University Students’ Perception, Attitude, and Evaluation of Using Translation in Academic Writing Experiences

  • Words 2290
  • Pages 5
Download PDF

1. Introduction

The globalization of the world led people to realize the significance of language and communication. Machine translation has rapidly developed along with the development of science and technology. Moreover, the spread of the Internet contributed to the popularization of Web-based machine translation. However, the machine translation was not reliable because of its poor quality and low accuracy of output. Therefore, the academia was reluctant to use machine translation as a learning tool of languages until recently.

In 2016, however, Google introduced a new way of machine translation: neural machine translation. It remarkably improved the quality and accuracy of the outputs. Google Translate offered a high level of English proficiency, allowing language learners to compare and analyze their own written composition with the output of machine translation (Briggs, 2018). Many people now use machine translation in their daily lives. It has high accessibility since it is available free of charge, simple to use, and abundant in resources.

Click to get a unique essay

Our writers can write you a new plagiarism-free essay on any topic

Especially, the ESL students are the main user of machine translation in both inside and outside of the class (O’neil, 2019; Briggs, 2018) because of their lack of language proficiency (Ismail, 2012). However, only a few researchers began to study the possibility and potential of machine translation as a learning tool because of repulsion and negative prejudice (Bahri & Mahadi, 2016). They also analyze machine translation from the view of educator, mechanic, and translator (Purwaningsih, 2016; Ghasemi& Hashemian, 2016; Stapleton& Kin, 2019; Medvedev, 2016; Kim, 2017; Loveland et al, 2017). Thus, this study seeks to explore the perception, attitude, and evaluation of machine translation when it is used for academic purposes from the perspective of ESL students who are practical users.

2. Literature Review

2.1. L2 Writing

Writing is an essential language skill in the academic field, having five linguistic components: content, organization, vocabulary, grammar, and mechanics (Harris, 1974). For foreign language learners, writing is regarded as the most challenging and difficult skill among the four language skills including writing, speaking, listening and reading (Reid, 2002) since it is a productive activity (Erkan& Saban, 2011). Moreover, it becomes essential to have effective writing skills in one’s native or foreign language for educational, business and personal reasons due to the impacts of globalization (Yamini & Mandanizadeh, 2011). The development of L2 writing can be affected by several factors such as L1 writing ability (Kobayashi & Rinnert, 2008; Karim& Nassaji, 2013), L2 proficiency language (Brigg, 2018; Raoofi, Binandeh& Rahmani, 2017; Garcia &Pena, 2011; Karim& Nassaji, 2013), and writing experiences in both languages (Kobayashi & Rinnert 2008; Bandura, 1997; Dix and Cawkwell, 2011; Erkan& Saban, 2011).

Writing is a complicated activity that requires many factors consisting of cognitive, social and contextual elements (Van Kooten, 2016) and requests some skills to be performed simultaneously (Jones, 2007). Especially, L2 writing requires strategies to think and express his or her ideas logically and competently in other languages, demanding a certain level of linguistic knowledge, writing skills, vocabulary and grammar (Erkan& Saban, 2011).

2.1.1. Writing Strategies in L2 Writing

There is no a particular or perfect method in ESL writing, which is accepted by all since it is classified in many ways by different researchers (Abas& Aziz, 2016). There is no exact model of the writing process but there are common operations: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing and publishing (Odom, 2009; Sharp, 2016).

Writing in a second language is more challenging than other language skills since it requires a high level of linguistic strategies (Raoofi, Binandeh& Rahmani, 2017). Therefore, many researchers examined the relationship and efficiency of writing in the first language and translating into the second language (Ismail, 2012; Karim& Nassaji, 2013; Ceylan, 2019). Ceylan (2019) insisted that L1 writing ability affects the development of ESL writing. Karim and Nassaji found out that ESL students use L1 writing strategies even when they write in L2 to complement their deficiency (2013). Ismail (2012) also claimed that translating can help students to think about the organization and way of expressing their ideas rather than writing directly.

