Effect of translation practice on vocabulary acquisition in L2 Spanish

Irina Goundareva


Research in second language (L2) vocabulary learning and teaching has recently regained interest in the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA). Likewise, studies in translation have focused on L1-L2 translation because it is a highly demanding task that involves searching for form, recalling, and evaluating (Laufer & Girsai, p. 711). Yet, L2-L1 translation practice and vocabulary acquisition have not been discussed sufficiently. L2-L1 translation requires searching for meaning, recognition of word form, and later use in word production.

This study explores a possible effect of L2 Spanish to English translation practice on reception and production of L2 vocabulary. Two groups of third-year L2 Spanish learners at a multicultural post-secondary institution participated. The learners read a short story in Spanish, wrote a summary of the story in Spanish, and participated in a detailed discussion of the vocabulary and content of the story. A key activity was the translation from Spanish into English of an excerpt from the short story performed by one of the groups. All students did a posttest in Spanish which included vocabulary recognition, supplying synonyms or antonyms, and applying vocabulary in context. Two questions motivated the study: Does translation practice help students recognize new Spanish vocabulary? Does translation practice help students produce new vocabulary in correct contexts? Results showed that there was a minimal difference between the two groups on vocabulary recognition, but the group that performed the translation task performed better on the vocabulary production task. A follow up study will test whether similar tendencies are observed when translating from English into L2 Spanish.


Spanish, vocabulary, translation

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Working Papers of the Linguistics Circle

EISSN: 1920-440X
ISSN: 1200-3344

University of Victoria