Investigating the evolution in the language teaching component of the translation curriculum in ASTI: Status, Scope, and Results | July 2014 | Translation Journal

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Investigating the evolution in the language teaching component of the translation curriculum in ASTI: Status, Scope, and Results

Investigating the Evolution

ABSTRACT

This study investigates some of the major changes in the language teaching component of the translation curriculum in the Advanced School of Translators and Interpreters (ASTI) of the University of Buea, Cameroon, since its inception in 1986 and assesses their effect on the translation performance of trainees.

The data for this diachro-synchronic study is drawn from an archival study of some relevant official documents creating ASTI, the various ASTI syllabuses, semester results, end of year reports, students’ transcripts, an opinion survey of 36 professional translators ( ex-students of ASTI) and 3 teachers with longstanding teaching and/or administrative experience in ASTI dating back to the 80s. The results demonstrate that the syllabus contents of the language teaching component in ASTI have known a checquered history which has progressively seen the adoption of reductionist options with negative effects on trainees’ translation performance.  The study posits that to meet the needs of a Programme that is in line with the BMP objectives, there would be need for a validated consensus about the basic linguistic knowledge in the field that should be taught.  

Key words:  Translation curriculum, Translation competence, Language competence,

  1. INTRODUCTION   

   The rapid growth of Translation Studies as a discipline has attracted lots of research and commentaries from a wide variety of disciplines such as linguistics, literary criticism, philosophy, anthropology, and most recently, cultural studies. In spite of this growing interest in the translation phenomenon there are still wide gaps. For instance, Toury (1991: 188) points out that there are gaps "between the needs of translation pedagogy and those which are offered by a theory, which has hardly started to realize the necessity to cater for the specific requirements of its applied extensions." This similar view is expressed by Lorenzo (1999: 124) when she says that “until very recently, translation theory took a prescriptive stance based on an idealized construct of translation instead of observing the reality of the translator.”  One such area that has evoked a lot of debate is that of language teaching in translator training. 
    Most of the questions raised on the language issue focus on whether what should be taught in a Translator-Training Programme should be translation proper only or with translation-related language skills.  Also, if both domains must be involved, how should they be catered for? That is, how should language teaching relate to translation teaching?  If a ‘holistic’ approach is to be adopted, how possible is it to find the right balance?  Can Components of Translational language Competence be systematized for pedagogical intervention?
              This study investigates how the language teaching component of the translation curriculum has been handled in ASTI since the inception of the school in 1986?  More specifically: what have been its status, scope and aims?  What has been the effect of the evolving trends in the syllabus content of the language teaching component of the curriculum from the average, credit and now the BMP systems?

  1. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

  It has often been assumed that translators must know their languages thoroughly, but little has been written about how translators might be taught their languages.  As Neubert, (2000: 7) puts it; most translator training programmes lay emphasis on the teaching of core translation courses than on the development of language proficiency.  The manner in which a translator training programme may help to reinforce and perfect working languages skills in the course of training is scanty in the literature.   
 Malmkjaer (1998) reports that in the final quarter of the 20th century, attention among translation scholars and pedagogues turned so decisively away from linguistics that even teaching translators about their languages and how they can be put to use, has been frowned on in many quarters.   For instance, this topic featured prominently during an Online Symposium organized by the Spanish Intercultural Studies Group from the 17th to 25th of January, 2000. Some of the declarations made by scholars during this symposium attempt to address the language issue.
            Daniel Gouadec (2000: 6), from the University of Rennes 2 in France, presented a paper in which he made the following statement:
We all know, of course that we should like to train the best students, preferably mature, with degrees in other disciplines and in languages.  That would mean training them to become translators and not ‘wasting time’ on language courses, reviews of grammar, spelling, and so on.

            His colleague, Roberto Mayoral (2000: 9), from the University of Granada in Spain, on the other hand, was of the following opinion: 
I believe that the students we accept into our courses should be those with the most ability regardless of their capacity to pay fees.  A certain personal maturity is also required if a student is to become a professional translator. […] this maturity does not come automatically with age.

