Sunday, July 28, 2013

What Do You Learn from Studying Translation?

Obviously, people get a wide range of things from a BA, MA, or PhD program in translation, or even from just taking a class or two in translation. You can improve your language skills, you can learn about translation theory and its application to or influence on practical translation work, you can make contacts, you improve your writing and editing abilities, you can learn to analyze texts in a new way, and so on.

But recently, I had the chance to ask some of our MA students in translation how they’d changed or developed over the course of the year and what they’d learned about translation, and their answers were fascinating. There were a number of different replies and they had the variety one would expect, covering some of the things mentioned above. However, there was one response that every single student gave.

All the students said they’d entered the program thinking that translation was just about equivalence and they thought there was always a right or wrong way to translate a text. But over the course of the year, they said, they learned that translation is much more complex than that, and that translation is a broader task and field than they’d realized. They laughed at how na├»ve they’d been and said how interesting it was to learn about many different strategies and approaches for translation. They said they translated more thoughtfully now, not just picking the first word or phrase that came to them, but really considering a range of options before deciding on one.

It was amazing to hear that they all had this in common and that reminded me how worthwhile all the time and effort we put in to our teaching us. This shows how much you can develop over just a few months or a year, and how radically your ideas on a topic can change.


Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner said...

Great insight, thanks so much for sharing! I teach in an online certificate program (University of California, San Diego-Extension), so I get a wide range of skill levels. However, I'd say that most students have told me that by the end of my short 5-week course, they realize that being bilingual is simply the minimum requirement,

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner said...

Sorry, meant to put a period at the end. Fat fingers. :)

cupcake said...

I did an MA in translation and I have to agree with every single thought you expressed here. I too thought that translation is an 'automatic' process of which anyone speaking given languages is capable. Another thing I realised is that, sadly, not everyone can become a good translator, even if they know their languages extremely well.

B.J. Epstein said...

Yes, I agree with you both -- knowing your languages really well is only the first step, and being bilingual does not necessarily make a great translator!

Best wishes,