Professionalisation in Translator Education Through Virtual Teamwork

Professionalisation in Translator Education Through Virtual Teamwork

Koen Kerremans (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium) and Gys-Walt van Egdom (Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4154-7.ch012


This chapter describes how in recent years, much attention has been devoted to professionalisation in translator education. As a result, many different pedagogical activities have been proposed, focusing on the question of how students can acquire professional skills during their studies. This chapter focuses on one such pedagogical activity, i.e. the organisation of Simulated Translation Bureaus (STBs), in which students work on translation projects obtained from real (or fictitious) clients. The aim of the activity is to imitate as best as possible the tasks that translators face in real translation projects. In this chapter, the authors argue that collaboration between STBs through virtual teamwork can increase the degree of authenticity in simulated translation workflows. In the first part of this chapter, consideration is bestowed upon the underlying reasons for the implementation of STBs in translation curricula. In the second part, possibilities for collaboration in the context of the International Network of Simulated Translation Bureaus (INSTB) are be discussed.
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In recent years, the highly transparent didactic concept of “authentic experiential learning” (Kiraly, 2016), of which the nascent view has already been articulated in Translation Studies as early as the 1990's, has gained quite some traction in translator education. Because of the growing interest, an array of pedagogical forms and activities has been introduced into translation curricula, most forms and activities closely espousing the learning-by-doing philosophy. These practice-/profession-oriented forms and activities range from simple task-based learning methods to complex forms of situated learning (for an overview of learning methods in translator education, see Hurtado Albir (1999, pp. 15–28). A chief concern among those who seek to renew and refine teaching methods, is the “talent” or “skills gap” – the latter is a term coined at the Translating Europe Forum (2015)1 – that is said to separate training from practice. Learning and teaching methods have been adopted with a view to narrowing or even closing this gap. This means that, in teaching, considerably more attention is drawn to the students’ acquisition of practical or professional skills during their studies and upon other means to foment professionalisation and increase employability rates.

In this chapter, the authors will zero in on one specific didactic concept that could be aptly described as a form of authentic experiential learning. As other forms, this concept is valued for its practical dimensions, but it is also believed to hold great potential for cooperative and collaborative learning. The concept referred to is that of translation simulation in so-called “Simulated Translation Bureaus” (STBs) or “skills labs” (Thelen, 2006). Although the concept of “skills labs” is reported to have been thought or tossed out as early as 1985, and is said to have reached fruition in the early 1990's at the Maastricht School of Translation and Interpreting (or “Vertaalacademie”, Zuyd University), no great claims to originality can be made. In the 1980’s, translator trainers grew increasingly dissatisfied with the teaching and learning methods in the translation curricula. Although major initiatives had been rolled out to ensure translation its rightful and independent place in university education, it was abundantly clear that what was taught at translation programs did not tally, in the least, with actual requirements in professional translation. Hönig and Kuβmaul (1982, p. 28) described the problematic situation aptly:

Überspitzt ausgedrückt stellt sich die Situation an Ausbildungssätten in den “Übersetzungübungen” folgendermaßen dar: die Studenten übersetzen einen Text, die sie nicht verstehen, für einen Adressaten, den sie nicht kennen. Und das Produkt ihrer Bemühungen wird nicht selten von einem Dozenten beurteilt, der weder praktische Erfahrungen als Übersetzer noch theoretische Kenntnisse in der Übersetzungswissenschaft besitzt. (p. 28)

In those years, a countermovement, spearheaded by German functionalists, started to gain momentum, as it spoke with a unified voice about the need for simulation and authenticity in the classroom. An excellent case in point is Nord, who, notwithstanding the fact that she was fully aware of the embedding of every translatorial act in a communicative situation, mainly addressed the individual needs of students, as she provided them with (near) authentic source texts and briefs (Nord, 1988).

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