What's the use of translations

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What's the use of translations

Post by jeidsath » Wed Jan 31, 2018 7:14 pm

Timothée wrote:I have to admit something. This is emphatically only I, but I have great difficulties in using translations, which results to my own detriment, no doubt. I do check translations of ancient literature every now and then, but for some reason whenever I consult them, I always feel very filthy afterwards. I feel I have cheated, let myself down. That I should be able to go through this without cheating. And I fear I will be found out. Of course the counter-argument is that it is in the same way actually also cheating to consult dictionaries and grammars. The mind is full of cognitive dissonance.

Therefore I would probably only allow myself to use nothing but dictionaries, grammars, monographs, and commentaries (and possibly articles) even with Thucydides. That no matter how big a difficulty and how long ever it takes, I have to get to the meaning by my own effort, unaided. That would no doubt result in failure. I don’t write this to say Paul cannot use translations, as he definitely can and quite probably should. I suppose I write this for my own psychoanalysis...
I thought this was a good and interesting post. It is something that I've been thinking about personally. In the last year or so, I haven't used translations much or at all for Greek. Before that, I used them extensively for the Anabasis, which now I can generally pick up and read like any English novel. As my Greek got better, however, I felt less need for translations. I don't think that I looked into a translation of Andocides even once while reading On the Mysteries.

But in the last few weeks, I decided to shake up my learning methods again, so that I don't get too complacent. I've been reading Homer in the Greek, while listening to Lattimore (other translations are less useful for this practice). And I've done the same, to a limited extent, with Herodotus and Plutarch using some old 19th century translations. Reviewing Medea the last couple of days, I've also been using the translation, looking at it whenever I don't remember a word or a construction, so that I can review a few dozen lines very quickly.

For me, I guess, the goal remains fluency. Translations aren't a cheat so much as a tool. They expand the amount of Greek that I can expose myself to at once.

The only thing in my fluency quest that I feel that I'm not picking up through reading, is basic "utility" Greek. At some point I need to sit down and perfect my accidence and syntax and usage with the 100-200 basic Greek verbs, so that I can speak and write them all fluently in all basic constructions.
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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by RandyGibbons » Wed Jan 31, 2018 10:56 pm

I use translations for two reasons. One, when I'm in a hurry. At any given moment, I may be reading Greek (or Latin or other languages) for a number of purposes. If I'm reading an author or work intensively, for as deep a dive as I can manage, and willing to take the time required to do so, I will usually try my best to come to my own understanding of the Greek before resorting to a translation. And before resorting to a translation, I will try to define very precisely what I'm failing to understand. In other cases, I'm interested in principle in reading something in the original rather than translation, as much as possible, but not willing to spend more than x amount of time on it, in which case I'll resort to whatever crutches there are, if I need them, guilt free. In other cases, I'm looking up a citation and am in a big hurry and don't much care how I do it, if I get the point of the citation correctly.

Second, to find out how others have interpreted a passage. As a tool, as Joel says. As a variant of this, consulting multiple translations, as so many other Textkit'ers report doing. It's not, by the way, like every sentence of Greek or Latin that has come down to us has a clear meaning, and it's just a matter of whether or not my skills (or fluency, if you will) have allowed me to get it. Any decent critical apparatus or professional-level commentary makes this abundantly clear.

Also, like Joel, my reading practices shift over time. I do go through self-critical phases where I feel I'm getting a little too lazy, but never with the degree of self-flagellation confessed to by poor Timothée :lol: .

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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:45 am

For the beginner through intermediate stages of acquiring the language, translations are best avoided. For someone who is beyond the basics, a translation can be a tool just as much as a lexicon. Ironically, it's those who have a good grasp of the source language who can make the best usage of a translation for such purposes. An exercise I occasionally use for my intermediate students is to work through a short text, and then look at a translation of the text, which forces the students to ask "How did the translator come up with that?" This can make a nice segue into talking about translation methodology.

