Volume 14, No. 1 
January 2010

Dr. Naveen Mehta


Front Page

Select one of the previous 50 issues.

Index 1997-2009

TJ Interactive: Translation Journal Blog

  Translator Profiles
Twenty Years of Steady Workload
by Andrei Gerasimov

  The Profession
The Bottom Line

by Fire Ant & Worker Bee

  Translators Around the World
Where Can I Find a Chinese Sworn Translator in Rio de Janeiro?
by Danilo Nogueira and Kelli Semolini

  Cultural Aspects of Translation
Culture-Specific Items in Literary Translations
by Sepideh Firoozkoohi

  Medical Translation
How Many Varieties of Medical Practice Are There?
by Rafael A. Rivera, M.D., FACP

  Science & Technology
Translating a Patent: Translator's Templates
by Kriemhild (Karen) Zerling

  Translators and the Computer
Automatic Web Translators as Part of a Multilingual Question-Answering (QA) System: Translation of Questions
by Lola García-Santiago and María-Dolores Olvera-Lobo
The Efficacy of Round-trip Translation for MT Evaluation
by Milam Aiken and Mina Park

  Arts & Entertainment
Empirical Study of Subtitled Movies
by Maria Bernschütz, Ph.D.

  Literary Translation
La influencia de Voltaire en el primer Hamlet español
Laura Campillo Arnaiz

  Translators' Education
English Language Teaching Through the Translation Method (A Practical Approach to Teaching Mongolian CPAs)
by Dr. Naveen K. Mehta

  Translators' Tools
Pondering and Wondering
by Jost Zetzsche
Translators’ Emporium

  Caught in the Web
Web Surfing for Fun and Profit
by Cathy Flick, Ph.D.
Translators’ On-Line Resources
by Gabe Bokor
Translators’ Best Websites
by Gabe Bokor

Call for Papers and Editorial Policies
  Translation Journal

Translator Education

English Language Teaching Through the Translation Method

(A Practical Approach to Teaching Mongolian CPAs)

Dr. Naveen K. Mehta


Teaching English to non-natives is always regarded as a daunting task, to which teaching Mongolian Certified Professional Accountants are no exception. Although Mongolia is largely known for its Gobi desert and age-old Buddhist culture and tradition, in this era of globalization, Mongolians are marching neck and neck to compete with the rest of the world. Recently, ICAI organized a three-month training program for Mongolian Certified Professional Accountants in the field of English Language, Business Communication and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). During the training sessions, it was observed that Mongolians are very sound in their technical skills but lots of hard work is to be done to improve and hone their English-language skills. Thus, the present paper aims to study issues and challenges pertaining to the translation of courseware from English to Mongolian for Mongolian CPAs.

Key Words: CPA, IFRS, Translation, SL, TL, ELT etc.

Rationale of the Study

  1. to understand the social, cultural, and linguistic aspects of Mongolia.
  2. to study the merits and limitations of using translation in ELT.
  3. to explore the skills that count in ELT through translation.
  4. to highlight and assess areas of difficulty for Mongolian CPAs in English.
  5. to discuss issues and challenges in ELT through translation.


ongolian is the national language of the country of Mongolia where it is spoken by about 2.5 million people. But after the waves of reformation (after 1990), interest for English has grown stupendously.  English is penetrating Ulan Bator through the electronic media: bilingual Mongolian Web sites, cell phones with bilingual text messaging, cable television packages with English-language news and movie channels and radio repeaters that broadcast Voice of America and the British Broadcasting Corporation on FM frequencies. As the number of students and users has risen steadily since 1990 to make English the most widely learned language in Mongolia, the issue of English acquisition among the population has become a vital one. As English was rarely studied in Mongolia previously, teachers were virtually non-existent when English began to spread throughout the country after the democratic revolution. Before 1990, the study of English was strictly confined to the select few students in the National University of Mongolia's interpreter class, and qualified teachers of the language numbered less than a dozen .The curriculum standards for English language teaching, which were revised in 2003 and was officially instituted in 2005.

