Issues in Advanced Translator Training Programmes at Moroccan Universities
Fouad EL KARNICHI
Translation teacher, researcher and practitioner
Hassan2 University-Mohamadia (Morocco)
Due to the lack of extensive literature on translator education and training at the university level in Morocco, there will be a brief highlight in this article the situation of the teaching of translation in advanced courses of translation at the Moroccan universities. Reference shall be made to the available local scarce published literature in the country on translation teaching and support it with other publications and experiences in other parts of the world treating the same issue. This will give us a basic picture of the existing situation in the academic corridors in the country. We hope to benefit and cross- check the status of our syllabus, teaching methods and models vis-à-vis the fast growing innovations, findings and approaches in the discipline. The main focus of this article is to highlight one of the challenging issues with the new translator pedagogy: theory and practice within a university level translator training programme.
Highlights on the teaching of translation in Morocco
In terms of course contents , the teaching of translation at the Moroccan university for advanced students ( final year undergraduates and post grades) in tertiary level was portrayed to be lacking of a structured and adequate theoretical components that could be of great use and help to both teachers and students. For instance, it has been argued that teachers do neither rely on ongoing models or approaches in the field, nor on the ‘the recent development in functional and text linguistics”. This includes areas like text linguistics, register analysis, pragmatics, discourse analysis (Mehrash 2003: 105).
Also, it has been argued that ‘very few’ university teachers of translation in Moroccan universities have had ‘professional training in translation’ nor are they actual active professionals in the field in its multifaceted aspects. Those teachers are mainly ‘ holders of post graduate degrees in English literature or linguistics from Moroccan or Anglo Saxon universities. Any teacher in the department of English who shows interest in teaching Translation may be assigned the course…. Hence, the trainers are at best merely interested rather than specialized in translation’.Alaoui (www.atida.org , Publications)
A point we strongly support after our experience in teaching translation practice and theory for undergraduate and postgraduate students in Morocco. Some translation programs may include a theoretical input such as Discourse analysis or Contrastive linguistics or comparative stylistics or even translation theory; still, these courses are mostly taught from a linguistic perspective and away from real life translation practice and authentic translation situations .The scope of this approach seems to be insufficient to befit an interdisciplinary and multifaceted course like translation. In such approach, the role of the trainee translator in commenting consciously on the undertaken choices and strategies seems to be excluded during classroom translation activities . We hope to get this practical and authentic aspect of the translation activity embedded in our syllabus and develop teaching tools and techniques to deliver it in a classroom context. This part will be discussed in an upcoming article.
Also, few final year BA monographs written by students of the English department at Mohamed V University (Rabat) on the issues they faced in the way translation was taught at their university, they all agree on the very poor use of the theory of translation or various other approaches in the field of translation study: such as the linguistic, functional, textual or discursive approaches that have been known for so long in the literature. They made it clear that it would be helpful for them if their translation workshops were better structured and commented on the part of the teacher and students, that relevant and applied theoretical contents should be added to the program to help them generate their commentaries, critical thinking and reflexions.
Further, there were unhappy responses from the students in their monographs about the chosen and provided material (i.e. texts) and the teacher-centred and monotonous methodology. Still, is it the fault of the planners for that course whose aim is mainly to only achieve language proficiency in L2? Or is there an impasse and a lack of innovative teaching methods? Also is there a lack of adequate personnel to do the task? Or just the course is looked at as of minor importance, despite the fact that many scholars (literary or linguists) seem to be highly interested in translation!
Although Mehrash had used the above components as evaluation and assessment criteria in his research on both novice and trained translators to assess the performance of the heterogeneous group of subjects (novice students versus experienced translators), we believe that it might be an important tool to be used by competent teachers in the classroom, especially in an advanced specialized translation course. The critical pedagogical challenge, though, is how to apply that theoretical component and bridge it with practice during a translation practicum, or even during delivering a dynamic non-translation ‘cours magistral’ for translation students using corpus methodology instead of actual translation practice as a pre-translation warm up exercise. Also, whether the functional /textual approaches do not seem to be narrow and insufficient to approach authentic translation assignments and projects that take the real world factor into consideration? .This particular point shall be discussed in the upcoming article on teaching methodology.
In the same vein, Messoudi stipulates that the stifling of the translation act or the teaching of translation for inappropriate ends (such as: a means to teach foreign languages) in Morocco, the lack of pertinent translation manuals, the ‘timid’ and ‘discrete’ presence of research papers and publications in translation studies, as well as the delay -including other countries- to promote teaching the role of ethics in translation education, and finally the delay in developing pertinent professional translation programs… all these factors contributed to ‘the stagnation’ of the teaching of translation in Moroccan universities (Messoudi :2003).