Personally, though, I always feel guilty if I consult a translation before I've done everything possible to work on the text... :shock:
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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by jeidsath » Thu Feb 01, 2018 12:38 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:For the beginner through intermediate stages of acquiring the language, translations are best avoided.
Best avoided to what purpose? This often gets stated, but it’s shakey advice on any language acquisition grounds. Being very familiar with a translation before tackling the original can help beginners more than anyone. The old standby missionary advice of learning a language by starting with the Gospel of John is basically this.
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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Thu Feb 01, 2018 2:29 pm

jeidsath wrote:
Best avoided to what purpose? This often gets stated, but it’s shakey advice on any language acquisition grounds. Being very familiar with a translation before tackling the original can help beginners more than anyone. The old standby missionary advice of learning a language by starting with the Gospel of John is basically this.
Well, based on my experience teaching the languages for the last 35 years or so, it ends up crippling the student's ability to work independently in the language. If you read translations, you get good at reading translations, but your Greek (or other target language) suffers. If you spend time learning to understand the language, you get good at the language. I doubt that you will find many language teachers, in any venue, who say "Students, make sure you have your translation handy as we read the original." No. Not a good thing.

So, I just did a quick survey in my department.

To the French teacher: "Would you want your students using a translation reading Les Miserables?"

"Absolutely not!"

To the Spanish teacher: "Would you want your students using a translation while reading Don Quixote?"

"Are you kidding me?"
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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by jeidsath » Thu Feb 01, 2018 2:58 pm

I think that you may be confusing your students who use translations as a learning tool and your students who use translations to cheat. But they are fundamentally different populations.

Your imaginary French and Spanish teachers are incorrect. This isn't surprising, as why would anyone learn French or Spanish from a classroom, when you can go live in the country for a few months to pick up the language at far less effort and expense?

Absent that approach, an audiobook for Les Miserables in French and a well-thumbed translation is a great way to pick up the language. Students will generally be able to fill in the gaps with intelligent use of grammars and conversation.

Of course there are dangers. After spending a lot of time with Goethe, I once asked a German friend how his "Weib" was doing. He found this incredibly funny.
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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Thu Feb 01, 2018 3:45 pm

jeidsath wrote:I think that you may be confusing your students who use translations as a learning tool and your students who use translations to cheat. But they are fundamentally different populations.

Your imaginary French and Spanish teachers are incorrect. This isn't surprising, as why would anyone learn French or Spanish from a classroom, when you can go live in the country for a few months to pick up the language at far less effort and expense?

Absent that approach, an audiobook for Les Miserables in French and a well-thumbed translation is a great way to pick up the language. Students will generally be able to fill in the gaps with intelligent use of grammars and conversation.

Of course there are dangers. After spending a lot of time with Goethe, I once asked a German friend how his "Weib" was doing. He found this incredibly funny.
In the first place, they are not imaginary. I literally asked the question (which also sparked an interesting discussion on the best intro literary text to use once students get to that level, and some of the differences in methodology in teaching ancient vs. modern languages). The French teacher, Marlene, is French, and the Spanish teacher, Susan, took her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Spanish literature at the University of Madrid.

The best way to learn a language is to spend time in that language with as little interference from any other language as possible. As to your somewhat snide sounding comments about traveling to another country to learn a modern language, I am sure that every modern language teacher sees the value in that. Nothing like a bit of immersion to improve one's skills. Classes will nonetheless still continue to meet in high schools and colleges. High school Latin teachers and college Classics prof's will continue to encourage their students to deal directly with the languages and not depend on translations as a "learning tool." For that matter, I doubt that you will find many Classics prof's who would accord much merit to your opinion.
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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by Wishfulcrystal » Thu Feb 01, 2018 4:13 pm

I mean all of this genuinely and without a bit of condesenscion (Provided that I come off as condescending - I'm not sure I do).
Barry Hofstetter wrote: deal directly with the languages and not depend on translations as a "learning tool."
I'd like you to explain this further. When learning German, I worked with a standard grammar-translation and had to gradually shake off the habit of mentally translating what I was reading into English. But had I not started by using English as the basis of my learning German, I literally can't imagine how I would've gotten anywhere with the language (unless I had moved there or interacted entirely with natives - something that was (and is!) entirely out of my means [and which certainly is for everyone with Ancient Greek!]).
If not through grammar explanations, certain things would still feel weird to me. (Something which now seems basic to me, the varied placements of a German verb, were mystified and mystifying at the start.)

What does it mean to "deal directly" with a given language, especially an ancient one, and not "depend on translations"? I mean, how else would you ever get a feel for what a word means when you first start out than by explanation and translation? From my experience with German (and a bit with French, albeit much less than German), I got a feel for a word the more I went along with the language, and only after a lot of exposure could I stop mentally translating something and just understand what was said/written. How could I do differently with Greek (or, really, any other language I try to learn)?
The best way to learn a language is to spend time in that language with as little interference from any other language as possible.
How is this possible with an ancient language? I mean, I've only just started, but I would have almost no way to dive into Greek were it not for explanations of words/grammar, and translations of words, being provided to me in English.

