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Some thoughts on collaborative learning, individual competition, and translation training

Tuesday, August 30th, 2022

By Laura Tallone, translation trainer at the Master’s Programme in Specialised Translation and Interpreting (ISCAP, Porto Polytechnic, Portugal)

You need to be over 50 to remember this

Translators who got their training in the 1980s will certainly remember the scene. A group of translation students take turns to read out passages of their target texts before their teacher, who, eyes shut, listens attentively and sometimes nods. A nod is good – it means that the student’s version is close to that of the teacher. Occasionally, the teacher’s corrections and suggestions are interrupted by a student asking for validation of an alternative version, but comparing too many versions is time-consuming, therefore discouraged, as students need to translate as much as possible (practice makes perfect) and the texts are long. Every class is the same routine, with students showing the results of their individual struggles with words. As long as they have a decent product to show, nobody really cares how they get there. There is no teamwork, no Project-Based Learning, no cooperation. It is “every man for himself”, and competition is fierce. You may even hear a muffled little giggle from the back of the room if someone gets it really wrong.

Fortunately, those days are over

Translation training has definitely moved away from what came to be known as the “transmissionist” approach[1], and teachers no longer provide the authoritative version of any translated text. On the contrary, students are encouraged to consider several, equally adequate, possibilities for the same source text. Rather than the actual product, it is the translation process that is focused on in the class – the reasoning behind a certain choice is sometimes more important than the choice itself.  Translation mistakes are therefore incorporated as learning opportunities, instead of just dismissed as errors.

Instrumental to these dynamics are collaborative learning strategies, in which students play an active role, taking responsibility for their own learning process and acquiring a set of essential competences (translational, interpersonal, technological…) along the way. Although there is a wide variety of collaborative learning activities, most translation teachers find it useful to make students work in groups of two or more, using project-based assignments that try to replicate actual workplace conditions. Active discussion and brainstorming are encouraged as problem-solving activities that publicly unfold learning. Assessment is often based on students’ portfolios, and conventional tests are eliminated whenever possible. When grading is unavoidable, it takes into account self- and peer-assessment, the degree of the student’s engagement, and his/her contribution to the cooperative effort.

Have we gone from one extreme to the other?

What about individual work and competition? They have not disappeared from the classroom, but are radically reduced. Considering that the job market is increasingly competitive and that translators must still be able to work alone, under tight schedules, and take responsibility for their own translations, are we really preparing students to be successful professionals? After all, many translation companies require applicants to sit for an individual translation examination as part of their recruitment processes. Are young graduates up to it? And, perhaps more importantly, do they feel they are?

We still have more questions than answers, so more research on this topic is welcome!

In 2021, ISCAP´s MA in Specialised Translation and Interpreting (MTIE) celebrated the International Translation Day with an event that included the 1st MTIE Technical & Scientific Translation Award. Of national scope, it was open to all Portuguese translation students and young graduates up to 29 years of age, who were given two hours to translate around 500 words. In addition to the fairly good prizes (CAT tool licences worth several hundred euros each for the first two prizes, plus a €300 cash prize for the winner), the contest was endorsed by DGT and the Portuguese Association of Translation Companies (APET), which ensured the winners increased visibility before potential employers. It was also an opportunity for aspiring translators to put their skills to the test, without the negative aspects of failing, as it was an extracurricular activity with no bearing on academic results. The timing was also ideal, as the school year was just starting. A win-win situation, we believed. Registration was open for two months, and the information sent to all higher-education schools in Portugal offering translation programmes. With hundreds of potential participants, who could choose to translate from English, French, German, Spanish, or Russian, we expected a flood of applications. By the end of the registration period, however, there were only 18 competitors.

A few days before the registration period closed, I met a former student who had just graduated. After greeting her, I showed my surprise at not seeing her name among the candidates for the translation award – perhaps she had not seen the emails? “I have,” she replied, “but it’s not for me. Too much stress”. I was astounded. Was hers an isolated case, or was this feeling shared by her colleagues? Is stress avoidance preventing students from taking up new challenges? Does lack of competition in the classroom have anything to do with it?

Some answers may hopefully be found after the second edition of the MTIE Translation Award, to be held next September, when a questionnaire is distributed among translation students and young graduates. Unlike other, scarce, literature on this specific subject[2], the reasons and motivations for not participating can be probed. Whatever the results, we are not going back to the dreary classroom of the 1980s – that goes without saying. But it would not be the first time some adjustments must be made to our teaching methods. Translation training (like all training, in fact) has to adapt to the world outside academia, and that world is constantly changing.

Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

[1] Kiraly, D. (2001). Towards a constructivist approach to translator education, Quaderns. Revista de traducció 6. Available at https://www.raco.cat/index.php/QuadernsTraduccio/article/download/25282/25116/0

[2] See, for example, Piotr Szymczak’s 2016 paper, Translation Competitions in Educational Contexts: A Positive Psychology Perspective.

Training sworn translators in French-speaking Belgium – what’s at stake and what are the challenges?

