What is transadaptation?
Transadaptation is the process of adapting text that has been written in one language into another language. Transadaptation goes beyond a simple word-for-word translation, yet the output still has the potential to remain artificial, in contrast to authentic text. In the context of K–12 assessment, translated or transadapted items may be acceptable for assessing students’ math skills. When assessing literacy skills, however, authentic text is generally preferred.
Another way of understanding transadaptation is to define all three of these terms in context:
Translation is the process of converting one language to another language. A translation is adequate for general communication to get information or a general point across. In a math assessment, for example, a direct translation might be appropriate (“one plus one equals two”). Languages are not one-to-one codes, however. Structures, vocabulary, and sound systems differ from one language to the next. Therefore, translation by itself is often not enough to identify students’ skill mastery when you’re assessing them in two languages.
Transadaptation is a process that’s often used in just this scenario, when simple translation is not sufficient. Transadaptation involves the revision or replacement of text that, while it may be an adequate test of students’ skills in one language, would not be so in another language. Transadaptation is based on an analysis of the linguistic requirements of each language in order to maintain difficulty levels and comprehensibility and avoid cultural bias. Transadapted test items are designed to give a more precise picture of students’ skills in their native language using the structures, vocabulary, and sound system of that language. Consider the following example:
Original test item (English):
Transadapted test item (Spanish):
Unlike transadaptation, authentic text pulls students into the target culture and allows them to learn in a way that mimics how the brain acquires the first language. Using authentic texts encourages students to use both their background knowledge and context clues to make meaning of the text. Assessing students using authentic text provides educators with greater insight into what students truly know and what they’re ready to learn next in the target language.
Why do these distinctions matter?
Using authentic text to assess students’ development in their home (or native) language is key to promoting educational equity. A number of researchers and organizations have embraced the view that students’ home language is a critical asset in their development in a second language. The Council of Great City Schools, for example, points out that students’ home languages are “key resources” that “can help them in developing both the social and academic registers of English. Students benefit academically when their home cultures and languages are recognized as assets.”
The WIDA Consortium takes a similar view, stating that “all children bring to their learning cultural and linguistic practices, skills, and ways of knowing from their homes and communities. [The] educator’s role is to design learning spaces and opportunities that capitalize on and build upon these assets.”
This shift to an asset-based approach to language learning is reflect by a key change in terminology, from “English Language Learner” (ELL) to emergent bilingual.
Renaissance English/Spanish assessments
Our Star Assessments are available in English and Spanish to support assessment and instruction in both languages.
The Spanish versions of Star Early Literacy, Star Reading, and Star Math include translated, transadapted, and authentic text items to provide educators with the data they need to answer essential questions about their students’ learning. All Spanish items have been reviewed and validated by our Spanish editorial team, which includes native speakers of diverse backgrounds (including a professional translator, former educators, and both internal and external reviewers).
We’ve also developed the first authentic learning progression for Spanish reading in K–12 assessment, La progresión de la lectura de Renaissance. This means that we are able to measure the unique skills learners develop in Spanish and can provide a more equitable approach to reporting student mastery. Newly created items for Star Reading in Spanish and Star Early Literacy in Spanish utilize authentic text and are aligned with La progresión de la lectura de Renaissance. This helps to better ensure authentic and equitable assessment of students’ reading skills in Spanish.