One of the key factors for a translator to be a complete professional is to know how to combine her educational background and the professionalism to meet the translation market demands. Starting from this premise, this paper aims at offering an educational proposal in order to reduce the gap between translators training in higher education and the professional market.
Although the competences needed for this adaptation to the market are not exclusively professional, as we will assess in this paper, it could be suggested that the abilities new graduates seem to lack the most are those related to the professional practice. This made us ask ourselves in which courses we could incorporate this specific training activities and which methodology should be used to guarantee that students end their studies with the basics of how to enter as successfully as possible the market, being most of translation professionals independent workers or freelancers.
In order to meet these challenges, a brief assessment of previous and current trends regarding competences in translation training has been carried out as a starting point for the potential training proposals, both from the educational and professional point of view. On the one hand, we have firstly reviewed the most traditional competence models related to academic theory and practice; on the other hand, there are nowadays different institutional market-oriented models which can be used as a base to complete the translator training framework. The traditional competence models (chronologically reviewed by Kelly, 2002 & 2005) are broken down into every competence considered essential for the professional translator. Some of them already include the “professional” concept in the main categories through the so-called “professional-instrumental competence” (Hurtado, 1996; PACTE, 2000 & 2003 (Figure 1); Kelly, 2002). With its integration into the framework, the need for a specific professional training has been pointed out, understood as “a basic knowledge of the professional practice management (agreements, tax liabilities, invoicing, etc.), translation deontology and professional associations” (Kelly, 2002:14, 2005:32).
Figure 1. Translation competence model featuring the “professional instrumental” sub-competence (PACTE, 2000:101).
It seems interesting to know if these theoretical models meet the current professional translators and institutions requirements regarding the professional competences of the translator or if some subcompetences non considered before should be added in order to establish some training best practices regarding professional aspects. As an example of the models established by well-known institutions, Gambier (2009) depicts a competence model for experts and professionals in the European Master’s in Translation (EMT) context. The EMT model (Figure 2) shows an exhaustive list of subcompetences, most of them related to the professional translation service provision, breaking it down into many different market requirements, which could be easily translated into learning objectives in an academic training program .
Figure 2. Translation competence wheel proposed by the EMT in its competences report for professional translators and experts in multilingual and multicultural communication (Gambier, 2009:4).
Both the academic and the institutional models have lately inspired some innovative training initiatives based on a “new” interpretation of the traditional competence models. Otero (2009) replicated a professional situation in a Science and Technology Translation course, with a previous research on the market needs regarding language pairs, specialization and working conditions (stressing the need of an interdisciplinar and collaborative work with experts) in order to increase employability among the graduates. The training courses integrating the instrumental and professional competences as a reflection of the real practice show also a parallel development of other competences the students will use in their daily lives and which, in turn, will improve their employability and competitiveness. This is the case of the training programmes proposed by Vandepitte (2009) or Way (2009) where the students develop most of the competences listed in the traditional and institutional models while acting as professionals who manage and complete pseudo-real or real translation projects. The professional activities implied include project management, business instruments (invoicing), prices, etc. Surveys have been conducted among the students which have shown positive outputs as of their ability to enter the market and to be aware of their own skills (and how to improve them).
As we can observe from the previous review of the different competence models in Translation, the instrumental or instrumental-professional competence has been an object of study in many research articles or projects and it has even been included in the curricular design of many translation courses. However, in most cases it has not been applied in a practical way that would lead to the enhancement of the professionalization aspect of translation that is still lacking in many university studies or has only been included at postgraduate level. Moreover, the translation courses that are in theory completely oriented towards the profession and the labour market, limit their contents to information about what translators and interpreters do as part of their every-day-life work, without giving students the opportunity to further explore in this sense. Besides, even though some current translation courses are structured in a way that they include a distribution of different tasks as it would be done in a real professional context, the implementation of these types of tasks in a totally virtual environment needs still to be developed.
Therefore, our main motivation to carry out this research study is to develop a new path that, through the use of new technologies, will allow us to improve translation training on the basis of a clear definition of the professional competence. We consider that the evolution of translation as a scientific discipline in the past decade, that is to say, based on the research studies published from a theoretical conceptualization perspective as well as from a curricular design perspective, renders at the same time very important the investigation on innovative and effective teaching methodologies to support the university framework, which will also need to be in line with the reality of the market that will be met by students when they finish their translation studies (Mayoral Asensio 2000; Borja Albí 1996).
