Using translation to drive conceptual development for students becoming literate in English as an additional language

Robert T. Jiménez, Sam David, Keenan Fagan, Victoria J. Risko, Mark Pacheco, Lisa Pray, Mark Gonzales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Literacy research has not yet revealed how bilingual learners develop coherent and robust theories of language. Translation, however, provides emergent bilinguals (EL students) with opportunities to develop metalinguistic awareness, which can lead to a more complete conceptual framework for thinking about language and literacy. This preliminary research study sought to formulate an instructional approach (TRANSLATE: Teaching Reading and New Strategic Language Approaches to English learners) focused on using translation to ultimately improve ELL students' reading comprehension. Using design research methods and qualitative analytical techniques, researchers asked middle school students described as struggling readers to work collaboratively and use various strategies to translate key excerpts from their required English literature curriculum into Spanish. Analysis of students' statements, decision making, and interaction indicated that students' conceptual understandings about language played an important role in their learning. Students reflected on the nature of vocabulary, syntax, and the ways that different languages communicate ideas. These findings extend conversations in literacy studies concerning the unique affordances of bilingualism to increase metacognitive and metalinguistic awareness, known contributors to higher levels of reading comprehension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)248-271
Number of pages24
JournalResearch in the Teaching of English
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2015 by the National Council of Teachers of English. All rights reserved.


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