Poll: Do higher education courses sufficiently prepare language professionals for life in the industry?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
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Dec 29, 2012

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do higher education courses sufficiently prepare language professionals for life in the industry?".

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EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:31
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
You cannot teach somebody to translate, Dec 29, 2012

a person has it in them or hasn't. You can give them a few useful tips, yes, but it should take a few hours, not several years.

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DianeGM  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:31
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
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Theory is theory and practice is practice Dec 29, 2012

I think in all professions there is no substitute for experience.
Much must be learned 'on the job'.
Courses may give a basis, but running live projects in the business world is different.
Also if translators/interpreters choose the freelance route, much about running a business also has to learned through experience and practice.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:31
Spanish to English
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Other Dec 29, 2012

I suppose it largely depends on where (and how) you study. I was taught modern languages from late primary school level all through high school (first French, then later also German and Russian) and I think it equipped me with a solid grounding for my university degree in French and Russian, although my working language pair as a translator today is Spanish->English.

However, as the question is framed (as usual) on the "businessy" and "industry" side of translation, it's not really my area, although my perception is that university courses are increasingly focusing on these aspects; if not, perhaps they should be?


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:31
Member (2000)
Russian to English
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They used not to, but may have improved since Dec 29, 2012

I answered "other" because I know little about the present-day academic scene, but when I learned Russian 60 years ago, it was on armed services courses of two years, including about ten months at London University. Our course used the University's premises but was run as a separate operation. But we formed some idea of what the main University course was like. Whereas we studied modern Russian (19th century onwards), with much time devoted to conversation classes, and to subjects of special interest to the military, the main course paid a lot of attention to ancient Russian, Church Slavonic, comparative philology and other academic aspects, at the expense of the more practical. And I think the London University course at that time was typical. So in my opinion, ours was a much better foundation for translation.

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Allison Wright  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 19:31
German to English
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No Dec 29, 2012

Even though the Bachelor of Arts (Translation) course I took had a 40% practical component (several bidirectional English-Afrikaans translation assignments per week for 3 years), and was considered one of the more demanding courses on campus, it was still no substitute for real life in the real world, where real documents need real solutions.

The same could be said of many other courses (Journalism, Psychology, Social Work, Law...).




[Edited at 2012-12-29 14:27 GMT]


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 19:31
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
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To a point... Dec 29, 2012

... as any other higher education/university course! I do agree with Jack Doughty that things have improved enormously since my day.

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Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 13:31
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
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No Dec 29, 2012

No, but generally , higher education receives a lot of money for concepts practice can give freely.

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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:31
German to English
Depends on the program Dec 29, 2012

I've worked with translators who have completed "certificates" in translation as well as those who pursued a more structured course of study in translation. In my experience, people who have attended Kent State University, the Monterey Institute or similarly rigorous programs in the US or elsewhere have been well-prepared to work as translators. They're generally familiar with terminology management, CAT tools and QA processes. Most have been good technical writers.

On the other hand, the preparation of some of the certificate holders has been inadequate. They know how to use a CAT tool, but many are clueless as to how to research and organize terminology, perform QA tasks beyond running a spell check (if that!). Likewise, writing skills appear to have been neglected in their course of study.

In short, programs that focus on practical skills such as terminology research and management, quality control and writing are more likely to prepare a potential translator for the real world. However, coursework is not a substitute for talent.


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Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 20:31
Russian to English
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Not really Dec 29, 2012

Hardly any academic degree produces a complete professional. It does certainly help, but a practicing translator specialising in a certain subject field would benefit a lot more from a degree in that subject field than from one in linguistics/translation.

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Sarai Pahla (MD) MBChB
Germany
Local time: 20:31
Member (2012)
Japanese to English
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It does something to the ego... Dec 29, 2012

Some people feel that having a degree behind them gives them confidence, others prefer being taught a language rather than learning it on the road - but preparing you for the reality of the field of translation? Perhaps if you did a joint translation and MBA degree, yes
To be honest, I can't really compare - I didn't enter the profession through that route.


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ikeda45  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:31
Member (2007)
English to Japanese
No Dec 30, 2012

The world outside is wider, deeper, and longer.

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Mikael Adolfsson  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 20:31
English to Swedish
+ ...
Perhaps ... Dec 30, 2012

I actually heard recently from two different translation agencies, that they hired a freelance translator that produced so bad translations (not the same translator, I assume), that they were unusable.
And in both cases, they had graduated from the Master Programme in Translation at a very well known Swedish university ...
So, if you have a talent for translating, I think it would be benificial. But if not, no university degree will ever help ...


[Edited at 2012-12-30 08:05 GMT]


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:31
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
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I said "No" Dec 30, 2012

Education isn't enough. I know, because I spent many years chasing after courses that would support my interest in translation. But on the other hand, I don't believe my education was wasted. I don't regret a minute of it.

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Marie Jackson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:31
Member (2012)
French to English
+ ...
I answered 'to a point' Jan 3, 2013

Having graduated from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and now working freelance, I'm happy to say that my course let me hit the ground running. I have a good client base and good rates, and work for people who value quality over cost. The courses at HW are very practice-orientated, so the industry side of things has not been a shock to me at all. Indeed, I got a great, solid foundation in all the skills I need to be a good translator, including the beginnings of a specialisation. The course has therefore enabled me to make the best of opportunities that come my way, including opportunities to learn and perfect my skills.


On the other hand, we only received superficial guidance as to the business side of freelancing (which most of us do, after all). The excuse at the time was that it isn't possible to discuss all systems used in all countries, which seemed a bit of a cop out. We had several guest speakers at careers sessions telling us how they got into freelancing, but they invariably told us they worked in-house, then freelanced. No one told us how they did it. As a result, I've learned this side of the trade through experience - though I found several helpful books for new freelancers after graduation that helped me to catch up with my business.


I think that every university has a different approach to translation courses at the moment, except where interpreting is concerned, where practice is really the only way to attain (and maintain) the skill. Some universities offer placements, some don't; some universities have a strong academic tradition, some prefer to focus on the knowledge and skills required to do the job. Of course, like anything else, a degree is what you make of it, and those who put the extra work in, those who are proactive and interested and don't expect to be spoon-fed, will have more success in the long run than those who expect to walk out of university a perfect professional entitled to a job. Ultimately, experience is the only way to round out a person in all walks of life.


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