LINGUIST List 10.274

Sat Feb 20 1999

Review: Harris: Translation and Interpreting Schools

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  1. Rethore, Christophe, Review: Harris: Translation and Interpreting Schools

Message 1: Review: Harris: Translation and Interpreting Schools

Date: Fri, 19 Feb 1999 15:58:00 -0500 (Eastern Standard Time)
From: Rethore, Christophe <rethorcxjmu.edu>
Subject: Review: Harris: Translation and Interpreting Schools

 Harris, Brian. (1997) Translation and Interpreting Schools, Language 
 International World Directory, vol. 2, John Benjamins Publishing 
 Company: Amsterdam/Philadelphia, 238 p.
 
 Reviewed by Christophe Rethore, James Madison University, 
 rethorcxjmu.edu
 
 
 Synopsis
 
 This book contains basic information about 235 translation and 
 interpreting (TI) programs found in 60 countries. Interestingly 
 enough only seven countries (Canada, the UK, France, Spain, the USA, 
 Belgium and Germany) account for half of the total number of 
 programs listed, but the directory also mentions TI programs in 
 Sudan, New Zealand, Latvia, Nicaragua, etc. The information, 
 apparently compiled with data base software, appears in a 
 standardized fashion, and each program gets a full page: name, 
 address, email, phone and fax numbers of the host institution, date 
 of establishment, contact, staff, students and tuition fees, 
 degrees/diplomas granted, language combinations, specializations 
 and publications.
 
 
 Critical evaluation
 
 There is a real need for a world directory of TI programs. Before 
 the publication of Harris's directory (1997) someone looking for a 
 complete list and description of training programs in translation 
 and interpreting throughout the world had no choice but to search 
 the web or contact other sources of information at the national 
 level (e.g. associations of professional translators and 
 interpreters). Some information can be found on the web, but it is 
 presented in a rather disorganized fashion (see for instance 
 http://www.lai.com/lai/companion.html). As for professional 
 associations, the information they give is sometimes restricted to 
 the members or it is not free (for example, see the survey of US 
 translation programs conducted by the American Translators 
 Association). Therefore, the idea which has led to the realization 
 of the directory was very timely. 
 
 As in any dictionary or directory, the macrostructure of the book is 
 self-evident: preface, abbreviations, directory A-Z, plus an 
 1998/1999 entry form to facilitate the publication of a second 
 edition. Regarding the microstructure (i.e., the internal structure 
 of each "fact sheet" of the programs herein described), it is 
 presented in a rather clear format. For the reader's convenience, 
 this review has been divided into two parts: macrostructure and 
 microstructure.
 
 1) Macrostructure of the TI programs directory
 
 The preface surprisingly starts off with a series of generalizations 
 which could have been very instructive, had they been supported by 
 quantitative data. Unfortunately, without such data, they become 
 unfounded cliches which look like they have been directly taken from 
 a Marketing 101 textbook:
 
 	There is no doubt that the training of translators 
 	and interpreters in universities has been one of 
 	the biggest growth areas in academic circles in the 
 	last decade. The reason can be expressed in one 
 	word. Globalisation.
 
 	We live in a world (or global village, as the 
 	cliche has it) where everyone trades with 
 	everyone else; 
 
 	Those who train translators and interpreters need 
 	to be outward-looking and future-oriented. Their 
 	students, after all, will be pursuing their careers 
 	into the 21st century. (p. vii)
 
 However, the author also reminds the would-be, wannabe or soon-to-be 
 language professional who will read his book that translation 
 involves more and more multi-disciplinary training, and he 
 encourages course organizers "to be in touch with one another, to 
 exchange experiences, and be aware of developments." This 
 encouragement is very timely and much-needed.
 
 I acknowledge the warning given by the author stating that (1) the 
 information 
 compiled was "provided by the educational institutions," (2) "it 
 refers to the academic year 1996/1997" and (3) information like 
 "tuition fees are approximations and may be subject to change." 
 Therefore, "the publisher and compiler can take no responsibility 
 for the accuracy of the information provided" (p. viii). However, 
 there are inaccuracies in the directory which indicate that other 
 sources of information may have been used. I wish these sources had 
 been mentioned, were they primary or secondary sources. I also 
 believe that some of the data is seriously out of date, and predates 
 the supposed collection date of 1995. For example, I personally 
 checked on some of the information about programs in Quebec, and 
 found several errors and out of date material. 
 
 I think it would have been nice to have some form of disclaimer 
 explicitly mentioning that this directory is not exhaustive and does 
 not intend to reflect the relative importance of TI training 
 throughout the world. Thus, the reader should not be misguided by 
 certain figures. The directory shows that only seven countries 
 (Canada, the UK, France, Spain, the USA, Belgium and Germany) 
 account for half of the 235 programs listed, but other programs may 
 exist in the 60 countries researched or elsewhere. In addition, such 
 information is not always available in all countries. In other words 
 it is already impressive that the compiler was able to locate and 
 describe programs in China, Sudan, Estonia, Latvia, etc.
 