Thursday, December 2nd, 2021

by Patricia Kerres, Louvain School of Translation and Interpreting, UCLouvain

Justice is intrinsic to humanity

Lucien Émile Arnault, French dramatist, 1787-1863
© Shutterstock / Nicola Forenza

Human suffering, violence, war and conflict, injustice, depositions, legal proceedings, wiretapping, espionage and anti-terrorism, not to mention migration, mobility, globalisation, education, marriage ceremonies, naturalisation… the list goes on. These terms and many others highlight a reality that is often overlooked nowadays: the need for sworn translations (and interpreting) is rising inexorably in the West. While it has always been easy to find qualified sworn translators for the languages taught in Belgian universities and colleges, the demand for sworn translators working with what are regarded as rare languages in this part of the world means that the situation needs to be clarified and better organised. In fact, until the early 2000s, all someone had to do to be able to take an oath and practise the unprotected profession of sworn translator/interpreter was to provide the public prosecutor’s office in their place of residence with proof of proficiency in one of Belgium’s national languages and at least one other language and then submit to the necessary checks.

With the aim of increasing the quality of sworn translation and interpreting services (which the courts did not always differentiate between), particularly because of the importance of these services for the recipients, the Belgian Chamber of Translators and Interpreters (CBTI) created a Certificate in Legal Translation and Interpreting for its members a few years ago, as well as the Interact-J training course, specifically intended for sworn interpreters. The CBTI also organised sworn translation and interpreting examinations for people who could not provide proof of relevant university-level training. Later, under the then Minister of Justice, Koen Geens, the Law of 10 April 2014[1] established the minimum criteria for inclusion in the national register of sworn translators, interpreters and translator-interpreters (STIs). The register was initially provisional (intended for STIs already working and with a time limit of 30 November 2022) but is now definitive (listing everyone who can prove their competence, including successful completion of a course on legal knowledge for sworn translators and/or interpreters). As things stand at the moment, the directory, which differentiates between translators and interpreters by language combination, is available only to the judiciary and cannot yet be accessed by members of the public looking for an STI.

After this law was published in the Belgian Official Gazette in December 2014, the Federal Public Service for Justice contacted all Dutch and French-speaking universities[2] in Belgium that offer a Master’s degree in translation and interpreting to discuss the possibility of them organising a course on legal knowledge for sworn translators and/or interpreters. In the French Community of Belgium, the institutions concerned were UCLouvain, ULB, ULiège and UMons. These consultations resulted in the publication of a Royal Decree[3] (Belgian Official Gazette of 27 April 2018) setting out the minimum training programme for STIs and legal experts. On the basis of this Decree, the aforementioned French-speaking universities created a university certificate in legal knowledge for sworn translators and/or interpreters. This course is worth 10 credits and comprises 48 hours of training covering legal skills, sworn translation and/or interpreting skills and an understanding – in the technical sense – of the STI professional code of ethics[4]. The universities jointly determined the length, cost and teaching content of the course. In addition to the training modules stipulated in the Royal Decree, the universities had the academic freedom to add any modules they deemed useful for STI training purposes. The Decree did not provide for any specific language training and, given the variety of languages involved (Western European languages, but also Albanian, classical Arabic and its many dialects, Berber, Chinese, Czech, Farsi, Greek, Hungarian, Japanese, Kurdish, Lingala, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Turkish, Wolof, etc.), the universities agreed to teach the course in French, without requiring the candidates to take a language skills test.

The Faculty of Philosophy, Arts and Letters at UCLouvain naturally turned to the Louvain School of Translation and Interpreting (LSTI) to teach the Certificat interuniversitaire en connaissances juridiques pour le traducteur et/ou l’interprète juré (CTIJ – Interuniversity certificate in legal knowledge for sworn translators and/or interpreters), which is part of UCLouvain’s continuing education programme of part-time and evening courses. The term ‘interuniversity’ refers to the close collaboration between the Bachelor’s degree in Translation and Interpreting offered by the Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles and the Master’s degrees in Translation and Interpreting offered by UCLouvain (formerly taught by the Institut libre Marie Haps). The teaching team therefore comprises lecturers from the law faculties of both universities, LSTI lecturers and experts from the business world. The course[5] is run twice a year over a period of five months and consists of the following modules:

LAW – 24 hrs (including legal terminology)

  • Overview of the Belgian legal system and sources of law
  • Judicial actors
  • Judicial system
  • Criminal procedure law and basic concepts of criminal law
  • Civil procedure law and basic concepts of civil law

SWORN TRANSLATION AND INTERPRETING – 20 hrs

  • Contexts in which translators, interpreters or translator-interpreters are involved in legal proceedings
  • Translation, interpreting and intercultural communication*
  • Non-violent communication*
  • How the register works and fee structure

PROFESSIONAL CODE OF ETHICS – 4 hrs

  • The code of ethics
  • Case analysis

At the Louvain School of Translation and Interpreting, the course was piloted in the spring of 2019. Since then, two sessions have been held each year (one per semester), attended by between 80 and 100 candidates. Initially, the course was intended exclusively for sworn translators and interpreters entered in the provisional register and for final-year master’s students. However, it soon became apparent that, since many STIs were no longer available because of this training requirement, the requesting parties – whoever they may be – would be faced with a shortage of STIs in particular language combinations. The Federal Public Service for Justice therefore decided that people who are not included in the provisional register and who wish to be on the basis of accreditation of their prior experience are eligible for the course. This has considerably broadened the range of candidates for the CTIJ, which now welcomes very diverse participants with a wide variety of language combinations: experienced sworn translators and interpreters, translators and interpreters looking to offer professional sworn services, multilingual lawyers, young graduates wishing to add another string to their bow, future graduates, but also people whose job (in Belgium or abroad) involves cross-linguistic or intercultural communication, or language transfer in the broadest sense of the term.

