Addressing the Challenges of Designing a General Translation Course for Undergraduate Students

By Marta Chodkiewicz (Maria Curie-Sklodowska University, Poland)

Abstract & Keywords

Introductory courses in translation can have a powerful impact on students’ initial translation competence, which will continue to develop as a result of further training and experience. In my article I discuss how I have faced the challenges in designing such a course for second-year students of Applied Linguistics in Poland. I first address the issue of selecting and introducing translation theories, since if students are to deliver high‑quality translation products, they need to adopt a functionalist approach towards translation and use appropriate strategies based on the analysis of the given translation situation. Some information concerning relevant extra-textual factors may need to be elicited from clients, whom students need to be able to communicate with; to give the students an opportunity to practise this skill, the course is organised so as to simulate working with the client. I also focus on text selection, arguing for setting the bar high from the outset and selecting texts of various types which require a certain amount of cultural or other background knowledge, and thus make it necessary for students to carry out research. Fostering basic research skills is another important issue, considering the fact that several studies show that translation novices tend to rely exclusively, and rather uncritically, on bilingual dictionaries. The final challenge in the discussed course design is assessment: my main concern is bringing it close to real-life conditions. To close the article, I briefly present the results of a survey in which 48 students evaluated the above-mentioned aspects of the course in terms of how important they might be for their future jobs, and how well they had been implemented in the course.

Keywords: assessment, functionalist approaches, course design, translation competence, translator training

©inTRAlinea & Marta Chodkiewicz (2014).
"Addressing the Challenges of Designing a General Translation Course for Undergraduate Students"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Challenges in Translation Pedagogy
Edited by: Maria Piotrowska & Sergiy Tyupa
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2107

1. Introduction

In recent years, a number of multi-componential models of translation competence have been proposed. Some of them have been criticised for their reliance on a positivist epistemology, which, as argued by Kiraly (2013), cannot adequately account for the complexity of translation competence, and for the fact that they are ‘flat and static from a pedagogical perspective’ (Kiraly 2013: 202). Valid as these critical remarks are, the models can still be useful for translator educators as they point to, at least, some of the knowledge and skills whose development should be fostered in translation courses. One of the most influential models, which was used as a starting point for designing the course discussed in this article, is the PACTE model (2003). This model is based on studies of communicative competence and expert knowledge, relevant research in other disciplines, earlier models of translation competence and its acquisition, as well as empirical research into written translation (PACTE 2003: 44–7), and was revised according to the results of empirical studies since its first version was developed in 1998 (see PACTE 2000). Numerous elements of this model have been incorporated into other models, in particular, the model of translation competence by Göpferich (2009) and the cognitive model of ‘translator’s competence’ by Alves and Gonçalves (2007). Other well-known multi-componential models of translation competence include the model of ‘translator competence’ by Kiraly (2006) and the so-called ‘EMT reference framework for the competences applied to language professions and translation’ (EMT group 2009). The latter model defines the competences which are to be acquired by students in degree programmes that belong to a network of EU-approved programmes of second-cycle studies.

The PACTE group (2005: 611) identified three sub-competences, which they argue are acquired by translators, but not necessarily by other multilinguals, and thus can be considered ‘translation-specific’. These competences or some of their elements are also represented, albeit in different ways, in the other models of translation competence mentioned above. The design of the course in question is mainly based on these three competences as conceptualised by PACTE, although elements of other models which were found particularly relevant were also taken into consideration.

The first competence related specifically to translation identified by the PACTE group is the ‘knowledge about translation sub‑competence’ which consists mainly of declarative knowledge (PACTE 2003: 59) and includes ‘knowledge of the principles that guide translation (processes, methods and procedures, etc.) and the profession (types of translation briefs, users, etc.)’ (PACTE 2005: 610). One aspect of professional translation hinted at by PACTE and emphasised to a greater extent in the EMT model (2009) is knowing how to communicate with the client. This aspect is part of the ‘interpersonal dimension’ of the ‘translation service provision competence’ that lies in the centre of the EMT model (2009) and merges some of the features of  PACTE’s ‘knowledge about translation’ and ‘strategic’ sub‑competences. One of the aims of such communication may be to ‘clarify the requirements [...] and purposes of the client, recipients of the translation and other stakeholders’ (EMT 2009: 4).