            Also, in response to the previously stated views, Yves Gambier (2000: 9), from the University of Turku, Finland, expressed a view that reflects the teacher’s major concern on “Who should be trained?  
There seems to be certain uneasiness on this question.  We have no problem with the idea of people selecting students who are to become our future medical doctors, engineers, architects or pilots, but apparently everyone can become a translator, the profession would be open to all, or at least to any one with the necessary language competencies […]. 

 Statements made by most translation scholars (Gouadec, 2000; Nord, 2000; Orsimo, 2001 etc.) against language teaching in translator training programmes focus only on lack of time to teach basic linguistic material during a translation course.  Darbelnert (1966) differs slightly from others in that he recognizes the importance of linguistic perfection. He points out that, learning about the mechanisms of translation should be the objective of a translation course and working on the perfection of linguistic knowledge should be included.  Zaixi (1997: 336)rightly argues out that “the manifestation of such dogmatism is that people tend to follow blindly ideas put forward by authorities without regard to the contexts in which these ideas were first put forward.”  As a complement to buttress this argument,Snell-Hornby (1988: 3) affirmed at the end of the Eighties that Translation Studies must embrace “[…] the whole spectrum of language, whether literary, ‘ordinary’ or ‘general language’, or language for special purposes.”  
 In effect, most of the research work carried out in the domain of language teaching in translator training is in the form of published articles by members of the GRELT, PACTE and TRADUMATICA research groups  specialized in the domains of language teaching for translators, translation competence, and translation and new technologies, respectively.  There is no known published thesis, to the best of this researcher’s knowledge that is directly concerned with language teaching for translators. The closest to this domain are Fedoua Mansouri’s M.A. Thesis on Linguistic and Cultural Knowledge as Prerequisites to Learning Professional Written Translation, submitted to the Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, English Department, Batna University, Algeria and defended in 2005 and Sakwe’s (2013), The Problem of Language Teaching in Translator Training in Cameroon, a PhD thesis submitted to the Faculty of Arts of the University of Buea, Cameroon.   These two empirical studies have proven experimentally that language competence contributes enormously to translation performance.
The first ever proposal made in this domain was published by Berenguer (1996as cited in   Beeby (2003).  It was based on the skills she considered to be important for a translator applied to German as a ‘C’ language.  In this seminal work, she proposed exercises to develop five main skills: reading comprehension exercises based on deverbalisation (Delisle, 1980) and translation-oriented discourse analysis (Nord, 1991 and Elena, 1990),exercises to separate the two languages in contact that focus on differences in writing conventions, vocabulary, grammar and text types, exercises to develop documentation techniques,exercises to develop cultural expertise in the foreign culture, andexercises to develop translation awareness.  Berenguer’s contribution in the field is considered to be important because it clearly situates language for translators as a language for special purposes within the applied branch of translation studies (Holmes, 1972). 
Later publications on language learning for translator training tend to concentrate on one aspect of the learning process.  Brehm’s (1997) for instance, focuses on reading for translators and incorporates useful insights from studies in reading acquisition in first and second languages.  Séguinot (1994), on the other hand, points out the usefulness of teaching technical writing to trainee translators, and Koltay (1998) defends the inclusion of technical and academic writing in translation curricula.  Both authors stress the learning of genres and documentation needed for technical writing as being important for translators. The idea that language learning should be situated in a general framework of translation training is made patent in all of these publications.
Another important contribution in the domain of language teaching is published by Beeby (2003) of the PACTE group who writes on “Designing a foreign language course for trainee translators.”  According to this scholar, the first thing is to identify the elements of a translation-based, student-oriented pre-syllabus. The second stage is to identify the elements of a discourse-based, translation-oriented pre-syllabus. The third stage is to design a genre and task-based syllabus that integrates the contents of the first two stages, with very specific objectives for each task. 
In fact, scholars like Difeng Li (2001: 1) have rightly postulated that there is need to strike a balance between language training and translation training rather than otherwise when most students do not have adequate competence.  Emphasis on such enhancement should be on language use and direct instruction can help improve performance.  
There is need to lay a firm foundation of bilingual competence before and while receiving training in Translation.  When well planned [language teaching] can help translation students improve their bilingual skills and in turn overall translation competence and performance, (Difeng Li 2001: 1).

