Some observations on teaching business translation to Bulgarian undergraduate students

Written by: Ralitza Demirkova, University of Veliko Turnovo, Faculty of Modern Languages

Abstract: The present-day needs of the translation market in Bulgaria make it necessary for the universities to introduce business translation courses in their curricula. The author of the present paper shares her experience of teaching business translation to undergraduate students at Veliko Turnovo University “St. St. Cyril and Methodius”, Bulgaria. She describes the course objectives, the teaching methods employed, the activities selected for her seminars and highlights some of the major problems students experience. The paper concludes that translator trainers should re-examine the old “read and tranlslate” directive[1] in order to keep abreast of the 21st century.

 [1] Gonzalez Davies, Maria, Multiple Voices in Translation Classroom. Activities, Tasks and Projects, 2004, p. 17

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I. Introduction

It is commonly agreed that English language more than ever before, has assumed an incresing importance throughout the world. This is due not only to the fact that it is used as a language of international communication, but also to the globalization of the world economy and to the widespread use of personal computers and the Internet. Higher education is also affected by the globalization processes that has built up considerable momentum during the years of the new millenium. An increasing number of universities offer a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs in English language. My country Bulgaria is not an exception.

The changing social and political situation in Bulgaria in recent years – Bulgaria’s EU and NATO accession and the growth of foreign investment flows – has generated even greater demand for professional translators and interpreters. Veliko Turnovo University “St. St. Cyril and Methodius” is one of the universities in Bulgaria that tries to keep abreast of the 21st century by offering undergraduate and postgraduate courses in specialized translation to meet the needs of the translation industry. What follows is a brief overview of one of the specialized translation courses (a business translation course) designed for our second-year students who study “Applied languages” (two foreign languages – one of the languages is English).

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II. The cour objectives

It is a one-semester course (approximately 15 weeks) consisiting of 15 or 30 seminars. Students have one or two seminars a week depending on whether they study English as a first or as a second foreign language. The duration of  the seminar is 75 minutes.

The course is practically oriented. It equips students with knowledge and skills required for success in our dynamic business world. There are two major areas covered during the course – the common business terms, terminology and jargon and the art of translation. These two subjects are complemented by raising students’ awareness of the cultural differences between the English and the Bulgarian business worlds. Thus students are always encouraged to find an answer to the question “Is this translation culturally appropriate?”.

According to Malmjkaer (2006) a successful translation programme should be a combination of theory and practice that complement each other. Thus getting acquainted with translation theory may help the would-be translator to select the most appropriate tranlsation strategies, to gain more professional confidence. Bearing in mind the practical nature of the course and its short duration I just touched upon some aspects of translation theory. I provided students with a brief overview of some current trends in Translation studies such as: the cultural turn, the functional, textlinguistic and cognitive approaches. An introduction is made to some major transaltion problems and procedures connected with this type of texts. Students are also given a list of  recommended literature including the most important and relevant sources in this field.

The main goals of the course can be summerized as follows:

  1. to introduce students to some aspects of translation theory and to some translation problems and procedures;
  2. to extend students’ business English vocabulary and to focus their attention on some collocations and business idioms;
  3. to develop students’ skills and qualities required for becoming professional translators;
  4. to acquaint students with all the stages involved in the translation process;
  5. to enhance students’ language competence both in the Target Language (TL) and in the Source Language (SL);
  6. to give students exposure to authentic, non-adapted texts;
  7. to aqcuaint students with the reference tools needed for the translation of specialized texts;
  8. to make students aware of the cultural differences reflected in the texts;
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III. The teaching methods used

Kiraly (2000) argues that translator education should be learner-centred. The translator trainer should not simply provide the right answers to students but should enable them to take on more responsibilities. The approach to translation training that Gonzalez Davies (2004: 17) applies is both process- oriented and product-oriented. The teacher’s role is considered to be that of a guide, counsellor, informer and evaluator. She emphasizes the importance of “transforming the classroom into a discussion forum and hands-on workshops” (Davies, 2004: 18) and the importance of respecting different learning styles as much as possible.

In my seminars I follow the above-mentioned methodologies and those proposed by Gile (2005) and Klaudy (2006). I try to create a friendly and relaxed atmosphere and to engage students in discussion and decision-making as much as possible. I think that communication and interaction between translation trainees plays a crucial role in facilitating their acquisition of  specialized terminology and jargon and in assisting them to develop problem-solving skills in order to become more confident translators. I also seek to achieve a balance between translation theory and practice. The materials used are adapted to the students’ needs and abilities. Students are made familiar with various valuable resources they can use for extending their business vocabulary and for improving their translation skills. They are taught that “ideal” translation or “absolute” equivalence between the Source Text (ST) and the Target Text (TT) does not exist. Translation involves not only two different languages but also two different cultures and two different contexts. Davies (2004: 19) advises translator trainers to ask students for a text that is

a) consistent and coherent
b) adequate to the initiator’s or target reader’s expectations
c) communicates the original message efficiently in spite of translation constraints.

