Developing Guidelines for a New Curriculum for the English Translation BA Program in Iranian Universities
The existing BA curriculum for English translation in Iran focuses on practicing translation in various fields, such as basic sciences, human sciences, religion, journalism, and literature. In addition to translation, interpreting is also practiced (see Table 1). Although there has been no systematic evaluation of the present translation curriculum, it can be assumed that it does not meet the needs of present-day Iran. Over the past few years, experts in the fields of ELT, linguistics, and translatology in Iran have offered new insights into these disciplines. As a result, the translator training curriculum in Iranian universities has undergone many changes. However, a more systematic survey of the experts' views was needed in order to improve the present curriculum.
The study was designed to identify the skills and content needed in a translation curriculum and how to develop them . It also suggests ways to promote translation student motivation. The findings can help curriculum developers prepare more systematic programs and thus train more competent translators.
Table 1. Translation and Interpreting
courses in the undergraduate English Translator Training Curriculum
in Iranian universities
In this study, the Delphi research method was used. Riazi (1999) introduced the Delphi method of data collection that can use both questionnaires and interviews while ensuring the anonymity of the experts. The method employs a multi-stage ethnographic approach and has been used since early 1950s, mainly by qualitative investigators. The implication of the Delphi method is that it increases the degree of agreement among experts in the field. The Delphi process requires more time than a typical one-shot survey and it draws on a broad base of people already knowledgeable in one particular field. The choice of the participants in this method is based on their relative expertise, not on a need to represent the larger population. The participants might have an increased sense of involvement after finding their own responses listed in the second questionnaire (see Doyle, 1993).
Murry and Hammons (1995: 425) state: "In higher education, the Delphi method has been used primarily for four purposes: (1) to develop goals and objectives, (2) to improve curriculum, (3) to assist in strategic planning, and (4) to develop criteria." The present study falls under the scope of the second category, i.e. it is an attempt to improve curriculum. It was designed to find answers to the following questions:
1. What skills and contents do we need in a translator training curriculum to promote student learning?
2. What strategies should we follow to apply these skills?
3. What should we do to motivate translation students?
The participants were 30 experts from four universities in
Iran: Shiraz University, Allameh Tabataba'i University, Tabriz
University, and Shiraz Azad University. Lecturers and professors
in English translation, linguistics, translation studies,
and English literature who had experience teaching translation
courses or were theorists in their fields were selected from
these universities. Since the number of such experts is limited,
most of them were included. Among 50 experts throughout the
country, 30 agreed to participate in the study.
Two questionnaires were used. The first, which was an open-ended questionnaire, was designed on the basis of the research questions. The second, which was structured, was constructed on the basis of the answers the experts gave to the open-ended questionnaire. It consisted of three categories of questions. The first category had 25 items, the second, 12 items, and the third, 18 items, for a total of 55 questions. The second questionnaire was sent to the same experts who had completed the first one. The rating followed the Likert scale (see Appendices A and B for the two questionnaires).
Two experts at Shiraz University were consulted. They reviewed and modified the format and content of the questionnaire. Their final approval was used as an index of the validity of the questionnaire.
The frequency of the items was calculated and through Chi-square
testing, the significance of the high-frequency items was
verified, which demonstrated a consensus among the experts
on the second questionnaire.
The significance of the high-frequency items was verified at the 0.01 level of significance. Out of 55 items in the second questionnaire, the panel agreed on 47 items and rejected 8. Part I, which contained 25 items, focused on the first research question. Suggestions targeted student learning and skill development. The frequency counts show that the respondents agreed on 17 items and rejected 8. Table 2 presents the results:
Table 2. Descriptive statistics
on the questionnaire items
"M" in the table, stands for "Mostly," "Un." stands for "Undecided," and "To." stands for "To some degree."
Part II contained 12 items and focused on research question
two. The frequency counts of this section show that the respondents
agreed on all 12 items. Table 3 presents the results:
Table 3. Descriptive statistics
on the questionnaire items
Part III contained 18 items and concerned research question
three. The frequency counts indicate that the respondents
agreed on all the items in this section as well. Table 4 presents
Table 4. Descriptive statistics on the questionnaire items
Tables 2, 3, and 4 indicate that items 2, 4, 8, 9, 12, 15,
19, and 20 do not have a high frequency of "Yes"
answers. In other words, the majority of the respondents rejected
these items. The tables further demonstrate the high frequency
items as well. However there is a need to validate them using
inferential statistics (see Hatch and Farhady, 1996). To do
so, the Chi-square test was applied to high frequency items
in the questionnaire. Table 5 presents the results:
Table 5. The Chi-square test results
for the high frequency items
DiscussionsPart I of the questionnaire focused on research question one, i.e., the skills and content needed in a translation curriculum. The frequency counts and the Chi-square results indicate that the respondents agreed with 17 items and rejected 8. In other words, the following points were extracted from the panels' suggestions:
I: Obviously, the first step towards planning a translation curriculum is to design courses so that the trainees achieve L1 and L2 proficiency. The four language skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking have always been targeted, but there seem to be some shortcomings:
1. Translation trainees need to be exposed to a variety of genres in L1 and L2, including Persian and English literature, so as to obtain a thorough and deep understanding of both languages.