  Fawcett’s (1997: viii) opines that, without a grounding in linguistics, the translator is like “[…] somebody who is working with an incomplete toolkit” 
In this vein, Rico Perez (2002:1) opines that a commitment to training translators in such a way as to enable them to be incorporated almost immediately into the working world is posing the agents responsible for drawing up curricular models, study plans and subject syllabuses the challenge of reconciling the sometimes-conflicting interests of academic training and the industry.  Alina Secară (2005: 1) illustrates further that this new trend is now being standardized with the appearance of new job titles, such as ‘translator-editor’. These have pushed the job specifications - and thus the skills required for what was initially a translation position - one step further.   
 It is important to make trainees fully aware of what the various sub-components for translation competence are and how they relate to one another in the translation process (Adab2000: 227), and of the workings and interactions of these sub-competences in what Neubert (2000: 17) calls the “complex interdiscipline of translation.” The translation profession has known a remarkable evolution that Shreve (2000: 217 as quoted by Kelly (2005) has this to say:  
The profession of translation (can be seen as) a special kind of ecosystem moving through time, modifying itself under the pressure of influences emanating from its socio-cultural environment, and evolving successfully from one form into another.

As Kiraly (1995: 34) rightly points out, the recognition that translation is a special form of communicative language use, has opened the way to search sources of innovation in translation instruction as a unique form of second language education.

  • METHODOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK

This study adopts an empirical exploratory case study survey. The data is obtained from both primary and secondary sources.  Primary sources include: archival documentation, questionnaires and interviews.  The major documents consulted include: the presidential order creating ASTI in 1985, and its subsequent amendments, the various ASTI syllabuses, some semester results, end of year results and reports, students’ transcripts, and form Bs. Secondary sources include a literature review component. Triangulation was necessary because documentation in the early years of ASTI’s inception was not properly coordinated.  For instance, there were no form Bs, and the only way to be sure about the content of the syllabus was through semester results, official syllabuses and or individual results or transcripts.  
The major resource persons who provided the data for this study were 3 teachers with longstanding teaching and or administrative experience in ASTI dating back to the 80s, and 36 professional translators (mostly graduates of ASTI), presently serving in the Cameroonian civil service. The latter belong to the various batches of graduates from ASTI since the creation of the school in 1985. Data from the teachers and administrators is elicited through a structured interview while that from the professional translators is obtained through a questionnaire.    
 In order to limit the study to an acceptable scope, focus is on major turning points in higher education system, that is, from the ‘average’ through the ‘credit’ and now the ‘BMP’ systems.   In each of these cases, changes in the language component and results are analyzed and compared with those without language courses in order to measure the effect of either the presence, reduction or the absence of language teaching on translator training and performance.

  • RESULTS AND ANALYSIS

The Advanced School of Translators and Interpreters (ASTI) was created in 1985 to fulfill national needs for translators and interpreters, with particular attention to the public service, and also to define the scope and objectives for the promotion of official bilingualism in the country.   The School’s activities essentially comprised the following:

  • Training of translators and translators/interpreters,
  • Research in translation, interpretation and terminology,
  • Refresher courses for practicing  translators and interpreters,
  • Promotion of institutional bilingualism in Cameroon.
    • The Official Translation Curriculum of 1986 – 1993

During the period under study, the ‘average’ evaluation system was in vogue in Cameroon’s Higher Education System.  Evaluation was based on the student’s obtention of an overall average of at least 12 on 20. This first survey of the period from 1986 to 1993 focuses on instructional objectives evaluated in terms of their usefulness.
The academic programme in Division 1 of ASTI, designed for the training and further training of translators lasted for two years or six (6) terms after which successful candidates were awarded the Post Graduate Diploma in Translation and were automatically absorbed into the public service. The analyses which follow are drawn from the syllabus of the Advanced School of Translators and Interpreters (ASTI), of the Buea University Center, that is, before the university Center was transformed into the University of Buea in 1993.  
     Table 1. First Year programme 1986/1987
     First Term


No.

