A contextual case study-based methodology of teaching business translation: an overview

By Marcin Walczyński (University of Wrocław, Poland)


The aim of this article is to discuss business translation training, paying particular attention to a case study-based methodology of teaching business translation in real or semi-real circumstances with the use of authentic (or semi-authentic) documents, related to the business and cultural reality of a given pair of source and target language countries. The paper starts with some preliminary remarks on business English and business translation. Following is an overview of Polish methods of teaching business translation at the tertiary level. Then, the article presents the main assumptions of the case study-based methodology of teaching business translation, focusing on a variety of business translation trainees’ skills and competences developed within a course taught in the spirit of this methodology. Finally, some remarks are made on the selection of materials for such a course, case study participants playing different roles in case studies as well as the course of each case study and the evaluation form used in this methodology. It seems that along with the growing internationalisation of the economy and business at large, the Anglicisation of their linguistic dimensions and the more and more important role assigned to the English language, the methodology of teaching business translation presented herein seems to respond well to the needs for the education and training of professional Polish-English business translators.

Keywords: business translation, business English, translator training, translation service market

©inTRAlinea & Marcin Walczyński (2015).
"A contextual case study-based methodology of teaching business translation: an overview"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Specialised Translation
Edited by: Daniel Gallego-Hernández
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: https://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2143

1. Introduction

The continuous globalisation and internationalisation of a growing number of human activity spheres are the cause of significant changes in business. One such internationalised aspect is the linguistic sphere of business. In other words, international business activity has become dominated by English which nowadays functions as a genuine lingua franca. However, the common use of this language in business has not reduced the need for professional business translations. This is observable in such countries as Poland whose accession to the European Union in 2004 and the growing number of roles it is assigned in the international arena have increased the involvement of foreign investors and thereby rapidly expanded the need for professional business translators who have not only an excellent command of both Polish and English but also expertise in business-related matters.

This paper examines the training of business translators in the Polish context by offering what is referred to here as ‘a case study-based methodology of teaching business translation’. However, before presenting the main assumptions underlying this methodology, the characteristics of business English and business translation are discussed. This will serve as a point of departure for the subsequent parts of this article. Following this is an overview of business translation teaching in Poland, of which several models are currently in use. The case study-based methodology of teaching business translation is discussed with reference to the concept of ‘translator competence’ which is developed within a business translation course taught by means of this methodology. Another crucial framework for discussing the methodology is that of the source and target languages and cultures for, as the author believes, teaching business translation should not be pursued in a theoretical vacuum or in an irrelevant context (that is, with reference to the countries of the languages which are neither source nor target). Finally, some remarks are made on the selection of teaching materials, the course of the case study and the projected benefits that teaching business translation in this way may bring.

Generally speaking, the paper is an attempt to show that the success of business translation teaching lies in the appropriate selection of both teaching methods and study materials which – in this particular case – involve case studies with authentic (or semi-authentic) business documents and modes of student work which may recur in the real-life business environment.

2. Business English and business translation

Business English is often classified as a specialised variety of English used in highly specialised contexts related to business activity. This language variety has become an object of linguistic study which is developing quite rapidly to embrace more and more aspects of business English such as specialised lexicon, grammar, discourse, stylistics, sociolinguistics, pragmatics or translation studies focusing on business discourse. The scholarly investigations into this specialised variety of English fall into the studies known under the umbrella term ‘Languages for Special Purposes’ (LSP). Basturkmen and Elder (2004: 672) define this concept in the following way:

LSP is generally used to refer to the teaching and research of language in relation to the communicative needs of speakers of a second language in facing a particular workplace, academic, or professional context. In such contexts language is used for a limited range of communicative events.

Business English is thus definitely a case in point as it fully adheres to the characteristics specified in the above description. What is more, due to such a widespread use of English in so many different fields, the term ‘English for Special Purposes’ (ESP) has come to be used on a regular basis both in the practice of language teaching as well as in the theoretical studies within applied linguistics.