By the end of the provisional procedure, all translators and interpreters in possession of the CTIJ will have had the opportunity to submit an application to be included in the definitive register (subject to a positive background check, among other requirements) and to take an oath, and anyone requiring the services of an STI will be able to consult this register. To remain on the register, entrants will be required to earn continuing education credits. The Royal Decree establishing this obligation has not yet been published.

Leaving aside the challenge of organising a new course – made logistically even more difficult by the pandemic – we would like to highlight here the intellectual and cultural enrichment it provides, not only for those who have done the course but also for the multidisciplinary teaching team running the CTIJ.


[1] http://www.ejustice.just.fgov.be/mopdf/2014/12/19_2.pdf#Page9

[2] This article will focus on the situation in the French-speaking part of Belgium. The list of courses that meet the requirements set out in article 2 of the Royal Decree of 30 March 2018 is available on the website of the Federal Public Service for Justice:

https://justice.belgium.be/sites/default/files/downloads/Liste%20organismes%20formateurs%20formations%20juridiques%202021-10-05.pdf

[3] http://www.ejustice.just.fgov.be/cgi_loi/change_lg.pl?language=fr&la=F&cn=2018033029&table_name=loi

[4] https://www.ejustice.just.fgov.be/cgi/article_body.pl?language=fr&caller=summary&pub_date=17-05-31&numac=2017012202

[5] https://uclouvain.be/prog-2021-jure2fc-programme

*These two modules are not provided for in the Royal Decree

Video game localisation: a new passion for translation trainees?

Thursday, November 11th, 2021

By Loïc de Faria Pires, Ph.D., associate professor in charge of translation technology, dubbing and subtitling classes, University of Mons (FTI-EII)

An introduction to video game localisation and its challenges

Ten years ago, nobody would have suspected that video game localisation would acquire such importance in translation curricula. I mean… how did video game aficionados (the so-called “geeks”) bring about such changes in the way we teach translation practice in order to prepare students for the professional market? Is translation not supposed to be related to technical or literary texts, and are we not supposed to challenge our students rather than ask them to translate such “irrelevant contents” as video games?


Could this shape our trainees’ future professional activity? (Source: personal picture)

Well, to tell the truth, video game localisation is far from easy, nor is it irrelevant. As a matter of fact, the estimated value of the global video game localisation industry was $1.38 billion in 2018, and is predicted to “aggressively increase year-on-year” (Bussey, 2020). As for it being “easy”, one should be reminded of famous localisation “fails” observed throughout the years. Several examples can be found in Final Fantasy VII, issued in 1997.

For instance, in this scene, the English wording (translated from Japanese) “Your party awaits upstairs” was badly translated into the Spanish sentence “Su fiesta [sic.] le espera en el piso 2”, instead of “Su equipo le espera en el piso 2”, since Cloud, our favourite hero, did not take part in any “raving” party: his “team” of fellow travellers was only waiting for him in the inn’s bedroom. Of course, some of these errors are funny, and do not have consequences on players’ gaming experience. Yet, in some instances, such problems can lead to confusion for players, hence the necessity of implementing localisation classes in EMT universities, with a view to preparing students to access the localisation market and avoid such problems.

The objective of this contribution will be to describe initiatives in terms of localisation taken by the University of Mons, with a view to better integrate EMT objectives in our translation curriculum.

Video game localisation, translation strategies and EMT objectives

First of all, localisation is recognised as one of the key competences to be taught to students in EMT programmes. Indeed, the 2017 EMT model states that students need to know how to “Translate and mediate in specific intercultural contexts, for example, those involving public service translation and interpreting, website or video-game localisation, video-description, community management, etc.” (p. 8). The 2017 written version of the competence framework also states that localisation is one of the skills to be included in the curriculum of EMT applicants (p. 7).

There are several reasons why localisation should be considered as an independent skill, which is really different from translation, though they share some characteristics. While it is true that both translation and video game localisation require a linguistic transfer from a language to another, several factors which are particular to video game localisation have to be taken into account.

First of all, the very nature of the audience influences the way such texts need to be localised. In the case of video game localisation, the audience is made of players, which need to perform the actions described by a text appearing on a screen. This means that the audience is not passive, since the textual input represents a guide through the universe of a video game. While translation can be target-oriented, this is particularly the case for video game localisation, since players who play the localised version of a game need to enjoy the same experience as players who play the original version. The commercial aspect of video games is of key importance here, since a badly localised game will receive negative feedback from players online… which will hinder the sales. Therefore, the very spirit of the game (including the names of protagonists or places), must be linguistically transferred, without any content loss which could affect the players’ experience.

This would seem relatively easy without any technical constraints. Yet, video games are, as highlighted above, played on a screen, where the number of characters is limited. Though it would be nice to use an entire paragraph to recount Link’s adventures on his way to save Princess Zelda, two main elements make it impossible: the text boxes in which the narrative text or the dialogues appear, and the very scene of the game being played at a determined time. On the one hand, text boxes can only contain so many characters, meaning that the text appearing in the box at any moment has to cover the same content in source and target language. This can prove rather problematic, for instance, in the case of localisation from English into French, the latter usually being more prolific and less concise than the former, which sometimes require people in charge of localisation to be imaginative in order to preserve the meaning while not exceeding character limitations. A second element to be taken into account is the scene appearing on the screen, which can influence translation context. For instance, let us imagine a scene where a character is walking towards a fish market and says, “Oh, I see fish over there”. In such a scene, the person in charge of localising the game into French should be careful to translate this idea by “Oh, je vois du poisson là-bas” rather than “Oh, je vois des poissons là-bas” (which would imply that said fish are alive).