Courses

Mark

Coefficient

1.

History of Translation

20

4

2.

Theory of Translation

20

4

3.

Précis Writing and Abstraction

20

4

4.

Survey Course in Economics

20

4

5

Literature Survey

20

4

6

Bilingualism

20

4

7

Sight Translation (French)

20

3

8

Sight Translation (English)

20

3

9

Introduction to Creative Writing

20

4

     Second Term


No.

Courses

Mark

Coefficient

1.

General Translation into English

20

4

2.

General Translation into French

20

4

3.

Survey Courses in Law

20

4

4.

Translation Skills Workshop

20

4

5

Literary Translation

20

3

6

Type Writing

20

3

      Third Term


No.

Courses

Mark

Coefficient

1.

Specialized Translation into English

20

4

2.

Specialized Translation into French

20

4

3.

Cameroonian Institutions

20

4

4.

Linguistics for Translators

20

4

5

Comparative Stylistics of English/French

20

4

6

Creative Writing in English/French

20

4

7.

Practicum in Translation

20

4

  Table 2.  Second Year Programme 1987/88
     First Term


No.

Courses

Mark

Coefficient

1.

Specialized Translation into English

20

4

2.

Specialized Translation into French

20

4

3.

Advanced General/Literary Translation

20

4

4.

Current Affairs Seminars

20

4

5

Introduction to Interpretation

20

4

6

Research Methodology

20

4

         Second Term


No.

Courses

Mark

Coefficient

1.

Technical Translation into English /French

20

4

2.

Revision, Editing, Proofreading

20

4

3.

Translation and Computer Applications

20

4

4.

Documentation and Terminology

20

4

       Third Term


No.

Courses

Mark

Coefficient

1.

Advanced Expository Writing Eng/French

20

4

2.

Advanced Technical Translation

20

4

3.

Thesis

20

4

              Source:  Source: ASTI Academic Records 1986/7, 1987/88                                  
            Tables 1 and 2 reveal that a total of 35 courses were offered in Division 1 of ASTI leading to the award of the Post Graduate Diploma in Translation from 1986 to 1993. Conversely, out of the 35 courses on the programme, 22 (that is 63%) of them were taught in the first year.  Of the 22 courses taught in the first year, 11 (that is 50%), were translation courses, 5 (that is 23.8%) were general courses and 6 (that is 26.2%) were languages courses.  
The major language courses offered were: Précis writing and abstraction, Bilingualism, introduction to creative writing, comparative stylistics, creative writing, revision, editing and proofreading, translation and computer application, documentation and terminology, and advanced expository writing and Linguistics for Translators.

    • Evaluation

   This section on evaluation attempts to answer the following questions:  Is there a systematic positive relationship between language scores and subsequent translation scores?  In other words, is it possible that the higher the prior language scores, the higher the subsequent translation scores?
            Results of both the first year (1986/7) and the second year (1987/88) are analyzed below.

First Year Results 1986/1987
            These first results are from the first batch of students of the 1986/1987 academic year in ASTI, of the Buea University Center.  Twelve students were admitted into the first year of the translation course.  The results analyzed below concern those of the language courses for the whole year correlated with the whole year’s overall average for the translation course.