2. Reading courses on advertisements, announcements, instructions, etc. are essential for the trainees since they imply socio-cultural aspects of a language. Furthermore, specialized readings, including recently published articles and journals on theoretical and practical aspects of translation, not only have a positive role in improving the trainees' reading skills in general, but also in helping them become more cognizant of what they are doing.
3. Critical reading and writing courses in Persian and English prose are also suggested since they familiarize the trainees with the differences between the two languages. Writing courses practicing various styles of writing in both L1 and L2 are essential, in addition to courses presenting the techniques and principles of editing, punctuation, and note-taking in both languages, for they increase the students' sensitivity to the differences between discoursal strategies in the two languages and improve the speed and organization of translation and interpreting process.
4. Translation students need courses on listening to different English tapes and transcribing them so that they can practice their receptive and productive skills simultaneously.
5. Speaking courses can cover various topics. Improving the speaking skills can prepare students for interpreting courses.
6. Familiarizing students with different sources of information, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, and the Internet,. through a two-credit course presented at the beginning of the four-year program is also recommended.
7. The present undergraduate curriculum for translator training in Iranian universities lacks some key courses such as discourse analysis and text analysis. Moreover, introducing pragmatics and communicative functions of utterances to students would expand their knowledge. Other suggested courses are dubbing, subtitling, sight translation, machine translation, and machine-assisted translation.
II: Part II of the questionnaire focused on research question two. The frequency counts and Chi-square results indicated that the panel agreed on all 12 items in this part. The following points were suggested by the panel:
1. Shifting from a teacher focus in the classroom to a more workshop-like approach would help students solve their problems with peers and teacher supervision. Giving group assignments to prepare journals and newsletters on translation, asking students to justify their translations and those of their peers and to participate in translation seminars and lectures and take notes for subsequent discussion in class can develop self-confidence and decision-making skills that can only be developed if there is a friendly, flexible, supporting, interactive environment in the classroom. Appreciating student achievements rather than looking for perfection and having a limited number of students per class were also emphasized.
2. Offering elective courses was strongly recommended. Electives are essential for students since they give them an opportunity to choose subjects in which they have a genuine interested.
III: Part III of the questionnaire focused on research question three. The frequency counts and Chi-square results of this section indicate that the panel agreed on all 18 items in this part as well. In other words, the panel agreed on the following points:
1. It would be motivating for the trainees who have just started their four-year program to be informed of the importance of translation, a major intellectual discipline and is the key to international understanding and the vast world of communication, in which competent translators and interpreters are needed.
2. Adopting a student-centered methodology with a focus on discourse-oriented activities, establishing friendly competition with communication and cooperation among peers, providing an academic environment in which recently published articles and books are available to students, teaching students how to find and use sources of knowledge, providing opportunities for student translations to be published in college journals or local periodicals, assigning internships for students outside of the university e.g., in translation companies, radio and television stations, newspapers and other periodicals, etc. ,and administering a proficiency test after the first two years of the BA programwhich is devoted to general English coursesin order to distinguish those with good knowledge of L2, would be vital incentives for translation students to work harder and become highly motivated.
On the whole, it can be concluded that the BA translation program in Iranian universities needs substantive changes with regard to the skills, techniques, and contents it covers, the strategies used to teach these skills, and student motivation. Remedying these deficiencies should greatly enhance the effectiveness of the curriculum.
- This paper is extracted from my Master's thesis. I
would like to express my sincere thanks to my thesis advisor,
Dr. A. Mehdi Riazi, for his valuable assistance and guidance.
I am also most grateful to Dr. Farzaneh Farahzad for her careful
reading of the drafts and insightful comments.
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Questionnaire No. 1
1. What skills do you think should be incorporated in the English translation curriculum (BA program) to help students adapt to the new changes in their field?
2. What do you think the learning environment should be in terms of teaching/learning, teacher-student relations, seminars, group assignments, etc.?
3. What can be done to motivate students in their field of study (English translation)?
Questionnaire No. 2
I. Do you think the following skills and techniques should be incorporated into the English translation curriculum (BA program) to help students adapt to the new developments in their field?
