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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.


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