Vol. 2. No. 4 A-1 June 1997
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Listening to Lectures in L2; Taking Notes in L1

Shira Koren
Department of English
Bar Ilan University, Israel


Auditing a course given in English by the law faculty of an Israeli university enabled the author to observe students listening to lectures in FL while taking notes in L1. The major questions which were raised were: a) Why did the students translate the lecture into Hebrew while taking their notes? b) What did they gain and lose by doing this? c) How good was their translation? d) Does their translation reflect comprehension of the lecture? A sample of their notes was collected, and three 'micro-level' difficulties were checked. It was found that a) the students translated because it was easier for them to remember the lecture that way; b) they probably gained improvement in listening comprehension and focus on main points but "lost" practice in reading comprehension and in writing; c) their translation was satisfactory; d) it reflected comprehension. Implications for EFL learning, particularly note-taking and translation, are discussed.


Note-taking is a skill taught by relatively few foreign language (FL) teachers. Some, however, find it important to teach note-taking guidelines in L2 for the sake of having "an organized written summary as the end product" (Marchi & Najul, 1994, p. 46). Note-taking guidelines for students can be found these days in many Internet sites, especially in the home pages of universities and learning centers. Some examples are:

  • American Skills Center
  • Westviking College: Student Success Center
  • Learning Resource Center Database
  • University of California, Berkeley: Student Learning Center (LSC)
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • Another type of note-taking guidelines is supplied by Carol Carrier (1983) who gives tips to instructors on how to facilitate the note-taking of their students. The teaching of note-taking can yield good results in improving the students' ability to succeed, as reported on the web by Yasemin Kirkgz (1995), who conducted a study on this subject.

    Clara P. Fajardo (1996) highlights the complexity of this task by pointing out two aspects of note-taking: (a) its involvement with the combination of different skills like listening or reading, selecting, summarizing and writing, and (b) its requirement of selecting the relevant information from the nonessential. The advantage of this activity from the FL teacher's point of view is mentioned by Nwokoreze (1990, p.39): "It is probably during the note-taking stage that they reach the highest level of comprehension." Nwokoreze proceeds by analyzing four methods of note-taking and recommends the one that advocates listening and understanding before writing. He is against what he calls 'verbatim transcript', or copying the lecture word for word, because this method does not reflect comprehension. This means that his idea regarding the advantage of note-taking is valid only if the activity is done correctly, i.e., writing after understanding.

    Neither the above authors, nor others who have written about this subject, mention the possibility of taking notes in L1 while listening to lectures in L2, or in other words, translating while taking notes. In some way, this seems to be an even more complicated task than note-taking in the same language of the oral or written text, since, in addition to the above mentioned processes of listening or reading, selecting, summarizing and writing, the student is also required to translate at some stage before writing. Even the crudest form of translation requires four steps, according to Parks (1982): perception, semantic analysis, semantic reconstruction of the message in the target language, and expression of the message in the target language. These steps, combined with the skills and processes of note-taking mentioned above (Fajardo, 1996), form a chain of quite demanding tasks, as can be seen in Figure 1.

    Figure 1 shows a suggested chain of mental processes involved in translation while taking notes. Some stages are unique either to translation or to note-taking, while others are common to both. It would be possible to add one more stage common to both, that of continuing to listen to the ongoing lecture, as described later. Since this is an activity I have recently witnessed, I would like to describe it and analyze its possible merits for the FL learner. [-2-]


    Translation, according to Urgese (1989) and Parks (1982), is no longer viewed as a sin by FL teachers. On the contrary, translation from an oral L2 text to L1 is a good way to teach and test comprehension. Urgese defines translation as "any transfer, for any reason, of any text from one language code to another language code" (p. 38), and adds that simultaneous translation requires attention only to main ideas. It makes sense to assume that translation while taking notes is also a kind of simultaneous translation, and, as such, it requires attention primarily to main ideas. This can definitely be viewed as an advantageous activity for the FL learner.