Now that the main challenges of video game localisation have been highlighted, the time as come to describe how we, at the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting, are currently working to integrate this practice into our translation curriculum.

Video game localisation @UMONS

Considering both the growing commercial weight of the localisation industry and the need for EMT universities to implement localisation teaching in their curricula, we decided to tackle this challenge by implementing several initiatives to help both teachers and students get acquainted with localisation practice.

First initiative: “Gaming and Gamification” group

The very first initiative to be mentioned is our participation in the “Gaming and Gamification” working group. This group is not exclusive to the University of Mons: it came from a collective effort from stakeholders in the Belgian province of Hainaut.

The main objective of this group is to create an interdisciplinary network of companies and services interested in the video game industry within our province and, eventually, the French-speaking part of Belgium, Wallonia.

Our participation in such a project represents a precious opportunity for our university: apart from being the first French-speaking Belgian university to take part in such a large project in the context of the video game industry, this provides us with a unique opportunity to learn from other stakeholders and remain up to date with the latest developments of practices within the video game industry.

Moreover, this project also enables us to develop partnerships with video game companies here in Belgium, which provides our students with internship and collaboration possibilities and helps them build contacts with the professional world.

Finally, we should underline that, while this project mainly involves Belgian stakeholders, we are open to external collaborations. For instance, in the very field of video game localisation, our Faculty of Translation and Interpreting is currently establishing a partnership with the University of Bourgogne (France) to share best practices and learn from each other.

Second initiative: Masters’ theses in video game localisation

The second main initiative we are implementing is directly linked to our students. Last year, we underlined the possibility for them to write a Master’s thesis in the field of video game localisation (i.e. localise a video game or carry out a piece of research in the field of localisation). This had never been done before, and it came to many students as a surprise: they were ecstatic to learn that they did not necessarily had to translate a regular book in the framework of their Master’s thesis.

This year, five students chose to localise a video game for their thesis, either from English into French or from Russian into French. Supervising them represents a thrilling challenge for us lecturers: it is the very first time for all of us. We also have to get acquainted with localisation norms and constraints, in order to guide them properly and help them produce high-quality work.

Two of these students, Alexiane Mahieu and Noéline Urbain, accepted to describe the way they perceive video game localisation, and the reasons why they think localisation classes are crucial to future professionals.

Alexiane: Since I was little, I have always been passionate about video games, and I always played them in my mother tongue: French. This would not have been possible without the work of translators. From dubbing to subtitling, their work is important because it enables many people to enjoy video games, which are nowadays considered as works of art on their own. Most video games are created in English or Japanese, languages that are not spoken by everybody. Yet, the objective of video game creators is to make their game accessible to as many people as possible. Moreover, video games contain more and more content, which makes localisation more and more difficult, with respect to integral dubbing, which did not exist in the video game industry twenty years ago, and texts, denser and more technical than before. This increasing complexity calls for greater abilities, which would make localisation classes essential to all people who, like me, would like to contribute to the development of the field they are passionate about. [Our translation]

Noéline: […] Video games often contain many puns and cultural references that make them impossible to be translated by machine translation. A badly translated game is, at best, not fun to play and, in the worst cases, impossible to understand. It is therefore interesting to teach the fundamentals of localisation to Master’s students to provide them with additional professional opportunities on the translation market. Moreover, localisation tasks differ from what we are usually taught at university, and students would really benefit from a class which would teach them to tackle the numerous challenges linked to video game localisation. When one starts to localise a video game, it is necessary to learn not to exceed on-screen character limits, to know the video game jargon, and, most of all, to manage to adapt contents to another culture. When localising a game, one also benefits from more freedom than when translating a specialised text, which makes it necessary to be able to translate insults or contents that can sometimes be violent […]. [Our translation]

In a nutshell, the students who choose to localise a video game in the framework of their Master’s thesis seem to be aware of the professional opportunities that localisation can provide them with. Furthermore, they provide us with an accurate overview of the main challenges and constraints of video game localisation. Without any doubt, their Master’s theses will be highly relevant and very interesting to read!

Third initiative: LocJam

Last but not least, students in the first year of Master’s were offered to take part in a global initiative in the field of video game localisation: the LocJam project (https://itch.io/jam/locjam-wmhd).

This project was a three-day localisation “marathon” which took place from October 8 (00.01 am) to October 10 (11.59 pm). This worldwide localisation competition consisted, this year, in localising (in our case, from English into French) a ~3500-word video game about mental health. Students were allowed to work in teams (I allowed teams made of up to six students) to localise the whole game in three days. I was thrilled to see that no less than 65 students of my Translation Technology class decided to take part in this project. In the end, the localised text produced by a group of participants (hopefully, participants from the University of Mons) will be chosen to become the official translation of this game!

The texts produced by our students and the feedback they will provide will help us build a coherent and relevant localisation class, based upon their difficulties and the aspects they considered important.

See you in a few weeks for the results!

Conclusion

Through this contribution, we wanted to highlight the relevance of localisation projects and classes within university classrooms. Our main objective was to describe the initiatives implemented by the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting (University of Mons) to help students get familiar with the localisation process.

