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Tag ‘professional experience’

Learning more than expected: subtitling for an international film festival

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

By Anna Kompasová and Róbert Špánik, final-year MA students at the Department of Translation Studies, Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Slovakia

The Department of Translation Studies of Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra is one of the top Slovak academic institutions in the field of translation studies. It is proud to be the only Slovak university in the EMT Network, has a long tradition in research and practice-oriented training, and has hosted numerous scientific, educational and cultural events and initiatives for researchers, practitioners and students. Furthermore, ours was the first department in Slovakia to provide specialised training in audiovisual translation, dubbing translation, subtitling, audio-description and subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Audiovisual translation seminars are among the most popular at our department because of their unique character, and the atmosphere in them is always one of cooperation and positivity. Creating a dubbing script or subtitles for our favourite TV series and films is both a dream and a challenge for every student of translation studies. For us, working on a good translation, editing dialogues and coming up with creative solutions gets the adrenaline flowing, recharging us with positive energy from a job well done. Moreover, having completed two semesters full of fun and hard work gives us a huge advantage in practice – no matter how scary the future might seem to a student approaching the end of their studies.

What really helps is the practical training experience, which is a vital part of the master’s programme in Nitra. Being provided with opportunities to meet professionals, discuss our work with experienced translators and work in their teams can be daunting, but it’s also a great way to build confidence and to meet new people and see new places. In this aspect, it’s little surprise that cooperation with film festivals has been one of the most popular options for students at our department.

In our case, we were hoping to experience the same, but then Covid-19 paid a visit and radically changed plans for everybody – and the field of culture and the arts was no exception. But as in many sectors, the culture sector managed to react to the new situation promptly and so, fortunately, the popular international documentary film festival One World (in Slovak: Jeden svet) decided to invite its viewers into the online space and provide a rich week-long programme. Thanks to this, we as final-year students had the unique chance to collaborate and enjoy the atmosphere and adventure related to this type of event. The One World International Documentary Film Festival 2020 took place from 5-11 November. The competing films opened up debates on important social and human-rights issues that reflected the theme: CHOICE. The One World Festival cooperates with experts from the People in Peril Association, as well as filmmakers, partner organisations, secondary schools and academic institutions. Moreover, it is accompanied by exhibitions, workshops and discussions. The 21st year of the festival was exceptional in several respects. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the whole festival took place online, which meant adjustments in the way of working and communication, but also provided opportunity for more viewers to enjoy this year’s selection of films.

In order for the audience to view the films, preparations started much earlier. During the summer several students were already working on translations of announcements, film synopses and promo copy with the intention of attracting as many viewers as possible. And during September and October, 14 students from Nitra enthusiastically embarked on the subtitling of 19 documentary films. The One World Festival definitely opened the door to diverse themes. During the subtitling process, in addition to struggling with wordplay and terminology, we often laughed, cried, became angry or scared, as the films touched upon themes such as human life and dignity, the human soul, freedom, discrimination, emotional and psychological health, misuse of power and destruction of the environment.

Frankly speaking, we were taking on a difficult task. During the process of translation, we often had to cope with unexpected situations that required a great deal of energy. We didn’t quite anticipate the amount of time necessary for the research of realia and terminology, but we were aware of the responsibility we had towards the viewers.  On the other hand, we learned so much more than just subtitling. Mantras, zoological terminology, psychology, Bhutanese musical instruments, political expressions and medical jargon: this and more helped us become not only more knowledgeable but also open-minded and curious. In many cases the subtitling process required consultation with experts in various scientific fields, endless internet research, and was accompanied by the struggle of making long Slovak words fit the screen, adequate transfer of emotional expression, and even the translation and re-rhyming of songs.

Moreover, while subtitling we had to follow all the requirements and parameters, sometimes fought manifold technical issues, and thus put into practice knowledge already acquired in specialist seminars. The translation process, editing, proofreading and subsequent implementation of changes were no longer just a simulation, but a real project for which we bore responsibility. It was an experience that we will remember for a long time and which only convinced us that the work of a subtitler is a challenging, creative but never boring profession. The topics we had to deal with often gave us pause for thought and made us come up with solutions for various demanding situations. Consultations with a nuclear power plant expert, zoo personnel or ichthyologists represent just a small part. We are very proud that the fruits of our work contributed to Slovak science as well. Thanks to the film Sea of Shadows and consultations with experts from the Slovak Academy of Sciences, we managed to introduce a new term into Slovak zoological terminology, specifically the official scientific term for the fish totoaba macdonaldi.