Table 3. First Year Language results -1986/1987

Student

Course A

Course B

Course C

Course D

Course E

Course
F

 

Total

 

Individual
Mean

1

10

13

12.5

15

11.5

08

70.0

11.6

2

13

13

13

18

12.0

11.5

80.5

13.4

3

10

07

14.5

10

11.0

11.5

64.0

10.6

4

14

12

12.5

18

11.5

09

77.0

12.8

5

07

10

13.5

15

11.5

11

 68.0

11.3

6

10

15

11

17

12.5

13.5

79.0

13.2

7

06

14

10.5

12

13.0

08

  63.5

     10.5

8

12

14

11

11

13.5

09

70.5

11.6

9

13

12

15

08

14.0

13.5

75.5

12.5

10

08

11

13

13

11.5

8.5

65.5

10.8

11

06

11

10

11

12.0

10.5

70.5

11.6

12

06

12

10.5  

15

12.0

12

67.5

11.2

Total

115

144

147

163

146

108

851.5

142

Class Mean

9.5

12.0

12.3

13.5

12.2

9.0

71.0

11.8

                                     
                                      Source: ASTI Academic Record
Key: 
Course A:  Précis Writing and Abstraction       Course B:  Bilingualism
Course C:  Introduction to Creative Writing    Course D:  Linguistics for Translators
Course E:  Comparative Stylistics of English/French  Course F:   Creative writing in English/French 

Second year Results 1987/1988
            Table 4. Second Year Language Results -1987/1988                                


Student

Course G

|A\

Course
 I

Course 
J
 

Total

Individual
  Mean

1

12.0

13

14

12.5

51.5

12.75

2

13.0

15

13

15

56.0

14.0

3

9.5

13.5

08

10.5

41.5

10.3

4

9.0

12

15

13

49.0

12.25

5

10.0

12

10

08

40.0

10.0

6

10.0

15.5

13

11

49.5

12.3

7

14.0

13.5

12

06

45.5

11.3

8

11.5

12.5

11

13

48.0

12.0

9

11.5

14.5

11

10

47.0

11.75

10

7.5

10

11

06

34.5

8..5

11

9.0

12.5

14

11

46.5

11.5

12

12.5                     

13.5

12

10

48.0

12.0

Total

129.5

157.5

144

126

557

138.65

Class
Mean

10.7

13.1

12

10.5

46.4

11.5

                                    Source: ASTI Academic Records
                                                
Key:
Course G:  Revision, Editing, Proofreading   Course H:  Translation and Computer Applications
Course I:   Documentation and Terminology Course J:  Advanced Expository Writing

4.1.2. Correlation of Language and Translation 
To what extent can it be said that the relationship between subsequent scores in translation and language scores are systematic? Table 6 below establishes this relationship between the language annual mean average and end of course translation average. 
Table 5.  Translational Language competence and translation
Competence Acquisition -1986-1988 Badge


Student

X - Mean

Y- Mean

Annual   Language mean
average

End of Course
annual Translation
Average

1

11.6

12.75

12.1

13.20

2

13.4

14.0

13.7

13.02

3

10.6

10.3

10.45

12.46

4

12.8

12.25

12.5

12.81

5

11.3

10.0

10.65

12.10

6

13.2

12.3

12.75

13.45

7

10.5

11.3

10.9

12.15

8

11.6

12.0

11.8

12.10

9

12.5

11.75

12.1

12.17

10

10.8

8..5

9.65

10.84

11

11.6

11.5

11.5

12.20

12

11.2

12.0

11.6

13.32

Total

142

138.65

139.7

149.82

Class mean

11.8

11.5

11.65

12.5

                                   Source: ASTI Academic Records                             
The Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient (r) was calculated as follows:                            --  
            Sxy = ∑xy  - xy
                       n
                                       =  1641.165  - (11.7583) (11.554)
                                                   12
                                       = 136.76375 – m135.7
                                       = 1.06375
             r            =      1.06375
                 (0.95084026) (1.762044267)   =    1.06375
                                                                         1.675422629
           r          =   0.634914427   => 0.635

            This result permits the rejection of the null hypothesis (Ho: R = 0).  And as the relationship was expected to be positive, only one alternative hypothesis is there (Ho: r > 0).  This is, hence, automatically accepted with only 1% probability that the observed correlation (r obs = 0.635) was due to chance alone. This coefficient implies that 63.5% of the two variables correlated with each other, which is quite meaningful.  That is, language competence accounts for 63.5% of translation performance.  Only 36.5%, the remaining of the relationship could then be explained by other variables.
            During this period, Language learning in translator training was designed to enable students to reach translation learning goals and do so in a reasonably efficient manner as can be seen in the positive results recorded from 1988 to 1990 on table 8 below.