Though we can only initiate students to localisation in the framework of our Translation Technology classes today, we hope that in the future, thanks to all these ongoing projects, we will be able to implement proper and thrilling localisation classes in the years to come!

References

EMT expert group. (2017). Competence framework 2017. Brussels, Belgium: European Commission. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/emt_competence_fwk_2017_en_web.pdf

Bussey, Steven. (2020). An Overview of the Games Localization Industry in 2020 (Andovar blogs). Retrieved from https://blog.andovar.com/games-localization-in-2020.

My Distance Learning

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

By Reka Eszenyi, EMT co-representative Department for Translation and Interpreting, Eötvös Lóránd University, Budapest (ELTE)

The title above is taken from the book recently published by our department on the lessons we learnt from the spring semester of 2020. We run MA courses in translation (EMT) and interpreting, conference interpreting (EMCI), audio-visual translation and distance learning courses in translation, revision, and terminology.

The circumstances of courses that normally required the presence of students and teachers radically changed in March 2020. We realised this was the new normal in our classrooms, at least for the unpredictable, but hopefully only near future. We carried on with teaching and learning, and lots of new skills, tricks and lessons were learnt in this extraordinary period. And we kept asking ourselves, and our students questions on how distance education should be given in courses where personal presence is much needed and appreciated. What is the optimal amount of tasks that brings the students to the competence levels required and is still optimal as workload for the tutors? What should the mode of instruction be? Synchronous, asynchronous of a combination of the two? What platform(s) should be used? How should exams be organised so that they test students in a valid, fair manner, granting all participants equal opportunities? And how do our choices and preferences fit into the institutional framework of the university?

These questions, and some answers given to them contributed the backbone of a volume of studies we published at the end of 2020. The topics include classrooms, platforms and exams, translator, audio-visual translator, interpreter and PhD training as well. One of our authors, Szilvia Kovalik-Deák describes the shift from presence to online as follows:

The classroom was filling up with students. Everyone was talking at the same time, a routine before class. Someone came up to me and inquired about a translation problem. The place was bustling as usual. Then I turned to my students and asked the same question I had always asked, namely how they felt on that beautiful spring day. We were talking in French, our common language for work. I asked each member an individual question, which was the signal to focus their attention on class. With this, the seminar based on interactions between lecturer and student, student and student started. (2020:6)

The screen is filling up with faces. We are chatting a few minutes before class, as usual. The students are not speaking at the same time but there is a chance for everyone to say a couple of words. I can see one of my students’ cat stretching lazily and jumping off the desk. Bence has forgotten to switch on his microphone again, so I remind him to do so. Then, as always, I turn to my students and ask how they are feeling themselves on this beautiful, spring day. We are talking in French, our common language for work. I am asking each member an individual question, which is the signal to focus their attention on the class. With this, the seminar based on interactions between lecturer and student, student and student starts. Slightly differently, but anyway, almost as usual… (2020:16).

Some colleagues compiled questionnaires to find out the usefulness of the tools they employed in the course to make up for the lack of personal, presence contact, like fora, or recordings, while others used artificial intelligence to test students’ progress. We have learnt that courses in subtitling, translation projects or conference interpreting can all be given in the online mode, at an acceptable standard. I am not sure if this is becoming the new normal, but in each case, all our online attempts and effort had elements we will stick to once we return to our real classrooms. These include the vast amount of tasks and assignments neither printed nor sent by e-mail but uploaded to learning management systems and drives, the new platforms and applications we learnt to use that can successfully complement presence classroom communication, using artificial intelligence to assign and correct tasks that can be done without human assistance, and last but not least the enormous flexibility and motivation form both the students’ and the instructors’ part that made and makes our courses work in these extraordinary times.

The closing article in the book lets the students’voices be heard. By answering open-ended questions, they describe their experiences of the spring semester of 2020.

I think we managed to get the most out of this situation. So, high-five to everyone!!! :* (Robin, 2020:189)

Our book was published in Hungarian at the end of 2020 and is expected to come out in English in May 2021.

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.

Machine Translation or the Nutella® Ordeal

Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

By Jean-Yves Bassole, dr.Phil. dr.Litt., Head of the Institute of Translators, Interpreters and International Relations (ITIRI), Faculty of Modern Languages, University of Strasbourg, France.

Translated from French by Duncan Miller, MSc by Research in Science and Technology Studies, MA in Professional Translation, sworn Translator/Interpreter at the Court of Appeal of Colmar, lecturer at the Institute of Translators, Interpreters and International Relations (ITIRI), Faculty of Modern Languages, University of Strasbourg, France.

Translation lecturers are increasingly confronted with a threatening reality, which is likely to be detrimental to their lessons: machine translation. Admittedly, this subject is taught as such and translation courses include postediting lessons. However, it is often too big a temptation. Some students cannot avoid using a variety of machine translation tools, kindly made available by the companies that produce them. Who would easily turn down a jar of Nutella? Let’s be honest, everyone can understand this temptation. Who has never given into it?

Actually, the succumbence to this temptation is not what bothers us the most. No one can possibly criticise students for using all the available tools. After all, is that not what we recommend them to do on the day they become our colleagues, as translators? We are not concerned about them using these tools as such, we are concerned they will use them too early, without initially attending the appropriate lessons, which are designed to raise their awareness of the advantages and drawbacks of the given tools.