Another term which is nowadays commonly used in the study of business English is ‘Business English as a Lingua Franca’ (BELF). In their often quoted definition, Louhiala-Salminen et al. (2005: 403-404) hold that:

BELF refers to English used as a ‘neutral’ and shared communication code. BELF is neutral in the sense that none of the speakers can claim it as her/his mother tongue; it is shared in the sense that it is used for conducting business within the global business discourse community, whose members are BELF users and communicators in their own right - not ‘non-native speakers’ or ‘learners’.

It can be thus stated that one of the major properties of business English is the fact that it is a real lingua franca of business communication and that for the vast majority of speakers it is not a first language and therefore all of such business English users are linguistically equal.

In today’s world, business English seems to be the predominant linguistic choice as far as any international and intercultural transactions are concerned. There are at least several reasons for that. First of all, English, not only in its business variety, is a real lingua franca of the world with approximately 335 million first language/native speakers and additional 505 million second/foreign language users (Ethnologue. Languages of the World 2014). It is the main language of Great Britain, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and (to a lesser extent) of Canada and South Africa, which together form an economically and politically powerful linguistic block. Its history of development is deeply rooted in business and commercial contacts in different parts of the world, for example, in Africa, Asia or Oceania, which is well manifested by numerous varieties of English and English-based pidgins and creoles. English is also a working language of many international institutions which may have several languages, like the European Union, but still English seems to be used most often. Moreover, this may lead to the development of such linguistic phenomena as ‘Eurojargon’, which exhibits the influences of other languages, has a reduced inventory of grammatical and lexical structures and, generally speaking, serves the needs of a ‘supranational culture’ (Snell-Hornby 2006: 142). What is more, due to its relatively easy lexical and grammatical structure, many people around the world learn this language and use it in their professional life involving commercial encounters with other foreigners. English is then a shared language, thanks to which professional communication can take place, leading thereby to successful business transactions. Nevertheless, such widespread use of English and the more and more common decent command of this language among businesspeople have not reduced the need for professional translation services in the field of business. The industry of business translation into and from English is therefore thriving with more and more business translators joining the profession every year. This can be illustrated by the data included in several press articles published on the Polish Internet websites about the increasing value of the translation industry and its forecast growth in the next years. Aleksandra Kozicka-Puch (2012), the author of one of such articles, claims that:

(…) approximately 90 per cent of translation orders come from the enterprises which enter the domestic market as well as from the Polish companies seeking their partners abroad. The greatest number of orders is placed by the financial sector companies and pharmaceutical concerns. Quite many orders come from insurance companies, from the new technology industry and widely understood consulting services. Law offices are also serious ordering parties of such services. (translated from Polish by the author himself)

In 2014 it was estimated that the global value of the translation industry had exceeded 35 billion US dollars whereas the Polish section of this industry was estimated to be worth approximately 265,000 US dollars. What is more, there were approximately 60,000 translation companies in Poland in 2014 and the predominant types of documents were business-related and specialised texts – legal or medical documents (Business Newseria 2014).

‘Business translation’ is a term which covers a whole range of different domain-specific types of translation. Under this heading, one may find translations of employment documents, financial statements, stock exchange reports, contracts and agreements as well as translation of legal documents such as court letters, court orders or company formation and registration documents. For the purpose of this article, business translation may be defined as a specialised type of translation which focuses on various manifestations of business discourse. As such, business translation is thus context-bound, which means that the major contextual setting in which the translated texts are to function is the business environment of the source and target language countries. As noted above, business translation can be further subdivided into specific theme-related categories such as financial translation, customer service translation, work setting translation, contract and agreement translation or publicity translation. Sometimes, legal texts can also be subsumed into business translation as is the case, for example, with contracts and agreements which are often regarded as legal documents functioning in a business environment.

In translation studies, business translation may be analysed from different angles and the functional approaches seem to address this type of translational activity well. Among the theories which can be applied to the studies of business translation are, for instance, Skopos theory, which highlights the purpose for which translation is made (for example, the purpose of business correspondence) (Reiss and Vermeer 1984), text type theory, which emphasises the role of text genre and the selection of relevant translation methods (for instance, informative or operative business texts) (Reiss 1977/89), the integrated approach, which tries to locate all translation types on a single continuum with special language translation (for example, business translation) being a point on this continuum (Snell-Hornby 1995), or translatorial action theory, which stresses the translation goal and outcome achieved within the process of translation (Holz-Mänttäri 1984).

