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Does translation help you to learn a language, or does it cause confusion and slow down your learning?

8 months ago
I've just come across a comment by a fellow Verblinger who is firmly of the belief that translation is to be avoided as a general rule, and it got me thinking.

When I was learning Spanish, especially early on, I used to translate lots of things, and it helped me to see how differently (often) a meaning is worded in Spanish as compared with the corresponding meaning in English. In this way, my knowledge and understanding of Spanish deepened and became more sophisticated. There were other moments when I either didn't bother translating stuff, or when I made a point of immersing myself in Spanish so as to make translation impracticable, and those experiences were valuable for developing my fluency, for sure.

But I'm not so sure I would recommend doing away with translation completely. In fact, on the contrary, I encourage it among my students as it can often break important, crucial deadlocks which would otherwise persist indefinitely. And nowadays it's so easy to get hold of a decent (though occasionally far from perfect) translation, by simply tapping one's palm for a second or so.

What are your reflections on the usefulness (or not) and helpfulness (or not) of translations to language learning success?

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