Therefore, from a lecturer’s perspective, the following question should be addressed. If students do not have the patience to wait for the right moment to use the aforementioned tools, wouldn’t it be wiser to redesign our courses by including an introduction to these tools at an earlier stage? The answers vary according to different countries, cultures and universities. The answer to this question is also linked to the inherent structure of translation studies. Some university systems consider that translation can already be studied in first year, while others consider that sound linguistic and cultural knowledge is required before focusing on translation itself.

This is the case for the Institute of Translators, Interpreters and International Relations (ITIRI), Faculty of Modern Languages, University of Strasbourg, where translation studies start in the first year of the Master’s programme. Access is granted to candidates with a three-year university experience (in languages, literature, law or any other subject), who pass the admission tests, which are conducted to ensure their linguistic and cultural background is sufficient.

Noticeably, our conception is defined by a minimum required to reach the next level. Under these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that we only provide postediting lessons in the second year of the Master’s degree in Professional Translation, Literary Translation and Audiovisual Translation and Accessibility. For us, it seems obvious that machine translation tools can only really be useful when students are sufficiently trained in translation.

Considering the stance of the lecturers and the aforementioned temptation of the students, the only viable solution consists in informing the first-year Master’s degree students about the inherent dangers of machine translation tools. It is with this in mind that I will deliver a speech, at the next congress organised by ITIRI, entitled ROBOTRAD, which is scheduled for autumn 2021. I will endeavour to present what I try to demonstrate to our students, that in general no one can become a virtuoso without studying music theory beforehand.

Some of our translation lecturers sometimes give their students a text to translate along with several “translations” generated by machine translation tools. This highly pedagogical approach, that I would in fact compare to some sort of mine-clearing, is generally carried out with texts associated with so-called “pragmatic translation”. In contrast, I decided to conduct the experiment on texts from twentieth century authors, but with a preference for extracts which are more based on spoken language.

This is how I managed to select an array of vocabulary, syntax and morphology difficulties, along with a few flashes of wit. These sentences or groups of sentences were submitted to five machine translation engines, to be translated into English. The chosen methodology consisted in submitting a sentence to the five engines, on the same day and virtually at the same time. This same procedure was repeated twice, after a minimum period of twenty-four hours, in order to confirm or disconfirm the stability of the answers. The same procedure was carried out from two other workstations.

Without going into the details of the findings, three significant trends immediately arose:

– In numerous cases, the generated translation presents no sense of stability: the same sentence may be translated differently by the same translation engine at a twenty-four or forty-eight hour interval;
– The generated translations from one workstation to another do not present a sense of stability either;
– The expressions related to spoken language or humor are rarely identified.

As a case in point, here are a few translations obtained for the title of this post that I would have modestly translated as “Machine Translation or the Nutella Ordeal”: 

The machine translation or the torment of Nutella.

Machine translation or the torment of Nutella.

Machine translation or Nutella supplementation.

Machine translation or Nutella torture.

With regard to the proposed translations, we can notice there are as many perceptible improvements as there are astonishing deteriorations.

The students very quickly come to the conclusion that they cannot trust such translations. Owing to the multiplicity of the solutions, they become aware of the inconsistencies, the variability from one workstation to another, and the necessity to err on the side of caution. They realise that these tools, which are freely made available on the internet, are not really going to help them but are more likely to turn into time-consuming traps.

Once they are aware of this, the students often manage to identify the repeated faulty tricks. Sometimes, they even manage to provide an explanation for certain types of deficiencies. Undoubtedly, from then on, they are ready to resume their training without taking the risk of being lured by the machine translation mermaids. Once passed this first level, they will also be ready to take on postediting lessons, in a confident manner.

Google Translate

Automatic translation or the torment of Nutella®

Translation teachers are more and more often confronted with a threatening reality which is likely to affect their lessons: machine translation tools. Of course, this subject is taught as such and translation courses generally provide for post-editing courses. Yet the temptation is often too great: some students cannot help but use various machine translation tools made available to them free of charge by the companies that have developed. Who would give up a jar of Nutella without flinching? Let’s put it bluntly, we can all understand this temptation – who has never succumbed to it?

What really bothers us the most is not that the temptation materializes – no one can criticize their students for using all the tools at their disposal. Isn’t that ultimately what we will be asking them to do the day they become our colleagues in the profession of translator? No, what bothers us is not that they do it, but that they do it too early, without having previously taken the appropriate courses, which are likely to make them aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the instruments offered.

A question then arises, on the teachers’ side: if students do not have the patience to wait for the right moment to use the aforementioned tools, would it not be wise to rethink our courses by integrating earlier contact with these? instruments? Answers vary by country, culture and institution. The answer to this question is also linked to the very structure of translation studies: some university systems consider that one can start studying translation from the first year of the license, others consider that it is necessary first to have acquired solid linguistic and cultural foundations before starting the practice of translation.

This is the case of the Institute of Translators, Interpreters and International Relations (ITIRI), Faculty of Languages, University of Strasbourg: translation studies begin in the first year of the master, the entry ticket being made up of, ” on the one hand, three years of university studies (in languages, humanities, law or any other field) and, on the other, success in admission exams aimed at ensuring linguistic level and background cultural background of the candidate.

As we can see, our conception is that of a minimum required to move to the next level. Under these conditions, we should not be surprised to see us maintain post-editing courses in the second year of the master’s degree in professional translation, literary translation or audio-visual translation and accessibility. It seems obvious to us that machine translation tools can only be of real use when the student is already sufficiently trained in translation.

