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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.


Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association (HETL)


The International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association (HETL) invites you to submit a proposal for a presentation at its 2014 International HETL Conference, to be held in Anchorage, in partnership with the University of Alaska Anchorage, June 8-10, 2014.  Proposals are solicited on all topics related to higher education including those involving new technologies and globalization related issues. Both scholarly and practice reports are invited. Proposals are especially favored on the conference theme: Impacts of Social and Mobile Media on Higher Education. As in our January 2013 conference at the University of Central Florida, participants will be from the gamut of academic disciplines across the arts, sciences, and professions, as well as from other administrative and staff functions delivering and supporting new technologies and approaches to learning. As with every HETL conference, we support participation from around the world. Please submit your proposal for a presentation before the July 26, 2013, deadline or simply join us as a conference attendee by registering. No proposal is required if you are attending but not presenting.   
To submit a presentation proposal go to . Go to  for more details on the conference.

It’s More Affordable than You May Think
The Anchorage area has many features that you will find interesting, including glaciers, majestic mountains, and a wide diversity of wildlife. The average June temperature is 16C/62F with sunny days. Airfare to Anchorage is more reasonably priced than we anticipated. For example, we discovered by checking that roundtrip airfare from New York to Anchorage around the time of the conference might be about $350, from London $1000, and Tokyo $1100. We anticipate that hundreds of rooms at the University of Alaska will be available for well under $100 as well as rooms at partnering hotels in Anchorage.

 We look forward to seeing you in Anchorage!
Patrick Blessinger and Charles Wankel, St. John’s University, New York
Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association

Saturday, 25 May 2013

The issues of Knowledge Frameworks and Ideologies in a translation program?? What is it?

Kearn (2008, 2006, 2012) had widely discussed the ongoing syndrome of the ''hidden curriculum'' in translation programs worldwide. He kept asking ' How is the conception of the translation course, its development and evaluation follow certain educationally sound and professional  guidelines that suit the local context of the students/institution ? who does that? what framework(s) they base their plannings (for the program) and interventions (in the classroom)? Do they refer to  the recent and ongoing advances discipline of translation studies and translation pedagogy? do they consciously plan, design and develop their courses(teachers) or they do that intuitively and instinctively with no clear objectives to achieve? is there a follow up system to check whether these intended outcomes were indeed achieved by faculty? How do assessment fits into this? do they assess the product (text translation) or the process (learning/performance process) ????

The above questions summarise my query for this communication : The knowledge that is vehiculed in a translation classroom by faculty (including students), and the curriculum/course design and development(including assessment ) issues.

From my preliminary review of the literature in the Arab World, and apart from the publications bemoaning the 'dificiencies' of the language students (Usually EFL students) in translation, none of these works have discussed widely and qualitatively the human factor in translator training programs (faculty, teacher, students). This case has been reported in other parts of the world as well (Kelly, 2009). In the case of teacher's pedagogical competencies and knowledge of the real world of translation (in-house or freelance), we have seen various confirmation of this issue by the very few and tiny committed Arab researchers in the field of translation teaching (Atari, Fargal, Buhmaid).

 It is important that faculty in translation programs receive the guidance and support they deserve to design their courses referring to knowledge frameworks SPECIFIC to the field : Translation Studies, the profession, and its pedagogy. Sticking to other 'inherited' types of knowledge (linguistics, literature) and sue them predominantly in a translation educational context contradicts the ORIGINALITY and FACE VALUE of a respectable translation program. 

Again, the epistemological (ideological) element is of crucial importance in such a PROFESSIONALLY oriented program within an academic(university ) context. There should not be a 'hit and miss' policy when it comes to setting up translation programs. It is a respectable discipline that has confirmed its presence worldwide, although in most of cases it has been catered and shelved under language departments, wider conferences, symposia, organisations, articles , journals and books have been published by various authors worldwide. People (administrators, faculty, industry, other stakeholders) who are directly/indirectly involved need to take the issue of building translation programs and selecting adequate human resources seriously to achieve quality based performance outcomes: students being trained to find a job in translation, teachers (through an action based type of pedagogy) would be able to improve their abilities and do better each semester after receiving students feedback, and the market (local employers) will also be content with their new employees (students).

