MA in Specialised Translation: my experience at Roehampton University (2014/2015)

This MA course review has been written by Alejandra J. Garcia Romero and edited by Deepti Limaye.  For more information on MA courses and links to other reviews, see the European MA and the non-European MA pages on this blog.

Please get in touch if you completed your MA recently and would like to take part in this series. You’ll find more information about writing for this blog here. 

If you would like to help with me this MA review project, please read this post.

First of all, I would like to thank Nikki for inviting me to review the MA in Specialised Translation that I took at Roehampton in 2014/2015. As I don’t think anyone has reviewed this postgraduate course yet, I want to share my experience and impressions for anyone interested in taking it.

My background

When I finished my BA (Hons) in English in 2004, the last thing I had in mind was spending another two years enrolled on an MA programme. After many years of studying, I wanted to explore other possibilities: I worked as a private teacher and as a lecturer in English at the University of Málaga, as a web and graphic designer, as a translator, and even as a software programmer. And as if that weren’t enough, my husband and I embarked on the exciting adventure of creating our own company from scratch, with the effort and sacrifice that this requires. As you can imagine, I was so busy that I had very little time to devote to studying. But life takes many twists and turns, and it was not until I moved to London in 2012 and started working as a video games translator/tester that I actually thought about going back to university and enrolling on a postgraduate course.

Although I had taken several translation modules at university, I started looking for a practical MA course that could offer me the opportunity to acquire formal education in different translation specialisms, and that would let me put my knowledge and experience into practice. The MA in Specialised Translation at Roehampton seemed perfect for this.

Why Roehampton?

The options I considered (in terms of modules, commuting and cost) were the MA in Translation at the University of Surrey and the MA in Audiovisual/Specialised Translation at Roehampton University. The two universities have close ties as Roehampton was formerly an equal partner in the now-dissolved Federal University of Surrey. Both courses are also part of the European Masters in Translation (EMT) network, meaning that they are recognised by the European Commission as courses of excellence.

Although the University of Surrey’s translation programmes have a very good reputation, the modules seemed more theoretical than practical to me. The MA in Audiovisual/Specialised Translation at Roehampton University was quite new and offered more practical modules. The fact that Roehampton University was only 15 minutes away from home by bus meant that I could spend more time studying and researching at the library and spend less money on transport, an important factor considering that I was going to stop working for a year. So I decided to go to Roehampton.

Why I chose the MA in Specialised Translation

Roehampton offered three pathways in 2014/2015:

  • MA in Audiovisual Translation
  • MA in Specialised Translation
  • MA in Accessibility & Filmmaking

The three pathways were very similar and differed only in the core modules. Although I really wanted to take the Subtitling and Surtitling module, I decided to enrol on the MA in Specialised Translation because it offered the Translation Tools module as well as modules for Scientific & Technical translation and Economic & Legal translation. (As a solution, I exchanged notes with some fellow students in the Subtitling and Surtitling module who were interested in the modules I took).

The MA in Accessibility & Filmmaking is no longer available, though some of its modules are now offered as part of the Audiovisual/Specialised pathways. However, Roehampton now offers a new MA programme focused on transcreation called Intercultural Communication in the Creative Industries.

Modules

The MA programme has 180 credits, divided into 3 compulsory modules, 3 optional modules and the dissertation module. In addition, postgraduate students can choose to enrol on a “Languages ​​for All” course or in the Academic Writing module. Although both are free, non-native English students are advised to enrol in the Academic Writing module to improve written English and write a successful dissertation.

  • Translation Theory and Practice: this was the most theoretical module and addressed various aspects of translation theory. The purpose of this module was to study and compare the main theoretical debates in translation throughout history and their relevance to the practice of translation. Students with formal education in translation studies found this module to be very boring because we hardly did any practical exercises. This module also included a lesson on CV writing and another on project management.
  • Translation Tools: in this module, students acquired an in-depth knowledge of SDL Trados Studio. Roehampton students enrolled on the MA in Specialised Translation programme can take the SDL exams and get Trados certifications for free. In my opinion, it would have been very useful to learn how to use (or at least take a look at) different CAT tools and compare them. Although Trados is one of the most used CAT tools, many translators cannot afford to pay for the licence and prefer to use cheaper (or even free) alternatives.
  • Technical and Scientific Translation: the theoretical part of this module focused mainly on the medical field. As the only Spanish student enrolled on this course, the practical part consisted of tailored one-on-one sessions, created to suit my needs. Thanks to these sessions, I took my translation skills further and explored other fields and specialisms, such as pharmaceutical and patent translation.
  • Managing Projects: due to my previous experience as an entrepreneur, I decided to take this module to gain more insight into what it is like to manage an international project and how these skills can be applied to the translation world. I was the only translation student who took the module that year and I found it quite appealing, since it was not provided by the Department of Media, Culture and Languages, but by the Roehampton Business School. The participants in this module (only seven including me) were international students, and thanks to them, I learned about many cultural aspects that could influence the success of a project. In addition, we benefited from the lecturer’s professional career, which was a source of real case studies and examples related to the topics discussed throughout the module. The assessment was both theoretical and practical; it consisted of carrying out a study of an international project by applying all the points studied during the module and then giving a presentation, assessed by an external project manager, to the other students.
  • Economic and Legal Translation: apparently, I was the only student enrolled in this module. As all optional modules are subject to a minimum number of enrolled students, this module had to be cancelled.
  • Localisation of Video Games: this module was a lot of fun. Although I already had experience in translating video games, I learned more about the processes involved in the localisation of video games, including companies’ budgets and QA. Besides a 3500-word essay, students had to give a presentation on a particular linguistic aspect of video game translation. Thanks to the lecturer’s contacts, we were able to participate in a real localisation project of a video game developed by North Carolina State University (NCSU) that was used as part of the US Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps programme.
  • Dissertation: this is, undoubtedly, the scariest module. Although I had almost five months to complete it (mid-April to August), I never felt that I had enough time to write it properly. Thanks to my prior application for the TECHNE scholarship, I was offered the opportunity to research live subtitling and respeaking in Spanish TV. My research was awarded a distinction and the Gerhard Weiler Award for the best dissertation of 2014/15 in the field of Audiovisual Translation. I really appreciated having complete freedom in my research, as well as my tutor’s unconditional support.

