Review of MA Translation Studies at Cardiff University

It is safe to say that I decided to devote my work fully to translation somewhat later than I should have done. But, as the saying goes, better late than never! That said, if I had decided to pursue studies earlier, I would not have gained the wealth of experiences that I am now able to include in my translation toolkit!

I studied BA(Hons) at the University of Bristol in the nineties and followed with a PGCE in Secondary Education. I aimed to become a language teacher, but life took me into hospitality management and, later, into project management and logistics in the European bespoke furniture industry.

I loved the challenges of both careers, but when my youngest son was due to start school in 2018, I knew I wanted to get back to work but that I wanted to work from home. After a serendipitous visit from a school friend, a Switzerland-based freelance translator, I had a lightbulb moment. Languages and informal translation, even interpreting, had always been a part of my work, probably the part I enjoyed most. I wanted languages and, specifically, translation to be the focus of my work, not incidental to it.

I decided to investigate studying translation and dipped a toe in the water by enrolling on the free FutureLearn course by Cardiff University called Working with Translation: Theory and Practice. I signed up and immersed myself in the course, delighted to be studying again! I would recommend this course to anyone considering doing an MA – especially if you are considering Cardiff – as you get an introduction to many of the lecturers and tutors! I later learned that all MA students are encouraged to do this course before starting an MA in Translation Studies at Cardiff University.

After I had completed the course, I applied for the MA course at Cardiff University. Had I known the University of Bristol (my alma mater) course was mainly online, I might have considered it, but I’m glad I didn’t!

Cardiff is a vibrant city with a large student population

Cardiff is only 20 minutes from our house, and the campus is a 2-mile walk, cycle or run across the park from my boys’ school. It was a logical choice for me, but it’s also an amazing place to live, study and work. I have lived here for 18 years and can’t imagine living anywhere else in the UK! Cardiff is the capital of Wales. A vibrant city with a fantastic selection of chain and independent shops, bars and restaurants. It has a large student population attending local universities, with plenty of opportunities for a busy social life. Cardiff University Students’ Union is very active and presents a wealth of opportunities to students and provides an excellent support network. Cardiff is also near the coast and the mountains, providing plenty of possibilities to explore beyond the city limits.

The Translation Studies MA course at Cardiff—available as a full-time 1-year course or part time 2-year course—is a clever mix of theory and practice. The course is delivered in English but designed for students working with any language pair. External tutors mark assignments if the relevant languages or language combination is not available in the School of Modern Languages (MLANG) at Cardiff. Each module is assessed by a varying number of essays and, in some cases, translations or presentations. In a few cases, e.g. Interpreting, there are exams. For someone like me, who had not written an essay in over 20 years, there is abundant support in study skills, essay writing and academic writing conventions. The Cardiff University Careers and Employability Service is also extremely active. There are frequent opportunities to attend talks and workshops related to languages, translation and the world of work in general.

All students complete two compulsory modules in semester 1 and then select four other modules to follow in semester 2 to suit their strengths, interests or career aspirations. As a part-time student, I studied one compulsory module and two other modules per year. The optional modules seem to vary a little from year to year, which keeps the course fresh. Students also have the opportunity to take on an additional language as one of their selected modules.

thriving language programme

Outside this, there is a thriving language programme. All students are actively encouraged to learn a new language. The MLANG provides lots of opportunities for students to learn, improve on and practice their language skills (some are classroom-based). There are also language café events if you prefer a more relaxed environment.

The final assessment for the MA, an extended translation project, starts at the end of April. Students can choose to write a dissertation based on Translation Theory or, as I did, an Annotated Translation Project (ATP): an extended translation, followed by a commentary. I chose to translate two scientific texts from Spanish to English, one popular science and the other a conference paper, by the same author, on the impact of music on the brain and the implications for education. I learned so much about the translation process, gained experience in using Trados and was fascinated by the subject matter. The commentary enabled me to reflect on the translation process and support my translational decisions with solid Translation Theory.

Full-time students submit their dissertation or ATP in September, and part-time students have a more extended schedule and submit at the beginning of January. The final project is supported by a dedicated tutor, in addition to a personal tutor. For the ATP, each student is also allocated a language tutor (based on language pair) to discuss any linguistic translational issues that might arise.