    There are three types of formal translation which are quite well known: (1) translation for the sake of translation; (2) translation for imparting an awareness of interlingual and intercultural differences and (3) translation as part of foreign language teaching (e.g. the grammar translation method). Under the category of "informal translation" we can include mental translation which is used by FL learners while reading or listening. Richard G. Kern justifies this type of translation by arguing that "mental translation during L2 reading may facilitate the generation and conservation of meaning by allowing the reader to represent portions of L2 text that exceed cognitive limits in a familiar, memory-efficient form." (1994, p. 441)

    Marsha Bensoussan and Judith Rosenhouse (1990, p.65) explain that "Informally, students reading in a FL tend to translate automatically into their mother tongue unless they are very advanced."

    Translation while taking notes (whether in a reading or listening activity) is another type of informal translation which is very close to mental translation. In fact, it is one step ahead, namely, putting the result of mental translation into writing, though the written product is an abridged version of the input due to the nature and aims of note-taking. The difference between the two types of note-taking is that the one done during listening [-3-] relies on listening comprehension, while the one done during reading requires reading comprehension. Another difference relates to time and tension or attention--the listener has to be much more alert than the reader since he or she cannot retrieve what they have missed, nor can they take a break, refresh themselves, rest, use a dictionary or reread the same sentence more than once. Therefore, note-taking during listening is a much more difficult activity than during reading.

    I have witnessed this type of translation at Bar Ilan University in the course: "Introduction to British Law," which is a one-semester course in English, consisting of 14 two-hour lessons, given by the law faculty as a compulsory course to all first-year law students. The lecturer was a British lawyer who had immigrated to Israel years ago. He used only English in his lectures, but occasionally translated a few new legal terms into Hebrew, though he only wrote the English terms on the board.

    The reason the law faculty offers this course in English, while all its other courses are in Hebrew, is because of the faculty's new policy regarding their students' learning of English. In the past, all law students took yearly (i.e., two semesters, each consisting of 14 two-hour lessons) ESP (English for Special Purposes) courses in the university's EFL (English as a Foreign Language) unit, in order to improve their level of reading comprehension in English. In these courses, which were given at two levels, one for first and one for second year students, only legal texts were studied. The first year course was given only to those students who did not get an exemption from English in the psychometric exams, which are required from all students before they are accepted to university in Israel. The second year course was compulsory for all law students, including native speakers of English. The new law faculty policy is to give the students two semester content-courses in English instead of the past yearly EFL courses: one is the above mentioned Introduction to British Law and the other is Introduction to American Law. It should be emphasized, though, that these courses do not teach reading comprehension. What the course I attended does contribute to the students in terms of English is, in my opinion, the chance to improve their listening comprehension. [1] At the end of this course the students had to take an examination in English on the material studied in the course, but they were allowed to write their answers in Hebrew, if they preferred. This information was given to them in the first lesson of the course. In that lesson the students also received a textbook and a bibliography list, but they were told by the lecturer that this material was not essential for passing the exam, which would be based only on the lectures. The students' need for the improvement of their reading comprehension ability in English is partially met, however, since instead of the past practice of taking the ESP course by the first year students who had to take this course, these students have to take now the regular reading comprehension courses in the EFL unit, those catered [-4-] to the general population of students. Yet no compensation for a reading comprehension course of legal texts is given to those first year students, nor to the general population of second year law students.

    I attended the course as an auditor, which allowed me to complete the research described below as an EFL teacher and researcher. There were 65 students enrolled in the course, most of whom came to class regularly. The lecturer usually spoke from a store of knowledge as well as from his notes, but occasionally he read a passage aloud from the textbook that the students also had (see full name below) in order to demonstrate a point. In some cases, he just read a passage by himself, while in others, he told the students to open the book so that they could follow what he was reading. During the lectures all the students took notes, since they knew that the notes would prepare them for the examination. When observing, I noticed that the students were taking notes in Hebrew, which means that they were translating and taking notes at the same time. This phenomenon raised several questions:

