Technical and Academic Writing in the Education of Translators
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writing instruction is part of the technical
translation curriculum at the Budapest University
of Technology and Economics. The course called
Professional Documentation (PD) fulfills this
The main genre-related
topics covered in the course are instructions,
articles, reports, abstracts and proposals.
This paper gives a detailed overview of two
important genres: the abstract and the proposal.
and Academic Writing often overlap. If we regard
Technical Writing as writing about a technical
subject, intended to convey specific information
to a specific audience for specific purpose"
(Markel 1988), the second part of this definition
is obviously true also to Academic Writing,
i.e. it is conveying specific information to
a specific audience for specific purpose. Certainly
the topics and the audience are different in
Technical and Academic Writing.
Genre-based writing instruction is part of the technical
translation curriculum at the Budapest University
of Technology and Economics (BUTE, formerly
the Technical University of Budapest) Budapest,
This program contains
courses preparing future translators to jobs
that go beyond the borders of pure translation.
One of these courses is the writing course containing
both elements of Technical and Academic Writing
that is called Professional Documentation (PD).
PD is a course designed to make students of
translation acquainted with those written genres
of linguistic (interlingual) mediation, that
are not translation, but which a translator
may be required to write.
Not all topics of the
PD course are related to genres. The main genre-related
topics covered in the course are the following.
Writing abstracts (abstracting)
has special importance in BUTE translation curriculum
as the state examination, which concludes the
education of technical translators includes
abstract writing. This means that an abstract
of a technical article has to be prepared, where
the abstract and the article are in different
Why should we include
writing instruction in translation curricula?
The reasons seem to be
simple and obvious. On a general level we can
say, that translators are specialized writers,
thus getting acknowledged with written texts
and producing them helps the students to become
Writing instruction widens
translation students professional horizon.It
allows them to become acquainted with the characteristics
of a number of new genres and equipped with
the necessary skills to produce texts corresponding
to these genres.
By designing a number
of assignments in which they have to decide,
what is really important in a text and what
is not, writing instruction can be formed in
a way, that students concentrate on the notion
of the importance of information.
Encounters with new texts
also develop the student's vocabulary in the
target language. Dealing with genres helps the
students to become an understanding of cultural
differences that influence the quality of translation
and which play also a role when someone prepares
documents for translation (Maylath 1997).
are especially visible if we speak about abstracting.
Uso and Palmer (1998) enumerate these in connection
with teaching English as a second language.
These benefits are also valid if we teach abstracting
to students of translation (who by the way often
regard their training as an enhanced form of
exercises enhance reading and writing ability,
engaging the students in activities that are
communicative and in which they apply knowledge
not only employs decoding and encoding and develops
critical reading skills, but it enhances the
understanding of basic rhetorical principles.
benefits of abstracting are in turn mostly applicable
to the entire spectrum of writing instruction.
2 The genres
In the following we give
a detailed overview of two important genres:
the abstract and the proposal.
is a series of small challenges: no two are
alike, yet the writing must be consistent, accurate
and finished on time. The abstractor should
also enjoy the challenge of reducing the work
to its essentials. A creative, detective-like
skill is needed to find the main points in a
wordy, poorly written article (Neufeld and Cornog
can be defined as an activity of representing
the most important information of a text in
a shorter than the original text from a pre-defined
viewpoint. The represented (original) text is
mainly in a source language different from the
target language of the representing text, i.e.
the abstract. The abstract has to fulfill the
minimal function of allowing its user to decide
whether the original text has to be read or
is a purposeful understanding of the original
text, its interpretation and then a special
projection of the information deemed to be worth
of abstracting into a new text.
first stage of the abstracting process is orientation,
followed by the interiorization of the perceived
needs, planning, translation (execution) and
important element of many of these stages is
reading, a special technique of which is selective
reading, that allows the exploration of the
text, searching for useful information, then
immerse study of selected segments of the text.
is especially important to differentiate between
informative abstracts and indicative ones. Indicative
abstracts exclusively consist of indicative
utterances, informative abstracts consist of
informative utterances, while mixed (indicative-informative)
abstracts contain a blend of these. Indicative
abstracts contain some kind reference to the
original that is (often implicitly) the following:
(In) the (abstracted) document
is a professional activity based on abilities
and skills that can be and have to be learnt.