Generally speaking, business English and business translation are nowadays quite important elements of language services. This is due to the fact that more and more business people realise the importance of this language in business communication, which can be seen in the continually growing number of professional business English language schools and business translation agencies. This, in turn, creates the need for modern approaches to both business English teaching and business translation that are more practice-oriented than theory-oriented. One way to address this need is the case study-based methodology of business English translation courses presented below.

3. Teaching business translation in Poland: an overview of methods

Business translation is taught in Poland in different schools, in different language pairs and in different ways. What has recently been observed as a recurrent trend is the re-development of the curricula of traditional language studies (those focusing on educating future language teachers or language, culture and literature specialists) and the introduction of translation modules or even separate translation specialisations. This is aimed at increasing the attractiveness of language studies as the Polish market of higher education is becoming more and more demanding and competitive due to the shrinking number of potential students. Such actions by tertiary education institutions are thus intended to encourage more young people to take up studies in more market-oriented fields, among which translation and/or interpreting studies are thought to be included.

The teaching of business translation in Poland is rather institutionalised. This means that there are some higher education institutions which offer courses in business translation. The most renowned tertiary education units are ‘classical’ universities with extensively developed faculties of modern languages and/or applied linguistics. Generally speaking, business translation courses are taught as modules of both B.A. and M.A. higher studies in languages and literatures (in Poland called ‘philologies’) or applied linguistics. Several Polish universities offer such studies (for example, Warsaw University, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, University of Silesia, University of Wrocław). Apart from those ‘classical’ universities, business translation is taught in other tertiary schools such as universities of applied sciences, higher business schools or technical universities. Quite a number of academic centres offer postgraduate studies in translation, of which business translation is a major component.

As far as the methods of teaching business translation are concerned, they usually involve translating business documents in class, with the help of a teacher, and discussing selected translation problems which arise in the course of work on the translation. Students typically work in one of several modes. They may work on the translation on their own, later discussing selected translation issues in class. They can work in pairs or in groups focusing on a selected fragment of the source text. Some teachers prefer to work with the entire group, asking students questions and eliciting target language fragments. It seems that the courses which comprehensively develop a multi-aspectual business translation competence are rather scarce. A short survey (done by the author himself for the purpose of this paper) of different syllabi available on the websites of higher education institutions in Poland has shown that actually only a few course descriptions provided information on other aspects of teaching business translation than the concentration on a variety of business texts. This may have several causes. First of all, the syllabi posted on university websites are sometimes of very meagre quality, thus not allowing potential students to become familiar with the real contents and materials of the course. Secondly, a business translation course may be part of a translation module whose general aim is to educate future translators who will be able to work in various contextual settings and hence be able to deal with texts of different nature. Thirdly, business translation courses are not always taught by teachers who have hands-on experience in translating business texts. Owing to the increasing specialisation of professional life, many academic teachers employed at language departments of universities limit themselves to teaching and carrying out scholarly activity in a highly restricted area (that is, English language grammar or Mediaeval English literature), having no time to involve in translation activity, let alone designing practical courses which go beyond their academic field. In informal communication, many of them declare their unwillingness to take up any translation, preferring language teaching instead. Some of them directly state that they have no skills in translation and therefore, when obliged to teach translation courses, they do it improperly, accentuating improper aspects of translator education. Radical improvements in this state of affairs are badly needed and only professional, knowledgeable and competent instructors, knowing the reality of the translation service industry, should teach such courses. Only then can such courses respond to the needs of professional translation training.

To sum up, business translation teaching at the tertiary level is developing in Poland as more and more universities and other tertiary education institutions have recently re-designed their curricula of language studies in order to attract more prospective students who wish to be employed in respected and potentially well-paid occupations such as the profession of a translator. Moreover, there is a shared belief among foreign language students, expressed in informal interviews, that translation skills are more useful in future professional life as they can be successfully used during employment in various industries (business, tourism, production, to name but a few) as opposed to language teaching skills whose area of application is – in this regard – rather limited.