    1. Did all the students take notes in Hebrew or did some of them take notes in English, and is there a basic difference between the two groups?
    2. Why did the students translate into Hebrew what the lecturer said in English?
    3. What did they gain and what did they lose by doing this?
    4. How good is their translation?
    The last question was raised in spite of the fact that there were no expectations of quality from the students because it was assumed that a correct translation would reflect understanding of the material (see Urgese, 1989 above). This question was more difficult than the previous ones because it required criteria for judging the quality of translations in general. What makes a translation good, mediocre or poor? Miriam Shlesinger (1996) reports evasive answers to this question from translation teachers and focuses on the scoring of translation, which is an inseparable component of evaluation. Shlesinger asks three basic questions relevant to evaluation of translation. The first is 'What are we testing?' which, when applied to this study means: Which components of the students' translated notes should be taken into consideration in order to be able to assess their quality? Shlesinger's answer to this question is that we test all the components of language that a translator has to be aware of: lexis, syntax, communication competence, strategies of extensive competence and style, genre etc. When applied to the present study, one has to bear in mind the fact that, contrary to professional translators, law students cannot be expected to demonstrate mastery of translation of all these [-5-] features. After all, they are not experts in English, have not studied how to translate and are not even expected to master all the intricacies of their own mother tongue, at least at this stage. Still, these features are relevant for this study because they can serve as the basis for our evaluation of the students' translations.

    Shlesinger's second question is 'How are we testing?' She claims that the tester has to find a suitable text--one that is not too difficult for the target population. Only with such a text can the tester begin testing. When this question was applied to the present study, it was obvious that the summary-translation test would be based on a previously prepared text and that this text had to be on the same level that the students were studying throughout the course. Although no tests were run to see if the text chosen for the study matched the students' linguistic abilities (law students here are a special breed: they would have been as uncooperative as can be imagined if asked to take such tests), the text chosen seems to match their overall ability since it was from the same book from which the lecturer read passages throughout the course--passages which were understood by the students. The results of the study also confirm that most of the students did understand the text.

    The third and most difficult question that Shlesinger raises is: 'How to score?' It is the most interesting question because, as she explains, intuitively we 'feel' that "text A" is a better translation than "text B", but it is sometimes hard to pinpoint the exact reasons. For the present study it seems that any correct translation into Hebrew should be accepted, because of the non-professional nature of the population, their modest needs in terms of quality, and the nature and complexity of the task. This means that even if the translation is awkward but still reflects understanding of the original text, it should be accepted, since the purpose in this study was to see if the students understood, not if they produced good translations. In other words, the criteria in this study for judging translations were much more lenient than those used for judging professional translators' work.

    One more important question that required an answer was whether the study of the students' translation was a reliable reflection of their comprehension of the course content. The answer to this question could also show to what extent the new policy is successful. A somewhat similar question relating to a comparable situation was asked by Linda Harklaw (1994) about L2 high school newcomer students in US who had to take mainstream classes instead of ESL classes. Harklaw asked what these students lost and gained on their transition. Her findings were that there are advantages and disadvantages. The advantages were: (a) authentic content and (b) rich linguistic written interactions. The disadvantages were: (a) few opportunities for extended interaction and dependence on faulty intuitions about language form, and (b) a barrier between newcomers [-6-] and US-born peers. Likewise, we could also expect in the case of policy change from ESP to mainstream courses some advantages as well as disadvantages.

    The Research

    In order to answer the above questions, I took a sample of translated notes from the law students participating in the course and examined some aspects of their translations by following Shlesinger's questions and suggested methods. I had to keep in mind the two limitations of my population compared to professional translators: (1) their lack of experience in translation and (2) the time pressure: the students were very pressed for time since they had to translate from English and write in Hebrew simultaneously with, or very close to, what the lecturer said in English. This means that at any given moment they were doing four things almost at the same time: listening to the lecturer who spoke a foreign language, selecting main ideas, translating his words into Hebrew and writing down the Hebrew translation while continuing to listen to the ongoing sentences. This is similar to what simultaneous translators do, except that they do not write their translations (aside from jotting down some key words) but utter them instead. Another difference between the students and translators is that because of the different goals of the two groups, different standards are created. Students are able to rely upon "shorthand" notations that might be meaningful only to the author but not to an outside reader or listener, while translators must give a perfect product as their output.