Many researchers claimed that ESL students use cognitive and metacognitive strategies in their writing (Radwan 2011; Raoofi, Binandeh& Rahmani 2017; Mastan 2017, Karim& Nassaji, 2013). Radwan (2011), Karim& Nassaji (2013) and Raoofi, Binandeh& Rahmani (2017) found out that writing proficiency and ability has a relationship with cognitive strategy. These studies insist that students who can write effectively are able to use cognitive strategies. Moreover, metacognitive strategy is one of the most common ways of writing regardless of how a writing strategy is classified (Mastan 2017). Karim& Nassaji (2013) insisted that students who use metacognitive strategy in L1 writing can use it in L2, too. Raoofi, Binandeh& Rahmani (2017) argued that the metacognitive strategy use plays a significant role in the development of L2 writing skills because it helps language learners to control their own cognition. It helps students to get positive self-efficacy and improve their writing (Stewart, Seifert, & Rolheiser, 2015).

2.1.2. Self-efficacy in L2 Writing

Self-efficacy is an individuals’ belief and confidence in their ability to produce a particular performance (Bandura, 1997). In writing, student’s beliefs in his/her capacity to write English task successfully is called as writing self-efficacy (Lena& Jaya, 2018). Many researchers claimed that the high level of self-efficacy helps students to improve their composition with a high level of self-confidence. However, regardless of proficiency level, most ESL students lack self-efficacy in their writing (Lena& Jaya, 2018; Öztürk& Saydam, 2014; Sabti et al, 2019, Erkan& Saban, 2011; Raoofi, Gharibi& Gharibi, 2017).

Lack of linguistic knowledge and writing competence is one reason for the low level of self-efficacy of ESL students (Öztürk& Saydam, 2014). It makes the students feel less confident in their writing that they are worried about they would make a mistake on vocabulary and grammar and mis-express their ideas. Moreover, students lack self-confidence because they think they do not have writing talents and special skills to write.

Teachers also contribute to the development of L2 writing self-efficacy. The manner and content of feedback from teachers have an important role in writing self-efficacy for ESL students (Lena&Jaya, 2018; Sabti et al, 2019). The criticism of teachers easily reduces self-efficacy of students while great compliment promotes (Sarkhoush, 2013). An evaluation by an unattended teacher on writing is neither practical nor necessary for students (Austria, 2017).

Lastly, writing experiences have an impact on self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997; Erkan& Saban, 2011). One of the most important factors in deciding the level of self-efficacy is “previous successful experience” in writing (Bandura, 1997). The high self-efficacy students have more experiences and put more effort into writing than the low one. It can be inferred that effort, intelligence, previous success and failure, self-concept, and social feedback decide the level of self-efficacy.

2.1.3. Anxiety in L2 Writing

Anxiety is “negative expectation, preoccupation with performance and concern with others’ perception”, then writing anxiety can be defined as “the feeling of tension, apprehension, nervousness, and worry in writing” (Jaya, 2018). Writing anxiety is one of the biggest problems for language learners because it is directly related to writing performance (Erkan & Saban, 2011; Susur & Denfela, 2019). In other words, students who have high anxiety are not able to express their ideas effectively in writing because of the nerve. As effective and psychological factors hugely affect the language learning process (Öztürk, 2014), ESL students’ writing difficulty also stems from emotional aspects such as writing anxiety (Lee, 2010), and ESL writing more easily creates writing anxiety than L1 writing (Zhang, 2011). Therefore, it could be seen that writing anxiety plays an important role for ESL learners.

Writing anxiety can be classified into several types including cognitive anxiety, somatic anxiety, avoidance behavior, and others (Jaya, 2018; Cheng, Jalili). Cognitive anxiety occurs when the students were apprehensive about others’ expectations. For example, the learners felt anxious when they realize that their writing would be evaluated by others (Jaya, 2018). Another type of writing anxiety is somatic anxiety. Somatic anxiety refers to an awareness of the psychological effect of anxiety such as nervousness and tension (Jaya, 2018). Moreover, students show avoidance behavior when they feel anxious. Avoidance behavior is a behavior that students avoid writing (Jaya, 2018; Cheng, 2004), and it is the most dangerous type of writing anxiety because the students avoid writing itself. Other behaviors frequently observed are procrastination, low self-esteem, and lack of motivation (Leki, 1999 cited by Jalili, 2017).

There are some possible reasons for writing anxiety. Zhang (2011), Susur (2019) and Ceylan (2019) states that writing competence is an important reason for foreign language anxiety. ESL learners feel anxious when they cannot generate and organize ideas because of a lack of vocabulary and grammar. ESL students also suffered from anxiety because of the lack of exercise and negative writing experience in English writing (Asadifard and Koosha, 2013; Kırmızı & Kırmızı, 2015). It is also revealed that the complicity of writing, fear of writing test, a time limit, lack of topical knowledge, and lack of motivation or interests can increase ESL students’ anxiety level (Erkan & Saban, 2011; Jalili 2017; Jaya 2018; Öztürka 2014, Susur 2019).