The 21st year of the festival was not only extraordinary because it took place online. In addition to classic subtitles, three documentary films were also adapted for hearing and visually impaired viewers. Although it might sound not much, it is important to say that this was the first time a Slovak film festival had attempted an inclusive approach in providing access via more than just interlingual subtitles. Indeed, these special streamings were prepared by One World Festival in cooperation with the Department of Translation Studies of CPU Nitra. This was a great challenge for students. Although this was our first practical attempt at working with this form outside of the school environment – with a main focus on SDH, the quality met a positive response. While creating subtitles for a hearing-impaired audience we began to realise many things that had not even occurred to us before. It taught us to be more receptive and empathetic and showed us how important it is to pay attention to doing the job well and conscientiously. This challenging task gave us a lot not only as translators but as people too. The pace of the work was fast, but quality was the highest priority. The subtitles created were under the professional supervision of Dr Emília Perez and the creative and technical team of the festival organisers. Cooperation with the One World Festival provided us with the opportunity to apply our knowledge in practice and brought us new experiences. In this way, we helped a festival which promotes social and human-rights issues and raises many intriguing and relevant questions. Last but not least, recognition by the organising committee of the festival who enthusiastically promoted the work of translators and subtitlers, and the good feeling that we as translators derived from being able to find our names at the end of the films and on the festival’s website, were also a great reward. We have become more confident that we not only have a command of subtitling at a theoretical level but also at a practical one. Furthermore, many of us have found out that subtitling is our calling, and we would like to work in this field after graduation as well.

Enhancing transition from the classroom to the workplace: finding the middle ground through an internship programme

Tuesday, December 29th, 2020

By Dr. Cristina Álvaro Aranda, former student in the MA in Intercultural Communication, Interpreting and Translation in Public Services, University of Alcalá, Spain

Completing our university studies puts an end to a phase, but it also opens doors which can lead to a new horizon of concerns and questions about where our professional career is taking us. Have I learned enough during my university degree? Am I ready to face the labour market yet? Years later, I reflect on these issues from a slightly different angle. I no longer face these questions as a recent graduate student of the European Master’s Degree in Intercultural Communication, Interpreting and Translation in Public Services (Master CITISP) at the University of Alcalá (Spain), but as one of its collaborators. Therefore, my interest now lies in how universities can facilitate the integration of students into their future jobs.

The job market for translators and interpreters in the public service domain evolves with the economic, political, and social reality in which it is immersed, which inevitably requires multi-faceted and multidisciplinary professionals with transferable skills and a great capacity to adapt themselves to everchanging contexts. The most recent proof for this statement can be found in the COVID-19 health crisis, which has pushed against the ropes all the sectors of our world as we know it. Universities, as home to knowledge, must respond to social needs. Thus, designing training and education programmes should be consistent with the demands and requirements of the industry that will employ future graduates, both locally and internationally. However, the transition from the classroom to the workplace can be complex if there exist disparities between the profile of students when leave the classroom and the professional sector. One of the first ways students can encounter “real world” is through university internship programmes, where they apply the knowledge they have acquired during their training to several professional activities.

The Master CITISP of the University of Alcalá has been taught for more than a decade to train future translators and interpreters in administrative, legal, health and educational fields, who will act as interlinguistic and intercultural liaisons between public service providers and users. To complete their education, students are required to complete an internship in different centres and institutions (T&I companies, NGOs, universities, hospitals, courts, clinics, or schools), where they have the opportunity to progressively familiarise themselves with the internal functioning of the host entities and test their skills, supported at all times by a mentor who guides their activity. Representing an area of intersection between university and industry, internships are an ideal point to promote a vision where training and employability can complement each other.

In this sense, approved internship centres play a fundamental role in education stages. They can provide universities with information about their demands and expectations. In turn, and guided by key stakeholders, university curricula can incorporate updated knowledge in undergraduate, postgraduate or continuing education programmes, which allows students to develop a profile in accordance with the work context. Examining the vision of potential employers can be done by means of surveys and information days. However, with the advancement of social networks, an online platform could be a better option (or, why not, a Tinder-for-jobs App?). Each centre would complete an information sheet covering the basic characteristics of their work activity, the criteria they follow for hiring or what they are looking for in their employees. Defining these points clearly would help the industry to welcome graduates that have received training consistent with realistic professional characteristics and needs. For example, the popularity of remote interpreting or the need for basic notions of text and image editing and layout in the translation sector requires specific training, which the CITISP Master’s has been implemented with optional complementary workshops for students. Of course, universities and employers are not the only voices that should be heard. Regardless of the university programme, students from previous editions carry very valuable lessons on the competences and skills that, presented in the classroom during their training, were useful in their internships and current jobs.

In short, internship programmes are a key stage in the transition from the classroom to the workplace that all students will irremeably face. As a middle ground between theory and practice, we find ourselves in a “limbo” that must be exploited to, on the one hand, integrate realistic and updated knowledge into training programmes that respond to the profile of employers and, on the other hand, to train competent and prepared students who know how to navigate the practical difficulties of the labour market and its needs. It is our responsibility to create spaces where all parties involved in translation and interpreting (in public services) can be heard. Employers must identify the shortcomings of the students they host, while universities must not only accompany students in their experience, but also incorporate their suggestions to improve future editions. The synergy of all these voices may be precisely the way to improve our work.