4. Case study-based methodology of business translation teaching

The case study-based methodology of business translation teaching is based on the assumption that business translators have a multifaceted translator’s competence which allows professional translators to perform several tasks at a time (that is, multitasking), to meet the deadline, to maintain the highest quality of both the translation process and translation end product as well as to continually develop and update skills, competences and knowledge. Being a prolific domain of translation studies, translator’s competence, also referred to as ‘translation competence’, ‘translation skills’, ‘translation ability’, ‘translation expertise’, ‘translational competence’, (Albir 2010: 56) has attracted the interest of many scholars (cf. Alves & Gonçalves 2007, Bell 1991, Kelly 2005, PACTE 2003, Pym 2003, Shreve 2006).

There is a general agreement that translator’s competence consists of at least several important components, also known as subcompetences, which relate to a variety of skills, knowledge, attitudes, values and beliefs that each translator should possess. PACTE group, an academic group of translation scholars dealing predominantly with translation competence, is of the opinion that translation competence is inextricably related to expert declarative and procedural knowledge (PACTE 2003: 48). Their model is composed of several subcompetences: bilingual subcompetence (knowledge of languages), extra-linguistic subcompetence (thematic, cultural knowledge), transfer subcompetence (knowledge of translation processes, methods, techniques, strategies, procedures and the ability of applying them to the proper translation of a given text), instrumental/professional competence (information mining skills, documentation work skills, CAT tools, knowledge of the translation profession itself), strategic subcompetence (related to the translation process and its execution), psycho-physiological subcompetence (cognitive aspects, creativity, reasoning etc.). Another model worth referring to at this point is the one developed by Dorothy Kelly. Although criticised by some scholars, the approach taken by Kelly (2010: 89-90) who argues that translator’s competence should be composed of: communicative and textual competence, cultural and intercultural competence, subject area competence, professional and instrumental competence, psycho-physiological or attitudinal competence, interpersonal competence, strategic competence also seems to be relevant to the business translation teaching methodology under discussion. Equally interesting and relevant is the initiative of the European Master’s in Translation (EMT) expert group which has devised a model of translation training developing students’ translation competences. Their reference framework includes a set of competences important in providing high-quality translation services: translation service provision competence, language competence, intercultural competence, information mining competence, thematic competence, technological competence (Gambier 2009: 3-7).

The above models of translator’s/translation competence were a basis for suggesting the ‘five components of translators’ education’ (Walczyński and Kurcz 2013: 186). They hold that:

(…) the proper education of translators should be multi-faceted and comprehensive and therefore it should encompass what we call ‘five components of translators’ education’: language skills, translation skills, computer and CAT tool skills, target language culture awareness and area expertise.

It is both the above models of translator’s/translation competence and the five-component education model that the case study-based methodology is based on. First of all, let us explain what is meant by a ‘case study’ in this particular context. The understanding of the notion of a ‘case study’ is derived from both social sciences and business sciences. By and large, a case study is:

[d]ocumented study of a specific real-life situation or imagined scenario, used as a training tool in business schools and firms. Students or trainees are required to analyze the prescribed cases and present their interpretations or solutions, supported by the line of reasoning employed and assumptions made. (Business Dictionary 2014)

The case-study methodology of teaching business translation is thus a simulation of a real-life translation process, within which a multitude of aspects relevant to the profession of a translator are trained. This results from the models of translator’s/translation competence outlined above. Such a case study in business translation should therefore be understood as simulated translation service circumstances in which students are exposed to a variety of tasks, requirements, obligations, limitations and constraints which occur on a regular basis in the reality of the translator’s profession. In other words, a case study is the entirety of circumstances which requires translation students to take a number of psychological, cognitive and practical translation actions whose ultimate goal is the timely delivery of a finished high-quality translation product in the form of a target language text. A case study may involve an analysis of a source language text, preparation of a glossary or a term base (for example, using special software like Trados Multiterm), word-search query, consultation with experts, translation proper, proofreading, correction, exporting into the target file format, delivering to the customer, settling the accounts, issuing the invoice or even dealing with customer’s complaints about errors. As can be seen, the case study represents the translation process cycle.