    1. Instruments and Method

    At the beginning of the eleventh lesson of the course I gave the students sheets of paper and asked them to take notes of the following short passage that was going to be read to them by the lecturer. As was mentioned before, the selection was taken from the textbook they were studying, from which the lecturer often read similar sized passages during the lectures.

    The Text

    The legal profession in England is divided into two branches, the barristers, who plead cases in the superior courts and from whom the judges are selected, and the solicitors, who conduct legal negotiations for their clients, prepare cases for trial and draw up wills, conveyances on sale and other formal documents with legal effects. In some countries which apply English common law the legal profession is unified and lawyers do all types of legal work, being described as attorneys, barristers or counselors. On the continent of Europe there are separate professions of judges, advocate, prosecutor, legal adviser and notary. [-7-]

    From: Kiralfy, A.K.R. (1990), The English Legal System, 8th edition, London: Sweet and Maxwell, p. 288.

    I emphasized that I wanted them to do this assignment anonymously, and in the same way they were used to doing it. The students complied willingly. There were 37 participants, about evenly divided between males and females (20 males and 17 females). Of these, 33 wrote the notes in Hebrew and four in English. These four were identified in the lesson following the experiment lesson. Regarding the question why they had written in English, one said she wanted to study English the following year; one said she was a Russian immigrant and English was easier for her than Hebrew (she did not want to use Russian because she preferred to practice her English); one said his native tongue was English, and one had spent his school years in the US and had an excellent command of English. All the others were Israeli-born students who had not studied abroad. In a discussion I had with the students later, they explained that they were translating because it was easier for them that way. They also said that it was difficult for them to write in English, even if they had understood the lecture, and that when they reviewed their notes later on in preparation for the examination, it would be much easier for them to go over notes in their native tongue. [2]

    Thus it can be seen that translation is used in listening comprehension, both for the sake of better comprehension and storage for future use, as well as for the sake of avoiding the difficulty of writing in English. This probably applies to translation while taking notes in reading situations as well.

    My hypothesis was that on the whole, the notes would reflect basic comprehension, but only middle or low quality of translation. Following Shlesinger's suggestion to consider various components from the students' translations, I checked for three specific difficulties in the passage which the lecturer had read to the students:

    1. syntactic difficulty: a conjunction-adjectival clause ("...and from whom the judges are selected");

    2. semantic ambiguity: an ambiguous word, 'apply', only one meaning of which is correct in the context the students heard ("In some countries which apply English common law...");

    3. Lexical void: i.e., a lexical item with no Hebrew equivalent: barristers ("The legal profession in England is divided into two branches, the barristers, who plead cases..."). The word 'barrister' as well as its counterpart 'solicitor' do not exist in Hebrew, which only has one general term for both: lawyer. [-8-]

    These three difficulties represent three different translation tasks that can be relatively easily checked and scored. This is the reason they were chosen for this research rather than other possible difficulties which would be hard to perform as well as to mark, and that cannot be expected from non-professional translators, especially while taking notes in a foreign language. In fact, these three difficulties can be categorized as "micro-level", according to Bensoussan and Rosenhouse (1990), who distinguish between micro-level (mis)translations (words, phrases and clauses) and macro-level (sentences and paragraphs). I chose only the micro-level translations in order to avoid unnecessary complications of text discourse and style, which seem to be more suitable for research on translation of reading, like the one Bensoussan and Rosenhouse chose to do, but unsuitable for a study on note-taking.

    2. Results

    A. Syntactic Difficulty

    The conjunction-adjectival clause was translated by the students into five different structures, as shown in Table 1 below.