The second component of the PACTE model that translators need to develop is the ‘instrumental sub‑competence’. It primarily involves procedural knowledge related to the use of various reference materials and tools, including electronic ones, which assist the translator in research and translation (PACTE 2003: 59; 2005: 610). The EMT model (2009) comprises two competences which have similar features, namely the ‘information-mining competence’ and ‘technological competence’. It is worth noting that emphasis is laid on the ‘effective’ use of sources of information and being able to approach them in a ‘critical’ way (EMT 2009: 6).

The third translation-specific competence, the ‘strategic sub-competence’, is at the heart of the PACTE model and is responsible for planning, executing and evaluating the translation project (PACTE 2003: 59). These processes involve using knowledge related to the translation situation in order to produce a text which is in line with the client’s requirements and the translation situation, a skill which is part of the ‘production dimension’ of the ‘translation service provision competence’ in the EMT model (2009: 5). It is also emphasised that this sub-competence activates the other sub-competences, compensates for deficiencies, as well as diagnoses and solves translation problems (PACTE 2005: 610). It should be added that according to PACTE’s (2011) findings, expert translators’ ‘strategic’ and ‘knowledge about translation’ competences are underpinned by a dynamic (functionalist), rather than a literal approach towards translation.

The PACTE model (2003) comprises two other sub-competences which are not possessed exclusively by translators, but are shared by bilinguals and foreign language teachers as well, and thus are not considered ‘translation-specific’, namely the ‘bilingual sub-competence’ and ‘extra-linguistic sub‑competence’. The model also includes ‘psychophysiological components’, which consist of ‘cognitive and behavioural aspects’ and ‘psychomotor mechanisms’ (PACTE 2005: 610).

As for translation competence acquisition, or ‘emergence’ (Kiraly 2013), the PACTE group (2000: 103–4) state that not only do novices need to acquire the sub-competences they lack and restructure existing ones in this process, but the interaction between particular sub-competences, guided by the ‘strategic sub-competence’, also needs to be improved. This view is echoed in the models of ‘narrow-band’ (novice) and ‘broadband’ (expert) translators developed by Alves and Gonçalves (2007: 50–2). These two models additionally depict novices’ ‘specific translator’s competence’ that is responsible for translating source text units into target text units as isolated from meta-cognition and self-awareness, which accounts for the fact that they have little control over the translation process. Along the same lines, Kiraly’s (2013: 207–9) three-dimensional models of ‘incipient translator proficiency’ and ‘instantiated competence in an expert translator’s translatory moment’ show a substantial difference in the number and complexity of the links between particular sub-competences in novice and expert translators (see also Kiraly’s 2013 ‘model of the emergence of translator competence’).

2.  Course context and goals

The course whose design is presented in this article is a course in general translation called ‘translating general texts’ and it is offered to students pursuing a BA programme in Applied Linguistics who specialise in translation. It is one-term long and is taken by students in the second year, which is when they start their classes in translation. Apart from this class, the students also take a sight translation class, a CAT tools class, and a lecture in translation theory. In their third year they move on to specialised translation, strategies and techniques of audiovisual or literary translation and consecutive interpreting. Due to the introductory nature of the course and its short duration, it was decided that it would be designed with a view to providing the students with basic and immediately useful knowledge and skills in translation, which would continue to develop as a result of classroom and professional experience they would gain in the future.

In order to set the goals of the course, I focused on fostering the development of the key competences specific for translation and stimulating their interaction. Taking into account the insights provided by the studies of translation competence and its acquisition presented in the Introduction, the overarching aim of the course is for the students to learn how to proceed strategically while translating, and to simultaneously:

  • adopt a functional approach towards translation;
  • use information sources critically and effectively;
  • communicate with the client in an appropriate way when necessary.