2.2. Machine Translation

2.2.1. Development of Machine Translation

The origin of the concept of machine translation can be traced back to the seventeenth century in the name of the mechanical dictionary (John Hutchins, 2007). The real study of this field began in 1949 that Weaver proposed a memorandum entitled “Translation”, which gave the framework for further study. Since then, a lot of research and development of machine translation have been conducted in many countries, mainly in the US.

In the 1950s to 1960s, the research investigated based on a rule-based approach. It is the MT system based on linguistic information of source and target languages derived from dictionaries and grammars. The studies started to analyze based on the direct translation, which translates from SL to TL with a minimum amount of transform and syntactic reorganization. However, due to the complexity of language, the study has not made much progress. Therefore, it changed its direction to two different ways: interlingual translation and transfer translation. These rule-based technologies had the advantage of accuracy since it was based on the linguistic manner with grammatical algorithms. Nevertheless, its time and cost demands have created very high technology and development entry barriers.

In the 1970s to 1980s, Machine Translation has made huge progress with the revival of the statistical-based approaches. It is an MT system statistically programming translation rules based on vast amounts of research data, or big data. Its accuracy has been better by collecting bilingual and multilingual text corpora. With the introduction of this method of translation, many global IT companies have been able to emerge into machine translation development. Later, Hybrid machine translation utilizing the advantages of statistical and rule-based translation methodology is developed.

Until recently, however, the web-based machine translation that global IT companies provided was criticized by educators and linguists due to its poor quality of output. Especially, it was reluctant to use as a language learning tool by the language academic world. However, Google, with Montreal University, introduced a new type of translation, a neural machine translation in 2016 (Briggs, 2018). Since neural machine translation translates based on the content of the entire texts, it improves the accuracy of the outputs.

Furthermore, with such widespread Internet access and the advent of globalization, machine translation gets high popularity. Many translation programs such as Google Translate, Bing Translate, Papago, and Youdao are available free of charge on both mobile and desktop. Moreover, Google Translate provides more than 100 languages for translation (Google Translate, 2020) and provides 100 billion translations for 500 million users a day (Turovsky, 2016).

2.2.2. Machine Translation and Writing

Many people use machine translation today. Briggs reveals that even university students frequently use translation in both curricular and extracurricular activities (2018). Especially, the main user of the translation is ESL people who lack language skills, since people who have high proficiency are more accurate, faster and better to write directly (Ismail, 2012). Garcia and Pena (2011) discovered that students with low language proficiency could get advantage from using machine translation more than the ones with high proficiency, and they preferred using machine translation even against the teacher’s opposition.

Machine Translation helps to improve writing quality. Josefsson (2011) studied the strategies and attitudes of students towards machine translation. She found out that machine translation is better than the traditional dictionary in the field of speed and accuracy, and the word choice including collocations, phrases, and technical words. Lee (2019) discovered that the students can improve their writing composition by using machine translation compared with their original writing. Machine translation can decrease number of errors in both vocabulary and grammar, help to choose more appropriate vocabulary and expressions fitted in the context, and thus enhance the overall quality of their writing. He also claimed that machine translation can provide the function of peer-reviewing. Machine translation provides how to correct the grammatical errors and how to write the phrase in a different way. Although it is not perfect, it is still helpful to improve writing ability of student. Aranberri claimed that machine translation can increase the productivity of writing (2014). She found out that machine translation functioned as post-editing, being able to translate faster and more accurate. Jin and Deifell (2013) found that language learners use machine translation as an online dictionary for their convenience. They also asserted that students believe the use of online translation accelerates their writing skills in the foreign language while reduces their learning anxiety.

3. Research Questions

  1. What is the status of L2 writing for students?
    1. a) What strategies do the ESL students use?
    2. b) What is the level of writing self-efficacy of ESL students?
    3. c) How much and what anxiety do the ESL students have?
  2. What perception do the ESL students have of the machine translation for their academic writing?
  3. What attitude do the ESL students have of the machine translation for their academic writing?
  4. How do the ESL students evaluate the machine translation for their academic writing?


We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you board with our cookie policy.