At university, I was studying English Language and Literature, and the only course for which we did not have a syllabus or a textbook was Translation. Owing to the inspiring professor, I never felt the lack of syllabus or textbook, and when I was working as a full-time translator for several years after graduation I felt that my university classes had given me a good basis of translation. The only thing missing sometimes was specific vocabulary in fields such as medicine or law.
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A few years after graduation, however, I started working as an Assistant of English at a university in my country. It was a newly established university and for most of the courses there was no fixed program that we were supposed to follow, but we were given the task to design syllabi for several courses. One of the courses for which I was supposed to design a syllabus was the Translation Course. At that time, I had an MA in English Literature and that was the field I mostly dealt with, so designing courses for English literature classes did not seem very difficult.
A syllabus for the Translation Course was, nevertheless, a great challenge. I had practical knowledge of translation, but when it came to the question what is best to be taught in this area, I struggled finding the right answers. One of the problems in designing a syllabus for a translation course is that there isn’t much use of theory when it comes to translation, so there are no textbooks that will inevitably be useful to translators in all languages and all areas. To introduce students to good translation or interpretation would require knowing what field they are going to work on and whether they are going to dedicate themselves to written translation or they will become simultaneous or consecutive interpreters. There is no way, however, students would know this while they are still studying.
Another problem was the practical side: a lecturer could focus on the practical side, and give his or her students texts for translation, but in the course of one semester it is impossible to cover even superficially the vocabulary of more than a few areas. What about all the other areas? It is also very difficult, in Macedonia, at least, to find no specific dictionaries for particular areas, so if students are not given instructions in this regard during their studies, they would very likely not know where to start looking for them when they need them in practice.
In terms of sentence structure, which is usually a big problem in translation, what it takes is good command of the source language, but also excellent knowledge of the target language. Frequently, the target language is taken for granted, as native speakers do not feel they have to pay special attention to studying their mother tongue. The result is that editors often have problems understanding the meaning of sentences that follow too closely the structure of the source language instead of the natural syntactic structure of the target language.
Taking all these and many other things into consideration, I designed a syllabus for a translation course. These are the general topics I included in it (discussing more specific categories during classes): Basic notions: source language – target language, different discourse – different style; Difficulties encountered in translation: ambiguous sentences, homophones; Specifics of the two languages concerned: exercises with short newspaper texts: idioms, S+V+O sentence structure in English, not necessarily in Macedonian; Legal vocabulary: court decisions, statute, legal acts; Oral translation: consecutive translation; Economy and finance vocabulary: regulations, directives and other documents concerning economic issues; Translation in specific areas: medicine, traffic, diplomacy, etc.; Oral translation: simultaneous translation; Theory of translation of literary works; reading and analysis of examples translated poems, stories and novel extracts. Every class also incorporated practical translation work.
Aware that a one-semester translation course cannot possibly cover all significant areas, I nevertheless hope that the syllabus is a good basis for the classes, always remembering, as a build-up over this foundation, to give instructions to students where they can look further for additional resources, for instance for vocabulary in the areas of medicine, economy and other expert areas; to tell them to read and research literary works written by Macedonian authors when they translate literary works written in English into their native language, and to mention excellent translations of poems or stories for comparison; or to tell them to practice oral interpretation with a friend a few days before they have an actual interpretation project for which they are engaged.
(by Kalina Maleska)