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Saturday, 30 September 2017

Teaching " Introduction to translation"

We often stumble in most of undergraduate university programs in the Arab world (and elsewhere) upon mainstream and core courses such as the one entitled ' introduction to translation'. This course has been taught in the same way and with, more or less, the same contents for years. It is usually about teaching to students the practical issues in translation, including principles, techniques, strategies with minimum theoretical input (leaving this little gap for another course called 'theories of translation; or so and so...). Since, most students in this course can either end up doing linguistics, translation or literature or another track in other universities), it is suggested in the syllabus) that the main thing they should do is practice basic translation; i.e pedagogical type of translations. In terms of content or scholarship, we find the use of the usual suspects : textbooks of Mona Baker, Hatim, Munday and some others ( Ghazal...etc)...most of them standing for the linguistic functional or text linguistic paradigm in the discipline).....In addition to traditional references  such as beaugrande and Catford to teach basic elements and techniques as well.

If we would like to approach the course from another angle whereby updated scholarship, adapted pedagogy and innovative insights from the profession could be added, then we may find ourselves in front of another map of the course that is called ' introduction to translation'. In my current argument here I will only stress the point that whatever level of the student enrolling in a course called ' introduction to translation' what we should do is not following the old tradition of teaching the course, since the field has changed at various levels and new insights have been introduced in it. Even translation or interpreting practice have changed and still keep changing due to many factors such as technology and globalization. In saying this, I take  into perspective the fact that no additional load should be allocated to faculty beyond his usual load, other wise the suggested endeavor to improve the course will definitively fail. Teaching a course needs to go through a lengthy pedagogical engineering process. Also, the instructor or faculty need to be closely acquainted with the universe of the course ( knowledge framework). 

Translation has now become a matter of building and constructing sets of complex skills, knowledge and behaviors. So, introducing the student to translation needs to cater for the above elements instead of relying heavily on specific sets of textbooks to disseminate a narrow set of information and knowledge. The course ‘ introduction to translation’ should be about:

- Introducing the students to the universe of translation (theory and practice)

- Educating the student and develop in him / her the 'self-concept' since he or she is studying a discipline that is presented by a professional body in society. That includes the teaching of KEY HISTORICAL elements preferably via the use of multimedia resources to EDUCATE the future translator to be and welcome him to his or her new community of learners and then of professionals)

- Introducing him or her on the critical issues and ongoing practices in TRANSLATING texts ...various genres. It is advised that students should do this in groups, although it is a challenging task. Still, faculty with exceptional and updated pedagogical 'know how' and 'know what' could do it.

Well! The question here is how to do it? The answer is : you need to know how to integrate both traditional and new scholarship into the course as well as have the pedagogical skills and abilities to do so ( to engineer your course and set significant learning performance environments).

So, introduction to translation should not be about teaching students how to translate following an exclusively linguistic conceptualization of translation dating back from the seventies and eighties (including early nineties), but it should embrace the new concept of translation: competence. Hence, how can we educate, train and teach at the same time new entrants in the discipline? A course on translation should more hybrid and diverse to allow students to have a broad idea about the field of translation as theory/academic field as well as practice ( profession). Faculty needs to use his or her pedagogical and disciplinary ( updated) knowledge to engineering that very important course. No point adding other courses such as techniques, strategies of translation or even theories of translation.

We presume that teacher knowledge and beliefs about the field and the practice is crucial . The usual thing we witness in a university context is that faculty uses his or her subjective perception of what should be included in the course 'Introduction to Translation' instead of relying on updated scholarship, established practices and innovative or adapted pedagogical skills to integrate in the course.


NB: At the pedagogical level, the course can be taught in a diversified way ( Mixed method of teaching, Anderson, 2000). For instance, one can use the classroom lecturing for discussion and then place the lecture on specific concepts and elements that  students need to know and appropriate about the translation phenomena and concept in year 1. Faculty can have recourse to deposit selected contents, multimedia files and their own recorded lectures or explanations on either Blackboard or Moodle to allow students to either prepare or post-check and refer to the material afterwards to enhance learning.  Or deposit the lecture and its activities 3 days before the day of the lecture, let students have time to revise and read or listen to the deposited file, and when in class it will be discussion and explanation to deepen learning. The use of mind mapping techniques in the classroom is very useful. It allows students to visualize the information ( theoretical) and make sense of it.....and RETAIN IT.