The compulsory modules, followed by all MA Translation Studies students at Cardiff, are Translation Theory and Translation Methods and Skills. The former presents the main translation theories, from equivalence to hermeneutics. It focuses on the multidimensional aspects of translation: language, text, discourse, society and history. It is designed to be a general introduction to the metalanguage of Translation Studies to aid understanding of the translation process and encourage consideration of translation choices. Translation Methods and Skills covers the main translation methods and skills and includes an introduction to Trados and translation technology. Trinidad Clares Flores, one of the founding members of ITI Cymru Wales, presented the CAT tool side of the module. The course also covers professional aspects of translation practice and the translation industry.

guest speakers are invited to talk on their specialist subjects

Optional modules varied over the two years that I studied part-time. Specialised Translation modules focussed on Business and Admin, and Medical and Pharmaceutical in 2018/19 and then Scientific and Technical and Politics and Law in 2019/2020. Where possible, guest speakers are invited to talk on their specialist subjects, for example, Phil Thorpe, Deputy Director of UK Intellectual Property Office in Newport, came to talk about patents, IP and patent translation.

assessed translations accompanied by translation commentaries

I chose two specialised translation modules for my optional modules: Business and Admin, and Scientific and Technical. Both involved three assessed translations, each slightly longer than the last, accompanied by translation commentaries. Business and Admin covered Business language and written texts, Business correspondence (and the difficulties of translating business and administrative texts), Translation of Promotional and Advertising Texts, Text typology: Business Plans and Contracts, Commercial Translation, Localisation and Business and Administration Translation in the EU.

Scientific and Technical Translation tackled: What is Science? Different kinds of Scientific and Technical texts, Scientific language, Scientific and Technical vocabulary, Relevant Sources of Information and Documentation, Problems with Scientific Translation, and CPD and employability.

In the first year, I also chose Translation and Cultures, a fascinating theoretical module covering cultural translation, representation of self and others, Translation and Performativity, Multilingualism and the Translational City, Life in Translation, Translation, mobility and migration, Translation and post-colonial identity and memory and translation.

the subtitling course involved a steep learning curve

In order to boost my practical specialised translation skills, I selected the subtitling course. This involved a steep learning curve both in terms of the parameters required and the technology using WinCaps – especially as lockdown hit in the middle, and suddenly we had to learn how to use new remotely available software (Aegisub). However, it was a fascinating and enjoyable course and a great string to add to my translation skills bow!

There were two interpreting courses in 2019/20 – Introduction to Interpreting and Introduction to Public Service Interpreting module, designed for budding interpreters. Other options included Translation of Minority Languages, Translation, Adaptation and the Arts, and Translation and Creative Practice.

opportunity to follow a Training Placement module

Cardiff University Translation Studies MA also offers the opportunity to follow a Training Placement module, delivered in conjunction with the University Careers and Employability Service. It involves fortnightly seminars over two semesters, followed by 35 hours in situ translation placement, with either a freelance provider, within a translation agency or LSP. I know fellow students who chose this module found the placement invaluable.

the selection of modules enables students to tailor their course to their goals

I am incredibly grateful and feel privileged that I had the opportunity to study for my MA at Cardiff. The course was varied. The selection of modules enables students to tailor the course to their goals. It could be more theoretical, or practical, or balanced between theory and practice. I feel that I have gained a solid grounding in translation theory and have the practical skills to embark on my freelance career.

The tutors on the course are all knowledgeable and approachable. They always have time for you and greet you with a smile! The popularity of the MLANG department is indicated by the number of language students who remain at Cardiff to continue their post-graduate studies. The number of MA Translation Studies students at Cardiff seems to be growing every year, and it was an honour to study alongside such diverse, dedicated and talented linguists. The exact modules available vary every year – but you can find the current course information here.

If you have any questions about the course or studying in Cardiff, please contact me.

This guest post was written by Catherine Davis. Catharine is a native English freelance translator living in Wales. She studied at the University of Bristol, receiving BA Hons in Modern Languages: French and Spanish, followed by a PGCE in Secondary Education. After university, she worked in hospitality management at home and abroad for ten years before working in project management and logistics in the bespoke European furniture industry.

Whether talking to customers, guests, staff, or furniture manufacturers, languages and informal translation were crucial skills throughout her career.

In 2018, Catherine embarked on a part-time MA in Translation Studies at Cardiff as a mature student and recently graduated with Distinction. She translates from French and Spanish to English and is an Associate member of ITI.

Since graduating, Catherine has been gaining experience by volunteering for Translators Without Borders and UN Volunteering. She lives in a South Wales village with her husband, two sons and a crazy chocolate cocker spaniel. She is also a keen runner and completed the Mont Saint Michel Marathon in 2017!

You can follow Catherine on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn and visit her website.

This post is part of the MA review series on this blog. Lists of MAs in Translation and Interpreting are currently divided in EuropeanNon-European and Distance-learning Courses.

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

Photos by Greg Montani (1) and rosannabada from Pixabay

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