4.1. Case study actors

One important issue of the methodology is case study actors. The case study actors are of several types. First of all, there are main course participants – business translation trainees who are expected to have a well-developed proficiency in English and Polish, defined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages as C1 for English and C2 for Polish. Only such a high level of the command of those languages can guarantee that they will benefit from the course and become fully involved in the tasks. The course participants will take a variety of roles (therefore they are called actors) within the case studies. In one case study, they may be business translators, in another they can be language verifiers and proof-readers and yet in others they may be attentive translation customers who will diligently scrutinise the translated document for any potential deficiencies. Obviously, a case study may be quite complex and involve all of these roles. Another important figure is the course instructor who may also take several roles. First of all, the main assignment of the teacher is to devise the case study, selecting the source-language documents, envisaging all potential tasks, duties, responsibilities, time limits, issues of ethics, limitations and deciding upon the key skills, competences, knowledge and values that are to be practised within such a case study. The second role of the instructor is to be the coordinator of the translation process. In other words, the instructor may serve as a project manager who will assign tasks to particular trainees or groups. Another important role that the instructor plays is the role of the evaluator of the translation end product. Of course, this evaluation must be based on specific criteria (in this particular case – market-related evaluation parameters are applied). At this point, one important remark must be made. The course instructor should be a person with hands-on experience in business translation, preferably an academic teacher who – apart from the scholarly activity – is deeply embedded in the translation industry and who translates business documentation in his/her extra-university translation practice. Such a person can guarantee the correct determination of teaching goals, proper choice of practice materials as well as appropriate selection of teaching methods which will be relevant to professional translation practice. Fortunately, in informal communication it became evident that there are more and more such academic teachers who are also regular translators.

4.2. Case study course

Before the case study can be assigned to business translation students, the objective of the case study needs to be agreed upon. This aspect is very important as different case studies may serve to achieve different goals related to shaping business translation students’ skills, abilities and competences. For instance, if the stress is to be put on the application of modern computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools, the majority of case study phases should centre around developing the abilities and expertise in the technological facets of business translation. If business terminology collection and management techniques are the focus, then the case study may be devised in such a way that all stages teach students how to deal with business vocabulary in both source and target languages. If the translation process itself is the emphasis, all case study stages need to concentrate on partial performance of the process.

On the whole, irrespective of the specific goals of particular case studies, one overriding objective must be kept in mind – everything that business translation trainees will have to perform must be directly linked to real-life professional market practice. Irrespective of whether the translation process or translation product is the focus, they all need to be related to authentic professional translation practice. In other words, ‘empty’ tasks (that is, exercises performed for the sake of exercises) must be completely eliminated as they do not serve this purpose.

Another important aspect which must be carefully considered prior to the case study proper is the selection of materials. The author’s professional translation experience and translation teaching practice have shown that only the use of contextually relevant, source and target language-related materials functioning in a business environment either in Poland or in the English-speaking countries (or, as the case might sometimes be, in all of them) makes sense. This means that in this methodology of teaching business translation, there is no place for textual/documentary irrelevance, that is, source language texts which are artificially prepared for practice purposes but are actually not present in the real-life business document flow. The translation materials around which the case studies can be built include: employment documentation (job applications, curricula vitae, cover letters, employment forms or employment contracts), company documents (registration documents, company contracts, organisation charts, business plans, mission statements, strategies, business letters or company publicity materials). If possible, the best solution is to work on authentic documents (with confidential data removed), which allows the instructor to include anecdotal information that may make the simulation realistic. Practicing translators, translation offices as well as external interested parties (for example, companies and other business-related institutions) may serve here as a great source of information on the most frequent types of business documents received for translation.

As far as the case study course is concerned, it can have a myriad of forms. The students can be asked to translate a business document by means of a CAT tool (for example, memoQ®, Trados Studio®, Wordfast®), create a preliminary glossary or a term base, create a translation memory through alignment with a previously translated document or verify lexical and grammatical correctness and equivalence. If working in teams, they may also be asked to compare their translations and discuss the problems of translation quality and measurability.

Each case study may be assigned several teaching hours because the translation process is indeed lengthy. All the activities performed by professional business translators while dealing with a business text can take several teaching hours (or even days) and such case studies can teach translation trainees that patience and diligence are needed in the translation process.

Table 1 illustrates the complexity of a case study model and the aspects it focuses on and it is related to.

