Friday, June 09, 2006

Of Translation and Writing

I am hard at work preparing a workshop on translation for a private Institute in Resistencia, El Chaco (Argentina). Instituto Genea has recently won Ministry of Education approval for its 3-year Translation syllabus. It's a college degree to train future technical/literary translators.

It is a pilot program that uses the 2-year syllabus for the "Traductorado Literario y de Especialidad" (Literary and Specialty Translation Studies) from Universidad del Museo Social Argentino ( I agree that this UMSA syllabus is arguably ineffective or insufficient to educate and train functional translators. The translation syllabus offered by the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba's Facultad de Lenguas spans 5 years and still graduates translators who are ill prepared for the realities of the translation market.

However, I see Instituto Genea's pilot syllabus as a half-full-glass opportunity. I've been invited to teach a workshop on translation. To beef up my offering, I asked Prof. María Inés Arrizabalaga's help and she happily obliged with a plan to serve up notions on literary translation and related topics. I am still working on my own list of topics; since this is a workshop, however, I plan on making attendees work real hard. That's where today's reflections come handy: the art of writing.

In short, if you can't write properly, you have no business doing translations at all. At best, you'll become a mediocre translator. So, part of my workshop will be devoted to writing exercises. For example, I could use my own cellphone as inspiration:

- Class, see this cellphone? Are you familiar with it? It's a popular Nokia model, versatile and cheap. Let's split the class in three groups: group A will write a blurb about the technical advantages of this cellphone; group B will write a short ad about the cellphone and group C will pen an instructional on the cellphone's main features. All papers must be written in Spanish (the students' mother tongue, of course).

What is the point of this exercise? I sense that most translation training programs center too much on language training and not translation skills training. I don't care if someone is fluent in two or more foreign languages, if he/she does not know how to write different types of text in his/her own language, stylistically and terminologically well, he/she can't translate.

More to come!

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