Translations for Language Teaching and Civic Engagement
Heritage Language education is a field that has gained recognition and interest in more recent years. A variety of studies and even a journal completely devoted to this subject have come up in the last decade. Within the subfield of Spanish for Native Speakers, most of the scholars and organizations advocate for a more interdisciplinary approach to teaching as well as a stronger relationship with the community. UCLA’s Heritage Language Research Priorities Conference proposed that future research should focus on “optimal ways to incorporate community-based needs and desires in the design of HL [Heritage Language] programs” (Lynch 322). Recent studies also emphasize the need to tie the community-based element to the academic content and the language development. The challenge then is to provide students with meaningful opportunities for service learning that would enable them to grow linguistically, academically, and as citizens. Among the different options, we decided to investigate the value of community oriented translations as a tool to achieve those pedagogical and civic goals. In order to explore these topics, the research methodology of this project consisted of triangulation of data and theories.
This study explores the pedagogical value and the significance of translations in three different aspects: linguistics, civic engagement, as well as preparedness for the professional world. Our investigation took on 3 different paths to explore these aspects: 1) scholarly research on the topics of heritage language education, sociolinguistics and community engagement; 2) a survey of universities that offer Spanish for Native Speakers programs and/or courses on translation; and 3) in-person interviews conducted with community partners as well as with bilingual students from Occidental College who worked as translators for one of the community partners.
Triangulation of the data gathered through scholarly research and in-person interviews show different points of convergence. Some of the pedagogical goals identified in the scholarly studies included meaningful and interdisciplinary learning, increased self-reliance and self-confidence, biliteracy development, as well as awareness and pride about the role of the heritage language learner as mediator between the official and unofficial discourses. According to the students interviewed, these goals are fulfilled through the community oriented translations. An additional civic objective included in the scholarship, building strong neighborhoods, is also accomplished through the translations, as corroborated by the interviews with the community partners. Despite these potential benefits, we found that not many courses in universities that offer Spanish for Native/Heritage Speakers incorporate translations into their programs. The majority of these courses concentrate in the mastery of the formal registry of Spanish through academic exercises. We intend to conduct further investigation of the reasons for this disconnect by interviewing the faculty in charge of SNS courses next fall.
Galvez, Jessica, "Translations for Language Teaching and Civic Engagement" (2012). URC Student Scholarship.
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