The Effectiveness Of Using Bilingual Portable Electronic Dictionaries

The Effectiveness of Using Bilingual Portable Electronic
Dictionaries (BPEDs) in Translation Classes
Dr.Aisha Al-Hussain
Princess Nora Bint Abdurrahman University
Riyadh. K.S.A
[email protected]
Today, millions of people worldwide
believe that computers can play a
crucial role in providing EFL
students with valuable language
experience as they learn a second or
foreign language. They find it
essential for developing all language
skills in general and translation in
This study aimed at proving empirically
the effectiveness of using bilingual
PEDs in translation classrooms. This
was carried out through comparing
the translation of students once with
bilingual PEDs and once without
PEDs. It also aimed at measuring the
rate of effectiveness with different text
difficulty levels. Translation from
English to Arabic was the focus of the
present study.
Participants of the present study
consisted of 50 students majoring in
English language and literature at
the College of Arts, Princess Nora
University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi
Arabia at level seven (fourth year,
first semester).They were advanced
students. They were 70 students but
twenty of them were not included in
the study because they did not own
2. Materials
Two English short stories of different
difficulty levels were used: Regret by
Kate Chopin and War by Lugi Pirandell
The level of difficulty was assessed
according to lexicographic, linguistic and
structural criteria. According to these
criteria the short story (REGRET) was
classified as difficult whilethe other one
(WAR) was considered as easy.
Two other translation teachers
helped in assessing the level of
difficulty. In order to judge
suitability of time to the task
required a word and line account
was run on the two stories. The
story of easy level had 1593 words
and 128 lines whereas the one of
difficult level had 1487 word and
112 lines.
3. Procedure
Participants were given the short easy story
(War) and asked to translate it from English
into Arabic without using PEDs. Papers
were collected then they were given the
same easy story again to translate but they
were allowed to use their PEDs. After two
weeks, the same students were given the
other short story (Regret) which was more
difficult than the first one. They were asked
to translate it without using PEDs. After
collecting the papers, they were asked to
translate the same story again with using
Results and Discussion
Analysis of the easy level data showed that the students
received higher scores when they used PEDs in
translating the short story than when they translated
it without PEDs. See chart (1) below:
Chart (1) shows that the students gained 75% of the full
mark when they used PEDs in translation while they
gained 47% of the full mark when they did not use
them in translating the easy short story.
Chart (2) indicates that the students who used
PEDs performed better when translating a
difficult short story than when they translated
it without using PEDs. See chart (2) below:
Chart (2) shows that the students who used PEDs in
translation gained 65% of the full mark while they gained
15% of the full mark when they translated a difficult short
story without using PEDs.
The above results obtained might be attributed
to the ignoring strategy (Fraser, 1999;
Kobayashi, 2006) adopted by students when
dealing with unknown words. Many studies
showed that students consult more and ignore
less when they deal with unknown
words.(Fraser,1999)In the present study,
students ignored unknown words by using
dots or dashes because they did not have
access to PEDs which affected their overall
achievement in translating the given short
stories .
In other words, students had to choose
from three lexical processing
strategies: consulting, inferring or
ignoring. Since the consulting option
is not available, the students who did
not use PEDs had to infer / guess the
meaning of the difficult words but
most of them were not very
successful at inferring word meaning
from context. The only strategy left
for the students was ignoring the
unknown words.
A second possible justification for the
results obtained is that students are more
successful at determining word meanings
when they consult a dictionary because
they get full comprehension of word
A third reason for the better performance
of students when they used PEDs is that
they might made use of the advantages of
PEDs such as speed, ease of use and size
(Midlane, 2005; Stirling, 2003; AlJarf, 1999
& 2001).
PEDs provided the students with
instant access to data. Less time
was spent on looking up the
unknown words and more time
was given to revising and
editing. In this case, PEDs
helped the students who had
limited vocabulary knowledge to
catch up with those whose
vocabulary knowledge was
A fourth reason stems from the fact that
limited vocabulary knowledge is a
major problem for EFL learners
especially in translation. Dictionaries
are important sources of vocabulary,
therefore it is widely claimed that the
use of PEDs has a positive effect on
vocabulary acquisition (Laufer and
Hill, 2000) .Many studies proved that
consulting a dictionary is one of the
useful vocabulary learning strategies
used by EFL students (Fan, 2003;
Knight, 1994).
The second step was to calculate the
students' marks on easy and difficult levels
once with PEDs and once without PEDs to
find out any differences.
marks on easy and difficult levels with
PEDs were calculated to depict any
differences. See chart (3) below:
Chart (3) indicates that the students who used
PEDs when translating an easy text got 75% as
compared to 65% when they translated a
difficult text.
The marks of the students when they did not
use PEDs to translate easy and difficult texts
were also calculated. See chart (4) below:
The above chart shows that the students
who translated an easy text got 47%
while they got 15% when translating a
difficult text
Students were familiar with most of the
words of the easy short story therefore
they got high scores while they got less
percentage when they dealt with the
difficult story because most of the words
were unknown to them. This result is
supported by other studies which
indicated that learners look up words
less if they are easily inferred from
context. (Hulstijn, 1993)
The last step in data analysis was to investigate
which way (with or without PEDs) would fare
well in translation when categorized
according to levels of difficulty. The
percentage of improvement within the easy
level was summed and it was 28%.The same
procedure was repeated within the difficult
level and it was 49%. See chart (5) below:
By comparing the two results,
we can depict the relationship
between the strategy of
translation and levels of
difficulty. This might indicate
that use of PEDs in translation
classes would be more effective
when the text that is being
translated is difficult than
when it is less difficult.
Portable Electronic Dictionaries (PEDs)
were empirically found to be effective in
translation classes, especially when
students translated difficult texts.
The results of this study might encourage
translation instructors in general and
translation teachers at the college of Arts
in particular to have a positive view
towards the use of PEDs in translation
classes. Teachers who have negative
attitudes towards PEDs in translation
classes should rethink their attitude
because the pedagogical advantages of
PEDs are too numerous to be neglected.
All the disadvantages which led
translation teachers to disallow the
use of PEDs in their classes seem to be
related to the type of the electronic
dictionary used rather than the
strategy itself. It is recommended that
students should be trained how to
consult and use PEDs effectively in
order to complete the translation
process successfully and avoid
inaccurate translation. Students
should take into consideration the
quantity and quality of information
provided when they buy PEDs rather
than their brand or model.