Jeid (as I understand him) is saying something that I can't see someone disagreeing with unless they, to the demise of all other methods, advocate total immersion: that translations help dedicated, prudent, curious beginners tremendously by giving them a tool with which they can increasingly understand the language on its own terms. If the beginner uses a translation more like a dictionary (and even more helpfully, as a way to infer, from the translation of a word/phrase, the range of a word/phrase; and given the opportunity, as a way to recognize the role of certain bits of grammar in the original text/language) than like a crutch and a cheat sheet, the beginner will excel. Besides this opinion having no clout in professional circles and among academics, what's wrong with it?

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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by jeidsath » Thu Feb 01, 2018 4:50 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:The best way to learn a language is to spend time in that language with as little interference from any other language as possible.
I have a hard time reconciling this statement with your recent recommendation of this textbook, which has a lower Greek-to-English ratio than any textbook that I've ever seen.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:As to your somewhat snide sounding comments...
I was aiming for full-blown cynicism. I'll have to work on that, I see.
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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Thu Feb 01, 2018 5:46 pm

Wishful, you don't sound at all condescending, and you are asking very good questions. When I say as little interference as possible, I don't mean that one never refers to primary language in learning a second language. At the very beginning level, there will always be some interaction, even in TPRS and CI methodologies. What we want to do is reduce that interaction as much as possible, and force the student to spend as much time in learning the language as possible, so that the student thinks in terms of the language he or she is learning, rather than doing "rapid translation" work. The goal is to enable the student, in the case of an ancient language, to read (understand) that language without translating, and similarly in a modern language so to communicate on all levels. Coming from a strict grammar-translation approach makes this difficult, and if that is the only model of language learning with which you are familiar, then it's hard to see anything else. There are a variety of methods which can be used to facilitate this, and as I'm about to go to my Latin 3 class, I don't have time to talk about specifics now. I will mention that I'm not an extremist -- there are some who would do away with grammar and translation entirely, and I'm not one of them. This is a major discussion these days in terms of teaching methodology.

In my own case, when reading a text, I do my best avoid even the lexicon. If there is a word that is unfamiliar, or a familiar word that doesn't make sense, I try to infer what's going on in context. Subjectively, I also try to keep English glosses from "echoing" in my head. The way I do this is by reading the text, and just trying to "see" the meaning. The best way to get whether or not I understand what I have read is to paraphrase it, ideally in the same language, but time is precious, and I often do so in English (I'll occasionally do Greek when reading Latin and Latin when reading Greek, hugely fun). When all that's done, then I'll refer to a lexicon, and occasionally, a translation. This is what I mean by working through the text without reference to any resources. So to be clear, I'm not saying never to use lexicons, grammars or translations, only to use them as the final step, and only if absolutely necessary. Now me, I'm a chicken, so I often find myself checking my work more often than my idealism would like to permit to make sure I'm on the right track.
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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Thu Feb 01, 2018 6:07 pm

jeidsath wrote:
Barry Hofstetter wrote:The best way to learn a language is to spend time in that language with as little interference from any other language as possible.
I have a hard time reconciling this statement with your recent recommendation of this textbook, which has a lower Greek-to-English ratio than any textbook that I've ever seen.
What's the saying about "foolish consistency?" At any rate, no textbook is perfect. The strength of that one is that a) it's free (free is good) and b) it uses real authors in "embedded" versions as early as possible. That it uses more English than I would personally like is a failing of many textbooks.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:As to your somewhat snide sounding comments...
jedsath wrote:I was aiming for full-blown cynicism. I'll have to work on that, I see.
And I was being quite restrained in my response, as befits a cordial and courteous exchange of counsel.
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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by rmedinap » Thu Feb 01, 2018 6:25 pm

Since I've already made my methodological position and didactic principles clear elsewhere I'll simply endorse Barry's position. But I believe some clarifications will be helpful.

I do not think anybody (any reasonable person at least) is against translations per se. I believe them to be a valuable tool that I, like many of you, use either as a didactic resource when teaching or as a "Control group" or point of comparison when I have trouble interpreting something I read.