Faced with this choice in principle of the trainers and the student temptation mentioned above, the only viable solution consists in informing the first year master’s students of the dangers inherent in automatic translation tools. It is in this spirit that I will present a paper at the next congress organized by ITIRI, entitled ROBOTRAD, which is scheduled for the fall of 2021. I will endeavor to expose what I am trying to demonstrate to our students, to know that as a general rule no one becomes a virtuoso without having studied music theory.

Some of my translation colleagues sometimes give their students a text to translate along with several “translations” provided by machine translation tools. This highly educational operation, which I would consider altogether to a kind of demining, is generally carried out on texts relating to what has come to be called pragmatic translation ’. For my part, I wanted to experiment with texts taken from 20th century authors but with a preference for passages that are more related to the spoken language.

This is how I was able to select a palette of difficulties, vocabulary, syntax or morphology, without forgetting one or two wit. These sentences or groups of sentences were submitted to five machine translation engines for translation into English. The methodology adopted consisted in submitting a sentence to the five engines on the same day, practically at the same time. This same procedure was repeated twice, after a minimum of one day, the objective being to confirm or not the stability of the responses. The same procedure was implemented from two other workstations.

Without going into the details of the findings here, three main lines immediately emerged:

in many cases, the proposed translation does not present any stability character: the same sentence can be translated in a different way by the same translation engine 24 or 48 hours apart;the translations offered from one workstation to another are not stable either;expressions relating to spoken language or humor are often not identified.

– in many cases, the proposed translation does not present any stability character: the same sentence can be translated in a different way by the same translation engine 24 or 48 hours apart;
– the translations offered from one workstation to another are not stable either;
– expressions relating to spoken language or humor are often not identified.

By way of illustration, here are the translations obtained for the title of this post, which I humbly translated « Machine Translation or the Nutella Ordeal »:

The machine translation or the torment of Nutella.

Machine translation or the torment of Nutella.

Machine translation or utella supplementation.

Machine translation or Nutella torture. 

With regard to the proposed translations, there are as many appreciable improvements as there are astonishing deteriorations.

Very quickly, the students come to the conclusion that they cannot trust these translations. They discover, through the multiplicity of solutions, the lack of stability of responses and their variability from one workstation to another, the need to be wary, to doubt and to consider that these tools, made available free of charge on Internet, are not likely to help them but can rather constitute a trap which will make them waste more time than it will save them.

This once understood, the students often manage to identify wrong turns which are repeated; sometimes they even manage to offer an explanation for certain types of deficiencies. There is no doubt then that they are ready to continue their training without risking being seduced by the sirens of machine translation; they will also be ready, once this first cycle is completed, to approach post-publishing courses with confidence.

DeepL (free version)

Machine translation or the torture of Nutella®

Translation teachers are increasingly confronted with a threatening reality, which is likely to affect their lessons: machine translation tools. Admittedly, this subject is taught as such and translation curricula usually include post-editing courses. However, the temptation is often too great: some students cannot help but resort to various machine translation tools made available to them free of charge by the companies that developed them. Who would give up a jar of Nutella without flinching? To put it bluntly, we can all understand this temptation – who has never succumbed to it? 

What really bothers us most is not that the temptation actually materialises – no one can criticise their students for using all the instruments at their disposal. Isn’t that what we advise them to do when they become our colleagues in the translation profession? No, what bothers us is not that they do it, but that they do it too early, without having first attended the appropriate courses, which are likely to make them aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the instruments offered.

A question then arises on the teachers’ side: if students do not have the patience to wait for the right moment to use the above-mentioned tools, would it not be wise to rethink our curricula by integrating earlier contact with these instruments? Answers vary from country to country, culture to culture and institution to institution. The answer to this question is also linked to the very structuring of translation studies: some university systems believe that one can start studying translation as early as the first year of the bachelor’s degree, while others consider that one must first have acquired a solid linguistic and cultural basis before starting to study translation.

This is the case at the Institute of Translators, Interpreters and International Relations (ITIRI), Faculty of Languages, University of Strasbourg: translation studies begin in the first year of the master’s degree, the entry ticket consisting, on the one hand, of three years of university studies (in languages, literature, law or any other field) and, on the other hand, the successful completion of entrance exams aimed at ensuring the candidate’s linguistic level and cultural background.

As you can see, our conception is that of a minimum requirement to move to the next level. Under these conditions, it should come as no surprise that we maintain the post-edition courses in the second year of the Master’s degree in Professional Translation, Literary Translation or Audiovisual Translation and accessibility. It seems obvious to us that machine translation tools can only be of real use when the student is already sufficiently trained in translation.

Faced with this choice of principle by the instructors and the student temptation mentioned above, the only viable solution is to inform first-year master’s students of the dangers inherent in machine translation tools. It is in this spirit that I will be presenting a paper at the next congress organised by ITIRI, entitled ROBOTRAD, which is scheduled for autumn 2021. In it, I will attempt to explain what I am trying to demonstrate to our students, namely that as a general rule, no one becomes a virtuoso without having studied solfeggio.

Some of my colleagues who teach translation sometimes give their students a text to be translated accompanied by several ‘translations’ offered by machine translation tools. This highly educational operation, which I would describe as a kind of mine clearance, is generally carried out on texts that fall within the scope of what is known as ‘pragmatic translation’. For my part, I wanted to experiment with texts drawn from 20th century authors, but with a preference for passages that are more relevant to the spoken language.

