In 2011, I found myself in the same situation as many other students: nearing the end of my undergraduate degree – in my case, a BA (Hons) in French and Spanish – and unsure of what to do next. I had really enjoyed the translation modules during my course, so I decided to continue down this road, and, a few months later, began my year-long MA in Translation Studies at Cardiff University.
At the time, the course was fairly new, so the structure and modules have changed slightly and a few more have been added since I studied there. There were three compulsory modules: Theory of Translation, which discussed various (surprise, surprise!) translation theories that could be applied to any language; All Languages Translation Class, which was also quite theoretical: for example, we discussed whether translation was an art or science, looked at interpreting versus translating, and the implications of translating religious texts; and Research Methods and Skills, where we studied translation research methods, as well as practical information such as testing out a couple of different CAT tools, hearing talks from freelance translators and a translation agency, and weighing up the pros and cons of working in each.
We could then take three more modules out of the following options: Translation and European Cultures, a training placement module, and the specialised translation modules: Politics and Law, Business and Administration, Scientific and Technical, Literary and Arts, and Medical and Pharmaceutical. I took the business module, but also sat in on the politics and literature modules as they were subjects that also interested me.
As the course caters for all languages, we had a different lecturer each week who would focus on a different topic or language – so while in the business module, we studied advertising and marketing one week and HR and law the next, the literature module dealt with the challenges found in a specific language each week.
I also took Translation and European Cultures, where we studied the role of translation in Europe, and the effect that translation has had on globalisation and communication.
Finally, I took the training placement module, where you can either find your own placement, or work for a week at Wolfestone Translation, in Swansea. As I was not sure whether I wanted to go down the ‘working in a company’ route at the time and was more interested in an academia route, I instead spent the week attending conferences and roundtables on the upcoming French Presidential Elections.
All of these modules took place in the first semester, and we had coursework for each module and exams for the three compulsory modules. The coursework for the compulsory/theoretical modules consisted of essay questions, while for the specialised modules we did three annotated translations, where you translate a given text and add a commentary on your translation choices and the challenges found within.
The second semester was dedicated to starting our final research project: you could either choose to write an 8,000 word translation with a 12,000 word commentary, or you could write a 20,000 word dissertation, on the subject or text of your choice. Once again, I went off the beaten track slightly as I already had a topic in mind that I was interested in researching, so I wrote a 20,000 word dissertation on The Challenges of Translating Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Call me bonkers, but I quite enjoyed it!
my Masters led to a much deeper understanding of the translation process
To be honest, at the time, I felt that this course was quite theory-heavy, and because you are left to your own devices in the second part of the semester, it felt like I had hardly spent any time in the classroom. However, since re-reading my class notes while writing this post (yes, I still have them!), I’ve realised that I was actually given a lot of useful information that I still use today – from tips on how to set yourself up as a freelance translator, to terminology research methods, as well as a few strategies relating to adapting your text for the new audience. Ultimately, I’m glad I did my Masters, as it led to a much deeper understanding of the translation process, and knowing that it is so much more than swapping word A for word B – which is, what I believe, sets professional translators apart from people who are merely bilingual.
As I mentioned, the course has changed since I attended, so there are new modules to choose from now, such as Subtitling, and Translation and Adaptation in the Arts. You can see the current course structure here.
If you have any further questions about this course, or about studying in Cardiff, feel free to drop me a message!
Natalie Soper is a professional French and Spanish to English translator based in Plymouth, UK, and specialises in business, arts, culture, and tourism.
This guest post is part of this blog’s series on MA courses in Translation and Interpreting (currently divided into European and Non-European sections). If you have done an MA relatively recently and would be interested in writing about your experience to help future students, then please get in touch. You’ll find more information about writing for this blog and a list of all guest posts here.