The course is designed in such a way that the entire ‘bundle’ of competences (see Kiraly 2013) is trained in most of the tasks, which should help foster their interaction. This means that most frequently the students translate texts which require making strategic decisions, the key to which is functionalism. In order to provide successful translations they also often have to communicate with the client to obtain the information they need and to use appropriate information sources. The tasks are specifically designed for the purposes of the course and either simulate real-life translation tasks, or mirror real tasks that were completed by professional translators, thus they are ‘authentic or near-authentic’ (Risku 2010: 101). There are also sessions when special attention is paid to particular sub-competences; however, this is always done in the context of one or several translation assignments. Emphasis is laid on promoting flexibility in making use of any schemes and concepts which the students may develop while dealing with particular translation tasks, and on stimulating the students’ ‘interaction with the present situation or context’ (Risku 2010: 100).

3.  Selected aspects of course design: discussion

In the following sections I present the key aspects of course design related to the course goals. I discuss the way these aspects have been incorporated in the course and the rationale behind particular decisions regarding their implementation. I occasionally refer to the results of a survey (see Chodkiewicz 2014) which was conducted in order to investigate the students’ perceptions of the course. The survey, whose results are summarised in Section 4 of the article, provided substantial feedback and led me to introduce some modifications in the course.          

3.1. Functional translation theories

The primary aim of the course is for the students to develop their strategic sub-competence, which is responsible, among others, for proceeding strategically when translating. Strategic behaviour in a particular translation task is marked by the awareness of ‘the criteria that a specific target text (TT) section has to fulfil in order to be an adequate correspondent for the respective ST unit’ and thus can be seen as ‘the opposite of guessing’ (Göpferich 2011: 8). If a translation is to be successful, that is useful in a particular situation, the translator’s behaviour needs to be underpinned by a dynamic or functionalist approach, which is oriented towards sense, the function of the text and the needs of target-text recipients, rather than by a literal approach to translation (PACTE 2011: 39). It can be expected that the students will exhibit the latter approach at the beginning of the course, since, as many studies have shown (Göpferich 2010; Jääskeläinen 1993; Jääskeläinen and Tirkkonen-Condit 1991; Kussmaul 1995; and Lörscher 1992), novices often have a sign-oriented and non-strategic approach towards translation. Apart from trying to predict the students’ preconceptions about translation based on the results of research, I also make some observations regarding their initial approach towards translation during group and whole-class discussions of Savory’s (1957: 49) contrasting pairs of statements concerning translation, which are held in the introductory session, and during the first sessions before the functionalist approach is introduced, when the students try to explain the decisions they made in a particular task, or, as is often the case, are unable to explain them.

There are several translation theories which embody the functionalist approach to translation. However, as I have found in my teaching career, some students are poorly motivated to expand their knowledge about translation theories, especially when they are not made aware of their practical implications. Considering this fact and the practical and introductory nature of the course, I decided to include a minimum amount of theory in the course and introduce it in a ‘contextualised’ way (Colina 2003: 64–5). As far as selecting translation theories is concerned, I refer to two theories within the functionalist paradigm which provide a solid framework for making strategic decisions and are relatively easily applicable in a pedagogical setting (see Colina 2003), namely Nord’s (1997) translation brief and Reiss’s (1971/2000, 1977/1989) typology of text types. In order to encourage students to make use of these theories, I not only demonstrate their usefulness in several different translation tasks; it is equally important to show the students the consequences of operating on insufficient information concerning the translation situation, and proceeding in a non-strategic, sign-oriented way.

If one assumes that at the beginning of the course most students are likely to exhibit a literal approach towards translation, and by the end of the course a shift to a more functionalist approach is to occur, then within that time some sort of conceptual change needs to take place. One of the ways of inducing conceptual change is creating cognitive conflict, or a state of disequilibrium (for a review of the terms used to denote this concept see Lee and Kwon 2011: 3), which can be done among others by using anomalous data (Limón 2001: 358; for an extensive discussion on using cognitive conflict to foster the development of translation competence see Bergen 2009). This is done during one of the first sessions in the course by putting the students in a situation where they need to make decisions regarding several translation problems, including an anomaly concerning a time reference in one of the texts. If they approach the problems in a non-strategic way, then they are merely able to offer several different solutions, but do not know how to make a decision. The only option they have at this point is guessing, or, at best, making not very well informed guesses, which they are not confident about. The aim of this experience is to make them feel ‘dissatisfaction with [their] existing concepts’ (Posner et al. 1982: 214), which is one of the prerequisites for conceptual change. Students are expected to realise that if they are to make a rational choice, they need to adopt a certain strategy for dealing with the text and they require a framework for doing that, which the theories representing the functionalist approach provide.