This enabled me to select a range of difficulties, vocabulary, syntax or morphology, not forgetting one or two witty features. These sentences or groups of sentences were submitted to five machine translation engines for translation into English. The methodology used consisted of submitting one sentence to the five engines on the same day, at practically the same time. This same procedure was repeated twice, after a minimum delay of one day, with the aim of confirming or not the stability of the responses. The same procedure was carried out from two other workstations.

Without going into the details of the findings here, three broad outlines immediately emerged:

– in many cases, the proposed translation is not stable: the same sentence can be translated differently by the same translation engine 24 or 48 hours apart;
– the translations offered from one workstation to another are not stable either;
– expressions in the spoken language are not often identified.

By way of illustration, here are the translations obtained for the title of this post, which I would have humbly translated « Machine Translation or the Nutella Ordeal » :

The machine translation or the torment of Nutella.

Machine translation or the torment of Nutella.

Machine translation or utella supplementation.

Machine translation or Nutella torture.

As far as the proposed translations are concerned, there have been as many significant improvements as astonishing deteriorations

Very quickly, students come to the conclusion that they cannot rely on these translations. They discover, through the multiplicity of solutions, the lack of stability of the answers and their variability from one workstation to another, the need to be wary, to have doubts and to consider that these tools, made available to them free of charge on the Internet, are not likely to help them but can rather constitute a trap that will make them lose more time than they gain.

Once this is understood, students often manage to identify repeated wrong turns; sometimes they even manage to offer an explanation for certain types of disabilities. There is no doubt that they are ready to continue their training without the risk of being seduced by the sirens of machine translation; they will also be ready, once this first cycle is completed, to tackle the post-editing courses calmly.

Acquiring multiple competences through IATE Terminology Projects

Monday, November 2nd, 2020

By Elpida Loupaki, Assistant Professor of Descriptive Translation Studies and Terminology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (GR), teaching Terminology at the Joint Postgraduate Studies Program “Conference Interpreting and Translation”

From 2013 our Master Students are introduced to Terminology Management through a special course delivered during their third semester of studies.

After the completion of this course, combining both theoretical and practical aspects of Terminology Management in Translation, Master Students can opt for a terminology project as a Master thesis. During these years, the vast majority of our students had the opportunity to cooperate with the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (TermCoord), in order to contribute to the IATE term-base with well-documented and reliable terms in the Greek language[1]. These terminology projects include different domains such as:

Our goal today is to demonstrate the benefits of such EU projects to EMT Master Students in acquiring multiple competences – not only related to terminology – as it will be explained. For this purpose, we are going to briefly present the methodology of these projects and then discuss the competences involved in this learning process.

A terminology project starts with the proposal by TermCoord for a domain in which documented and reliable terminology is needed in the Greek IATE. Then, a number of authentic textual resources are selected and different corpora are created and processed by the use of Sketch Engine. After term extraction is completed, a solid definition and context in both English and Greek is provided for each term. Furthermore, the conceptual relations existing among the terms are also examined. Finally, results are discussed with experts in the field and verified by them.

A standard workflow of a terminology project is here depicted in Figure 1:

According to EMT Competence Framework, translator education and training at Master’s degree level should provide competences to students in five main areas, including: 1) language and culture; 2) translation; 3) technology; 4) personal and interpersonal; 5) service provision. As explained in the Framework (2017, p. 5), “within each of these areas, a number of skills are deemed to be essential or important within the context of a Master’s degree in translation. […] the five areas defined should be considered as complementary and equally important in providing the translation service, which is the ultimate goal of the translation process.”

If we compare the competences acquired by our Master Students throughout the IATE terminology project with the competences described in this reference document, we observe that the majority of areas are included. These projects boost especially the development of the following skills, as expressed in the Framework:

  • Evaluate the relevance and reliability of information sources with regard to translation [here terminology] needs.
  • Acquire, develop and use thematic and domain-specific knowledge relevant to translation [here terminology] needs (mastering systems of concepts, methods of reasoning, presentation standards, terminology and phraseology, specialised sources etc.).
  • Understand and implement quality control strategies, using appropriate tools and techniques.
  • Use the most relevant IT applications, including the full range of office software, and adapt rapidly to new tools and IT resources.
  • Make effective use of search engines, corpus-based tools, text analysis tools […].
  • Plan and manage time, stress and workload.
  • Comply with deadlines, instructions and specifications.
  • Work in a team, including, where appropriate, in virtual, multicultural and multilingual environments, using current communication technologies.

Furthermore, we consider especially useful the cooperation of our students with experts from different specialized domains, as they acquire networking techniques, interview skills, and learn inside information in the fields involved.

Finally, a very important asset in this educational process is the partnership with an EU institution, such as TermCoord, providing students a multilingual and multicultural environment of work, a high quality framework and a firm guidance from experienced terminologists.

As a conclusion, we could assert that this kind of activity is very challenging for both students and trainers involved. Moreover, benefits can outweigh the eventual drawbacks of organization and coordination of such projects. In our ever changing world, we believe that real life projects help students to better integrate into translation market, teaching them to work in teams and offering them the opportunity to gain hands-on experience.


[1] For further information, see: https://termcoord.eu/cooperation-with-universities-on-terminology-projects/

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