An Empirical Study of Students' Views on Theoretical Subjects: The Role of Theory in Translation Degrees at Spanish Universities

An Empirical Study of Students' Views on Theoretical Subjects: The Role of Theory in Translation Degrees at Spanish Universities

Pilar Ordóñez-López (University Jaume I, Spain) and Rosa Agost (University Jaume I, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6615-3.ch017
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Abstract

Translator and interpreter study programmes are characterised by their practice-oriented nature; in fact, students seem to have a somewhat reticent attitude towards Translation Theory in part due to their perception of the respective modules as less important because they are relegated to a subsidiary position within the course programme. The authors have carried out a research project aimed at investigating the views of students regarding the subject of Translation Theory. The main objective of this project is to identify areas of improvement in the design and teaching methodology in order to provide more dynamic teaching and reinforce the links between the theoretical and practical dimensions of the discipline. The results obtained in this study provide new and unexpected insights into students' conception of translation and translation theory and into the teaching improvements required to make this subject more interesting and valuable in the education and training of translators-to-be.
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The Disputed Role Of Translation Theory

Theoretical reflection on translation has played a crucial role in the consolidation of Translation Studies (TS) as an independent discipline and in its institutionalisation, since it has allowed the practice of translation to be analysed in a systematic manner. However, over half a century since Translation Studies emerged as an academic discipline, the interconnection between translation theory and the actual activity of translation has still not been fully accepted in the professional, academic or training contexts. Conflicting standpoints are found, ranging from the most categorical rejection of any contribution of translation theory to the practice of translation, which comes above all from the world of professional translation:

Interestingly, criticism against TS has come not from society at large, which is largely unaware of its existence, but from translators and interpreters, who expect it to help solve their problems or at least help improve Translation methods and express disappointment in this respect. (Gile, 2010, p. 251)

to those who defend the value of the theoretical dimension as a means to improve the quality of translation and to obtain greater socio-professional recognition of translators and interpreters:

What many of us think of as a ‘profession’ is unlikely to achieve genuine professional status without some interaction with a discipline that provides it with a coherent framework, a sense of continuity and some insight into where it’s going. We do not expect lawyers, for instance, to shun academia and theory and follow their innate sense of what is right and wrong. We accept law as a profession precisely because it is not (or not just) an intuitive practice, because it requires solid training in theoretical and practical matters, and because it is indisputably linked to a healthy and stable academic discipline. (Baker 1996, p. 42)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Translation Curriculum: Set of subjects, modules or courses which together form a Translation Studies programme.

Translation Training: Process of instruction to acquire the competences needed to perform as a translator.

Optional Subjects: Modules that students can choose, according to their interests and area of specialism.

Translation History: Subarea of study within the academic field of Translation Studies, which focuses on translation from a diachronic perspective.

Translation Theory: Subarea of study within the academic field of Translation Studies, which deals with theoretical and methodological aspects regarding translation, such as translation criticism and assessment, the enhancement of the practice of translation, the analysis and improvement of the translation processs, etc.

Core Subjects: Modules established by the ANECA (Spanish National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation) which all degrees in Translation at Spanish universities must include.

Theoretical Subjects: Subjects dealing with aspects related to the theory (i.e. concepts, methodology, approaches) and history of translation.

Compulsory Subjects: Modules established by each university as obligatory for students of a particular degree.

Students’ Preconceptions: Ideas and views held by students prior to taking a subject.

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