Review of Literature

Translation is a useful tool to learn grammar, syntax, and lexis in both SL and TL.
Ortega Y Gasset (1945) defines translation as an "utopian operation." Walter Benjamin (1970) states that a faithful word-for-word translation will not transmit the original sense. Crystal (1998) stated that translators should work to ensure a result that sounds as natural as possible. So, it appears that translation is a creative activity and a translator has a great responsibility on his/her shoulder to develop better understanding among people. W. Schweers (1999) encourages teachers to use the native language in lessons to influence the classroom dynamic, offer a sense of security and authenticate the learners' experiences. The actual usefulness of translation in English classes lies in exploiting it in order to compare grammar, vocabulary, word order and other language points in English and the student's mother tongue. He conducted a research in this context and found out that a high percentage (88.7%) of the student participants felt that the mother tongue should be used in their English classes. According to N. J. Ross (2000), if students are aware of the differences, language interference (transfer) from their own language is likely to be reduced. Moreover, translation in the L2 classroom offers a way to highlight similarities and differences between L1 and L2 forms. Translation is sometimes referred to as the fifth language skill along with the other four basic skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing): "Translation has a special importance at an intermediate and advanced level: in the advanced or final stage of language teaching, translation from L1 to L2 and L2 to L1 is recognized as the fifth skill and the most important social skill since it promotes communication and understanding between strangers." No matter how good the students are at comprehending authentic reading or listening materials, the majority keeps mentally translating from L2 into L1 and vice versa. This fact makes teachers of foreign languages conscious of the significance of translation in language classrooms. Why do students use their mother tongue in class? According to J. Harmer (2001), a principal cause of this L1 use is provoked by the activity, i.e. if students are linguistically incapable of activating vocabulary for a chosen task. Another reason is that translation is a natural thing to do in learning a language, and code-switching between L1 and L2 is regarded as naturally developmental. The amount of L1 use by particular students may well have to do with differing learner styles and abilities. "No one is in any doubt that students will use their L1 in class, whatever teachers say or do." Evidence from research into the crucial issue of the L1 use in classrooms around the world is analyzed by G. Mattioli (2004). For instance, L1 use in the Chinese classrooms offers substantiation that L1 is a precious tool for socio-cognitive processes in language learning. Another reason for L1 use in the classroom relates to the fostering of a positive affective environment. The translation is helpful for L2 acquisition because, firstly, it uses authentic materials, secondly, it is interactive, thirdly, it is learner-centered, and finally it promotes learner autonomy (Mahmoud 2006). Regarding the use of L1 in the L2 classroom, it is important to find out how students themselves feel about it.

Translation in ELT

Translation in ELT is vital if we consider it as a means, not as an end. According to Jumpelt (1984), "The twentieth century is the age of translation." David Crystal (1998) also states that translation is "the neutral term used for all tasks where the meaning of expressions in one language -the source language (SL) is turned into the meaning of another, the target language (TL), whether the medium is spoken, written, or signed."

Merits and Limitations of using translation in Teaching of English


According to Howatt (1984, Macau) translation is not as terrible as it appears to be and Duff (1992, Macau) gives reasons for considering translation very advantageous:

  1. The influence of the mother tongue is at a higher level. L1 shapes the thinking, and translation helps in better understanding.
  2. Translation is a natural and necessary activity that is going on all the time, and that will always be needed.
  3. Language competence is a two-way system.
  4. The reality of language is another important aspect.
  5. Usefulness:
    1. Invites speculation and discussion.
    2. Develops qualities that are essential to all language: accuracy, clarity and flexibility.
    3. The teacher can select material to illustrate particular aspects of language, and students can see the links between language usage and grammar.
    4. Lets students practice a variety of styles and registers.


Dennis Newson (1998) reveals following limitations:

  1. Encourages thinking in one language and transference into another with interference.
  2. Deprives from learning within only one language.
  3. Gives false credence of word-to-word equivalence.
  4. Does not allow achievement of generally accepted teaching aims: emphasis on spoken fluency.
  5. Time-consuming activity.
  6. Not desirable, since it uses the mother tongue.