The terms ‘framework’ and ‘approach’ are particularly pertinent since, as stated by Hönig and Kussmaul (quoted in Hönig 1998: 10, emphasis in the original), ‘translation theory [...] must provide support for decision-making strategies but it cannot and must not establish rules in lieu of decision-making’. Explicit rules are to serve as scaffolding for novices, which can later be replaced with more flexible behaviour, and ultimately with relying on ‘reflexive, theory and experience-based intuition’ (Risku 1998, quoted in Risku 2010: 103). After the students have been faced with this situation, they are more open to discussing the selected theories. As mentioned above, the theories are immediately put into practice, which allows the students to see that they are useful for solving concrete translation problems. If students realise the benefits of adopting a functional approach compared to using their existing approach, they are likely to perceive this new approach as ‘initially plausible’, which  increases the chances that they will indeed accept and adopt it (Posner et al. 1982: 214).  In the survey regarding the course (see Chodkiewicz 2014), several students indeed acknowledged the usefulness of these theories, in particular for choosing a suitable approach towards the translation task.  

During the session in which functionalist approaches are introduced, students are also made aware to what extent a brief is necessary in various situations. Being able to identify one’s information needs has an impact on communicating with the client (this aspect is discussed in detail in Section 3.2). An explicit brief is absolutely crucial when certain elements of the translation situation are subject to radical change, such as the function of the text, motivation for its production/reception or medium over which it is to be transmitted. The brief may, however, be redundant when dealing with conventional assignments (Nord 1997: 31) or with texts from returning clients (Vermeer 1989/2000: 229), and when the relevant information, including the purpose of the text and its addressees, can be deduced from the translation situation with reasonable certainty (Vermeer 1989/2000: 229).

3.2. Communicating with the client

According to the functional approach, the key to making decisions when translating may lie in considering extra-textual factors or other factors which cannot be deduced from the translation situation (in particular the reader and place of target text publication/reception, which usually change). If the information that the translator has received is insufficient for providing a successful, functional translation, he or she may need to elicit more information from the client. Once the students have faced difficulties in solving translation problems and become acquainted with functional approaches, as described in Section 3.1, special attention is paid to communicating with the client. The need to cooperate with the client is very likely to be a new concept for the students, similarly as the need to consider the translation situation when translating instead of producing translations, as it were, ‘in a vacuum’. This means that conceptual change needs to take place in this respect as well, and for this reason this component of translation competence is emphasised and trained in the course.

In order to provide the students with several opportunities to practise this skill, as well as to encourage autonomy, the instructor acts as the client when distributing translation assignments, which – to further emphasise the fact that this is a simulation of a real life situation – are called ‘translation jobs’. The practical issue in course design was how to organise such communication from a technical point of view. At first, a discussion forum on a Moodle-based platform was used for in-class assignments and individual communication was utilised for the final assignment. However, the discussion forum was criticised by several students (see Chodkiewicz 2014) who pointed out that it only involved a small number of people, which is a natural consequence of having one forum for three dozen students, but some students also admitted that they did not ask questions because they were afraid of being mocked. It was impossible for the instructor to communicate with the students individually during each assignment, but a compromise between using a forum and individual communication was found, which was using group e-mails for communicating during classroom assignments. The groups usually have about a dozen students each, so it was expected that the number of persons asking questions would increase and the fear of asking questions would be reduced. At the same time individual communication has been retained for the final assignment, and also for a mock assignment which has been introduced, in order to keep it closer to real-life conditions and give the students further opportunity to practise their skills, including communicating with the client.