From Trieste to Luxembourg… during a pandemic

Monday, August 17th, 2020

By Jasmine Mazzarello, Blue Book trainee, former student in Specialised Translation and Conference Interpreting at the University of Trieste (Italy)

2020 is probably not the best year to graduate and start looking for a job. Back in December 2019, when I graduated from the University of Trieste, I was already worried about the scarcity of job prospects for young people, especially with a background in humanities. Although the pandemic certainly worsened the uncertainty across Europe, my experience has been a positive one so far and I hope it can be encouraging to those finishing off their studies in translation and struggling to find their way in these ever-changing circumstances.

I completed my university education in Trieste obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Interlinguistic Communication and then a Master in Specialised Translation and Conference Interpreting. In these years, I gained specific skills in translation across different sectors, alongside a strong knowledge of linguistics, focussing on Italian (my mother tongue) and my three working languages: English, German and French. The way translation classes were structured gave me the opportunity to work from the very beginning on texts resembling those encountered in a work setting. Moreover, the regular feedback and group work helped me improve at practical projects, after studying the theoretical aspects.

During my final year I had the chance to take part in the Double Degree Programme with Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. There, I was able to enhance different skillsets, in particular my ability to work in extremely multicultural settings. Melbourne’s diversity strongly contributes to shape the linguistic services available to the population and to ethnical minorities, who nowadays can benefit from translators and interpreters across almost all public services. The offer of universities cannot but reflect this reality with several courses in community interpreting (while in Trieste the focus is rather on conference interpreting) in healthcare as well as in the legal sector, with internships and job offers to match these training paths.

Although in its very own way, Trieste also is a crossroads of cultures, maybe even the most multicultural city in Italy. Melbourne and Trieste represented for me the ideal places to learn how to build bridges among people and communities, as I had the chance to compare two different systems and get the best out of each one.

After making my way back to Trieste to graduate, I aspired to keep improving my skills in translation in a European context. So, I applied for the Blue Book traineeship of the European Commission which, once selected, gave me the opportunity to work at the Luxembourg-based Italian Unit of the Directorate-General for Translation.

The Blue Book traineeship, which I completed in July, was a highly formative experience which enriched my education and allowed me to put to the test the skills I had gained in Trieste. I learnt how to approach different text types, research efficiently, and solve translation problems justifying my choices. It also reinforced my language and digital skills, necessary to be a translator in the 21st century. During the past months I have grown significantly as a professional, being given the responsibility to handle translation projects, learning constantly through the feedback of colleagues and developing a detail-oriented approach, as well as peeking behind the curtain of the Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission. Even though it was only for 5 months, taking part in the biggest translation service on earth fuelled my desire to keep breaking down language barriers and to contribute to the European project – which, thanks to translators and language service providers, speaks all of the 24 official UE languages.

But let’s not forget the pandemic going on…

The outbreak of COVID-19 inevitably affected my traineeship at the Commission. Due to the pandemic, I could only work at the office for the first two weeks; after that, teleworking became the norm. After getting to know a few colleagues and receiving key instructions for my tasks, I worked from my rented bedroom in Luxembourg for four months and a half, in what turned to be an unprecedented, stressful, challenging but uplifting experience! Moving to a new country and working from home with a pandemic going on: certainly not how I thought my EU traineeship would unfold.

As absurd as it may seem, there was also a positive consequence to my traineeship. As a matter of fact, I had the opportunity to witness from the inside the Commission’s response and, above all, how the Directorate-General for Translation and my Unit adjusted to the crisis. The texts that were being translated gradually shifted in topic dealing more and more with the pandemic, COVID-19, the economic, social, and employment-related consequences, as well as the immediate needs for digitalization. In order to write about all this, new words were being used (for example, the name of the illness itself); the challenge was translating and using those in a consistent way in the Commission as well as in the other EU institutions. Observing this process has been extremely interesting and allowed me to better understand the workflow within the DG, also focusing on more general issues related to the UE, like the green and digital transitions.

To give any sort of professional advice is now extremely complex for obvious reasons. However, I am confident my generation will succeed in rising to the challenges of the healthcare crisis, also thanks to the EU, and do all it can to keep on obtaining quality education and new professional experience across Europe. During a global crisis like this one, it is crucial to highlight the role of the Union and of the cooperation among professionals responsible for making information available on a large scale in the respective target language. Likewise, quality education to provide language services is also crucial, just like the one offered at the prestigious University of Trieste and all EMT universities. They allow us to stay united and face even the most complex and unprecedented challenges, like the one we are living right now.


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