Investigating the Cognitive Processes of Translation Writing Tasks

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J. Paul Marlowe, Kansai University of International Studies; Mayumi Asaba, Kwansei Gakuin University

Despite universal criticism of the grammar-translation method, the use of translation tasks in English education continues to remain prominent in secondary schools and on entrance examinations in Japan. However, very little is known about the cognitive processes and the pedagogical value of translation tasks. In this exploratory study we investigated the cognitive processes of learners performing translation writing tasks from Japanese to English. Three 1st-year Japanese university students were selected from a group that practiced Japanese to English translation tasks for one semester. The participants translated a variety of sentences from Japanese to English as well as an excerpt from a short paragraph. Through one-on-one semistructured, stimulated recalls, we were able to ascertain which cognitive processes factored prominently in the tasks, including lexical, grammatical, and syntactic knowledge. The results indicate that lexical processing accounted for the largest proportion of attentional resources, followed by syntactic processing.