Although the students’ communication with the client or lack thereof is not graded in the final assignment, it is often commented upon in class. The exchanges with the client are discussed mainly in terms of the information the students asked for, whether it was relevant for a given translation assignment or not, and the language they used to ask questions.

3.3. Information mining and using tools

In most of the sessions, the students and the instructor quote sources to support their decisions and comment on these sources, mainly on their reliability and usefulness in a particular translation situation. However, there is one session specifically devoted to using online sources of information and tools in translation and compiling glossaries aimed at developing the students’ ‘instrumental sub-competence’, which the students have rated particularly high (see Chodkiewicz 2014). This class is structured in such a way that the students receive a list of typical translation problems. They need to solve the problems at home and keep a record of the sources they used, as well as the results of their searches so as to be able to present them in class. The students are explicitly asked to try to avoid using bilingual dictionaries, since, as multiple studies have shown, novices tend to rely predominantly and rather uncritically on these sources (Barbosa and Neiva 2003; Faber 1998; Krings 1986; Kussmaul 1995; and Ronowicz et al. 2005).

During the session the sources the students used to solve the translation problems are discussed, with a focus on whether or not they were reliable and useful in a particular case. The translation problems serve as an opportunity for the instructor to introduce several sources, most of which are new to the students, and demonstrate how they can help solve typical translation problems. The sources some students already use include monolingual dictionaries, which usually provide more accurate information as to the meaning, register, tone  and use of certain words than most bilingual dictionaries. Information concerning word usage can also be found in collocations dictionaries and corpora consisting of naturally occurring texts written by native speakers of a given language. During the session the students learn how to use the basic functions of the British National Corpus and the Corpus of Contemporary American English. They are also shown how to make searches in the National Corpus of Polish and Eur-Lex, a multilingual corpus  consisting of EU legal acts. Another useful method presented in this session which helps restrict the results to pages that are more likely to have been written by native speakers and are more reliable is filtering search results by country or site. The students are additionally acquainted with webpages dedicated to correctness in Polish, and with the concordance program Ant-Conc, which can be used, among others, to prepare for translating longer texts and to compile glossaries. Preparing glossaries is briefly discussed, in particular the way they are applied (personal use by translators, assuring consistency of terminology in large projects, etc.) and the basic principles of creating definitions.

3.4.  Assessment method

Apart from having multiple opportunities to discuss their translation solutions with the instructor, and the other students as the whole class, and in groups, the participants of the course can have their written translations assessed by the teacher twice throughout the term. There is an optional mock assignment, as requested by the students in the survey (see Chodkiewicz 2014), whose purpose is formative; it is to help students become aware of their strengths and areas for improvement, and prepare them for the final translation assignment. The aim of the final translation assignment is not only summative but also formative, since apart from receiving grades, the students are also given extensive feedback. They are obliged to consult their work after it has been graded and revise it, as described in detail in Section 3.5. In the final assignment a range of different texts, both in English and in Polish, similar to those in class in terms of text type and/or topic are assigned randomly among the students.

The students are allowed to complete both assignments at home. The main advantage of such a form of assessment is that it is close to the real working conditions of professional translators, since the students are able to use all available resources. In addition, they can practise skills such as communicating with the client (they do so individually, as mentioned in Section 3.2) and time management. However, this form of assessment also has a major disadvantage, which is the high risk of cheating, although this risk is partially reduced by the wide variety of texts distributed. It is also worth mentioning that, arguably, when it comes to real-life working conditions, it is not unusual for translators to consult other people, such as experts in a certain field, or to work in teams.

