Teaching Translation: Workshops with Anabel Galán-Mañas

Anabel-Galan-500-Marcelo_Aurelio On the 19th July 2018, Project DaRT and the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at University College Cork was lucky enough to welcome Dr. Anabel Galán-Mañas from the Departament de Traducció i d’Interpretació i d’Estudis de l’Àsia Oriental at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. 

Whilst undertaking a research stay in Cork, Dr Galán-Mañas was kind enough to deliver 3 workshops based on her research into translation pedagogies and assessment as well as her contributions to PACTE (Procés d’Adquisició de la Competència Traductora i Avaluació), a translation competency and assessment framework.

Dr Galán-Mañas is lecturer of general and specialised translation from English into Spanish. Her research focuses on translator and interpreter training and the links that should be established between the profession and employment of translators in order to shape such training in  a meaningful and wholly relevant way. She has also  worked as a professional translator.

I asked Dr Galán-Mañas why she has decided to focus her research on translator training:

I worked as a translator before becoming a lecturer. Although I could translate, I did not know how to teach translation. In the beginning, I studied a lot of didactics. I found this area passionate, and I decided to do my PhD on translator training. While researching in this area, I realised that teaching cannot be dissociated from assessment, which is applicable to any subject area, not just translation.

The workshops centred around 3 key areas:

Translator Training: conceptual and methodological bases of the didactics of translation employed in the Introduction to Translation taught at UAB.

Competence assessment in translator training including the types of assessment tasks employed, the use of ongoing assessment, the use of the student and professional portfolio

PACTE: A research group focusing on the assessment of Translator competence, translator competence acquisition and levels of translator competence acquisition.

The first session focusing on translator training provided attendees with an insight into the importance of good curriculum development. Dr Galán-Mañas was critical of many of the teaching practices of the past that had been common in her own personal experience: that is, the setting of clear, meaningful and achievable objectives and robust formative assessment practices. Clearly, these practices are not uncommon experiences for those of us who completed our education before the constructivist turn in pedagogy that brought all stakeholders (including students) into the teaching and learning arena to not only reflect on the learning experiences taking place but also to inform the content, delivery and assessment of learning.

It is this lack of transparency and hierarchical teacher-student relationship that Dr Galán-Mañas seeks to break down in her teaching of translation in order to enable students to make greater strides their learning through reflection and self-evaluation generated from formative assessment.

Before delving deeper into the facets of the model, I asked her how widespread she thinks that this model of Teaching and Learning in Translation Studies across Europe and globally:

BP_Logo rgb vertical 517X711I would like to believe that it is quite widespread. Since the Bologna Process was implemented in Europe, we need to teach – and assess – competences. As translation competence acquisition is procedural, the Bologna Process did not imply so many changes in relation to the old system. The difference is that now we are conscious of the need of a multidimensional approach to assess the acquisition of translation competence, which means that a variety of assessment  instruments and tasks are required to assess the different sub-competences that form the translation competence (Hurtado 2007), as well as objective criteria to assess the learning progression, giving more importance to formative assessment than to summative assessment, taking into account the product, and the process, and involving the student in his or her learning. In fact, in recent years there have been some publications in Europe on the assessment in translation, being on tasks, instruments or rubric

Market Analysis

 In terms of her own research and practice, good curriculum design and assessment are at the core of translator training. Nonetheless, course aims, assessment objectives, programmes of study and assessment structures cannot be created without first considering the context into which students will eventually work: in the case of UAB, this would be the Catalan and wider Spanish Translation Market. By understanding this market, we can create better, more relevant programmes of study that reflect the emerging needs of the students. market analysis
Google_future-of-jobs-recolor-01.jpgfrom debatingeurope.eu (2018)
Evidently, some might question this approach deeming it be narrowing student opportunities. Why provide students with a learning experience that is centred towards one profession? Shouldn’t we be arming students with skills that allow them to work in a variety of markets, sectors, contexts etc.? I think many educationalists would be inclined to agree with the latter. Indeed, any quick Google Images Search for jobs of the future presents us with a plethora of enticing statistics claiming that educators cannot prepare students for jobs because many of those jobs do not exist yet.

Despite these differences, it is clear to see why Dr Galán-Mañas adopts this approach. Spain has a well-established translation market. In the translation of published works (those with an ISBN) alone, Idescat quotes that nearly 60,000 were published with nearly 45,000 of them in Castilian. Florian Faes (2017) writing for the language industry intelligence website, Slator, claims that 16.2% of them were translations. This equates to over 9,500 translations. Evidently, this does not account for any other forms of translations, official or not, that require translators. Whilst we cannot deny that there are opportunities, Faes points out in the same article that the sometimes exploitative conditions in which translators are required to work demonstrates that there is more to being a translator than meets the eye. You need to be able to sell your skills, transfer your skills, be an accountant, be a master of many subjects, a project manager, a mediator as well as being an excellent linguist that has a high level of fluency in two languages.

