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Monday, 4 November 2013

The concept of 'hidden curriculum'.....and its relevance to translator training and education?

This week I was reviewing Kearn's (2006)  PhD thesis on curriculum issues in Translator Training in Europe in general and mostly in his teaching setting (Poland). I compared his insights to the situation in the Arab World. I found many similarities in  terms of course contents, teaching methods and institutional (university and departmental) as well as faculty's ideologies in a translation programme.

One of the striking issues I paid attention to is the concept  of ' the hidden curriculum'. He means by this any curriculum  in translation or interpreting that is not based on curriculum studies/theories in higher education, disciplinary issues specific to Translation ( focus on translation studies as a framework of reference: theoretical and applied), the professional aspect of translation and -last- the pedagogical approach for subject specific domains ( professionally oriented disciplines) the likes of translation. Kearns(ibid) had deplored the ongoing use of unplanned , impressionistic and reductionist curriculum design and development strategies in translation programmes. Any faculty in the department, regardless of his or her being competent in all the previous knowledge domains and corresponding practices- could come forward and pretend to design/develop curricula for the corresponding department. 

We feel that this violates  the Quality Assurance criteria prescribed in both Higher Education Standards (Required knowledge frameworks/competencies  for teaching scholarship) as well as in the Professional Standards of the Translation profession ( Check The recent European Standard EN15038) which has been used by many curricular designers to develop quality-based and professionally-oriented translation/interpreting programmes within an academic context.

We really do need to redesign, develop and keep monitoring our pedagogies and curricula in translation programs. The type of epistemologies and ideologies as well as teaching approaching need to based on consciously planned criteria from either mainstream pedagogy/curriculum studies, translation studies and professional guidelines (market requirements). Only this could ensure  desired outcomes for todays translation market . In saying that, we stay very watchful to not get carried away by the unstable requirement of the industry, but we stick to our principles as academics with a fair stretch and flexibility to what the employers are looking for.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Translator training and education at Arab based universities.

The following is a quote from one of my ongoing reflections in my research on translator training and curricula development for translation programs in at Arab based universities (Gulf countries).


          The teaching and learning environment in traditional face to face translator training programs in the Arab world were portrayed as lacking relevant pedagogical approaches that are congruent with the real demands of the translation industry and market demands. (Al Qinai, 2010; Fargahl, 2009; Atari, 2012). And that translator training programs are not integrating valuable vocational and professional components showing a key requirement for the face validity of  such programs and that they remain confined to linguistically oriented models leading to decontextualising  the translation assignments which become unclear and purely translation for philological or pedagogical purposes sine qua (Atari, Ibid; Buhmaid, Ibid; Emery, 2000). Also, that course objectives or ‘intended learning outcomes’ were not clear from the list of objectives designed by the course designers or faculty ( Bahumaid, Ibid). Kelly (2005) had highlighted that assessments in any study outline of any course should be aligned with the listed objectives. In more depth and details Biggs (2007) referred to constructive alignment principle whereby intended outcomes, activities and assessment tools should be aligned. In relation to the situation in Arab speaking universities, Atari (2012, p. 110) quoting from (Buhmaid, 1995; Emery, 2000) stresses that ‘there is a lack of well defined and well-formulated learning outcomes- if existent in the first place’. This sounds very degrading for such a program whose responsibility –amongst others- is to educate and train  responsible citizens, who at one stage will undertake decisive and important decisions in their textual and discursive choices within society.

          Further, translation courses are embedded in English departments and they tend to be taught mostly by faculty holding degrees in linguistics or English literature. Some had experience in translating but with little knowledge of the 21st translation industry working patterns, and others who did moderately practice translation as amateurs or on a part time basis, while a big chunk of faculty practicing classroom teaching of translation had never been professional translators (Atari, 2012). It is also argued that there is insufficient competent translator trainers at the Arab universities, which represent a hurdle to advance and improve translator programs (Fargal, 2009). Given the impact of technology on teaching and learning, personnel with IT background, knowledge of the translation proper subject matter and with real world professional experience can be a good competitive advantage for the department. Al Qinai (2010) had already mentioned that there is a need for educators who can themselves be on the ground and carry out classroom research to really get the authentic feedback, insight and results that the translator training communities either in the Arab universities or elsewhere would be looking for to embrace....)

Extracted from an ongoing PhD work in progress....

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Curriculum and pedagogical issues in translator training /education (The Arab Higher Education Context)

Apart from the Alsun school of translation in Egypt, translator training at the institutional (university) level in the Arab World emerged as a result of globalisation and changes in higher education after the eighties and early nineties. In the Gulf countries, these programs emerged in a mass scale after the millennium (some of them during the nineties). Nevertheless, there is worrying educational and professional issues that might result because of the lack of understanding of some of the major tenants of setting a professionally oriented translation program within a university context. These can be summarised as follows:

  • Specificities of the local context (country, the profession, university, society, students and economy) will be taken into consideration when designing, developing and implementing (including assessing/evaluating) the program.

