What is transadaptation?

Have you ever sent home a translated version of a school newsletter to parents of students who are English Language Learners (ELL)? Although translation serves a general purpose, it is simply not enough to identify students’ skill mastery when it comes to assessing in two languages. Cultural context must be considered for students to demonstrate mastery of the skill being tested. This is why a process called transadaptation is used.

Transadaptation involves both the translation and adaptation of text from the source language. It occurs when text created in one language and culture is prepared for use in another language. As a result, it may involve the recreation of a narrative in a new context—one to which ELL students can relate.

How does transadaptation work?

Transadaptation may involve the replacement of text deemed not suitable for translation with new text written in the target language. For example, transadaptation of test items for Spanish-speaking students involves:

  • Translation and adaptation of items originally written in English
  • Consideration of various dialects and cultural factors
  • Replacement of items unsuitable for translation

Transadaptation of test items for Spanish-speaking students, for example, involves the translation and adaptation of items originally in English, and the possible replacement of items unsuitable for translation with items written in a neutral Spanish. This means considerations were taken to use vocabulary words and certain verb tenses that would allow the greatest number of Spanish-speaking students to understand the question and answers. Is means avoiding local euphemisms.

What are the benefits of transadaptation?

Adapting to meet the cultural understanding of the intended audience, while also considering linguistic requirements, enables ELL students to show what they truly know in their native language. Because transadaptation considers the culture of the intended audience, a test item that has undergone transadaptation is designed to be understood by people with different dialects.

Transadaptation distinguishes among literacy skills, language acquisition, and cultural background. When teachers have a clear, precise picture of the skills students can demonstrate in each language, they can tailor practice and instruction to the unique needs of each student.

Sample of transadaptation in assessment

English version

As she waited, Chan paced rapidly on the front porch of the little house. She checked her watch and knocked again. When again there was no answer, Chan pulled her cell phone from her pocket. She saw no messages or missed calls. With a sharp sigh, she knocked one last time. After waiting only a few seconds, Chan ran down the porch steps. She walked briskly down the sidewalk and headed straight for her parked car.

How might the story be different if Chan were telling it?

  1. It would tell what Chan’s feelings are.
  2. It would tell what is going to happen next.
  3. It would tell more details about the little house.

Spanish version of the same item

Mientras esperaba, Chan daba vueltas rápidamente por el porche de la pequeña casa. Revisó su reloj y volvió a tocar el timbre. Al no obtener, Chan sacó el celular de su bolsa y vio que no tenía mensajes ni llamadas perdidas. Suspiró y tocó de nuevo, por última vez. Después de esperar unos cuantos segundos, bajó los escalones como una ráfaga. Con paso firme y decidido avanzó por la acera hasta llegar al vehículo que la esperaba estacionado en la esquina.

¿De qué forma seria diferente la historia si Chan la estuviera contando?

  1. Mencionaría los sentimientos de Chan.
  2. Diría lo que va a suceder a continuación.
  3. Proporcionaría más detalles sobre la casa.

What does it matter, anyway?

Transadaptation saves time for busy teachers. They can be sure they know what their students know and what they need to work on next. Is it a language issue? Is it a skills issue? A well-constructed dual-language assessment identifies for the teacher which is it, so they know where to focus instruction. Teachers who can see native-language data in a side-by-side comparison to data showing achievement in English no longer have to depend on intuition. They can act on data.

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