result, some find themselves in orbits that cross that of Mars or even Earth. Comets, on the other hand, as noted in Section 2, follow highly elongated orbits that often come close to Earth or other major bodies. These orbits are greatly affected if they come anywhere near Jupiter. Over the eons every moon and planet finds itself in the wrong place in its orbit at the wrong time, many times, and suffers the insult of a major impact.

Following up three criteria proposed by Vinogradov we conclude the following:

- this text serves the educational function and has its special application in the teaching-learning process.

- it bears the characteristics of the scientific text hence the terms: geological processes, weathering, erosion, cratering, orbit, etc. That is why we can say that the communication conditions are formal.

- its main task is to show a student essential features and peculiarities of scientific style.

This is an authentic text taken from the Web. Thus we can say that this text can serve as a good educational text.

Let us view the example of journalistic style.

The call to be weighed comes at 6.30am but I am already awake. I stand on the scales backwards, so I am not thrown into a panic by my increasing weight. In many ways, I am sick of this beast, continually whispering in my ear that I am too fat. Yet I am scared to lose what has become my best friend.

At 8 am I stand outside the dining room. I don't want to eat but if I run away, 17 other patients will be sent to find me, forbidden to continue their meal until I return. Breakfast is a big meal: juice, cereal, cooked course and toast. By 8.45 I have already consumed several times the daily calorie ration I would allow myself. Afterwards I have to rest for an hour with the other girls. They are all so fragile and delicate, I feel obese. However low my weight drops, it is never low enough. This is another trick the anorexia plays: by reaching a magical number - a few pounds lighter - I will like and accept myself.

My stomach is uncomfortably bloated from breakfast. This is my fourth hospital admission and each time I have reached a lower weight and found re-feeding more of a struggle.

Verifying the same criteria we see the following:

- this text serves the educational function and has its special application in the teaching-learning process;

- it bears the characteristics of journalistic style: heterogeneity of stylistic means, use of special terminology and emotive vocabulary, a combination of standard and expressive means language use and the abstract and concrete vocabulary. Thus we can say that communication conditions are formal;

- its main task is to show a student essential features and peculiarities of journalistic style.

This is an authentic text taken from The Sunday Times newspaper. This text may well serve its educational function.

In conclusion we would like to say that nowadays there is necessity to apply achievements of pragmalinguistics to making teaching materials for different translation courses. Without thinking about methods of educational texts creation it is impossible to develop both theoretically and practically valuable teaching materials. Moreover we should bear in mind that we are to use such authentic texts which can cause a student to apply as many translation techniques as possible.


1. Beaugrande, R. de & Dressler, W. (1981). Introduction to Text Linguistics. London: Longman.

2. Bell, Roger T. (1991). Translation and Translating: Theory and Practice. London and New York: Pearson Education Limited.

3. Colina, Sonia (2003). Translation Teaching, From Research to the Classroom, A Handbook for Teachers. Singapore: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

4. Crystal, D. and Davy, D. (1969). Investigating English Style. London: Longman.

5. Hatim, Basil & Mason, Ian (1990). Discourse and the Translator. New York: Addison Wesley Longman In.

6. Тюленев С.В. Теория перевода – М.: «Гардарики», 2004.

К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2011

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