Clearly, the Spanish market is immense and is one that is quite visible; even if this is only as a result of the many products. I asked Galán-Mañas about whether she felt that the market could be mapped out in Ireland, a country that seemingly has a very small translation sector and how one should go about undertaking such a task.

I believe the market is there, and it evolves very quickly. We should know what tasks are required, in which language combination, the genre being translated in each combination, the technology being used, the profile enterprises are looking for. This would be very useful for curricular design. The problem is that these studies are scarce. As Kuznik (2010) points out, the translation market does not seem to be very important for the regional or national authorities, who should be the ones conducting this kind of studies.

This is the market context in which translators from UAB will be entering. As a result, it makes sense that the training they receive at undergraduate level prepares them for the challenges and opportunities of this context. In order to address these needs and provide continuity not only laterally across different modules of the degree but also longitudinally in the form of continuing professional development based on self-reflection, Galán-Mañas and Grup PACTE have created a set of translator competencies.

Image result for GRUP PACTE

Grup PACTE: Translator Competencies 

Since 1997, Grup PACTE (The Acquisition and Assessment of Translator Competency), a research group that includes Galán-Mañas at UAB, has explored the creation of a translator competency framework. They will shortly be publishing a volume (2017) published by Benjamin that brings together the research that they have undertaken in this area since 1997 entitled Researching Translation Competence by PACTE Group edited by Amparo Hurtado Albir, the research group’s principal investigator. The volume will centre around their 5 principle areas of investigation:

  1. Empirical-experimental research into translator competencies and their acquisition in written translation 
  2. Levelling of translator competencies 
  3. Teaching of translation 
  4. Use of empirical and experimental methodologies in Translation Studies 
  5. Use of applied technologies in translation research.
Here, the creation and assessment of translator competencies are at the core of teaching and learning of translator. The creation of these competencies has four functions.
  • Firstly, it provides a starting or launching point from which emerging translators can self-assess themselves according to what they know or can do in terms of skills before starting the learning intervention.
  • Secondly, it provides a framework through which a global training programme can be created in order to expose students to all necessary areas training in order to become competent translators within their target market.
  • Thirdly, it can be used as the basis for assessment not only the schemes of learning themselves but also of the progress that students are making.
  • Finally, post-degree, it acts as a framework for continuing professional development through which newly graduated students can assess, reflect on and advance their learning throughout their career.

Furthermore, the competencies can be classified in one of three ways:

  • strategic: these refer to the competencies that arm students will the translation strategies that students require in order to be able to approach their work in the most competent way. Indeed, Galán-Mañas is keen to indicate that students often use many of these strategies already but having such a meta-awareness of them can enhance the way in which the students employ them.
  • linguistic: Galán-Mañas is particularly keen to train students in the linguistic implications of translation. This comes in three forms; firstly, a high level of linguistic competency in their mother tongue; secondly, a high level of linguistic competency in their translating language; finally, a comparative knowledge of the linguistic challenges that are posed when both language 1 and language 2 come into contact.
  • instrumental: instrumental knowledge refers to the knowledge that students have of the tools that translators can use as well as critical knowledge of them.

I asked Galán-Mañas what the next steps were with regards to the Translator Competency Framework. It is clear that the model works in the UAB context but can it work elsewhere and how can we ensure that there is commonality in its application across one geopolitical space.

The PACTE group’s proposal of competence levels in translation describes performance levels in translation. It is a first step towards developing a common European framework of reference, comparable to the CEFR for languages, for use in translator training and professional translation. We propose performance levels that could be used according to each educational or professional context’s needs, but we do not describe learning outcomes.

This framework is very important because, as we explain in PACTE’s article in ITT (2018), the levels attained at the university can be very different, as there are undergraduate and master’s degrees, as well as non-university education. Besides, there are countries in which translation is only taught as part of a language programme, resulting in potential dissimilarities between the levels of training reached. And within the European Higher Education Area, homogenization and transparency in each centre’s training levels are required.

While in the professional arena, there are different performance and specialization levels in the translation market. Furthermore, with the globalization of the translation market there is a need to know the level of performance a translator can guarantee and the requirements to be met in each case.

The proposal has been evaluated by academic and professional experts from 16 different countries. We are still analysing the results. We will see all the issues arisen by experts. Our next aim is to validate it.

  ‘Soft’ Transferable Skills:

One of the challenges of all degree programmes in the 21st century is to deliver education that only addresses the subject-specific needs of the students, but also provides them with transferable skills that can be employed in any market sector. These include things such as group working, self and group management, critical reasoning, working in a multicultural context, strategic and autonomous self-directed learning and an awareness of ethical practice. These are also incorporated transversally into the translator competency framework and are introduced, practiced and refined throughout the degree programme.