           Table 6. Positive results in a full language inclusive curriculum   

Year

1988

1989

1990

1993

1995

1996

1997

1998

Perform

11/12

16/18

29/33

13/20

13/22

05/15

11/27

17/27

 % Pass

91.6%

88.8%

87.8%

60%

59%

33.3%

40.7%

62.9%

 The positive end of year results during this period proved that the specific objectives for language for translators were designed in view of preparing trainees to practice a creative problem-solving pedagogy.

    1. The Official Translation Curriculum of 1993 -2006

            This period saw the adoption of the credit system in 1993.  There was a sharp drop in the number of courses offered in both translation, general, and language courses. 
               Table 7 Major changes in the 1993 Curriculum


 

 No.

Course Title

1986 -

1993 - 

 New courses/Title

 

1.

History of Translation

+

-

 
 

2.

Theory of Translation

+

+

 
 

3.

Précis writing and abstraction

+

+

Précis writing

 

4.

Survey course in Economics

+

+

Economics

 

5.

Literature Survey

+

-

 
 

6.

Bilingualism

+

+

 
 

7.

Introd. To Creative Writing

+

-

 
 

8

General Translation into Eng.

+

+

 
 

9

General translation into French.

+

+

 
 

10

General Translation from C

+

+

 
 

11.

Survey Course in Law

+

+

Law/Cam. Instituts.

 

12.

Translation Skills workshop

+

-

 
 

13.

Literary Translation

+

+

Literary Theory/Tra

 

14.

Typewriting

+

+

Typing/word processing

 

15

Specialized Tra into English

+

+

 
 

16.

Specialized Tra into French

+

+

 
 

17

Specialized Tra from C.

+

+

 
 

18.

Cameroonian institutions

+

+

(11 above)

19.

Linguistics for Translators

+

-

   

20

Comparative Stylistics E/F

+

+

   

21

Creative writing Eng/Fre

+

-

   

22.

 Advanced Gen./Literary Tra

+

-

   

23

 Current Affairs

+

+

   

24

 Introduction to interpretation

+

-

Sight Translation

 

25

 Research Methodology

+

+

   

26

Technical Translation E/F 

+

-

   

27

 Revision, Editing/Proof read. 

+

+

Revision

 

28

Translation/computer applic.

+

-

   

29

Documentation and Terminology

+

+

Terminology

 

30

Thesis

+

+

   

31

Advanced Exp. Writing -Eng

+

-

   

32

Techn. Superieure de Redact. 

+

-

   

33

Advanced Tech. Translation. 

+

-

   

34

Practicum 

+

+

   

From the statistics on table 7, a total of 13 courses were dropped in the 1993 syllabuses (that is, 38.2% less than the 1986 syllabus. Six major language courses were dropped from the 10 which were taught in the 1986 programme, (that is, a 60% loss).  This general reductionist tendency is also observed in the new captions given to former courses.  For instance, ‘Précis writing and abstraction’, simply became ‘Précis writing.’   Précis writing is not the same as précis writing combined with abstraction and/or popularization which, although related are distinct skills in the domain of technical writing.  This is also true of Documentation and Terminology which became simply documentation.  Documentation is quite a separate discipline today from terminology (Mayoral, 1994: 118, Sales-Salvador, 2005) and they cannot be confused.  Furthermore, sight translation which replaced interpretation is not the same as interpretation. The latter is broader in scope and was certainly more fulfilling as a discipline in 1986 than sight translation in 1993. This is because sight translation is only one of many components of interpretation.
            In effect, the 1993 programme was essentially skeletal when compared to the former.  This was made even more patent with the absence of courses like translation skills workshop, technical translation and translation history.  When the two results are compared quantitatively and qualitatively, a marked difference could be discerned in favor of the former because of this single act of language violation against the trainees.

