Vol. 139/140 (2003) ► pp. 129–152
Translating ambiguous and nonambiguous Words in a foreign Language
The research to be reported on in this paper was originally motivated by the finding that about 70% of the mistakes made by university students when translating from their mother tongue (Dutch) into their foreign language (French) were lexical in nature (NIENHUIS et al. 1989). This was partially confinned in the investigation described in NIENHUIS et al. (1993). A closer look at the individual errors suggested that many problems were caused by words with more than one meaning which each require different translations in the target language. In the research reported on in this paper, we checked our fmdings in the light of what is known about the structure of the bilingual lexicon and about the ways bilinguals have access to the elements of their two languages. On the basis of the model of the bilingual lexicon presented by KROLL & Sholl (1992) an adapted model is proposed for the processing of lexical ambiguity. This leads to a tentative schema of the mental activities that language learners have to perfonn when they are translating from their mother tongue into a foreign language, The second part of the paper describes two experiments we have carried out in order to find empirical support for such a schema. The last section of the paper contains a discussion of the results obtained as well as the conclusions that can be drawn.