Messoudi’s highlights seem more curricula-oriented since she tackles broad issues in the pedagogy, such as the objectives of the program, reference to teaching material, research issues in translation , ethical and professional aspects of the discipline. These elements –if properly re-examined and tackled- might contribute to major macro improvement in our translation programs at the tertiary level. She also contends that the solution to tackle this problem remains in the hands of authorities in charge as well as the course planners who should see the translation activity as an end in itself and should be taught as such, and not as a ‘didactic support’ to ameliorate one’s mastry of the language. Also she reiterates that reflecting on translation studies in Arabic is strongly encouraged and could be the way ahead to achieve progress in our context (Messoudi 2003).
Messoudi’s broad and comprehensive coverage of major issues in translation teaching programs in Morocco is well supported, but we have reservation on the use of manuals for advanced students of translation; rather we should be looking at resources such as current rewrites in the discipline since we are at an advanced program, where not only practice is at stake but research as well. Added to this is the importance of teaching authentic and project based texts to advanced students of translation. For instance, students may consult current rewrites (Munday 2000 ,Venuti 2000), in translation studies and other important books comprising insightful theories such as Christiane Nord’s (1997) used by many teachers to teach dynamic texts types such as marketing documentation, advertising, all types of commercially oriented texts. Further, there is the necessity to provide authentic/not outdated materials (texts) for students and that classroom teaching should be addressed with a different pedagogy and that activities should be organized with a more collaborative and cooperative way rather than a purely teacher cantered method.
From the above interventions on the situation of translator education in Morocco, we could sense the flaws in which we are and the urgent need to revise the curriculum, develop and reorganize the syllabus as well as the teaching pedagogy for both the programs and the independent courses of translation taught in undergraduate levels for final year students in the department of modern languages.
Further highlights in the Translation literature
In parallel to the previous inputs regarding the importance of embedding the teaching of theoretical components, Ulrych (1996:257) raises the following questions: “what kind of theory is to be presented? and how much?». She suggests representing theories of translation that refer to translation as a product (a body of knowledge comprising history, principles ...ect) and then as a process (which deals with the actual ‘translating’ act that translators undergo).She further adds that:
“Members of all professions have a historical and theoretical component to their expertise. It is only against a theoretical background of translation that effective decision making and production can take place… The problem arises, therefore, of how to integrate a course on translation theory within the curriculum.”
In an answer to Ulrych’s previous statement on how to integrate theory as content material in a postgraduate translation program in the Moroccan context, and in reference to our experience in teaching theoretical inputs in translation courses at university level in Morocco, the following can be proposed :
Either to teach translation theory and principles in the first semester of a Masters course, or –preferably- teach the component in parallel with the translation course in third year undergraduate studies in English language departments (i.e including two course elements of translation for finalist undergraduates: the translation practicum and the course about the principles, techniques of translation) in the hope that this would yield the following outputs:
1- Equip students of the English department who are willing to embark on a translation program at master level with sufficient basic background about the area of study they will undertake in the real world of translation practice .: its principles and strategies. Also, it will be the type of knowledge that will serve them for life time as professionals, teachers or researchers in the field.
2- Allow the students to have basic metalanguage to address their assignments in the classroom vis-à-vis their teacher (provided that a more interactive dynamic pedagogy is applied), or as a theoretical framework for their final BA project if they choose to undertake it in translation.
At the Masters level, we propose –in addition to translation practicums/workshops- to teach the translation theory/principles component along the history of translation prior to teaching Translation Studies and its recent developments. The first to address the principles and practices of translation over the ages either in the west or in the east (including Islamic or Arabic experiences, mainly the translation tradition in Morocco).We believe that historical background is of great importance to the future professional translator to enhance his/her status and be conscious of the heritage of the discipline he /she has chosen to engage in. Also, teaching or learning the history of translation by both translator trainees and practicing translators is a crucial step into building professional translation aptitude since ‘they develop a self concept as translators working in a specific historical situation’ like their fellow colleagues did over the ages . Brian Mossop (2003:49).
Also , other scholars in translation studies had highlighted that trainee translators should not feel that they are entering a “brand new profession” with no historical roots whatsoever; rather , they should be aware of the roles played by its professionals (western or eastern professionals) and it is a profession that has “evolved over time like other forms of human activity” , and that holding such an attitude on the part of the students “may also contribute to enhancing the social status of the profession” (Chesterman, 1996: p 67).