    Table 8. Poor results in a language reductionist curriculum


1993

1995

1996

1997

1998

2002

2003

2004

2005

13/20

13/22

05/15

11/27

17/27

03/35

14/35

08/40

16/34

60%

59%

33.3%

40.7%

62.9%

8.5%

40%

20%

 47%

    1. The Official Translation Curriculum of 2006 – 2010

The higher educational reforms that gave birth to the Bachelor, Master, and PhD (BMP) system in 2006 sought to focus more attention on competency-based approaches to learning.  The justification for this new orientation was made patent during a two days ‘Competency-Based Seminar’ which held on the 8th and 9th July 2010 at the University of Buea:
The implementation of BMP in Cameroon implies change for higher education institutions, which have now to ensure that the learning outcomes of graduates fulfill the competency needs of the labor market.  Such changes in training programme, design and planning imply a competency-based approach (CBA) to focus on graduates’ employability (CBS, 2010: 1)
In this vein, new translation tasks should ideally be involved in satisfying a number of market-imposed requirements extrinsic to translation per se, among which, language proficiency skills and proficient use of state-of-the-art hardware, as well as software rate as strategic in terms of professional survival.
In response to this, a spirited effort was made to reintroduce a language enhancement slot (not a course) in the second semester of 2010 with little success, because it failed to provide a mechanism for an action research, based on an empirically validated syllabus design, gradation of content and implementation approaches. Those who taught the slot were not translators with the result that teaching did not address translational language competence.  After highlighting some major aspects of the translation curriculum since 1986, it is possible to assess the impact of translational language competence or its absence on translation performance by analyzing some results.           
             Table  9.  A Cursory view of annual performances 1988-2010


Year

1988

1989

1990

1993

1995

1996

1997

1998

Perform

11/12

16/18

29/33

13/20

13/22

05/15

11/27

17/27

% Pass

91.6%

88.8%

87.8%

60%

59%

33.3%

40.7%

62.9%

Year

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2008

2009

2010

Perform

03/35

14/35

08/40

16/34

16/56

15/45

12/52

15/44

 

% Pass

8.5%

40%

20%

 47%

28.5%

33.3%

23%

34%

                                     Source: ASTI records
  These results demonstrate that the fluctuations in the syllabus content of the language component in ASTI characterized by gradual elimination of language teaching, has led to increasing poor performances in translation.  Hence, the complete absence of language courses and the increasing language deficiency gaps of students are largely responsible for students’ poor performances in translation in recent years.    
 