To sum up, if we work on fixing the issues '' What type of knowledge should be privileged in a translation program/classroom ?'' and '' How can we get rid of the predominance of the ' hidden curriculum' syndrome where everyone (mostly lacking translation specific curriculum/ pedagogical as well as REAL WORLD translation knowledge) tries to design and teach translation courses for students who cannot see the face validity of the courses they taking? (why I study theory? why I study contrastive studies? why I translate these texts and not those? How is what I am studying now will benefit me in my translation career  ( the 21st century job market) ???


Thursday, 23 May 2013

Highlights on pedagogical concerns in translation programs at universities in the Gulf Region.

In this communication, I would like to share with you some reflections on a series of recent interviews I had with potential employees (universities) in three universities in the Gulf zone. I was pleased to hear the panelists asking very intriguing questions that gave me an idea of the increasing interests in the region for translator training. Even, in one of those universities, the HoD asked very interesting questions about my PhD research endeavour since it was related to teaching (with technology), which I appreciated a lot.

The common  questions I received by the three universities were:

- What is the difference between teaching EFL/ESL and teaching Translation?
- How do you design and develop a course in Translation for future translators?
-How do you teach theory of translation? How to do facilitate this course : lecturing or else?
- How do you integrate technology in teaching a translation course?
- How do you evaluate your students' learning and performance (translation students) ?
- How to do you organise your training/teaching for consecutive interpreting?

As you can see, these are very specific and intriguing questions. With all honesty, I was pleased that these questions were asked . At least, as a researcher, I know where the tendencies are heading in translation programs in the region (My research paper). For the readers of thsi blogue, I would like to keep you abreast of the current orientations in the Arab world (Specifically the Gulf region).

One more conclusion I would like to add is that the stakeholders' perception about translator training in the region (apart from few ...very few ( a couple) universities) still misinterprets the complexity of the discipline and the profession.Training a future qualified and professional translator (interpreter, reviser) would lead to transformations not only at the individual level (like in the case of the language students), but also ( and mostly) at the social and economic levels. Therefore, to have an adequate program of translation that could deliver that type of outputs needs competent HUMAN RESOURCES(Faculty) and OPTIMISED/WELL DESIGNED AND DEVELOPED Curricula and pedagogies in place.

Last, we need to be aware that students (the clients) are not daft. They are digital natives and they consult social media, online forums to see what is happening in their dicipline and future profession. I am sure that they will pin point to the absence of FRESH and MARKET oriented contenst as well as qualified human resources who could respond to their aspirations. Students' demographics, in addition to TRANSLATOR WORKING PATTERNS, have changed..........So, beware !!. New contentcs and pedagogies need to be catered for to satisfy these needs as well to those of the professional and local context.


Sunday, 19 May 2013

Translator Training in Higher Education : Pedagogy, Practice, Research and Educational Technology: BA programs (Translation Majors) in the Gulf Count...

Translator Training in Higher Education : Pedagogy, Practice, Research and Educational Technology: BA programs (Translation Majors) in the Gulf Count...: Few months ago, and as part of my ongoing PhD research enquiry, I was surveying the universities which deliver degrees, diplomas or certi...

BA programs (Translation Majors) in the Gulf Countries

Few months ago, and as part of my ongoing PhD research enquiry, I was surveying the universities which deliver degrees, diplomas or certificates in Translation (and languages) in the Arab world. I was checking their websites and see : 1) if they have a course outline displaying the objectives, types of activities and assessment methods designed by faculty (or the institution ) to that specific course in translation (or interpreting); 2) if they have them, I went to examine these elements (objectives, activities and assessment methods) to check if there is an alignment between them or not (in other words: if faculty or any stakeholder involved in this course design is/are consciously and aware of the various dimensions and implications of these designed elements). Above all, implications on students learning outcomes ( I mean meaningful and significant learning outcomes, such as applying what they learnt and creating something out of it on their own).

