What Is Concurrent Translation?


Concurrent translation is a method of teaching used in bilingual classes to adapt students to a new language. Concurrent translation includes both the primary language and the taught language in equal quantities during class discussions and lectures. While still widespread, concurrent translation has been widely challenged as an ineffective technique.

Concurrent Translation Method

  • When teaching by concurrent translation, the teacher will repeat each statement in both languages, sometimes alternating between beginning with the primary language and beginning with the taught language. For example, a teacher in a concurrent translation class in French and English might begin her class with a bilingual monologue:

    Hello students.
    Bonjour étudiants.
    Comment allez-vous?
    How are you?
    I am fine.
    Je suis bien.

    The idea behind concurrent translation is that the students will associate the language they already know with the language they are learning. By seeing the two languages side by side they can learn the words and phrases in the taught language by direct comparison with their primary language.

Concurrent Translation Issues

  • Despite being widely used, concurrent translation has been challenged by scholars as being ineffective in acclimating students to a new language. Some universities consider it discredited as compared to other forms of bilingual education, such as submersion or structured immersion.

    For instance, a 1999 study by literacy professors Sharon Ulanoff and Sandra Pucci found that in concurrent translation classes, English was often unintelligible to students. Rather than learning the new language, students tuned out what they did not understand and focused on the parts of the class they did understand -- those taught in their primary language. An earlier study by the same two scholars stated that concurrent translation did not provide the level of conceptual support needed to teach a language. Students would miss the broader structures of the taught language and would not build up an advanced vocabulary.

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