Taalonderwijs aan gevorderden
  • ISSN 0169-7420
  • E-ISSN: 2213-4883
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At university level, many modern language courses continue to use translation in their training and testing program of writing proficiency.In this article we report on an empirical investigation intended to trace differences between translations and short essays of third year students of French.Two groups of about 30 students translated a text of 300 words and wrote an essay of the same length; the topics of both texts were somewhat controversial: a-the relative value of the study of Latin .and Greek; b-the moral problem of the transplantation of the heart of a monkey in a human baby. Group I translated the text on topic a and wrote an essay on topic b; group II did the reverse.The products of each group were rated on one aspect, correctness of language, by three raters who worked independently. First, they rated the texts according to the impressionistic method as is usually done for essays; in order to improve reliability, they divided each writing product in four paragraphs of approxi-mately equal length, and scored each paragraph separately. A month later, they rated the same texts; this time, they marked and counted errors: this corresponds to the usual way of rating translations.The mean scores for the translations were somewhat lower than the mean scores for the essays: quality of language thus seems to be superior in the latter.Correlations between translation and essay scores of the same rater were about .64; this does not seem to differ much from what is known about correlations between the scores for two essays of one student on different topics.Correlations between the impression scores and the error-count scores of the same raters were about .75 : it is evident that the two rating methods didn't yield very different scores. Counting errors with or without the comparison of the translations with the original text resulted almost in the same scores: correlations were about .90.The error-count method yielded a higher rater reliability (of about .80) than the impressionistic method, but this rating too was relatively reliable (about .70).The analysis of a small number of translations and essays didn't show any remarkable and systematic differences between three stylistic characteristics of these two kinds of written products; the characteristics we analysed were: type/token ratio, mean T-unit length, syntactic complexity.No systematic relation between these characteristics and quality of language, i.e. the two kinds of correction scores, was found.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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