Added to the previous highlights on bridging the practical and educational parts in translator training as well as the importance of teaching theory and critical thinking and its applicability in the practical translation sessions of the future language mediator expert, Echeverri (2005:9) contends that the teaching of a translation proper metalanguage should be a strategic factor in the syllabus design and curriculum building. He stipulates that ‘familiarizing’ students with the translation metalanguage as well as promoting its use (through classroom discussion, research, assignments and group projects, and commentaries) is one of the “determining factors of the professional character of university education”.
Echeverri’s view point clearly determines the importance of combining the substance (the metalinguistic and metacognitive baggage) with the practice (the actual transferring ,instrumental and generic and relational skills that would facilitate the integration of the trainee translator in the modern market place ). He further elaborates on the pedagogical outcome of that initiative, especially in collaborative work between students within an actual and realistic classroom interaction, whereby they autonomously identify translation problems, use various instrumental and non instrumental means to solve them and find solutions. In this regards Echeverri, follows the footsteps of Kiraly’s (2001) social constructivism trend applied in the actual classroom context of translator training.
Also, Maria Gonzales (2005) enthusiastically supports the idea of embedding the teaching of translation studies in university translation programs. She argues the great benefits that an ‘intertwinement’ and ‘parallelism’ between various theoretical developments in translation studies and the translation didactics may bring into a translator training program .She, advocates the use of a variety of theoretical approaches (not only textual /linguistic approaches) in translation classes during practical assignments.
Contrary to Gonzales, Hatim and Mason (1997) emphasize the role of text types and functional text grammar as a determining factor on translator education, which is centred –according to them- around text types and that each type of text imposes different ‘demands’ on the translator in terms of choices and strategies. This approach was well explained by Gonzales in her article , but she contended that it is –within the framework of current trends in translation studies- narrow and needs more scope such as the embedding of other approaches as well, not only the textual/discursive dimensions .Still, Hatim’s approach may suit better an advanced university course in translation, where Arabic is involved and due to its research and academic value.
So, in terms of scope, and within university teaching contexts, it is advisable to help students understand that translation process or translation product can be approached from a wide perspective depending on functional, historical, textual, ethical, social and cultural criteria of a communicative situation in which the translation act or the text itself operates. Out of all these options, students need to critically build the appropriate strategy to apply a choice to adopt in the translation process. Therefore, flexibility is a feature to account for in the training /education process of future to be translators.
It seems that translator education in Moroccan university corridors needs further review and re-examination. There is an urgent need to set up workable, up-to-date curricula that befit the demands, the requirements of the discipline itself, as well as the societal and market demands. It is an important and crucial step towards teaching translation for professional purposes. These educational elements need to be imbedded within a dynamic advanced translator training program, which will subsequently path the way to the institutionalisation of the discipline within the academic context. Still, in terms of curriculum, a balance is needed in a professional translator program between the practical side of instruction and its applied theoretical part. Percentage of course contents (theoretical or practical) is defined separately by each establishment depending on course objectives.
We hope to see more advanced and developed views and approaches at Moroccan universities in advanced courses of translation. Perhaps, we may be lagging behind in terms of teaching methods and courses contents and objectives. The disciplines had seen considerable advances in the last 20 years and we need to benefit from the experiences carried out elsewhere applying the new approaches in the teaching of translation and see if we can get better, improved and durable positive outputs for our society and economy.
Aïcha Aïssani .2000.« L'enseignement de la traduction en Algérie » Meta, vol. 45, n° 3, p. 480-490.
Álvaro Echeverri , « la importancia de la investigación colaborativa en la pedagogía de la traducción » Meta,Vol.50, n° 4(2005)
Messaoudi, Hafida « La Traduction au Maroc: Une discipline plurielle » E.N.S, Martil/Tétouan,Maroc.Accessed on 25th May (2003 ) on-line @ : http://www.colloque.net/archives/2003/volume_1/maroc.pdf.
Chesterman, Andrew. 1996. “Teaching translation theory: the significance of memes”. In Teaching Translation and Interpreting 3, Dollerup, Cay and Vibeke Appel (eds.), 63 ff
Mehrash, Mohamed, (1997)2003. Introducing Translation as Text.Tangiers :Altopress.
Mossop ,B.2003.“School, practicum and professional development workshop: toward a rational sequence of topics” in La formation à la traduction professionnelle, Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, , 47-61
Ulrych, Margherita (1996), ‘Real-world Criteria in Translator Pedagogy’ in Cay Dollerup& Vibeke Appel (eds) Teaching Translation and Interpreting 3. New Horizon (Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Benjamins).