PRE-TRANSLATION PHASES Case study preparation phases (main actor: instructor)
  • Establishing the goal
  • Selecting authentic practice business materials
  • Deciding about the mode of students’ work
  • Deciding about particular tasks and procedures
Pre-translation phases (main actors: trainees)
  • Analysing the source text
  • Establishing the purpose of the target text
  • Compiling glossaries
  • Retrieving expertise and compiling glossaries/term bases
  • Consulting experts
  • Searching reliable knowledge sources
  • Setting the software
TRANSLATION PROPER PHASES Translation proper phases (main actors: trainees)
  • Translation proper
  • Performing translation procedures
  • Initiating bilingual cognitive resources and processes
  • Keying in the translation
  • Peer/group discussion about the translation product
  • Assessing language quality
  • Assessing equivalence
  • Assessing content-based aspects
  • Proofreading/correction
  • Verification
  • Exporting the target file format
POST-TRANSLATION PHASES Post-translation phases (main actors: trainees and instructor)
  • Assessing market suitability
  • Instructor’s assessment
  • Rectifying any errors
  • Discussing the benefits of the case study

Table 1 Case study model complexity

4.3. Evaluation

The final aspect of the methodology is evaluation. An attempt should be made to objectify the evaluation as much as possible. One of the methods of doing so is the use of a specially designed ‘student translation evaluation form’[1] , which allows evaluation of the following aspects: 1. (Functional-pragmatic) equivalence, 2. Grammar (2.1. Form, use, appropriateness, 2.2. Discourse-specific grammatical structure), 3. Vocabulary (3.1. Spelling, form, collocation, 3.2. Specialised vocabulary-terminology), 4. Punctuation, 5. Mechanics, 6. Style and register, 7. Layout/format, 8. Customer-related evaluation. All criteria are evaluated according to a 3-point scale. Particular aspects of students’ translation can be assigned either 3 points (with no errors in a given aspect), 2 points (with slight errors, easily rectifiable) or 0 point (too many major errors making the target language text unacceptable in the market). Although there are several translation evaluation metrics (e.g. ATA metric (ATA 2015) or MQM framework (Mariana, Melby, Cox 2015)), it is Daniel Gouadec’s (2010: 273) grades that the points in the evaluation form used in the presented methodology refer to. Accordingly, 3 refers to ‘fit-for-broadcast’ (‘accurate, efficient and ergonomic’), 2 refers to ‘fit-for-delivery’ (with minor improvements needed) whereas 0 refers to ‘rough-cut’. However, lack of point 1 in the above-presented grading scale needs explaining. The market-related evaluation form allows three options in each category: acceptable (3 points), acceptable with minor revisions (2 points) and unacceptable (0 point). Course participants would earn 1 point for the translation which would be acceptable after major revisions. In the translation market the translations which need to be thoroughly revised, with some of their parts sometimes requiring translation anew, are not acceptable and therefore no 1 point can be given for them in the methodology in question.

The sum of the points collected for particular aspects leads to the final grade which is expressed in the so-called market suitability descriptors. 30-28 points (100 per cent-93 per cent) allow classification of the translation as being of high quality with positive market suitability; 27-25 (92 per cent-84 per cent) allow categorisation of the target language product as being of good quality, with only slight revision necessary. This sum also renders the translation positive in terms of market suitability. All other scores help to classify the translation product as either for translation training purposes only (24-23 points, 83 per cent-76 per cent) or with negative market suitability. For teaching purposes, the Polish university grading scale[2] has been adopted where the grade 5.0 is the best note, 3.0 is the worst passing (satisfactory) grade whereas 2.0 stands for the failing grade.

Table 2 presents the student translation evaluation form.