1. Translation trainees should be exposed to a variety of genres in both languages.
2. "Classical Persian and English Literature" should be offered to students as reading courses.
3. "Modern Persian and English Literature" should also be offered in other reading courses.
4. Translation students need a reading course in Persian periodicals (in the present curriculum this course is only offered for English).
5. A reading course in "Advertisements, Announcements, Instructions, etc." in both L1 and L2 should be added.
6. A critical reading and writing course on Persian and English prose should be assigned.
7. Courses on various writing styles in both L1 and L2 should be included.
8. Writing reports in both English and Persian should be added.
9. Students should take a Persian letter-writing course (in the present curriculum this course is only offered for English).
10. Students need to take a course in note-taking (from lectures) in both L1 and L2 as a prerequisite for interpreting courses.
11. Students need to take courses in "Editing and Punctuation" in both L1 and L2.
12. Students need independent vocabulary courses in both L1 and L2.
13. Students need courses on listening to and transcribing English tapes .
14. Students need to have speaking courses in English (there was a 2-credit speaking course until 4 years ago but it is no longer part of the program).
15. Students need to take a course in "Applied Linguistics."
16. They need some courses on "Discourse Analysis" and "Text Analysis."
17. Familiarizing translation students with pragmatics and the communicative functions of utterances is necessary.
18. Students need more courses in practical comparative translation, i.e., comparing original texts with their translations (in the present curriculum there are 4 such credits but only for Islamic texts).
19. Students need a course in "Sociolinguistics."
20. Students need more courses on "Translation Theory" (more than the 2 credits in the present curriculum).
21. Students should be introduced to the latest articles and journals on translation and assigned to read them and present summaries.
22. A general course on using computers should be assigned.
23. A course is needed to familiarize translation students with "Machine Translation" and "Machine-Assisted Translation."
24. Students need to have courses on practicing "Dubbing, Subtitling, and Sight Translation."
25. Students need to have a course on how to use dictionaries, encyclopedias, the Internet, and other sources of information.
II. Do you agree with the following statements on the learning environment in terms of teaching and learning, teacher-student relations, seminars and group assignments, etc.?
26. The approach to translation classes should shift from a teacher focus to a more workshop-like approach.
27. We can develop self-confidence and decision-making skills in translation students by giving them the opportunity to justify their translations and those of their peers.
28. We should let translation students "experience" making mistakes in their translations.
29. Students should be given group assignments to prepare journals and newsletters on translation.
30. Elective courses for translation students would be useful.
31. The number of students in a in a translation class should be limited (maximum 15 students).
32. Translation students should participate in translation seminars and take notes for subsequent discussion in class.
33. The class environment should be facilitative, flexible, supportive, and interactive so that students think and ask questions.
34. The physical environment of the classroom, such as its size and set-up (U-shaped classes are more personable), lighting, ventilation, etc. affect class progress.
35. Teacher-student relations should be friendly (academic friendship).
36. The passages selected for translation in class should be interesting to the students.
37. The focus should be on progress, not on perfection.
III. Do you think the following suggestions would improve translation student motivation?
38. A student-centered methodology improves motivation.
39. We should seek ways of publishing student translations (e.g. in college journals, local periodicals, etc.).
40. Helping students to publish their outstanding translations in books or famous journals would increase their motivation.
41. Establishing friendly, constructive competition among peers in the classroom would be helpful.
42. Collaboration would help improve student motivation more than competition.
43. Selecting meaningful and interesting materials is a vital incentive.
44. Allowing students to translate material they are interested in for assignments can help.
45. Students should learn that translation is a major intellectual discipline and is the key to international understanding, i.e. the importance of the discipline and the vast world of communication in which translators and interpreters are needed in both the public and private sectors.
46. Having the trainees give lectures on their special areas of interest would be motivating.
47. Inviting professional translators to classes would be motivating.
48. Providing an academic environment in which recently published articles and books can be available to translation students would be motivating.
49. Classes should have a friendly atmosphere , with proper feedback from the teacher.
50. Giving interested students part-time jobs at the collegeworking as translators for a whole semesteris motivating.
51. Assigning an internship to translation students outside the university, for example in translation agencies, is motivating.
52. Familiarizing translation students with good translators and their work can be helpful.
53. Students should be introduced to the latest translations and translation research through bibliographies of translation published once a year at the university.
54. Translation classes should shift from a form-based, sentence-level orientation to more discourse-oriented activities.
55. As a way of increasing student motivation, a proficiency test should be administered after the first 2 years of the BA. program so that those who pass can continue to take the specialized translation courses and those who do not can be given a certificate and graduated.
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