3.5. Assessment criteria and feedback

As emphasised by Colina (2009: 239), ‘quality in translation is a multi-faceted reality, and [...] a general comprehensive approach to evaluation may need to address multiple components quality simultaneously’. Since in this course it is assumed that strategic behaviour based on functionalism is a prerequisite for producing successful translations, the main assessment criterion is whether a translation is functional or not. Other criteria which are applied are adapted from the ones used by the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (2014). The first three criteria are related to preserving the meaning of the source text, and these are accurate transfer of content, omissions and additions. Omissions and additions as such are not considered problematic, as long as they are justified and are part of a strategy which is appropriate in a particular translation. The remaining criteria concern the adequacy of the target text and they include the following: appropriate terminology, appropriate register/style, consistency, grammar/syntax, spelling, punctuation, layout and coherence. It is generally assumed that the source text should either be mirrored or improved in the target text in terms of these categories. The instructor additionally uses the designation ‘sense’, when the TT reader may have problems with understanding the translation. Out of all the criteria, problems related to text function, transfer of content and sense are considered the most severe. The idea to use ITI criteria and symbols to represent them in assessing work done in translation courses was first presented to me by Beata Kaźmierczak (personal communication, 2010), course tutor at the University of Surrey and ITI examiner.

As far as feedback is concerned, some developments have been introduced in order to make the final assessment more formative and foster the development of the skills in revising one’s work and justifying one’s translation decisions, which are part of the ‘production dimension’ of the ‘translation service provision competence’ in the EMT model (2009: 5). There are now two separate occasions on which the students work with their assessed translations. First, they receive their translations with written feedback, but mainly in the form of symbols, without suggestions as to how to make amendments. Then the students spend one session reviewing their work, during which they are allowed to use electronic resources. When dealing with a section which has been marked as problematic by the instructor, they can either revise it or justify their decision, quoting sources to support it if necessary. The second option is particularly relevant when it comes to problems with text function, for instance, related to judging the expectations of the readers. The students may be able to prove that a decision which the instructor found unsuitable in a given translation situation, is in fact, plausible. If considerable improvements are made, the grade for the translation may be increased. In the second session devoted to their work, the students have an opportunity to receive feedback on their corrections, as well as being able to compare their translation against the best translations of their text submitted by other students.

3.6. Text difficulty

In this course ‘general texts’ are understood as consumer-oriented or pragmatic texts, which, as opposed to ‘specialised texts’, do not require substantial knowledge in a given subject area and its terminology to be comprehended and translated. However, as already mentioned, the course is deliberately designed to include texts which were highly challenging (and the students are made aware of this fact at the beginning of the course), which has two major benefits. First of all, this makes it possible for the students to develop their translation competence consistently with the goals of the course, as they come across several translation problems which require making strategic decisions, need to conduct a fair amount of research and usually have to contact the client. Secondly, as has been mentioned, the students have an opportunity to deal with ‘authentic or near-authentic’ texts (Risku 2010: 101).

In general, text difficulty was rated as appropriate by the students and both of these benefits were noticed and appreciated, but the students admitted they needed help in dealing with some of the most difficult texts (see Chodkiewicz 2014). Thus support with comprehension before translating some of them has been provided.

3.7.  Text types

During the course the students have an opportunity to work with a wide range of common text types. This helps raise their awareness of text functions (as listed by Reiss 1971/2000 and 1977/1989), which are frequently combined in the so-called ‘mixed text types’, and makes it possible for the students to learn to adopt appropriate strategies to make the target text fulfil its function. Most of the texts are primarily informative and concern different topics. These are, for instance, a website document on using NHS services, a leaflet for employees on working time, an interview with a nutritionist or a PowerPoint presentation on the Polish Teachers’ Association. Texts which are mainly operative include a TV commercial and a leaflet with instructions on how to make emergency calls. Expressive texts as such are not included in the course, but some of the texts have expressive elements. The PP presentation and TV commercial (multi-media texts, another text type mentioned by Reiss 1971/2000) pose additional challenges connected with the constraints of the channels via which the message is to reach the receivers. The text that is used to introduce the theories by Reiss (1971/2000 and 1977/1989) and Nord (1997) is a newspaper article on a black civil rights leader. This is a mixed text: it is primarily informative, but it has an operative function as well, as its purpose is not only to inform but also to entertain readers, to which end expressive elements, such as puns, are used.

4.  Summary of survey results: students’ perception of the course

In February 2013 a survey was conducted among 48 students who had completed the course. Some of the modifications based on its results have been presented in the sections above. The students were to rate the usefulness of particular aspects of the course in their future job and the effectiveness of their implementation on a Likert scale (from 1 to 5). A comment section was additionally provided for each question about each aspect, as well as an additional section for miscellaneous comments.

