Virtual Networks in English-for-Specific-Purposes Education: A Translation-Reviewing/Editing Model

Virtual Networks in English-for-Specific-Purposes Education: A Translation-Reviewing/Editing Model

Marina Tzoannopoulou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece) and Bruce Maylath (North Dakota State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4154-7.ch013


This chapter reports on an international telecollaboration involving translation of published materials by students in a journalism course in Greece, followed by review and editing of the translations by students in an international technical writing course in the U.S. A key component of the collaboration was dialogue between the two parties about how best to render the meaning of the text in the source language when translated into the target language. Analysis of the collaboration's results revealed that three types of comments were found in the students' correspondence: translation decisions affecting the English used, translation decisions affecting the journalistic style, and translation decisions related to cultural references in the source texts. The comments helped students minimize misunderstandings and clarify meanings that arose in the drafts and enabled both parties to achieve clear, well-written texts. The collaboration increased students' language and trans-cultural awareness and contributed jointly to producing work at the level expected by professionals.
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In many ways, the ESP writing-editing project resembles prior translation-reviewing/editing projects conducted by various teachers in the TAPP network linking their translation studies classes in Europe with writing classes in the USA. The first of these took place in the spring of 2001, when Birthe Mousten, of Aarhus University (AU), in Denmark, and Dan Riordan, of the University of Wisconsin-Stout, in the USA, paired students in Mousten’s translation course with students in Riordan’s technical communication senior capstone seminar. That direction of “text travel,” as Mousten called it—a term that TAPP members have subsequently adopted widely—is the one that follows the “mother tongue principle” of most professional translation associations, as explained by Parr:

The mother-tongue principle means that a native speaker of English translates into English, a native speaker of German into German, a native speaker of French into French … and a native speaker of Dutch into Dutch. In other words, a translator’s mother tongue is the language into which he or she translates, i.e., the target language. (Parr, 2016)

However, Mousten suggested reversing the direction of text travel from west to east so that it, instead, originated in the east and traveled west, such that the Danish students translated news articles from Danish into English. The students in Wisconsin would then review and edit the translations, pointing out how the texts could be rendered more idiomatically in American English. As the students in Denmark, living across the North Sea from Britain and Ireland, had studied British English, they were particularly curious to see how speakers of American English would edit their translations. Mousten also noted that languages with few native speakers, like Danish, are seldom learned by native speakers of English, thus leaving clients few options but to employ L1 Danish speakers as translators of texts from Danish to English. As Parr (2016) has noted, “the practice of ‘translating both ways’ [is] a result of the interplay of market supply and demand. In other words, there [is] much demand for translation into English and simply not enough native speakers to do it all”. Mousten saw a translation-reviewing/editing project as a valuable means by which translation students could learn this side of the market, in case they ever encountered it, as well as a valuable means by which her students could learn the distinct features of American English. Riordan saw such a project as a valuable means by which his technical communication majors could practice reviewing and editing skills, especially with writers whose English was L2. By the end of the project, both instructors, along with their students, were delighted with the fruits of collaboration, with quite a few of the students continuing to correspond with their partners abroad long after their courses ended.

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