Tailoring Translation Programs to Social Needs: A Survey of Professional Translators

Defeng Li

Abstract

To ensure that translation programs meet the constantly changing needs of the market, it is of paramount importance to first identify what those needs are. This article reports on a data-based study of professional translators undertaken in Hong Kong. The study reveals that recent social-political changes in the country have brought about changes in the needs of professional translators characterized by demand for better bilingual competence including mastery of Putonghua, better command of selective translation and more collaborative translation. It was also found that training in English and Chinese proved most helpful to professional translators at work, whereas training in interpretation and subject knowledge proved inadequate. The author recommends that training in L1 and L2 be strengthened, and translation teaching be brought closer to the real world through authentic training, thus responding to changing social needs.

Table of contents

Studies on translation teaching have been gaining momentum in recent years. While plenty has been written on translator competence and proficiency (e.g. Campbell 1991; Cao 1996; Shreve 1997), approaches to teaching translation (e.g. Gile 1995; Wilss 1996), the role of theory in translation teaching (e.g. Delisle 1981; Gentile 1991; Viaggio 1994; Gile 1995a) and empirical study of the translation process and its pedagogical implications (e.g. Lörscher 1991; Tirkkonen-Condit 1992), several other important aspects of translation teaching have been un- or under-explored. For example, there has been little study on design and planning of translation curriculums, yet curriculum design and planning is one of the aspects that most directly affect the quality of translators turned out by translation programs. Therefore, the subject of curriculum design and innovation in translation programs merits serious study.

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