Aspect Usefulness  in future job Effectiveness of implementation
Mean SD Mean SD
1. Functionalist approaches (theories and using them in practice) 4.24 0.77 3.99 0.75
2. Practising working with a client 4.57 0.78 4.28 0.88
Communicating with the client using the discussion forum for classroom 4.44 0.9 4.09 0.95
Communicating with  the client individually during the final translation assignment 4.69 0.66 4.46 0.8
3. Developing one’s research skills 4.75 0.57 4.23 0.95
4. Being able to do the final translation assignment at home (and form of assessment in general) 4.6 0.57 4.08 0.82
5. Assessment (marking the final assignment) 4.48 0.71 4.38 0.67
6. Translating texts representing different text types 4.75 0.57 4.49 0.66
7. Translating texts of appropriately high difficulty 4.6 0.64 4.3 0.87
All in bold 4.57 0.66 4.25 0.8

Table 1. Survey results: mean values for Likert scale scores
and standard deviations (adopted from Chodkiewicz 2014: 222)

As shown in Table 1, in general, the aspects of the course mentioned in the survey were seen as highly useful in a potential future job as a professional translator (mean = 4.57), and as having been implemented effectively in the course (mean = 4.25). The aspects which were rated as the most useful pertained to skills in doing research and using tools, to the wide variety of text types (both with a mean score = 4.75), and to individual communication with the client during the final translation assignment (mean = 4.69). The last two aspects were also rated high in terms of their implementation (mean = 4.49 and 4.46, respectively), along with marking in the final assignment (mean = 4.38). As mentioned in Sections 3.2 and 3.4 dedicated to working with the client (using the discussion forum) and the form of assessment, the students made some critical remarks about these aspects, which were reflected in the relatively low scores for implementation (mean = 4.09 and 4.08, respectively). The aspect which was rated the lowest of all, both in terms of its usefulness in the future job (mean = 4.24) and the effectiveness of its implementation (mean = 3.99) were functionalist translation theories and using them in practice. Although the ratings for this aspect were quite high when considered independently, and this was reflected in the positive comments made by the students (see Section 3.1), some students still saw their usefulness as limited and felt that they had not been addressed frequently enough during the course, which is why functional approaches are now referred to more explicitly and systematically throughout the course.

5.  Conclusion

The course described in this article seeks to help students develop three basic components of translation competence, which can be found in several influential models, namely making decisions based on a dynamic approach towards translation, using information resources in an effective and critical way, and communicating with the client in order to obtain information necessary to provide a successful translation. Authentic and challenging tasks are to encourage the students to use all three components in an integrated way, adopting a strategic approach towards translation. The knowledge and skills developed by the students during the course are to be further improved, extended and applied in a flexible way depending on a given situation which they may encounter in their translation classes, internships or professional practice. 

The survey which was conducted in order to investigate the students’ perception of the course showed that the focal aspects of course design were generally rated high in terms of their potential usefulness in the job of a translator and the effectiveness of their implementation in the course. Based on the students’ ratings and comments, some modifications have been introduced in course design, with a view to increasing student participation by providing more opportunities for individual assessment and communication with the client. Efforts have also been made to draw more attention to putting translation theory into practice and make it possible for the students to practise their skills in revision and justifying their translation decisions. In the future, the course will be extended to two terms, opening avenues for introducing process-based training and activities that encourage more metacognitive reflection.

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About the author(s)

Marta Chodkiewicz works as a lecturer at the Department of Applied Linguistics at Maria Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin, Poland. Her research interests include translator education and training, the development and measurement of translation competence and methods of investigating the translation process. She is currently working on a PhD thesis which concerns the development of translation competence in novice translators.

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©inTRAlinea & Marta Chodkiewicz (2014).
"Addressing the Challenges of Designing a General Translation Course for Undergraduate Students"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Challenges in Translation Pedagogy
Edited by: Maria Piotrowska & Sergiy Tyupa
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
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