Intensity of study and work

In general, the programme is well structured and tries to organise the modules in such a way that students have enough time to study and read. However, the evaluation standards at Roehampton are very high, and each task, essay, or presentation requires a great deal of research. As a very demanding person that likes challenges, I tried to give my best in all the tasks proposed, assessed or not. I said goodbye to Christmas, Easter and summer holidays that year, but all that effort led to very high marks in all the modules I took.

Support and scholarships

One of the things I appreciated most about Roehampton was the constant support we all had from the lecturers and our close relationship with them. Regardless of marks obtained, they always tried to encourage and advise students on how to improve our essays, translations, and presentations.

When it comes to scholarships, the school did not hesitate to offer advice regarding applications. When I applied for the TECHNE scholarship, they put me in touch with prospective supervisors, who read and considered my proposal. Unfortunately, although my application reached the final stage, I was not awarded the scholarship as I was still writing my dissertation. Despite that, they gave me their full support, and I know that if I want to take up my proposal again and apply for the TECHNE or another scholarship, they will be glad to help me. I would be happy to do so in the future, but at the moment, my highest priority is taking care of my baby.

Pros and cons

  • Software used: in my opinion, students could get more out of the modules if they could learn how to use different tools. The software used in the Subtitling module is WinCAPS and Swift (neither used commonly by freelancers), while in Translation Tools students only learn how to use SDL Trados.
  • Resources: Roehampton library has an extensive online catalogue and a large audiovisual archive. However, the number of electronic books available was very small and they could only be accessed by one student at a time. The same happened with physical copies.
  • Preparation for freelancing: unlike Audiovisual Translation MA students (most of whom found jobs with subtitling companies), the students of the Specialised Translation pathway were not given enough information about the freelancing world and on how to start our translation businesses.
  • Campus: Roehampton has one of the best campuses in London. It is a pleasure to study there, especially in the postgraduate room, which is quieter than the library and where you can have a cup of coffee or a hot drink while reading or studying on cold winter evenings.
  • Seminars and conferences: the department organised several seminars and conferences that took place on Tuesday evenings. The guest speakers were not only researchers, but also professional translators, linguists and agency directors.  We also had a few workshops with linguists working at the European Commission, who gave us practical insight into what it is like to work for an institutional organisation.

Conclusion

As someone with formal education in Linguistics and English Literature, I benefited from the course in that I obtained more theoretical knowledge and practical skills. I enjoyed studying at Roehampton because I had the opportunity and the freedom to create my own MA and complement my education and experience in the way I wanted with very professional, competent, and supportive people and colleagues. Overall, I had a very positive and enriching experience, and I recommend the programme to anyone looking for a personalised, quality education where you receive close attention.

If you have any questions about my experience or about this MA course, please get in touch! I would be glad to help.

Alejandra J. Garcia Romero (or Alexia, for short) is a London-based freelance translator working from English and French into Spanish. She graduated with a BA (Hons) English in 2004 from the University of Málaga, and then worked as a lecturer in English and Translation in the university’s Faculty of Arts, as well as on other courses at the Industrial Engineering and Polytechnic Schools, the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Faculty of Education Science until 2012.

During that time, and before devoting herself full-time to translation, she worked as a programmer and software and video game tester as well as a web and graphic designer. Given Alexia’s passion for linguistics and technology, the move to take an MA degree and specialise in IT and software localisation was a natural fit. Alexia also offers medical and pharmaceutical translation, subtitling, and DTP services. She has experience in translating texts on music, and legal and marketing documents. Alexia is committed to high-quality work and strongly believes in the human factor as the key to success.

To find more about her career, you can visit her LinkedIn profile and website. You can also find her on Twitter.

Deepti Limaye is a mechanical engineer and Spanish-English translator and interpreter based in Toronto, Canada. She combines her love of language with engineering precision to craft scientific and technical translations of the highest quality.

In October 2016, Deepti launched Limaye Spanish-English Language Services with three fellow MIIS graduates to provide reliable and accurate translation, editing, and interpreting services to businesses expanding into Latin America.

 

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