First round of this informal survey led us to conclude that :

  • Apart from very scarce universities/colleges in the Gulf countries, most of Translation or English and Translation departments have no anounced Course Outlines on their websites at all (Check Atari ( 2012); Buhmaid (1995)) on that matter. We believe, and for the sake of enhancing quality teaching/learning in the program, to display CLEAR and FUNCTIONAL/DOABLE course outlines that will give an idea about the type of teaching philosophy/approach adopted in that specific education context for translator training and weather teaching is teacher or student centred. This is an important criteria nowadays in Higher Education. Translation is a very mutifaceted discipline and it makes sense to design appropriate domain specific pedagogies to be taught and learnt.

  • The contents of the surveyed translation programs seem to be geared more and more into teaching( rather than training or coaching). It is OK to teach first and second year translation students lecture based contents, but not the third year or finalists.This could be a case in the Arab World, but here in Canada soon after semester 2, students engage in the real world of translation and receive a mix of teaching at the university and training at their place of internship. Context may decide the type of pedagogical  planning we need to decide on .

  •  I also noticed the amount of theory taught in the contents of these programs. This will not be helpful in the case of training future translation professionals. There is a lack of real world factor in those programs ( I hardly saw courses on ''Research methods and Documentation for translators'', '' terminology extraction '' , ''language technologies'', '' revision", '' courses on professional aspects of translation'', '' project management for translators''........................etc. It is high time to renew the contents.

  • As per the pedagogical part, I am not sure yet whether  teachers (faculty) base their classroom intervention on educational approaches/models specific to translator training/ translation teaching at all ( like socio-constructivism (Kiraly, 2000, 2003), constructivism) or active pedagogies to organise practical translation work like the Problem Based Approach PBL (Cormier, 2007), or the Project Based Approach (Gouadec, 2007; Kiraly 2003, 2012).

Due to space limits, I will limit my preliminary remarks on the above four points. Perhaps I can leave the remaining points to be discussed in another post.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Minutes from the Conference I attended this week on Translation ( Practice, teaching and theory).

Between the 6th and 10th Mai 2013, Laval University (Quebec) hosted the 82nd round of the Acfas Conference (Reuniting all french speaking universities in the world). I delivered my communication on enhancing educational technology in translator training to improve teaching and learning outcomes.

It was a great experience for me. I totally enjoyed being amongst most of the members of my community/peers. We exchanged ideas and debated issues in relation to the field of translation studies, technologies for translators, translator industry and translator education and training. Further, I came to know and network with many colleagues ( professors and PhD students) here in Canada. It was great to get to know them in person instead of only reading their articles in international magazines on Translation.

This event had boosted my confidence (especially in giving conferences in french :)) ) and contextualised my progress and was also a self -evaluation test to improve my ongoing learning curve and pathway. In this conference, many issues were raised and here the ones that attracted my attention :

  • It is not enough to be proficient in your subject field (only), but also on how to vehicle and monitor other types of knowledge : Pedagogy/Andragogy as well as knowledge of how to use technology in your teaching ( Given the fact we are in a knowledge based society)

  • Virtual and Distance learning in translation programme : a trend of the future.

  •  Seeking to innovate in curriculum and courses design (new types of contents needed)

  • Multilingualism is very important as well as translating into the non-mother tongue (L2)

  • Stressing the social mission of the university in training translators in Higher Education : educating socially functionning citizens that could use their abilities all along their life and not only to convert words and structures.

  • Role of the Translator vis-a-vis technology: the need to emphasise the agency of the translator as a decision maker in the industry and not only a word engineer.

In brief these are the major points that were raised and discussed in the two days session I attended.