Today’s guest post is by Émilie Barbier and it is part of the MA in Translation and Interpreting review series. If you have studied an MA in recent years and would like to share your experiences, I’d love to hear from you. You’ll find a complete list of all the guest posts and some general guidelines for writing for this blog here.
The LISH Master (Lettres, Interfaces numériques & Sciences Humaines), originally called the T3L Master, was created in 2006 by a team of researchers and translators at the University of Paris 8. This two-year selective programme provides students with both academic knowledge and professional training, allowing them to choose between three majors: literary translation, legal translation and online media translation. Language combinations include English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic and Italian from or into French.
I enrolled in this programme in September 2013, after spending a year working as a teaching assistant in a community college in England. The selection process included a translation test, an interview as well as a 5-page proposal in which candidates had to present the topic of their dissertation. Even though the programme is organised over two years, students are required to write a dissertation at the end of each year… But more on that later!
I opted for the major in literary translation, which focuses on the translation of literature and humanities. Modules range from translation theory and terminology to computer-assisted translation, marketing and the legal aspects of the translation industry, to name a few. Focusing on theoretical and literary texts, students learn to develop their translation skills, of course, but also build strong writing and research skills by having to deal with many different types of publications. A strong emphasis is placed on the importance of IT and localisation skills, so students are more than welcome to attend modules in other majors even if they chose to focus primarily on literature.
Some of the modules are common to all majors and language combinations, which I think is a real asset: this allows you to stay in touch with languages you might have studied in the past as well as discover new ones, and it also allows you to see what the translation industry is like in other countries and in other fields.
Since most of the lecturers are both researchers and professionals, students are also encouraged to attend conferences as well as more practical seminars where translators come to share their experience. I remember one fascinating encounter with Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky who told us about the challenges they faced when translating Dostoevsky into English… We also had the opportunity to gain firsthand experience by being involved in various projects both in and outside the university. Not only did this show us the realities of the translation industry, it also taught us invaluable skills, such as project management and (remote) collaboration.
As mentioned above, students are asked to write two dissertations, one at the end of each year. Those, like me, who opt for the “professional” dissertation (as opposed to a more “research-oriented” dissertation, for those who would like to carry on with a PhD afterwards) have to find a text that has never been translated before, translate some of it, then analyse their own work by explaining what difficulties they encountered working on this particular text.
During the second year, students go through a compulsory 4–6-month internship which greatly contributes to their integration in the professional world. The internship not only allows students to put everything they’ve learnt into practice, it is also a first, essential step towards building their professional network and entering the translation market.
Studying for a Master’s degree in translation is not just about “learning to translate”, it is also about acquiring a wide set of skills that will serve you whether you choose to join a company or work as a freelancer. I decided to go down the freelance route and sure, finding clients and being your own boss isn’t always easy, but in hindsight, I think these two years prepared me well for it. Learning about my rights as a translator, about market research and translation theory was just as important as training in translation per se, because it gave me a better sense of the challenges I would face.
All in all, I had a very positive and enlightening experience in the LISH Master and I’d definitely recommend it to those looking for personalised, quality training.
Émilie Barbier is a freelance translator working from English to French and specialising in marketing, literature and humanities. She also offers ebook design services for self-published authors. She’s interested in creative writing, science-fiction and fantasy and likes to dabble in photography and video editing in her spare time.