    Table 1. Translation of a Conjunction/Adjectival Clause into Hebrew
    Translated Structure Examples
    (in Hebrew)
    No. of Cases %
    1. Conjunction/adj and from whom 3 9.0
    2. Conjunction and pronoun replacement and from them 10 30.3
    3. New sentence and pronoun replacement From them 10 30.3
    4. Comprehension error (and) from it,
    which from there
    5 15.2
    5. Zero (avoidance of using the structure) 5 15.2
    Total 33 100.0

    From Table 1 it can be seen that most of the students understood the structure and translated it in one way or another into Hebrew. It seems, though, that students prefer to forgo adjectival clauses in translation, which is understandable in view of the fact that adjectival clauses are more literary whereas conjunction or new sentences are more informal and colloquial. Another possible explanation for this preference can be found in contrastive analysis research: English prefers relative clauses while Hebrew prefers conjunctions (Naor, 1980). [-9-]

    One more thing that can be observed in Table 1 is that the comprehension errors found in the notes of five students (see section 4) show that they did not understand the structure. Another five students avoided using the structure altogether (section 5). This shows either that the students did not translate the phrase at all, as can be seen in some cases, or that they used some stylistic variations which may not be acceptable in translation. But it does not tell if these students had understood the structure or not. [3] Therefore we can sum up by saying that we can only be sure that 5 out of 33 (i.e. 15%) did not understand the structure.

    B. Semantic Ambiguity

    The word 'apply' in the paragraph which was read by the law lecturer means 'use'. Another meaning of the word, which is not acceptable in this context, is 'appeal' or 'request'. Most of the students' translations of this word show they understood the correct meaning although they did not supply the best translation, as can be seen in Table 2 below.

    Table 2. Translation of the Ambiguous Word: 'Apply'
    Word found in Notes Examples
    (in Hebrew)
    No. of Cases %
    1. correct translation (16 different words in Hebrew ) influenced by, connected to, work according to, adopted, rely on, there is influence 27 81.82
    2. semi-correct translation having 1 3.03
    3. wrong translation appeal to (court), turn to3 9.09
    4. zero (ignoring the word) 1 3.03
    5. kept the word 'apply' in English 1 3.03
    Total 33 100.0

    From Table 2 it can be seen that there are many nearly correct variations in Hebrew for the word 'apply' in English in the sense of 'use', most of which, although not precise enough for professional translation, still serve their users by expressing the meaning of the original word in English. Shlesinger points out the fact that there are many correct variations for lexical items, but that a good translator knows which variation is the most appropriate one. The students, who are not good translators, demonstrated understanding of the word through their various offerings. Bistra Alexieva (1990) explains that simultaneous translators suffer from a feeling of failure and frustration because of the necessity to make decisions very quickly, without being able to consult dictionaries and without knowing what comes afterwards. I believe that if the law students [-10-] had had more time, they would have come up with fewer variations of the lexical term 'apply' because most had obviously understood it. The three wrong translations (section 3) probably reflect miscomprehension and the other two--zero translation and keeping the word apply in English(sections 4 and 5 respectively)--may also reflect lack of understanding of the word. Thus, five out of 33 (15%) probably did not understand the word apply in this context. This is the same result as in the previous Table, where 15% of the participants did not understand the conjunction/adjectival structure.

    C. Lexical Void

    The word 'barristers' and its distinction from 'solicitors' were well-known to the students because both terms had been studied in the course. The treatment of 'barristers' by the students in their Hebrew notes is presented in Table 3 below.

    Table 3. Treatment of the Word 'Barristers'
    Translated Structure Examples
    (in Hebrew)
    No. of Cases %
    1. Barrister in Heb script with Eng/Heb plural suffix retained the word in /barrister-s/ or /barrister-im/ 12 36.36
    2. Retained the word in English barristers 16 48.48
    3. Heb/Heb pair /barristers/ in Heb script + 'lawyers' in Hebrew 1 3.03
    4. Eng/Heb pair 'barristers' in Eng + 'lawyers' in Heb 2 6.06
    5. Heb/Eng new word 'prosecutors' in Heb and in Eng 1 3.03
    6. New coinage in Heb (correct explanation) 'lawyers who plead' 1 3.03
    Total 33 100.0

