Teaching Translation: A Look at the Way It Is in Iranian Universities and the Way It Should Be Persian translation jobs
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Teaching Translation: A Look at the Way It Is in Iranian Universities and the Way It Should Be

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Sahar Farrahi Avval photoThe importance of translation and cross-cultural issues in today’s world is nothing new or strange. However, considering this importance, are the programs for translation students efficient and well designed enough to supply the market with acceptable pieces of translation after the students graduate in the field under consideration?

This article intends to give a picture of the translation programs and syllabi in Iranian universities for BA degree and presents some guidelines for their modifications to improve the program.

Key words : translation, cross-cultural issues, acceptable pieces of translation, translation program

1. Introduction

Not only experts and students in the field of translation, but also non-translators are aware of the vital role of translation these days.

It is recommended that, based on students’ interest and sometimes market needs, the last two years of study be allocated to specialized translation.
Regardless whether we consider translation an art, craft, or science, the author believes that translation has rules and techniques, which should be taught and learned efficiently and carefully. The actual users of translation techniques are the translation students who should have enough time and opportunity to get acquainted with those techniques. But a mere introduction to these rules and techniques is not enough; the students should also have a chance to work with those techniques and theories and know the particular use of each. The weaknesses in the translation programs in Iran have led to inefficient translators who do not meet the needs of the market.

In the this paper, the author introduces some factors, which should be taken into account in teaching translation; then she gives a perspective from the present situation of teaching translation in Iranian universities, and finally she introduces some suggestions to be observed by the scholars in charge of collecting materials for BA translation programs in Iranian universities.

2. Factors affecting the quality of translation

Most people, with or without degrees in translation, i. e. academicians and market-oriented people, pick up a dictionary after receiving a text or material to be translated, start the job of translation, and do it from the first line to the last one. But is that enough? Is that what the scholars of the field and users of that translated material expect? Those translators know nothing about text analysis, genre, the writer’s or translator’s purpose or stages in the process of text translation:

1- reading the text as a whole

2- reading the text paragraph by paragraph

3- looking up the technical words in the appropriate dictionary

4- preparing the first draft

5- reading and editing the first draft

6- preparing the second draft

7- consultation with:

    1. translation scholars
    2. TL readers
    3. TL grammar scholars

8- preparing the final draft

As Newmark believes, a translation may be evaluated by various authorities: (a) the reviser employed by the firm or the translation company; (b) the head of section or the company (this may be described as ’Quality Control’; (c) the client; (d) the professional critic of translation or the teacher; and (e) finally by the readers of the published book

What percentage of translators, both academically educated and market-oriented ones, proceed through those stages?

If we disconsider those translators who were educated by the market and have no academic background, and focus on those with university degrees, we notice some weaknesses in the university translation programs.

The center of this issues arising in the field of teaching translation are the instructors and developers of materials being taught in translators’ training centers, in our Iranian universities.

They teach the students, who show and reflect their instructions in their future translation works which subjects them to criticism.

The rules, techniques, theories, processes of translation are taught form books, but not applied in the classroom.

3. Present situation in Iranian universities

3-1 Curriculum

After passing university entrance exam, students are accepted for BA degree in translation studies based on their selections they made before taking the exam. They enter the universities, but suffer from weakness in general English which is believed to be the base of a good translator’s competence, although here we should confirm that speaking a language well does not necessarily makes a person good translator. The students are supposed to earn 133 to 135 credits to graduate and get a BA. About 70 to 72 credits are earned for specific courses of translation and 4 credits for language learning.

The focus of BA program of translation is having the students memorize dozens of new words, which are erroneously believed to be the key factors and effective tools in translating, rather than teaching some translation strategies such as communicative strategies, to have the students learn how to overcome their deficiencies in vocabulary and grammar in getting the message across.

Different texts on economy, politics, literature, journalism, etc. with their translations are given to the students; those texts are overloaded with a great number of new words which are learned for the exam and then immediately forgotten. This process also discourages students from using creativity in their translation. Another point to be mentioned here is that the direction of translation is mostly form English into Persian.

Theories are taught, but not their application in translation practice. What to translate is said but not how to translate; dos and don’ts are given; but not how to, and the result is what we see in the market: low-quality translations!

3-2 Evaluation and assessment

How are the translation tasks evaluated? Selected texts in English are given to the students and are supposed to be translated into Persian. The translations are exactly copied from the course book and the teacher corrects them based on the translated volume and not based on a certain theory or criteria. Does this not take away the responsibility and creativity of future translators?

For the final exam, exactly the same materials are given to the students to translate. During the teaching process, the sudents are not informed of the criteria based on which the translations are evaluated. That is why the translator students do not know how to evaluate their translation even after graduation, and this leads to the market dissatisfaction.

4. How to fix the problem as discussion

Nearly half of the credits the translation students should earn during eight semesters of study are exactly the same credits other students in other fields such as geography, economics, mathematics, biology, etc. should earn; that means half of the time allocated to get their BA in translation studies are wasted in courses that do not help them learn to translate. Is this not a waste of time?

It is recommended that the program for this kind of study should begin before entering the university, and a completely different university entrance exam should be administered. The exam materials should be directly related to general English, which is believed to be the base and prerequisite factor to be a qualified translator. Specific courses should be designed on translation studies such as new trends, theories, and strategies of translation. After passing this exam, students should be taught the material of those courses plus other sciences related to translation for the first two terms.

And what is be done for the last two years of study?

Translators, at any stage of study or even after graduation, are supposed to translate any kinds of texts. Some time ago, it was believed that good translators should be capable of translating any kinds of texts which were given to them; however, now with the rapid pace of progress in different sciences and technologies, it is wise to try to allocate time and have students gain experience in a few fields of study, rather than all of them! The more a translator works on a few specific sciences, the more experience he/she will gain in translating them which leads to high quality translations and, as a result, to market satisfaction.

So, it is recommended that, based on students’ interest and sometimes market needs, the last two years of study be allocated to specialized translation.

Administering such a program is not as complicated and hard as it seems. However, sometimes, to get the optimum result, basic changes should be made.

5. Conclusion

The present situation of translators’ training and syllabus design seems to need some adjustment and modification, and this change is felt more and more when BA students of translation enter universities to continue their education for an MA degree. They feel that they do not know enough about translation to rely on for future MA courses, and most of them do not feel to have enough skill for translating the required texts. So it is suggested to those who are in charge of designing the syllabus for translation studies in Iranian universities to make some changes in the program in order to inject new power into the translation community in Iran.

Published - February 2013

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