It is based on summarizing information that
can be spontaneous, everyday activity, but can
also acquire a semi-professional character.
The quality of abstracts
can be judged using the following criteria:
- What is the level
- Is there enough important
information of the original text included
in the abstract?
- Are unnecessary details
- Are there any misunderstandings
of the original text reflected in the abstract?
- How well is it worded
in the target language ? (Koltay 2003)
represent a genre that is highly useful for
any writer, including translators. Well-written
proposals multiply the chances of being accepted.
In many cases proposals have to be prepared
in two or more languages. Translators familiar
with the genre and the cultural differences
between the source and the target language can
render a highly useful service. This is true
even if we know that proposals differ by their
type and conditions of their submission.
the most general terms, a written proposal is
a document in which the writer offers something
beneficial to the reader in exchange for something
writer (or writers and the organization they
represent) may offer to conduct research, develop
systems, design and build equipment, improve
services, repair damage, increase profits, etc.
In return, the reader (or readers and the organization
they represent) will provide funding, payment,
equipment, and other support.
proposal may reflect a need recognized and stated
by the reader, by the writer, or both. This
gives us the foundations for a typology of proposals.
Not all proposals, but most of them fall into
the following six categories:
applications for government
bids for government contracts,
applications for foundation
applications for corporate
bids for commercial contracts,
internal proposals (where writer
and reader are members of the same organization).
are often written according to requirements
set in Requests for Proposals (RFPs).
are delivered to a specific audience to achieve
a specific purpose. The audience of a proposal
may include both technical and non-technical
readers. Both groups have to be addressed. One
part of the audience may be interested in the
results, other part in the costs; again others
in trying out new things. Some may resist new
ideas. he following questions have to be answered
concerning the audience of a proposal:
Who is the real audience?
What does the reader already
What does the reader want to
What does the reader not want
What does the reader perceive?
person (or persons) who can make a decision
or take action as a result of the proposal constitutes
the real audience. In many cases there are many
readers of a proposal. The first reader may
have the authority to reject the idea but not
the authority to approve it. A proposal may
be evaluated by a team selected for that purpose.
A good proposal should include information necessary
to have each person who receives it take the
appropriate action, as well as information required
to ensure that the right person sees it. From
this perspective, the audience can be divided
into three distinct categories:
Primary audience: The person
or persons who can make decisions or act
on the proposal.
Secondary audience: Those who
will be affected by the decision or action
Intermediate audience: Those
who review and route the proposal.
readers often tend to focus on their own areas
of interest and specialization. Some of them
focus on technical details; others on budgetary
and financial matters; and those who work in
personnel may focus primarily on the way people
will be influenced. (Bowman & Branchaw 1992).
linguistic analysis of research grant proposals
submitted to the European Union (Connor & Mauranen 1999) showed,
that following the model for article introductions
proposed by Swales (1990) ten rhetorical moves
can be identified. Of these moves the following
nine occur in the majority of proposals:
first move in most proposals examined was one
which established the territory in which the
research placed itself. They found that it is
possible to distinguish two types of territory,
of which at least one, but sometimes both were
- a 'real-world' territory,
i.e. how the proposed project is situated
in the world outside the research field;
- a research territory,
that is, the field of research within the
discipline or disciplines of the project.
Gap move indicates that there is a gap in knowledge
or a problem in the territory. The gap move
is again very similar to the second swalesian
introduction move known as "establishing
a niche." Like the territorial move, the
gap can also be placed either in the 'real world'
(for instance environmental, commercial, or
financial problems), or in the research world
(for example pointing out that something is
not known or not known with certainty, or needs
to be known).
important aspect of this move is placing one's
work in relation to the consensus in the field.
The researcher needs to be innovative, yet the
proposed research has to remain within the constraints
of the field. Citation of sources helps a great
deal in solving this dilemma.
Goal move is a statement of the aim, or general
objective of the study. Depending on its formulation,
the real-world element may be present or the
research territory element may dominate.
Means move specifies how the goal will be achieved.
This move describes the methods, procedures,
plans of action, and tasks that are to lead
to the goal.
Reporting Previous Research move consists of
reporting or referring to earlier research in
the field, either by the proposers themselves
or by others.
the Achievements move, the proposals present
their anticipated results, findings, or outcomes
of the study.