But I believe Barry is right when he says:
Barry Hofstetter wrote:For the beginner through intermediate stages of acquiring the language, translations are best avoided.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:The best way to learn a language is to spend time in that language with as little interference from any other language as possible.
As valuable as translations may be, my experience learning languages and teaching them have shown translations to be detrimental to language acquisition IF used at a beginner's to intermediate level.

I learned both Greek and Latin in a total immersion school (it was only allowed to speak Greek or Latin), everything was explained in the target language and you were peer-pressured to use only the target language. And that's more or less what "deal directly" with a given language means. You try and recreate how you would learn the target language if you were suddenly in the country were it is spoken.

A good example of how that system works is this Prof. Rico's Beginner's Greek class.

In another video he explains (in French) how the method works.

I taught myself English, French and German using the same method. English I learned through video games and movies, not once did I read a translation of the material I learned with because either there was no translation available at the time or I did not have the money for it (in my home country we often have everything that comes out of the market in the US simultaneously or a few weeks later but in English, the translations take months or years, and when they do come out they are extremely expensive). French and German I learned more "professionally" with a method, but I never consulted any translation of what I was learning, just the occasional look at a dictionary and often a German-German or French-French dictionary.

That this methodology works I can demonstrate with the proficiency that my students archive and the success that institutions like Prof. Rico's Polis Institute have, or the Vivarium Novum Academy or any of the excellent immersions schools that have begun to multiply all over the world. This year there will be in Naples (March 2nd-3rd) an international conference for all interested regarding this total immersion or non-grammar-translation approach.

The only reason I can see for using a translation at a beginner's or lower intermediate's level is if you're a self-taught learner, and even then I believe that if possible they should be kept at a minimum.
jeidsath wrote:This often gets stated, but it’s shakey advice on any language acquisition grounds
Quite wrong! A look at, for example, Richards & Rodgers. Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching will show that only in the milieu of Greek and Latin (and other academic dead languages like Sanscrit) do people still cling to obsolete absurdities like a grammar-centered methodology or the pathological need to use translations. I have never met a modern language teacher that would endorse any of the didactic principles and material that's normally used by teachers of Greek and Latin. When I tell them how the average student is forced to swallow unending tables of paradigms and declensions, how the target language is almost never used actively (if at all) they look at me as if I were describing the cooking lessons of a cannibal.
Last edited by rmedinap on Thu Feb 01, 2018 6:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by jeidsath » Thu Feb 01, 2018 6:30 pm

But if you are going to pull back from advocacy of full-immersion education only, what really is your theoretical argument against using translations? What makes them so much worse than lexicons, grammars, Professors speaking in English, etc.?

My model of mis-using a translation is something like this: You have a homework assignment with comprehension questions about a text. Instead of reading the text in the target language, you read a translation, and get a perfect score on the homework. You learn nothing from the assignment, and waste the teacher's time and your own.

Fair. But what about not misusing translations? Ask Marlene if she's ever had a student who had read Les Miserables in English a dozen times before taking her course, because it was that student's favorite book. Or ask the same thing to Susan about Don Quixote. If either of them have had this experience (which is not so rare), they may in fact find that such has student has come far better equipped to study the text in the target language than the average student, and gains much more language fluency out of it than the student not so equipped.

To put it in language acquisition terms: while translations can be used stupidly, and mostly are, they can also be used as a tool for turning incomprehensible target-language input into comprehensible target-language input.

I'll go so far as to argue that the best way for any beginner to spend his first few months with any new language is by only using an audiobook (in the target language) and a literal translation, both of which he studies to death. I'd even recommend this as a good exercise for people living around native speakers -- it supercharges your listening ability and pronunciation, in addition to adding a lot of passive vocabulary and some grammar.

This advice isn't so new (except for the audiobook part, which is a new technology): it's the old Gospel of John trick that missionaries have been recommending forever.
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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by rmedinap » Thu Feb 01, 2018 7:32 pm

Maybe we should clarify something here.

A translation of what exactly? What texts do you use to teach beginners?

I have in mind a basic, graded text for beginners. Say, Thrasymachus, Athenaze, Reading Greek, Zuntz' Griechischer Lehrgang, Rico's Polis or Beresford & Douglas's A First Greek Reader or anything similar.

