This study adopted translation as the measurement to examine the effect of background
knowledge, provided in the form of reading from university students’ first (Chinese) or
second (English) language, on their performance of an English-to-Chinese translation text.
150 EFL English majors were involved in this study. They took a GEPT reading test and a
translation pre-test as the evaluation of their English reading proficiency and translation
performance on the designated topic. Before taking the post-translation test, they were
randomly divided into two groups, half receiving Chinese reading material, and the other half
in English. Statistical analyses were conducted to examine the improved scores between L1
and L2 reading treatment and also the effect of reading for participants of different reading
proficiency. The results showed that while all participants demonstrated more content
familiarity after reading, the group who received Chinese treatment performed significantly
better than the English group. The study then discovered that participants of different English
reading proficiency did not show difference in the improvement of translation after receiving
either Chinese or English reading treatment. Finally, pedagogical implications were discussed
in the end.