Benefits move comprises intended or projected
outcomes of the study, presented in terms of
their usefulness and value to the world outside,
the study itself, or the domain of research
Competence Claim move introduces the research
group, or its responsible members. It makes
a statement to the effect that the research
group is well qualified, experienced, and generally
capable of carrying out the tasks it proposes
Importance Claim move which makes out the proposal,
its objectives, anticipated outcomes, or the
territory as particularly important or topical,
much needed or urgent with respect to either
the 'real world' or to the research field.
matter how persuasive the tone of the proposal,
it may be rejected. In general terms, proposals
are rejected because of:
a) No trust: For one
reason or another, the reader does not trust
the writers, their organization, or members
of the given profession in general.
b) No need: The reader doesn't perceive a problem.
c) No desire: The reader perceived a problem
but doesn't believe that it is sufficiently
important to worry about.
d) No urgency: The reader perceives a problem
and would like it solved but has higher priorities
at the moment.
e) No value: The reader perceived a problem
and would like it to be solved, but doesn't
believe that the proposed solution will provide
an adequate return on investment (Bowman &
list shows well the differences between solicited
and unsolicited proposals. If we prepare a solicited
proposal, it is unlikely that they would be
rejected on (b) and (c). Obviously the reader's
perception is depends on how detailed and unambiguous
the RFP was. This is also true in the case of
(d). "No trust" may be the case regardless
of whether the proposal is solicited or unsolicited.
of this, it is useful to see the following,
more detailed list of possible causes for rejection.
The proposer did not demonstrate a clear understanding
of the problem.
The proposal did not arrive by the submission
The information requested in the RFP was not
The objectives were not well-defined.
The wrong audience was addressed.
The procedures and methodology were not specific.
The overall design was questionable.
The proposal lacked evidence of intent to meet
all terms and conditions specified in the RFP.
Cost estimates were not realistic: either too
high or too low.
Resumes of key personnel were inadequate.
Personnel lacked experience or the required
The proposal was poorly written and not well-organized.
The proposal did not follow the organizational
pattern specified in the RFP.
The completed proposal was not attractive.
The proposal did not provide adequate assurance
that completion deadlines would be met.
Essential data were not included in the proposal.
The proposed facilities were inadequate.
The proposal failed to show that essential equipment
and facilities were available.
The proposed time schedule was unrealistic.
The proposal failed to include the qualifications
of the submitting organization (Bowman & Branchaw 1992).
have mentioned the importance of proposals to
be well-written. The above arguments have proven
how important is the role that extralingual
factors play in producing successful proposals.
Just to mention one obvious issue: If the proposal
does not arrive by the submission deadline,
is this fact related in any way to linguistics?
J.P. & Branchaw, B.P. (1992).
How to Write Proposals that Produce.
Phoenix, Arizona: Oryx Press.
U. & Mauranen, A. ( 1999).
Linguistic Analysis of Grant Proposals: European
Union Research Grants. English for Specific
Purposes. Vol. 18, No. 1, 4762.
M.P. (1985). Proposals. Research in technical communication.
M.G. Moran and D. Journet, (Eds.), (255-283).
Westport CT: Greenwood Press.
Koltay, T. (2003) A
referálás elmélete és
gyakorlata (Theory and practice of abstracting
[In Hungarian] Budapest: Könyvtári
Markel, M.H. (1998).
Technical Writing. Situations
and Strategies. 2nd ed. New York: St.Martin's.
Maylath, B. (1997) Writing
Globally. Teaching the Technical Writing Student
to Prepare Documents for Translation. Journal
of Business and Technical Communication,
Vol. 11, No. 3, 339-352.
Neufeld, M.L. &
Cornog, M. (1983). Abstracting and Indexing:
A Career Guide. Philadelphia, NFAIS.
J.M. (1990).Genre analysis. English
in academic and research settings. Cambridge
etc.: Cambridge University Press.
E & Palmer, J.C. (1998). A
product-focused approach to text summarisation.
In: The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. 4,No.
paper is partly based on the author's
two earlier articles:
Teaching Proposal Writing to Translators. Translation
Journal. Vol. 6., No. 2., April 2002. www.accurapid.com/journal/20edu.htm and Including technical
and academic writing in translation curricula.
Translation Journal, Vol. 2., No. 2.,
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