  • Clear course and program outcomes (skills) need to be set and justified; faculty need to know exactly why they choose the skills ( or as it is the usual case : subjects or contents) to develp or knwoledge to taransfer/ content and  material/ as well as the methods of assessing the previous. Preferably, he or she needs to explain the link between content/activities/objectives/assessment methods to the students to involve them in the educational experience. Nevertheless, this specific point may be an issue for faculty who themselves lack subject specific knowledge ( Knowledge of the field in its academic aspect : knowledge of translation studies as a field of study and research, as well as knowledge of recent translation  approaches in the field). Sometimes, the lack of sufficient real world experience as professionals (in-house or freelance ) could also make things difficult to the success of the experience.

  • Importance of a specific type of pedagogy for teaching translation/training translators.  The Lectures only mode is noy suficient  to achieve significant learning and performance outcomes in the case of a translation teaching context. Translation is a profession. It has standards that need to be taken into consideration, and there are requirements on a certain set of competencies that need to be  integrated in the curricula and faciltated . Therefore, we envisage  that the most suitable teaching method could  be a mix of training, teaching and education to respond to the complex type of translation and translator competence. Students in the program (usually English Department) will- at the end of the program- be not only L2 proficient but multifaceted communicators and agents of cross-cultural communication. Also, they will be exposed directly to society : interpreting in courts, hospitals, translation of official or non-official documentation to ' make things happen ' in society and between nations and people globally. Sometimes, and this is taking place widely during the 21st century, students could be entrepreneurial language service providers by setting their own tranlsation bureau . Therefore, the stake is more than finding equivalents between source and target texts or transferring meanings, but it is more than that. The agent( the translator) has a role to play as well in all these. His impact is hardly highlighted in the Arabic context, especially in a university context. Due to existing disciplinary ideologies in all departments (any departments -really), the priority was given to textual matters instead. Nevertheless, a well balanced approach is needed when teaching the translation phenomena. This in itself reflects the nature of the discipline  which is multifaceted and multidisciplinary, because of its youth. 

  • When teaching theories of translation (or any theoretical component; TRANSLATION STUDIES ) in a translation program, it is important to bring into the equation practise as well. This is a very challenging point for the teacher/faculty. Nevertheless, the student could benefit better from the quasi-theoretical course and stay tuned and engaged if this link between theory and practise taking place in the classroom. Again, teachers' professional background could be very important in this case . That is why reviewing faculty's knowledge framework (professional, disciplinary and pedagogical) is of great importance to the success of the education experience in the program. This might be a tough criteria to abide by since Translation as a discipline is a recently established area in the academic context and there is a lack of Human resources properly trained to service in a university context. This problem becomes alarming now with the considerable increase in the numbers of many translation programs at university level. 

  • As for practical courses, research in translation pedagogy has criticised the traditional method of teaching translation in a classroom context within higher education. Don Kiraly (1995, 2000, 2003) argued against the use of what Ladmirale calls (Performance Majistral) or ( lecturing) and the use of the ' read and translation' method, and the final 'correct' solution will be in the hands of the teacher ( the main and unique source of knowledge). Kiraly(2000) proposed the project based methods instead to reflect the real world practise of translation. Students divided in project teams assume various roles (translator, reviser, terminologist) when undertaking such tasks.  

  • Educationally and professionally speaking, this  might be a sound approach, nevertheless I am not sure how often this new method is used in Arab based translation programs and whether it can be adapted smoothly in our context.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Arabic online content: Kingdom leads the way

Arabic online content: Kingdom leads the way

The LINK to the page :

This is a very revolutionary move. The approach is spot on. Indeed! it is time to change paradigms. 21st century imposed other types of knowledge patterns. Sources of knowledge are not always in books ( be it litterature, human sciences or else)...they may exist in databases and computers as well.

I salute this endeavour by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to enrish the Arabic digital content on the web. If all Arab countries - especially translation programs as well as private and public instances- get to follow and gradually implant the same strategy, we could achieve  remarkable cultural, political and educational gains...We are LIVING in a knowledge based society....Not content, but bigger than that...KNOWLEDGE.


Saturday, 1 June 2013

New workshop on translation : when theory meets practice...but, how ?

Learn how to process your translation and revision work critically and constructively




Have you ever thought of why you intuitively translate terms, phrases or texts without knowing how you happen to take such decisions? Have you ever had issues to comment in an elaborate way in your revision tasks or about terminology/translation choices in front of your colleagues or peers?...After all, sometimes clients or even when you work in-house, you may be requested to justify your choices based not only on intuition but also on other factors. Objectivising the subjective, the hidden and the intuitive is the purpose behind presenting you this course.


Experienced translators may do their translations intuitively and quickly than a novice or student translator. However, it is not often that translators may find the appropriate jargon and words to use to justify their choices or write conscious and justified comments in their revised or translated assignments? A professional (translator or reviser) may be asked by clients or colleagues at work to do so. Hence, it seems a valid point to add the critical thinking issue to translator competence. Besides, having that ability may enhance professional status and earn you respect since you become a thinker as well as a negotiator and test engineer. This course will take you to that stage and guide you through to think critically when you process your translation, do post-editing or revision work.

