I’d always planned to become a translator. The career seemed to fit my abilities and interests well so the die was cast on my academic path. The translation modules I did as part of my undergraduate degree in Modern Language Studies (French, Spanish and Dutch) only whetted my appetite further for continuing my study of translation. Then, as if almost by a stroke of fate, just as I was starting my final undergraduate year, the university’s Cultures, Languages and Area Studies department announced that they would be introducing a postgraduate programme in Translation Studies – with the option to study interpreting as a supplementary module. I leapt at the chance to apply for a place as soon as I could, and so began my Master’s degree at the University of Nottingham.
I believe a Master’s degree in translation is very useful to a would-be translator. Whilst most language undergraduate programmes offer some modules on translation, they tend to be introductions to the field. Therefore, to complete a degree entirely dedicated to the study of translation not only proves that you are a competent translator, but also that you have a deeper understanding of all facets of the field, ranging from theoretical and analytical aspects to the more technical elements.
Why the University of Nottingham?
The teaching talent on offer for this degree is fantastic. The course is run by Dr Pierre-Alexis Mével, a leading academic in the field of audiovisual translation. Each module is taught by an expert of their field, and so I felt that I had a lot to gain by choosing to complete my Master’s degree at the University of Nottingham.
Students can choose up to three languages in any combination from the following, which serve as the source languages throughout the duration of the Master’s degree. Due to the unavailability of Dutch for this programme, I chose Spanish and French as my source languages:
- Mandarin Chinese
The course is tailored to provide an introduction to a number of elements of professional translation that students might not have had the opportunity to study in their undergraduate programmes. For example, the core modules include a course entitled “Translator’s Toolbox”, which teaches students the workings of CAT programs and tools through the use of SDL Trados, a course on the field of audiovisual translation that covers the arts of subtitling and audio description using WinCAPS software. Additionally, there are modules on translation theory and a module dedicated to the translation of different text types (ranging from news articles to advertisements). Students also have the option to take an introductory module on interpreting, which provides the opportunity to develop a framework of the skills required of a professional interpreter. Students are also required to complete a Targeted Translation Project over the summer semester, which can be either a research paper on a particular translation theory, a translation of a previously untranslated work, or a commentary on two different translations of the same document.
The diverse range of modules available … allows for a balanced and thorough training in the art of the professional translator
It’s clear that the diverse range of modules available for this postgraduate course allows for a balanced and thorough training in the art of the professional translator. Through the study of CAT tools, students are already trained for the reality of completing larger translation projects. The modules on audiovisual translation and interpreting also allow the student to explore the various facets of professional translation, meaning it is easier to find a preferred field and speciality early in their translation career. All these facts lead to a well-rounded and informed programme, preparing students for the life of a professional translator.
The module on translation theory gives the students a different perspective on translation and allows them to understand the various justifications for different translation processes. Coupled with the practical module on literary translation, students are taught to analyse a text’s features, come up with a translation strategy, and then justify their translation choices. I believe these skills are essential to the professional translator, as they promote an awareness of the source text and any demands the project might have.
The freedom students are afforded … allows each individual to shine and display their skills
The Targeted Translation Project is a culmination of all the skills learned throughout the year. If students choose to produce a translation, then they may choose any field they wish. For example, I chose to translate a French science-fiction novel into English, whereas one course mate of mine elected to produce an audio description script for a ballet. The freedom students are afforded when it comes to choosing the nature of their project allows each individual to shine and display their skills and what they have learned over the course of this Master’s programme.
As I mentioned earlier, this Master’s programme is still relatively young. All the modules I have discussed (excluding the Introduction to Interpreting) are core modules and so, whilst there remains some scope for students to pursue other interests as optional modules (I was able to take a beginner’s German course), there is a chance that certain modules will be unavailable.
I would however say that it’s beneficial for students to look into taking additional modules in as many of their source languages as possible. I took a module in French just to keep my language skills refreshed, and I feel that it helped with my project and the interpreting module.
Regular Meetings with the East Midlands Regional Group of the ITI
One particular benefit of choosing this postgraduate programme is the close proximity to the professional world of translation. Approximately every month, students are invited to attend workshops and seminars run by the East Midlands Regional Group of the Institute of Translation & Interpreting. This allows for networking opportunities, and for students to get their professional translation career off the ground early.
Thoughts on the Course
I can honestly say that this Master’s degree has really helped to shape my career as a translator. I discovered my passion for audiovisual translation, and developed a healthy respect for the art of interpreting. I also felt that I was able to further hone the rudimentary translation skills I had acquired during my undergraduate degree. More importantly, however, my confidence as a translator has vastly improved thanks to this degree. Despite the course having only run for 3 years now, it felt like a well-rounded experience. I have every faith that the course will continue to improve in quality with each new year it is run.
This postgraduate programme’s content can change each academic year. To find up-to-date information on modules and funding opportunities, follow this link to the Module Guide page on the University of Nottingham’s website.
Daniel Hirst is a freelance translator of Spanish, French and Dutch into English. He also works as a proofreader and editor, and specialises in legal, tourism, journalism and technical translation.
You can find his LinkedIn profile here to get in touch.
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.
Please read this post if you would like to help with me this MA review project.