The Skills that Counts in ELT through Translation

For Teachers

According to Peter Newmark (1981), a teacher is expected to have following skills:

  1. Be organized and inform the students about the syllabus;
  2. Be confident, admit mistakes, teach students more gifted than the teacher thanks to experience;
  3. Have translator's skills;
  4. Have a good command of pedagogical techniques;
  5. Be prepared to experiment with new methods;
  6. Listen to students' suggestions;
  7. Consider translation as a form of linguistic exploration;
  8. Have a good command of the two languages.

For Students

Peter Newmark (1981) highlights following skills:

  1. Sensitivity to language;
  2. Ability to write neatly, plainly and nicely;
  3. Good knowledge of cultural background;
  4. Master the text being translated;
  5. Good reading knowledge;
  6. Common sense;
  7. Discrimination;
  8. Speed in working;
  9. Think of several things at the same time;
  10. Meticulousness.

The Grammar -Translation Method in ELT

According to Prator and Celce-Murcia (1979), the salient features of the Grammar Translation Method are as follows:

  1. Classes are taught in the mother tongue, with little active use of the target language.
  2. Much vocabulary is taught in the form of lists of isolated words.
  3. Long elaborate explanations of the intricacies of grammar are given.
  4. Grammar provides the rules for putting words together, and instruction often focuses on the form and inflection of words.
  5. Little attention is paid to the content of texts, which are treated as exercises in in grammatical analysis.
  6. Often the only drills are exercises in translating disconnected sentences from the target language into the mother tongue.
  7. Little or no attention is given to pronunciation.

Diane Larsen-Freeman (2000) provides some common/typical techniques closely associated with the Grammar Translation Method.

  1. Translation of a Literary Passage (Translating target language to native language)
  2. Reading Comprehension Questions (Finding information in a passage, making inferences and relating to personal experience)
  3. Antonyms/Synonyms (Finding antonyms and synonyms for words or sets of words)
  4. Cognates (Learning spelling/sound patterns that correspond between L1 and the target language)
  5. Deductive Application of Rule (Understanding grammar rules and their exceptions, then applying them to new examples)
  6. Fill-in-the-blanks (Filling in gaps in sentences with new words or items of a particular grammar type)
  7. Memorization (Memorizing vocabulary lists, grammatical rules and grammatical paradigms)
  8. Use Words in Sentences (Students create sentences to illustrate they know the meaning and use of new words)
  9. Composition (Students write about a topic using the target language)

Issues and Challenges in ELT through Translation: A Practical Approach in Teaching Mongolian CPA's

Since English has only recently been introduced in Mongolia, and the education system and country is not yet fully modernized, it may still be quite some time before English becomes as widely used, and the fluency of its population becomes as strong, as is in other nations. Whatever the case may be, one important fact remains for the future generation of Mongolians: English is a must. Teaching of Mongolian CPAs under such critical circumstances is not only interesting but also requires skills for teaching English for specific purposes. To this context, translation of information and knowledge in their Mongolian language appears to be a Hobson's choice. But it is not so easy, as it requires good command over source and target language from a trainer. Ironically, the trainers, in this case, are completely ignorant of the Mongolian language, but proficient in the use of the English Language. So how to initiate the process of translation in the classroom becomes a million dollar question.  The work of the translator is not everybody's cup of tea, since the translator has to strike a balance between over- and under-translation. Moreover, one has to make a "deep inner language made outer."  During the interaction the trainers face the following main challenges:

1) Mongolian Case Suffixes

The following table displays each case with its equivalent English meaning:



Transliteration & Meaning



Ger- Home( No suffix in Nominative Case)



Ger(een)-The Home's


To Whom

Ger(t)-To, in the home



Ger(iig)- The Home

Ablative From


Ger(eec)-From Home


By whom

Ger(air)- By, Through Home


With Whom

Gereenkhen(tei)- with Home (Family)


Towards Whom

Ger(pyy)- Towards Home

Source: Kullman

Due to this, Mongolian CPAs face a high level of interference of their basic L1 case structures in their English.