    Table 3 shows that 16 students found an easy way out of translating the non-translatable lexical item 'barristers' by simply retaining the term in English (section 2). Twelve students did a very similar thing by writing the word /barristers/ in Hebrew script (section 1). This means that the great majority--28 students out of 33 (84.8%) prefer to keep the non-translatable lexical item in English, transliterated or in the original English instead of looking for an alternative term. Even the other 3 students out of the remaining five (sections 3 and 4) retained the word 'barristers' in English or wrote /barristers/ in Hebrew script and only added the word 'lawyers' in Hebrew to make the concept more Hebrew-like. Only one attempt was made to create a Hebrew parallel to the English word (section 6), but[-11-] the result sounds clumsy. The students' avoidance of finding a Hebrew parallel to 'barristers' cannot be interpreted as due to lack of understanding but rather as due to the fact that there is no Hebrew equivalent. In any case, unlike the two other structures, there is no point in asking if the students understood the meaning of 'barristers', since the word had appeared many times before and was explained in the course.


    The findings reveal that although the law students' translated notes are not of the highest quality from a professional point of view, and although there are some errors and unacceptable stylistic variants, these translation errors and variants show by no means that the students did not understand the (oral) text. [4] Relevant to this is Bensoussan and Rosenhouse's (1990) study, in which they distinguish between mistranslation and misinterpretation. The authors claim that the former, which occurs on the micro-level, can be induced by the translation method, time pressure or difficulty of the text. But only the latter shows lack of understanding of the source text. The findings in the present study suggest mistranslation, not miscomprehension.

    This study made use of one example only for each one of three types of difficulties. Therefore its findings are not conclusive. However, it can give some insight into spontaneous translation of some structures as well as into note-taking in L1 while listening to lectures in L2. It can be seen that while translating and taking notes, students tend to simplify complex syntactic structures, to give a variety of correct translations of a word in cases where there is a large choice in the target language, and to leave a lexical item untranslated when there is no parallel in the target language--there simply is not enough time to 'invent' one. All of these tendencies mean that (a) the criteria for evaluating the quality of translation of the students taking notes obviously cannot be as strict as those of professional translators, whose aim is to achieve maximum precision and high quality. The students are only interested in 'getting the message' across. In fact, this applies not only to FL learners, who translate while taking notes, but also to FL students, who take notes in the FL. Moreover, the same idea seems to be correct for native speakers as well. Nwokoreze's (1990) idea that they should not do this task verbatim applies to all kinds of note-takers because notes need not be as precise as the source text but rather focus on main ideas; (b) The translation by the law students reflects good understanding of the structures tested, especially in vocabulary items. This further implies that the use of translation while taking notes is not a bad strategy if the aim is to understand and keep the material for future reading before a test. Support for this idea was supplied after the end of the course by the lecturer himself, who told me that most students had passed the examination successfully. [-12-] This means that the translated notes served the students well when preparing for the exam. [5]

    All these findings lead to the conclusion that a content course in FL is not a bad idea at all, since it has a chance of improving the students' listening comprehension (though this was not tested) [6] and is a manageable challenge for most of them. The course also has one similar advantage to that mentioned by Harklaw (1994) above, namely authentic context. Other advantages are that note-taking enables the learner to reach the highest level of comprehension (Nwokoreze, 1990) and that simultaneous translation requires attention to main ideas (Urgese, 1989). The course can also give the students a sense of achievement about their ability to cope with content courses. From the point of view of the law faculty, a content course in English is more motivating than an external EFL course. This view is shared by the law students.

    Taking a general course in reading comprehension in the EFL unit can be regarded as partial compensation only, because of the need for reading comprehension of legal texts, which is not met in the EFL courses as they are not ESP courses, where the texts studied are not legal texts. Thus the students' need in reading legal texts in English has not been fulfilled.

    It should be emphasized here that the aim of this study was not to judge the new policy of the law faculty. The aim was to see what happens in the students' translated notes. Still, the question about the policy arose because of its relevance to the subject and to the conclusions of the study.