STUDENT TRANSLATION EVALUATION FORM used in the case-study-based translation teaching methodology Points
(functional-pragmatic equivalence)
  1. Full equivalence
  2. Partial equivalence
  3. No equivalence
(form, use, appropriateness)
  1. No grammar errors
  2. Minor grammar errors
  3. Major grammar errors
  1. Correct selection and use of grammatical structures
  2. Limited range of discourse-specific grammatical structures
  3. No discourse-specific grammatical structures
(spelling, use, collocation)
  1. No lexical errors
  2. Minor lexical errors
  3. Major lexical errors
(spelling, use, collocation, appropriateness)
  1. Correct selection and use of specialised vocabulary
  2. Limited range of specialised vocabulary (non-specialised vocabulary prevails)
  3. No specialised vocabulary
(correctness, language variety use consistency)
  1. No punctuation errors
  2. Minor punctuation errors
  3. Major punctuation errors
(spacing, indentation, hyphenation, capitalisation etc.)
  1. No mechanics errors
  2. Minor mechanics errors
  3. Major mechanics errors
  1. Correct discourse-specific style and register
  2. Minor problems with discourse-specific style and register
  3. No adherence to discourse-specific style and register
  1. Correct layout and format of the translation
  2. Minor editing/layout/format problems
  3. Major editing/layout/format problems
(whether the translation can be handed over to the customer)
  1. Acceptable without revisions
  2. Acceptable after minor revision
  3. Unacceptable
  Positive market suitability High quality translation. No revision necessary. 100%-93% 30-28 5.0
Good quality translation. Only slight revision necessary. 92%-84% 27-25 4.5
Translation training purposes Acceptable quality translation. Greater revision necessary. 83%-76% 24-23 4.0
Negative market suitability Meagre quality translation. More detailed revision necessary. 75%-70% 22-21 3.5
Negative market suitability Meagre quality translation. Major revision necessary. 69-60% 20-18 3.0
Unacceptable. Re-translation necessary. 59%-0% 17-0 2.0


Table 2 Student translation evaluation form – proposal

5. Concluding remarks

The above overview of the case study-based methodology of teaching business translation has aimed to show its potential and main assumptions. The author is of the opinion that teaching business translation in this way has several benefits. First of all, this methodology is strongly correlated with the needs of the real life market. Secondly, business translation students are exposed to authentic documents, which they may then deal with in their professional life. Moreover, the methodology based on case studies develops translation competence in many different ways.

Another advantage is that students are given an insight into different stages, procedures and elements of the translation process. Thus, well-devised case studies may help trainees understand a range of tasks, actions, requirements, limitations or cognitive and psychological states which constitute the inherent elements of the translation process. What is more, students have the possibility of playing different roles in the simulated business translation industry. This gives them a chance to work with authentic texts relevant to the business environments of the source and target language countries in the form of task-based case studies. Ultimately, it may help them become fully familiarised with the characteristics of business translation sector. It is therefore believed that teaching business translation in such a way may contribute to the development of full translation competence so badly needed in the language service industry.

A survey is currently being carried out intended to measure the usefulness of this methodology and a preliminary analysis of the data indicates that the application of this methodology brings positive results in the form of decent and adequate skills, competences and knowledge of translation service providers (that is, students and former students – at present regular translators). Moreover, the outcomes of the survey demonstrate that the student translation evaluation form used in the evaluation part of the methodology is a tool stimulating both the instructor’s as well as trainees’ reflection on the translation process, the translation as an end product and various roles of the translator.

Overall, it seems that well-developed case studies may be successfully used as context-bound circumstances around which the process of teaching business translation can be organised.


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[1] The full discussion of the student-translation evaluation form will be published elsewhere in 2015. The form was presented for the first time at the conference ‘Methodological Challenges for Contemporary Translator Educators’ (Cracow, 10-11 October 2013) organised by the UNESCO Chair for Translation and Intercultural Communication of Jagiellonian University and the Chair for Translator Education of Pedagogical University in Cracow.

[2] In Poland’s non-tertiary education, the grading scale is more developed and includes more grades, with 6,0 being the best (excellent) note and 1,0 being the failing grade.

About the author(s)

Marcin Walczyński, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Translation Studies (Institute of English Studies, University of Wrocław, Poland) and lecturer in the Section of Business English (Institute of Modern Languages, University of Applied Sciences in Nysa, Poland), certified translator and interpreter of English, translation and interpreting trainer, translation agency owner; his scholarly interests include: interpreting and translation, languages for special purposes (especially business and legal English), sociolinguistics, creolistics and communication sciences.

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©inTRAlinea & Marcin Walczyński (2015).
"A contextual case study-based methodology of teaching business translation: an overview"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Specialised Translation
Edited by: Daniel Gallego-Hernández
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: https://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2143

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