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IV. Texts and materials used

Text selection for a traslation seminar is of key importance. Following Klaudy (2006) the first criterion I use when selecting texts for my business seminars is the level of difficulty. The selected texts are always authentic and non-adapted. They are grouped into thematic categories and belong to different text types and genres. This helps students develop the necessary skills to cope with various translation problems that arise from the genre-specific features of the texts and from the accepted TL and SL linguistic and cultural norms. The main sources from which the texts are excerpted are professinal business and economic newspapers, journals and magazines written in English and in Bulgarian. Some of the English ones are: The Economist, Financial Times, Financial Mail, SmallBusiness, EuropeDaily, EuroNews, EUObserver, The Economic Journal, International Economic Journal, Business Week, Forbes and many others. The Bulgarian sources are the newspapers – Capital, Money, Cash and the journals and magazines – Peak, Economic thought, Leader, Banks, Investments and money, etc. Other texts included for translation are different business letters and documents (balance sheets, brochures from banks, contracts, insurance documents, etc), advertisements and articles on EU affairs. Students are also given an extensive biography that consists of the resources available at the Veliko Turnovo University libraries and on the Internet. These include English-Bulgarian and Bulgarian-English Business Dictionaries, monolingual dictionaries, encyclopaedias, on-line dictionaries and business web pages.

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V. Business translation activities

The factors that guided me when devising and selecting activities for my seminars are the following:

a) activities that are effective, useful and motivating
b) activities that can stir up students’ interest and awaken their curiosity
c) activities that can generate group discussions
d) activities that can develop students’ transaltion skills and help them acquire specialist knowledge

The activities I use are varied enough and student-friendly. They successfully replace those that abide by the outdated and conservative “read and translate “ approach to translation.

The following selection of transaltion activities is introduced in my seminars:

  1. vocabulary building activities
  2. interpretation and analysis of authentic texts – students are encouraged to take into account the following factors in their analysis: the text type, register, to whom the text is addressed, its stylistic and linguistic features and its “skopos” or purpose (see Nord, 1997).
  3. translating a text and discussing “the fan of functional equivalents” (see Danchev, 2001:107); students try to justify their chioce of the “dominant functional equivalent” (op.cit.)
  4. sight translation – students translate in class and are guided by the teacher who helps them guess the meaning of the words and phrases through context and choose the most appropriate translation procedure; the teacher prompts self-correction
  5. translation correction – students are given some incorrectly translated official documents; they identify, classify (lexical, grammatical , stylistic, etc.) and correct the mistakes from the text
  6. group work – students are given one and the same text to translate it in groups- this activity involves text analysis, discussion of the possible alternatives and group decision-making
  7. translation and backtranslation – comparison of original and backtranslated texts
  8. finding parallel texts in the two languages and making wordlists and glossaries
  9. translation and peer correction – students are given written translation assignments that are checked in class and peer corrected
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VI. Problems and difficulties

Students need to learn that a good business translation is more than substituting SL terminology with the corresponding one in the TL. The difficulties students experience arise from the differences in the economic, legal and language systems involved. Very often literal transaltion is not possible and the trainees should resort to cultural substitution, to the use of a loan word or to any other translation procedure. Students are also faced with various stylistic and linguistic problems. The teacher should focus students’ attention to the different translation constraints, to the importance of context and to the need for a coherent and adequate translations. In order to overcome the potential translation problems students should be equipped with the necessary theoretical knowledge and language competence.

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VII. Conclusion

This paper is a brief summary of a business translation course offered at Veliko Turnovo University “St.St. Cyril and Methodius’, Bulgaria. The aim of this course as well as  of any other translation course at our university is to meet the growing need for professional translators who can successfully apply a theoretical framework to the translation practice. The methodology used in the course is meant to substitute the outdated “read and translate” approach to translation training. It is more interactive and stimulates students to participate actively in authentic translation activities and trains them to become highly qualified and confident translators.

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References

  • Danchev, Andrei. 2001. Данчев, Андрей. 2001. Съпоставително Езикознание. София: Университетско издателство “Св. Климент Охридски”.
  • Gile, Daniel. (2005). Training Students for Quality: Ideas and Methods. IV Conference on Training and Career Development in Translation and Interpreting: Quality in Transaltion – Academic and Professional Perspectives, Universidad Europa de Madrid
  • Gonzalez Davies, Maria. (2004). Multiple Voices in the Transaltion Classroom. Activities, Tasks and Projects. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • Kiraly, Don. (2000). A Social Constructivist Approach to Translator Education. Empowerment from Theory to Practice. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing.
  • Klaudy, Kinga. (ed.). 2006. The Role of Translation Theory in Translator Training. European Master’s in Translation DGT, Brussels, 19-20 October 2006. Available from: emt2006_handout_klaudy_en.pdf
  • Malmkjaer, Kristen. (ed.). (2004) Translation in Undergraduate Degree Programmes. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • Nord, Christiane. (1997). Translating as a Purposeful Activity. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing.

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