Alesya Teplyakova, a translator from Minsk, is giving her public speech in the libruary

Foreign Language Learning through Translation

An interview with Alesya Teplyakova, a professional English-Russian translator from Belarus



– Why translation?


Alesya Teplyakova, a translator from Minsk, is giving her public speech in the libruary
Alesya Teplyakova is delivering her public speech in the libruary


Translation is the first step in a foreign language learning. There are four parts of learning any language: reading, writing, listening and speaking. While translating you practice two of them – reading and writing. They are less stressful than listening and speaking, but very important because they provide a platform for communication skills.

Translation can help you to:

  • master your grammar
  • expand your passive vocabulary
  • improve spelling
  • practice in finding the right word
  • in some cases to learn new terminology


– Can one improve language skills through translation practice?


Translating can be extremely helpful for experienced linguists as well as for beginners. Translators usually work with specific type of vocabulary, with IT terminology or terms of law. But sometimes, we have to leave familiar areas and face topics we know little about, even in Russian. It can be aviation or nuclear power vocabulary, for instance. Here translation practice can be useful.

This story I heard from my boss. He taught English aviation terminology to a new interpreter (it was a little bit surprising for me, because I knew my boss doesn’t speak English). He gave the interpreter a huge text about aviation for translation. In some weeks, when the translation was ready, he gave her the same text in Russian to check her mistakes. And it worked.  She learned the context and memorized aviation vocabulary.

I also use this method for self-education. There are plenty of bilingual websites in different areas.

– Is it effective to use Google translate for foreign language learning?


Nowadays we have many translation tools like Google Translate. To my mind, they are useful when there are more than 60% of unknown words in text. Word-to-word translation can help you to find out the main idea of the text. As for me, if the topic is familiar, translation by Google only distracts attention from the text, because it makes you smile. It’s a kind of professional humor to paste some text in Google Translate and laugh at the result with all the colleagues in office.


– What is the most difficult part in the translation process?


To my mind there exist two main difficulties that translators usually face.

The first challenge is to deliver the sense of article without slanting it. It can happen, if the subject sounds unfamiliar to you, for example, car configuration or political situation on the Middle East.

The reason is that English words have plenty of meanings. For example, the word “bar” has 12 meanings, the word “run” can be translated in 40 different ways according to English-Russian dictionary. If you don’t know the context and can’t see the whole picture you can dramatically distort the main idea of the article. That’s the point.

The second challenge is to change English word order into Russian one. English sentences have different structure from Russian that’s why Russian word-for-word translation can sound unnatural and clumsy.

For example:

When she entered the room, the teacher saw the students writing.

Когда она вошла в комнату, учительница увидела пишущих студентов (Wrong translation)

Когда учительница вошла в комнату, она увидела, что студенты пишут (Correct translation)  

Sometimes translators are too plunged into English not feeling how awkward their Russian translation is. In order to avoid it, you can use a simple trick. Read some pages of a good book in Russian to switch from one language into another.

– So, how to do it right?


I’d like to share 5 rules of English language practice by translating texts:

    1. First of all examine the topic of your article in your mother tongue. It will help you to get the context of the article.
    2. Than look through the text to get the main idea. If necessary use Google Translator.
    3. Train your memory by recalling the meaning of each word by yourself. If you are not sure about it consult a dictionary.
    4. Pay attention to grammar structures that are different from ones in your native language, specific terms and new words. All of them will expand your English vocabulary and help you sound natural and expressive.
    5. Practice as much as possible and enjoy the process.

– Is translation a fun for you as a profession?


Translator job is not exactly my cup of tea, because I’m usually too energetic and sociable to spend the whole day in front of my computer. But sometimes it’s very pleasant to abstract away from my colleagues and plunge into translating process. I enjoy singling out English grammar structures and select equivalent Russian expressions to make Russian sound natural and transmit the message of the original article as precise as possible at the same time.

To conclude, translation is a good method for foreign language learning. It facilitates the development of knowledge in such basic areas as grammar, vocabulary and spelling. It can also be an effective tool in learning new terminology. If paraphrase the famous saying one can say: “translation is to the mind what exercise is to the body”. So practice every day and enjoy yourself!



Alesya Teplyakova, a translator from Belarus at some official event
Alesya Teplyakova, a professional English-Russian translator, Minsk, Belarus


My name is Alesya Teplyakova. I have worked as a translator from English to Russian for 5 years translating social and political articles. I graduated from Belarusian State University and I’m certified as international relations specialist and translator from two foreign languages (English and French).

In my work, it’s important to know the context of the article, because some news items are difficult to understand out of context. My interests are foreign language learning, travelling and sport. I’m an open-minded, curious and determined person.





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