2) Articles and Determiners

The Mongolian language does not contain articles, but rather forms definite and indefinite constructions by using specific numbers, word order, or case endings (Kullman, 1996). Mostly they use the definite article " the " before their names and it is also noticed that they have habit of using article "An" before words like Man, Mobile etc. Mongolian CPAs also have difficulties in using Many, Much, Some, Any etc. For illustration, they use "I have many hairs ", "She has not seen some boys" etc

3) Verb Tenses

It is observed that all the Mongolian participants (CPA's) had difficulty in acquiring the

past perfect and future perfect tenses. These two tenses caused major problems and mistakes than any of the other verb tenses combined. The past and future perfect tenses theoretically exist in Mongolian, but are virtually absent from the colloquial language (Kullman, 1996),

4) Voices

It was also observed that Mongolian CPAs have problems in handling passive voices of Imperative and Interrogative sentences. For example, they are unable to solve and understand "Who broke the chair? /"Do it"/ Please bring a glass of water etc. Some students have difficulty in identifying the tenses.

5) Punctuation Marks

During the training program, it also became evident that the participants have problems in placing punctuation marks correctly. Some of the participants have difficulties in using double inverted comma, hyphen, exclamation point and capital letters. They unnecessarily put the first letter of any new word in capital letter whether it is in the middle or end of any sentence.

In Summary

Finally, it was decided that out of their elite group whoever possesses average command of the source and target languages should be requested to perform the crucial role of a translator. At this level, the following skills are expected from a translator in the classroom situation:

  1. to have good listening skills.
  2. to recognize and understand non-verbal cues.
  3. to be familiar with synonyms of source and target language.
  4. to remain faithful and unbiased.
  5. to safeguard oneself from being merely an imitator or interpretator.
  6. to have good explanation skills.
  7. to manage time during the process of translation.
  8. to have technical skills of using software and gadgets for advanced-level translation.
  9. to avoid over- or under-translation.
  10. to protect oneself from becoming a mere victim of entropy.

It has been found that translation is a useful tool to learn grammar, syntax, and lexis in both SL and TL. A word-for-word back-translation enables Mongolian CPAs to highlight and understand the relationship between the two languages.



Benjamin, W. (1992)"The Task of the Translator," Illuminations. Trans. Harry Zohn, Fontana Press.

Crystal David, "Encyclopaedia of Language," 1998.

Harmer J (2001), "The Practice of English Language Teaching" Oxford: Longman

Jumplelt in "Approaches to Translation"by Peter Newmark, Oxford: Pergamom Press, 1984, p.3.

Kullman,Rita and D. Tserenpil, "Mongolian Grammar." Hong Kong. Jenso Ltd., 1996.p.78.

Larsen-Freeman, Dianne, 2000: "Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching" (2nd Edition), New York: Oxford University Press.

Ortega Y Gasset (1992), J.,'Misery and Splendor of Translation' in Schulte, R., Biguenet, J., Theories of Translation: an Anthology of Essays from Dryden to Derrida, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Translated by Elizabeth Gamble Miller.

Macau Cristina Mallol, " Teaching Foreign Languages Through Translator : Consideration Multiple Intelligences" Doctoral Thesis, 2003-03.

Mahmoud A. (2006) Translation and Foreign Language Reading Comprehension: A Neglected Didactic Procedure. English Teaching Forum, 44 (4).

Mattioli G. (2004),"On Native Language Intrusions and Making Do with Words: Linguistically Homogeneous Classrooms and Native Language Use", English Teaching Forum, 42(4).

Newson Dennis,"Translation and Language Teaching. Language Teaching and Translation" (Malkmjaer, 1998:63-67)

Newmark, Approaches to translation .,rpt. Oxford: Pergamom Press, 1981,p. 42-59.

Prator, Clifford H. & Celce-Murcia, Marianne, 1979:  "An outline of language teaching approaches."  In Celce-Murcia, Marianne & McIntosh, Lois (Ed.), "Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language,"  Newbury House.

Ross N. J. (2000), "Interference and Intervention: Using Translation in the EFL Classroom", Modern English Teacher, No 9 (3).

Schweers William C. Jr. (1999),"Using L1 in the L2 Classroom",. English Teaching Forum, 37(2).