Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Language, Education and Innovation 2016

Effectiveness of Translation in the Improvement of Syntactic Processing Ability

Hiroki Fujita, Haruyo Yoshida

Osaka Kyoiku University, Japan


Although translating activities have been used in second language (L2) classes, limited research has investigated how this learning method contributes to L2 acquisition. Therefore, in this study, we investigated whether translation was effective for L2 understanding as well as for the improvement of syntactic processing ability. For this purpose, we conducted a syntactic priming experiment that used a segment-by-segment self-paced reading task. Syntactic priming is a phenomenon where an encounter with a stimulus affects its subsequent processing if the two stimuli have the same construction (Bock, 1986). It has been reported that syntactic processing ability improves in the case of syntactic priming (Lightbown & Spada, 2006). During the experiment, the L2 research participants read sentences containing a reduced relative clause as target sentences immediately after reading prime sentences that had the same construction either with or without translation into their mother tongue. In addition, a comprehension question was manipulated to appear after target sentences to examine whether translation contributed to the depth of understanding of the target grammar. We used a linear and logit mixed-effect model for the analysis of the collected data. The two statistical models revealed that although comprehension rates for the target sentences did not differ statistically, there was a significant difference in reading times of the target stimuli between the two conditions, indicating that sentence processing with translation produced a greater priming effect. The research result suggests that the syntactic processing ability of learners improves significantly when they explicitly translate the syntactic structure.


Second Language Acquisition, Syntactic Priming, Parsing, Sentence Comprehension, Translation

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