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ERIC Number: EJ1098790
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 4
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: EISSN-1539-0578
Response to Sakurai: The Influence of Translation on Reading Amount, Proficiency and Speed in Extensive Reading
Stephens, Meredith
Reading in a Foreign Language, v28 n1 p151-154 Apr 2016
In this response to Sakurai, Meredith Stephens agrees that Sakurai (2015) raises an important issue of which native English speaking teachers may be unaware; Japanese learners of English typically translate into Japanese while reading English. Sakurai explained, "It is speculated that Japanese students naturally translate English into Japanese even when they are reading (extensive reading) ER books that are supposed to be easier than their textbooks" (p. 98). Reading English may therefore equate with translation from English to Japanese. This practice of translation is not only carried out for difficult texts but is also extended to texts designed for Extensive Reading (ER). Translating English texts into Japanese while reading is problematic because, as Neustupny (1987) explained, "The order of [Japanese] words and clauses is frequently the reverse of English order" (p. 171). Translation from a language with contrasting word order means that the process of translation necessitates a change from the original word order. Sakurai (2015) advises instructors to encourage their Japanese students "not to move their eyes in the Japanese word order from subject, object and then verb" (p. 109). This method of reading English in the order of first language (L1) Japanese has been identified by Kato (2006) as "kaeriyomi," or to read from the end of the sentence to the beginning. Akaida (2009) has labelled it as "yakushiage," which refers to the processing of the end of the sentence before the beginning. It is not accidental that those who have identified this tendency are native Japanese speaking teachers of English, because to non- Japanese speakers, processing English sentences in a contrasting word order appears counterintuitive. It is precisely because L1 English-speaking teachers may be unaware that Japanese students are processing English according to Japanese word order that Sakurai's insights are important for English language education in Japan. Sakurai (2015) explained how ER can be exploited in order to counteract the tendency to translate when reading rather than process the text directly in English. In her study of 70 university students conducting ER, a decrease in the practice of translation while reading lead to improvements in the amount, speed, and comprehension of reading. "The results of these regression analyses showed that refraining from translating and thinking about grammar was related to the reading amount, improvement in the post-test scores and advancement in reading rate." Improvements in the amount, post-test scores and rate of reading are important gains, and suggest that a wider implementation of Sakurai's approach of refraining from translating and thinking about grammar while reading, in Japan is warranted.
Reading in a Foreign Language. National Foreign Language Resource Center, 1859 East-West Road #106, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI 96822. e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Japan
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A