5.  DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION 
From this cursory review of the role and impact of language teaching component in translator training within the average, credit and the BMP systems above, it is evident that training institutions need to be sensitive to the evolution of the syllabus contents and outcomes of their training programmes.  It is believed that the validity of any pedagogical approach depends on the ability of stakeholders to identify and justify the belief system on which educational decisions are based on empirically validated proof.  This empirical study has proven that the fluctuation in the language teaching component in ASTI has impacted on translation performance in several ways and with pedagogical implications:
AConstant fluctuation characterized by reductionism: Language courses for translators were systematically taught as legitimate skills with positive results in the 80s and early 90s. However, with a 60% drop of major language courses from 1993, to the implementation of ineffective tutorials in 2000, results in translation performance have progressively experienced a downward trend.
B.  Language teaching as a legitimate skill in Translator Training
The positive results of systematic language teaching in the 80s and early 90s contrast both quantitatively and qualitatively with those of subsequent years when language teaching was either reduced or absent.  These results confirm that Translation is a skill acquired on the basis of L1 and L2 proficiency (Nord, 1991a: 140).  
C. Poor syllabus design and Implementation:  Although tutorials were introduced to complement language teaching, they were largely teacher-driven (also not focused on language alone), and characterized by the absence of clearly defined syllabus of basic linguistic knowledge for translators, as well as good teaching methods.  Furthermore, non-professional translators were often asked to teach language courses with the effect that trainees’ translational language competence needs which could positively impact on their translation performance were not met. 
In the light of the above, this study posits that:
1. Systematic language teaching is indispensable: these results demonstrate that competence in two languages is necessary for any translation task and that translators are professionally qualified experts with extensive linguistic knowledge. Professional translating standards require an impeccable level of competence in the working languages requiring a highly developed capacity to understand and an ability to manipulate language. Insufficient knowledge of working languages is one of the major problems that ASTI students face in translation. Trainee translators need to be trained to be communicatively competent on how to use this knowledge appropriately in separate and enhanced language skills. 
2. language skills and trans­lation skills are symbiotic:  Since translation makes use of most of the language skills, the students should also be caused to improve their language skills while studying translation.  Translation teaching can play a role in an integrated way, whe­re all the five skills, namely, reading, writing, listening, speaking, and translation, are dealt with.  The holistic, seeming or eclectic teaching technique has been found to be useful in the translation classroom.  Furthermore, the new linguistic skills that translation students are required to possess nowadays in order to ensure a successful entry into the workplace involve new syllabus content, as well as new teaching and learning approaches. 
3. The predominant role of Translational language competence in professional translation: Professionals are increasingly involved in carrying out a lot of language-specific activities (add-ons) in the field which activate both language and specialized domain competences, requiring both written and oral expertise in language skills. That explains why translators are now referred to as language services providers. These add-ons provide not only a genuine reflection of the type of skills sought by the market, but also a new, up to-date profile of the world of professional translators.   
4. The translation market is heterogeneous and highly fragmented: the translation market includes all translation-related work translators do, for example, editing, proofreading, revision, transcription, subtitling, dubbing, voiceover, localization, desktop publishing and terminology work etc. The term “translation” can no longer transmit the range of skills that are necessary.  A wide range of companies are looking for translators and their services. Professionals equally solicit that trainees be made to be aware of these needs and to exhibit a sense of responsibility. They should be exposed to all sorts of language related skills.  The translation market would benefit, as translators would be readier to adapt to emerging roles and more capable of sustaining quality and the argument for quality in the business. 
5. Tapping Professional Experience into Translation ClassroomsThese new activities of writing of correspondences, reports, press releases, précis, etc., which require specialist linguistic writing skills, as well as, speeches, presentations, interviews, and exposés etc., requiring the translator’s specialist linguistic skills at the oral level, are fast impacting on the definition of new profiles for modern translation practice with implications for translator training. Professionals’ real life experience is used to weigh against current institutional practices. Most trainers who remain indifferent to best-practice approaches used to teach this profession are being ignorant that its profile, nature and expectations are constantly changing. Current reforms invite and even prescribe a shift from traditional academic training proposals towards skills-based proposals. 
6. Multi-competence is an added value of translation studiesa training programme concentrating on a core translation competence with parallel emphasis on market awareness and transferable skills would present significant advantages for students to acquire a minimum level of relevant experience in order to prepare them to resolve the many multi-functional problems that occur most commonly in professional practice.   To better respond to the structure and functioning of society (as well as markets), higher level of initial training is necessary for trainees to prepare them to function as active members of the profession when they gain employment. 
As Shreve (1997: 125) rightly points out, "professional translation [...] can be acquired by only undergoing certain kinds of deliberately sought out communicative experiences."  In this vein, the work examined the principles underlying curriculum renewal for the training of translators. It considers recent research work from Translation Studies on the nature of translation competence, arguing that a more dynamic understanding of the nature of translation must be reflected in a departure from traditional philological arguments and pedagogical practices to a competency-based paradigm.

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About Dr. Sakwe George Mbotake

Dr Sakwe George Mbotake

Dr Sakwe George Mbotake is a Lecturer of Translation Studies and Applied Linguistics at the University of Buea. He holds a PhD Applied Linguistics (Translation Studies), an MA in translation from the Advanced School of Translator and Interpreters of the University Buea, Cameroon, and an MA in TOFFL University of Buea/Grenoble France. His research Interests include Translation Pedagogy, Translation Competence, History/Theory of Translation, Comparative Stylistics, and Applied Linguistics. Dr. Sakwe can be reached at: gmsakwe@yahoo.com 

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