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 particular. 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. 1-Participants 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 PEDs. 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 PEDs. 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 meaning. 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 wider. 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. Students’ 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.