That's what I teach beginners with, that's what I learned with. If those are the texts we're talking about I see absolutely no need whatsoever for a translation. Any competent and patient teacher should be able give a paraphrase or explain via gesticulation, drawings, pictures, synonyms, etc.

I can perfectly see the value of a translation if you're reading or teaching Thucydides or Lycophron or something on their level. I would perfectly endorse and recommend the use of a translation for pupils who have difficulties with getting a sense of the text, but I would never have a beginner or even an intermediate student read something so complicated without some reasonable help like notes in Greek, a previous explanation and contextualization (in Greek if possible) of what's going on in the narrative, maps and visual material like pictures of the characters, places and things.
jeidsath wrote:What makes them so much worse than lexicons, grammars, Professors speaking in English, etc.?
Actually translations are the things I consider less harmful for acquisition. I believe the grammar-centered approach is much more harmful and the teachers that do not actively use the target language to provide comprehensible input (specially basic, everyday vocabulary) are the worst of it all.
jeidsath wrote:Ask Marlene if she's ever had a student who had read Les Miserables in English a dozen times before taking her course, because it was that student's favorite book. Or ask the same thing to Susan about Don Quixote.
This is actually a good argument that I used to believe in until reality hit me in the face... four times, with Thucydides, Nietzsche, Caesar and Machiavelli. These are authors that I revere like divinities and can quote almost from memory (in Spanish) like a devout Christian the Bible, that knowledge served me little for acquisition of the languages when I studied them.

It does undeniably help to understand what the text says, because you already know what's it all about so can mentally fill the gaps of the words that you don't understand, but when I tried producing I would almost never remember the vocabulary and grammar constructions these writers use. When doing inverse translation exercises, even if I could recall to memory what Thucydides said, I had a lot of trouble making variations of it, using that vocabulary and constructions to say something different. I see the same effect with my students who know their Plato or Sophocles when they begin to learn Greek. They recognize the passages and have little trouble understanding what it says, but they do not interiorize the grammar and often they give correct interpretations of a given text but cannot explain why their interpretation is correct from a grammar-formal perspective nor can they actively use what they understood to produce correct and meaningful output.

I could perfectly live with it all if it did not had two very adverse effects: it discourages the students who understand the translation and can more or less point to the equivalent Greek but are at a total loss (even when reading the exact same text) without the translation and, most importantly, it easily becomes an addiction, because the teacher has already "normalized" the use of translations the student subconsciously assumes that it is the "normal" process of reading and never gets the courage to read a Greek text without the translation, even when the text is so easy that a translation is not really needed.

Again, I can only picture the case of a self-taught learner where a translation would be helpful at a beginner's level.

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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by jeidsath » Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:17 pm

Over time I have learned from language immersion, standard "grammar-translation" methods, from using translations/cribs, and from studying well-loved books in other languages. And that's certainly not a complete list. I like to try everything. I promise that I will keep an eye out and let you guys know just as soon as I notice the predicted crippling effects.
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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:11 pm

jeidsath wrote:Over time I have learned from language immersion, standard "grammar-translation" methods, from using translations/cribs, and from studying well-loved books in other languages. And that's certainly not a complete list. I like to try everything. I promise that I will keep an eye out and let you guys know just as soon as I notice the predicated crippling effects.
You don't have to let us know. We've seen it too many times in students. And your experience, Joel, may certainly be unique. You clearly have had a lot of language exposure, and you are a highly motivated and competent individual (yeah, I really mean that) who appears to be quite gifted. Not everybody benefits from the same methods in the same way (which is why I use a blend of methodologies in teaching).
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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by mwh » Sat Feb 03, 2018 8:45 pm

Barry, You are a prep school teacher of privileged young teens. Joel is not a young teen, and whether or not he is “quite gifted” I don’t think you can reasonably expect him to bow before your pontifications.

I think the rot sets in when any teacher stops thinking of himself as first and foremost a learner.

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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by Hylander » Sat Feb 03, 2018 11:18 pm

Though I'm not a teacher and never have been, I think that for students learning Greek or Latin in a classroom setting at an elementary or even intermediate level, using trots to get their homework out of the way is a form of cheating, and isn't conducive to learning the language. This is based on my own experience as a student.

But for those who are reading Greek or Latin on their own, translations are very useful, and commentaries don't always provide enough help.

For those who, like Joel, are self-taught and are tackling difficult texts at a relatively early stage, I would almost say a translation is essential for checking to make sure that they understand the text correctly.