In this way, our aim is to establish the basis of a teaching initiative within the context of a general translation course that will be taught online and which will have as its core goal the development of tasks for students in a professional translation environment. The parallelism with a real context will constitute a motivating element for students before they face more specific translation courses in the following semesters, whose thematic content can sometimes be demotivating when they have not had any training in the field (Gile 2009). Moreover, the teaching approach that will be adopted will favor an interactive context in which teachers will act as a guide in the translation process. This means that they will act as teachers who appear, advise students during the elaboration of their work and will disappear again (Kiraly 2000). In this sense, the objectives of the self-learning and collaborative learning of the European Space of Higher Education will be met.
This teaching initiative  would take place during a month and it would be included in a one-semester translation course taught in the third year of the Translation and Interpreting Faculty of the University of Granada . In the first semester of their third year, students will have had already some contact with translation, after completing two general translation courses in the previous year. Therefore, this will be their first opportunity to work in a real context simulation environment, which will allow them to get a clearer perception of the different working perspectives of the labour market. The sequencing of the tasks will be organized according to thematic areas which will include text typologies of many kinds. In this way, we agree with Mayoral (2011), who affirms that a course sequencing based on typologies does not describe real professional contexts. This means that in his every-day-life a translator does not encounter only one type of text with different contents, such as a contract, but rather works within the same thematic area dealing with the different types that this might include.
Students would be required to act as self-employed professional translators, while the role of the teachers would be double: to act a guide to the class and as a client for the translators. Thus, they would have to place translation orders and ask for deadlines and budgets. This would simulate a “real situation” since both students and teachers would decide together each deadline, which might depend on the client’s type of translation commission or on the students’ availability.
In this way, students would have the possibility to learn how to share different translation commissions with colleagues, how to check a translation that it not their own or how a self-employed translator works. Therefore, the activity would include the following tasks:
(1) receiving an order from the client (teacher)
(2) providing a deadline with a justified budget
(3) waiting for confirmation
(4) working with an unmodified text
(5) revising or asking someone else to do it
(6) sending the translation to the client, waiting for the payment and the client’s commentary.
The novelty of this project is double: firstly, the way to act is a simulation of a real translator’s work and it does not only consist in different texts that need to be translated (without the others points of the translation process). Secondly, the teacher would have to act, as we mentioned, as a guide and as a client, but students would have to coordinate the project by themselves or they would have to decide their roles (project manager, terminologist, translator, etc.), always letting the teacher know. Furthermore, the requirements students are expected to follow are not only to learn how to translate, but also to learn the whole translation process followed by a self-employed professional translator, to learn negotiation skills, to manage their time, etc.
In class, students usually only have the opportunity to work on some of these points. Teachers prefer to focus more on the results of the translation, without mentioning all the others points that we consider fundamental for a self-employed translator.
Therefore, with this activity teachers might also be asked to discuss the price and/or the deadline at point n.3, so that the students would have to make an effort to explain the reasons of the price defending their budget, and eventually proposing discounts. The teachers in this occasion would also have to possibility to challenge the translator with different arguments such as the fact of finding a cheaper translator or someone who offers a shorter deadline.
It also needs to be mentioned that this project is organized with real translation commissions, which is, in our opinion, very important in order to show students the concept of a self-employed translator. We believe that it is very important for them to discover the real situation of the professional translator while they are still pursuing their university studies, as well as to be exposed to different controversial situations that will urge them to find solutions to the problem.
In this way, we propose fifteen different activities to organize this project. All of them come from real translation commissions. These fifteen activities are all of different topics: general translation, specialized translation, direct and reverse translations, proofreading, creating of glossaries, interpreting, creating budgets, etc. As said before, our aim is to make sure the students have at least some basic competences that will allow them to be more prepared for the labor market.
Each activity would have one hundred points for assessment purposes. To successfully complete the training, students would have to get at least five hundred points, which they would get according to the work that they completed. The maximum grade is established at 1000 points, which would be achieved if all tasks are completed following very high standards. Students would be given a document specifying the different assessment criteria, with the aim of focusing not only on the translation skills and competences that they develop, but also on the professionalization aspect of translation. Moreover, as part of the work that will be assessed, students would be required to write a report including details about their working process, completion dates, summaries of each commission, their reflections about the self-employed work, the problems that they encounter and how they solved them, and any other issues they might want to explain.
To conclude, it must be said that although the project is still in its implementation phase, the results obtained so far through the use of similar activities have been very satisfactory. As mentioned in the introduction, our aim is to provide students with the necessary training to face the labour market with the knowledge that will allow them to make a faster and smoother transition from their university studies. Therefore, the implementation of these kind of activities as part of a translation course will help them be aware of the working methodology that they should adopt to be more efficient with their work, through the use of new technologies to communicate and carry out their tasks as if they were already professional translators.
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