Target audience

Novices, students of translation or experienced translators seeking  personal development.

Learning objectives

At the end of this course students/participants will be able to :   

  • Identify and judge critically the text typologies in English and Arabic and problems that may arise in theTranslation process due to conventions of those texts and other contextual factors in both languages;
  • Write in the proper genre and style of the text you translate into;
  • Justify your choices in translating the text (for yourself and for others if you were asked to). Your choice remains relative, since nothing is absolute in the real world. This means that there are always many answers to the same problem;
  • Revise consciously and constructively the translations or assignments you have been given based on insights from both theory and practice

Sound Knowledge of two languages: English and Arabic. Minimal experience in translation practise is required. Translation students or soon to be translation students are also welcome.


  •  Introduction to the field of translation practise and theory
  • Importance of critical text analysis for translators and revisers alike
  •  Developing abilities to become an empowered translator through critical judgement of translations and revisions 
  •  Own the metalanguage to use to discuss translation problems with colleagues at work or peers in forums
  •  Operate beyond intuition and amateurism when you front clients, peers or your teacher if you still at university
Comments on the above course outline are very welcome:

Skype: fouadelka

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Building Translator IDENTITY in a translation program? ...some reflections and suggestions

The concepts of translator identity and ’agency’ has been an ongoing debate in the literature about translator training in higher education. A closer look at the history of translation practice would show us that the image that society has given translators remained the same: a bunch of underestimated group, all they do is to ''transfer'' other people’s creative work and get paid for that. No significant social status has been given or else. The editors have been (and still) not putting the name of the translator or reviser on the cover of the book.The latter gets published under the name of the publishing house and no sign of the original translators' name.

However, whose fault is this? The institutions? No!. Society? No!

It is the community of translators themselves who are responsible for their degrading value. Nowadays, with the globalization and Internet use, things are getting worse. Everybody is translating! Every bilingual or anyone claiming competence in two languages involves in translation...that is where it starts! In my opinion the lack of proper training at an institutional level (universities mainly) contributed to this identity crisis that lets pirates and industry hyenas seize opportunities to downplay the role of translators and pay peanuts for translations. If those translators were educated about the ethics and value of practicing this honorable and ancient profession, we would have seen ourselves looked at like Lawyers, Engineers and Doctors. 

But, what type of learning material and contents we need to enhance that type of lifelong abilities?

Answer: review and update the curriculum as well as the pedagogy of teaching the subject (Translation). For instance, embedding a sound pedagogy (like narrative pedagogy and using multimedia) to teach the history of translation in a dynamic way via focusing on true stories or biographies about our ancient colleagues (Arabs, Muslims or Europeans) to allow students to identify with these people and build their self concept as future translators to be. At least they will have something to be proud of, and this would give them '' face validity'' not only for their profession but also for the course or program they are in. A program that has a face validity means that students 'know' that they are studying what the course / the program is about, becasue it leads (for sure) to a clear objective.

We believe that a historical background is of great importance to the future professional translator to enhance his/her status and be conscious of heritage of the discipline he /she has chosen to engage in. Also ,teaching or learning the history of translation by both translator trainees and practising translators is a crucial step into building professional translation aptitude since ‘ they develop a self concept as translators working in a specific historical situation’ like their fellow colleagues did over the ages . Brian Mossop (2003:49).

The importance of theory is another factor I may add. In this regard Ulrich (1996: 257) stipulates that:

“Members of all professions have a historical and theoretical component to their expertise. It is only against a theoretical background of translation that effective decision making and production can take place (…) the problem arises, therefore, of how to integrate a course on translation theory within the curriculum.”

Despite the negative attitude from the industry of translation towards theory, we, at the university should embed it and teach it intelligently to allow our students to be ethically responsible and aware of who they are. It is important that they will be agents of their own learning and decisions and depict the moral dimension of their professional activities once they are in the market place working .Certainly the industry tries to implant their industrial model which started since the 18th century, but in a university context we need only to court the industry and choose what is best for the students, for their psychological, social and personal development. Critical thinking is a virtue that is not privileged by industry. The latter wants students who have skills, but disinterested in their lifelong abilities and competencies. Providing such type of education could perhaps cure the disease of the long standing IDENTITY CRISIS for translators.

In terms of pedagogy, There should be mentoring , project work, case based as well as problem based methods embeded in the approach of teaching (teaching philosophy). The teaching method that focuses on the apprenticeship principles should not be applied after the 1st year of an undergraduate program in translation.Dynamic methods implants confidence, self esteem and self concept. Neverthless, the question remains where is teachers' abilities and competencies stand in this equation? . Hence, we are left with not only reviewing products (contents) or processes ( teaching/learning) but also human resources
 ( teachers/faculty and students alike). To review their knwoledge frameworks(beliefs) and learning/teaching styles as well as characteristics.