For others reading difficult texts, a check on one's own understanding is often useful, too. And there is a point of diminishing returns in pondering a passage that doesn't yield its meaning after some effort even with the aid of a commentary. I think it's important not to simply remain ignorant and just move on when you can't figure out a passage, and the translation of such a passage itself can help you learn more of the language. Using a translation in these situations is an efficient way to proceed, and will allow you to cover more ground. And the more ground you cover, the more you will pick up.

I couldn't imagine reading Thucydides without using a translation.

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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by jeidsath » Sun Feb 04, 2018 2:49 pm

Pax. It was inappropriate for me to have responded like I did to Barry's comment. His interpretation of my "imaginary" statement as an attack was understandable after I mistook his literal story for an illustration.
"You said Pax!"
"I said Pax Non under my breath."
"It's a swindle."
"It's not."
"You're a cad."
"No, I'm not."
"Yes, you are."
"No I'm not."
"Yes, you are."
"I said Pax Non."
"You said Pax."
"No, I didn't."
"Yes, you did."
"No, I didn't."
"Yes, you did."
Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

μὴ δ’ οὕτως ἀγαθός περ ἐὼν θεοείκελ’ Ἀχιλλεῦ
κλέπτε νόῳ, ἐπεὶ οὐ παρελεύσεαι οὐδέ με πείσεις.

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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Sun Feb 04, 2018 10:08 pm

Hylander wrote:Though I'm not a teacher and never have been, I think that for students learning Greek or Latin in a classroom setting at an elementary or even intermediate level, using trots to get their homework out of the way is a form of cheating, and isn't conducive to learning the language. This is based on my own experience as a student.

But for those who are reading Greek or Latin on their own, translations are very useful, and commentaries don't always provide enough help.

**********

I couldn't imagine reading Thucydides without using a translation.
In fact, translations essentially take the place of the professor or teacher (albeit imperfectly), and are invaluable for the autodidact. In my comments, I have never said that they should never be used, but that they should only be used after every effort is made to work through the text without them. I have also affirmed that for the advanced--expert level, they can be a valuable tool. For students at the earlier stages of language acquisition, not so much. When somebody has gained a good working knowledge of the language so that translations will not hinder the acquisition process, then fine. At what point that occurs will be different for different people.

I can imagine doing Thucydides without a translation... :shock: But do I want to? :lol:

I will add this though, that it's best to use several translations if possible, if our goal is an independent and critical reading of the text.

My method: read through the text and try to understand as much as possible with no resources at all. Then go to the lexicons and commentaries. Then the translations. Then go back and look at the text again.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by Hylander » Sun Feb 04, 2018 10:57 pm

I'm more or less in agreement with Barry on the use of translations. However, I generally don't see an advantage in using more than one. Usually, just one will do to help me figure out the syntax if I'm stumped, as long as the translation is relatively literal and doesn't have literary pretensions. Then I can re-read the passage in Greek with comprehension. I don't normally translate in my head as I read. I find translations useful in figuring out complicated syntax which doesn't readily yield itself to me as I read.

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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by mwh » Mon Feb 05, 2018 1:49 am

I don't normally translate in my head as I read.
This is crucial I think. I translate only when I have to communicate my understanding of the Greek/Latin to someone else. It can never be more than approximate.

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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by RandyGibbons » Mon Feb 05, 2018 2:20 am

And in the interests of continued improvement, I would recommend again, when you decide to resort to a translation (without shame!), be sure to define as precisely as possible where your breakdown or hesitation occurs.

(And if you're reading critically, check the critical apparatus first. You may not be the only one who has struggled with the sentence.)

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Re: What's the use of translations

Post by Xyloplax » Thu Oct 18, 2018 2:53 am

I think translations for an early intermediate fellow like me are important as a sanity check. Thucydides, for example, has some incredibly odd use of words and turns of phrase which make no sense on first scan. You need to look up the words in the LSJ and occasionally reach for a grammar to see what you are missing, but sometimes you are just stuck, so you check the translation. Usually you have SOME idea of what it might vaguely be getting at, but upon reading the translation, you should try to learn what your brain didn't connect. Sometimes it's as simple as "oh yeah, I guess I got the subjects and objects wrong", but sometimes it's some manner of joining the words to make a turn of phrase you might remember better. But...and this is key...translations can also be wrong and you are free to disagree with them.

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