 The list of abbreviations was obviously needed, and it is very 
 useful after the preface. However it leaves the reader with the taste of a 
 work hastily done. The directory is also marred by a number of 
 typograpical errors, particularly in French.
 
 The list of program entries is sorted by country of origin and by 
 alphabetical order. I enjoyed this sorting and found it very easy to 
 browse through. I will comment in greater detail on the format of 
 the entries in the part of the review devoted to the microstructure. 
 At the very end of the book, an update form has been added. This is 
 a practical idea that will expedite the release of the second 
 edition of the directory.
 
 When the compiler is generating the next edition of this book, I'd 
 suggest the following changes:
 - rework the list of abbreviations;
 - upgrade the preface;
 - provide the reader with a table of all programs regrouped 
	 by country of origin;
 - include a synoptic table of all programs and their features 
	 (especially the programs they offer). The format could be 
	based on any list of programs found in a university 
	course catalog;
 - give a list of professional associations, useful 
	 addresses and other relevant sources of 
 	information.
 

 2) Microstructure
 
 The template of every entry is adequate and contributes to a 
 convenient reading of the information. The layout is basic, using 
 only bold and regular fonts, but it is simple and clear, especially 
 with the use of graphic symbols for the phone and fax numbers, as 
 well as the email/Internet address. Information on founding date, 
 department heads etc. is also found. I personally would have found 
 it more convenient if there had been some distinction made between 
 program coordinators and department heads.
 
 Next come tuition fees, and the number of staff and students, which 
 are important data. The entry then concludes with a list of the 
 degrees and diplomas granted, language combinations, specializations 
 and other specialties, and the publications of the program or its 
 host department.
 
 The interesting thing about the information regarding degrees and 
 diplomas granted is that the prerequisites are also mentioned. This 
 is very practical. However, and the educational institutions who 
 provided the compiler with the information may be guilty of this, it 
 is virtually impossible to compare the different degrees offered by 
 different programs in different countries of origin. There is no 
 systematic, specific indication as to how many credits are needed to 
 get a Certificate, a Bachelor of Arts (BA), a Master in Fine Arts 
 (MFA), etc. Nor can I compare the level and value of the various 
 programs. For the neophyte, how does a US Certificate rank compared 
 with a Moroccan "Diplome de traducteur,"
 a Higher Diploma in Translation and Interpretation 
 (Hong Kong) or a Canadian Diploma of Translation? And is a 
 Portuguese Licenciatura or a Spanish Licenciat en Traduccio 
 equivalent to a French licence? Again, the complier cannot assume 
 the responsibility for this lack of information given by the 
 educational institutions, but I'd encourage him to double check the 
 update form which will be in the next edition of the directory. I 
 think that the reader would benefit greatly from a table or a 
 synthesis on the various equivalences (or lack thereof) between TI 
 diplomas and degrees throughout the world. Could this be added to 
 the preface?
 
 A general comment comes to mind after going through every entry of 
 the directory and double checking several entries. It seems like 
 this database should be taken only as a first draft, and this has 
 already much value, given the fact that there was hardly any 
 comparable work before the directory was published. For instance, 
 the Canadian and American entries contain a number of inaccuracies 
 or/and omissions. These have been spotted when I called our contacts 
 in Canadian programs and visited the American institutions' web 
 sites. It would be tedious to mention every single 
 inaccuracy here, but I'd suggest checking any crucial information 
 against a web site. 
 
 Conclusion
 
 To sum up, despite the various errors scattered in the directory, I 
 would like to remind the reader that this 1996/1997 directory is 
 only a first edition, and that it should be taken as such, for what 
 it is worth. I also believe that this directory remains a useful 
 source of information for anyone interested in finding out more 
 about TI programs throughout the world. But since the book retails 
 for approximately US$95 in some major cyber-bookstores, I recognize 
 that the investment has to be seriously assessed. It might be wise 
 to wait for a second edition. Finally, there will certainly be 
 another positive consequence of Harris's directory: this initiative 
 will probably spark other projects in the same vein, be they at 
 national or international levels, and increase the circulation of 
 valuable, much-needed information in the field of translation and 
 interpreting studies. 
 
 Short biography of the reviewer 
 
 The reviewer, Christophe Rethore, is Director of 
 Translation Studies at James Madison University, Virginia. 
 He is also an associate at Tradexpor, a 
 Montreal, Canada-based translation bureau. He holds a 
 Bachelor of Commerce (B.Comm.) from ESSCA (Ecole 
 superieure des sciences commerciales d'Angers, France) and 
 a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from Auburn 
 University, USA, and he is currently finishing a PhD 
 dissertation on the translation of print advertisements. He 
 has been specializing in translation for ten years and 
 coauthored the Bilingual Dictionary of Retailing (in print).
 
 -----
 Christophe Rethore (rethorcxjmu.edu)
 Director of Translation Studies
 Department of Foreign Languages - James Madison University
 540-568-3512; fax 540-568-6904
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