    In reference to the questions which were raised earlier in this paper: (1) We found: (a) that most of the students translated into Hebrew while taking notes in English and (b) that the basic difference between those who translate and those who do not is that the average student translates; those who do not are those who do not need it since their level in English is probably higher (here we can be sure at least about the two native speaking or near native speaking students out of the four who did not translate). The findings led me to the conclusion that taking notes in Hebrew during lectures in English is the rule, as far as the average Israeli student is concerned, while note-taking in English is the exception, applied only by individuals who are better or more highly motivated to improve their English. (2) The students translated into Hebrew what the lecturer said in English both because their writing ability in English was poorer than their reading or listening abilities, and also because, as we saw in Kern (1994), translation probably facilitates meaning. (3) For the law students, having notes in Hebrew was an advantage since the notes ensured a much easier task later on, when preparing for the exam. On the other hand, there was also a disadvantage as far as precision was concerned. The students may have lost more sentences on the way than if they had taken notes in English [-13-] because their mind was busy processing translation in addition to all the other processes described above. This chain of processes seems to be more demanding in terms of number of processes than that of listening and taking notes in the same language at the same time. That would be more demanding in another aspect, that of writing skills in English, which the students lacked. Still one possible advantage of translating while taking notes over note-taking in the same language is that the former requires understanding and selecting more than the latter which can be done verbatim (automatically) without comprehension. (4) As for the quality of the students' translation--if judged by the usual translators' criteria--the quality is poor. However, considering (a) the non-professionality of the students in translation and the pressure they were in, which can only be compared to the pressure that simultaneous translators face, and (b) their aims, which are much less lofty than those of professional translators, the results are satisfactory in functional terms.

    One final point relates to the application of note-taking in the EFL classroom. This skill is not taught in our courses at Bar Ilan university as it is not relevant to EFL reading comprehension. Yet as it is a skill needed by all students for all of their content courses, and as not every student masters this skill right from the beginning of their academic studies, it seems that if students are instructed by their EFL teachers, in the Internet lessons they are having with them these days, to read the guidelines teaching the skill as shown at the beginning of this article in some Internet sites, this could be another contribution of a reading activity of EFL towards the students' success in their content courses.


    [1] The second course, Introduction to American Law, did not contribute anything to the students in terms of English in the first year it was offered. I attended one lecture and was amazed to realize that the lecturer was speaking in Hebrew instead of English, contrary to the stated policy of the law faculty. When I asked him why he was using Hebrew and not English, he said he saw no point in speaking a language the students did not perfectly understand. Now the faculty has a different lecturer who, I assume, speaks English in his lectures. Back to main text

    [2] This reminds me that when I did my BA in English I noticed a student who was taking notes in Hebrew, while all of us, native and non-native speakers of English, were taking notes in English. To my question why she was doing that she said that it was easier for her that way. It was surprising because I had expected a student majoring in English to be able to cope with lectures in English. I soon found out what I had suspected, that her level in English was lower than that of most of the other students. [-14-] Back to main text

    [3] A good way of testing structure would be to give the students a question after the completion of the note-taking task, such as: "From what group are the judges selected?". But such a question, if it had followed the note-taking activity, would have been an unwelcome addition and might have faced opposition or lack of cooperation on the part of the students. Besides, as was mentioned above (see Urgese, 1989) the act of translation itself or note-taking alone (Nowkoreze, 1990) can reflect the students' comprehension. Back to main text

    [4] Although the three structures tested cannot reflect understanding of a whole text or a whole course, viewing the notes they took of the whole passage showed me they had understood the main points. There was also another indication of their understanding as will be shown below. Back to main text

    [5] In an answer to my question if any students answered the test questions in English (after the course), the lecturer said that there were four or five who had answered in English. This probably means that those who had taken notes in English in the experiment also answered in English. There may have been some more students who took notes in English but who did not participate in the experiment. After all, there were 65 students in the course and only 37 participated in the experiment.This explains the possibility that more than four answered the test in English. Back to main text.

    [6] It would have been a good idea to test the students' listening comprehension before and after the content course. In fact, an even better idea would have been to test both the students' listening and reading comprehension before and after the course, and compare the results, in order to be able to confirm or reject the hypothesis that the content course could improve their listening but not reading ability. This was not done in this study, as the idea for the study occurred to me several lessons after the beginning of the course, but it could be a good follow-up. Back to main text


    Alexieva, B. (1990). Creativity and simultaneous interpretation. Babel 36:1, 1-6.

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