Curriculum Design: Task-based learning

In the words of Galán-Mañas, the scheme of learning at UAB for undergraduates is “pure constructivism”. Learners and facilitators perform a negotiated learning experience in which learning is ‘constructed’ through learning experiences in the form of tasks that expose learners to opportunities in which they can perfect their competency in the different areas above, practice and improve their soft skills and build a knowledge of translation and translation practice.

Objectives for the module are created not only in consultation with students but also as a result of changes in the market and the translator competency framework. These objectives centred around the competencies are achieved and assessed through task-based learning. For Galán-Mañas, this is the core of learning at UAB. Numerous tasks allow students to explore and practice the competencies which then can be assessed individually and globally to evaluate their progress against the competencies. They also guide the learning, provide opportunities for group learning and have a sense of authenticity meaning that learning has a direct purpose that can be transferred into the real world.

Assessment and Student Learning Portfolio

An undeniable pre-requisite of task-based learning that there exists a tool through which students can record their progress against the competencies. This is the learning portfolio. This is an area of Galán-Mañas’s work in which she has been particularly active. By undertaking a student portfolio that contains a number of tasks and activities (e.g. translations, reviews, critiques, analyses) students can demonstrate their learning over the course of time. Furthermore, this can act as the foundation of a future professional portfolio in which students can build on their learning throughout their career. Galán-Mañas also provides here a rubric through which it can be assessed.

Interestingly, despite the developments that she has made in this area, Galán-Mañas believes that this is the weakest part of the research field within the teaching and learning of Translation Studies. She believes that there is much more to be undertaken in this area. Perhaps the ratification of the Translation Competency Framework by the Member States of the European Union might be the key to this. It is clear that the Common European Framework for Language Learning has redefined assessment in this field and perhaps a similar framework for translation might do the same.

Applicability to MA programmes:

Evidently, the model that Galán-Mañas is proposing here is one that is used in an undergraduate context at UAB. However, according to the Central Applications Office, there is only one undergraduate programme entitled BA in Applied Language and Translation Studies (delivered at Dublin City University). For this reason, I asked her whether she believes that this model is applicable to an MA context.

…this model applies to any area, not only translation, and to any level, BA or MA. On the other hand, at the moment, there is not a global study on assessment in translation studies in Spain, neither in BA nor in MA. In fact, the PACTE group is preparing a study to collect information on assessment procedures used in the Spanish BA on translation, just as the one Huertas and Vine (2018) have conducted on the MA translation courses in the UK.

It is interesting to hear how she believes that this model is not something that should be limited to the teaching of Translation. Evidently, this constructivist model of learning and teaching is a tried and tested model that in theory would work in any context, at the very least, within the Humanities. Equally, I believe that some of the elements would need adapting for an MA programme because, at this stage, students are expected to be gaining greater autonomy and independence in their learning and are expected to be able to write to a high standard academically. As a result, the nature of the learning portfolio, for example, would have to be adapted in one of two ways. Firstly, it might be more appropriate for the portfolio to have a greater professional orientation that can be used to bid for future work. Secondly, it might contain evidence of their academic, research work such as the creation of proposals and project management.

Also, I asked Galán-Mañas whether her professionally orientated and task-based learning model for Translation is delivered at the expense of some of the seemingly less-applicable subfields of Translation Studies such as postcolonial, feminist or queer approaches. Her view is that the competence-based model can be used everywhere:

The market needs competent translators and the tasks proposed foster active and significant learning. Understanding agency, power and postcolonialism is part of the methodological competence. In my article with Hurtado in ITT (2015), a variety of tasks to assess this competence are proposed. Some tasks to bring consciousness on this could be: linguistic, textual and extra-textual analysis of an original text; identification of the changes a translation may undergo depending on its purpose; comparative translation analysis (correct decisions, errors); translation problem identification and analysis; etc.

This is particularly reassuring for those that deliver well-established MA Translation Studies programmes that aim to not only train translators but to also encourage theoretical and descriptive research into the field.


It is clear that these workshops centring on the teaching and learning of Translation have encouraged us to reflect on our own practice and offer within the MA programme. It is also evident that this approach requires a considerable degree of ‘buy-in’ by members of staff because it requires a fundamental shift in the way in which programmes are delivered. This approach cannot be employed piece-by-piece but as a whole so that every element (base-line assessment, teaching, learning, task-based learning, assessment) builds on the next. Nonetheless, this approach could be tested on a smaller scale within one substantial module (10-credits) where there is more contact time and opportunity for teaching and learning interaction to take place.

We are extremely grateful for Dr Galán-Mañas giving up her time to work with us and we look forward to communicating to her the results of the impact of the workshops in the near future.

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