This study integrates both quantitative and qualitative approaches to examine the roles that mental translation plays in reading classical Chinese and English as a foreign language among Taiwanese high school students. Gadamer’s theory of hermeneutic experience and the Vygotskian social-cultural theory provide the theoretical frameworks for this study. The quantitative data consist of reading comprehension tests and translation surveys, while the qualitative data are composed of think-aloud protocols and interviews with the participating students and their teachers. At least two prominent findings emerge from the data analyses: (1) mental translation appears to have positive and significant associations with reading comprehension across two languages; (2) ambivalent perceptions of and attitudes toward the employment of mental translation for reading classical literary Chinese and English are discerned. The findings support Gadamer’s contention that humans learn to translate as they are learning a language. The views and ideas expressed by the participating teachers and students uncover a sociocultural dimension of reading, as proposed by Vygotsky.
International Journal of Bilingualism 15(4), pp.373-387