Translation in Spanish language teaching: the integration of a “fifth skill” in the second language curriculum

Sonia Colina, Barbara A. Lafford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


This article argues for translation as a fifth skill in language learning and for its integration in a systematic, purposeful, and informed manner in the Spanish language curriculum, with special attention to the situation in the United States. After reviewing the relevant literature in the fields of translation studies (TS) and language acquisition and teaching, we contend that a narrow, specialized, and one-dimensional view of translation, on the translation side, and a rigid ban on the use of the native language on the part of the SLA/teaching community prevented a fruitful integration of translation in the second language (L2) classroom. A broader conceptual definition of translation as cross-linguistic language mediation provides for a much more promising interaction. Taking this conceptual basis as the point of departure, the article suggests research directions as well as specific curricular ideas and strategies to implement the integration of translation in Spanish language teaching. It also highlights the benefits that can be derived from this reconceptualization of the field, e.g., an improved ability to prepare students and to address a much more complex language learning situation created by issues such as globalization, and increased immigration from/to Spanish-speaking countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-123
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Spanish Language Teaching
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 3 2017


  • Language mediation
  • Spanish language acquisition
  • Spanish language teaching
  • communicative translation
  • linguistic awareness
  • translation studies (TS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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