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SML8025 : Translating for a Big Institution. The EU - A Case Study

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr JC Penet
  • Owning School: Modern Languages
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


•       To develop students' ability to reflect on their practice as translators and translation as a norm-based process as it relates to translation theory;
•       To develop students' knowledge of institutional translation and their awareness of the challenges of translating for a big institution such as the European Commission from an ethnographic and social perspective;
•       To develop students’ critical understanding of the latest research on institutional translation by exploring and evaluating different approaches (empirical, ethnographic, sociological and corpus-made), making them relate to wider research in Translation Studies as seen on SML7001/8012 and by applying them to the specific case study of EU translation.

Outline Of Syllabus

•       The European Union, its institutions and its translation services
•       Key Issues in Translating for the EU's Institutions: multilingualism, language versions and/or transition
•       The Voice(s) of the Institution: EU translation services and what they translate
•       Workflow, organisation and translation tools in a big institution such as the European Commission
•       Challenging the Notion of Source Text: (re)drafting, hybrid texts and interference
•       Institutional Culture and Institutionalising Culture: culture and/of the European Union in translation
•       Speaking with One Voice: challenges of institution translation
•       Shaping a Big Institution fit for the future – challenges ahead for multilingualism and translation at the EU's institutions

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture12:002:00Present-in-person Introductory Lecture
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion151:0015:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading391:0039:00Self-paced materials, activities and readings, delivered on Canvas (includes online discussions)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching41:004:00Present-in-person
Guided Independent StudySkills practice171:0017:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery11:001:00Synchronous online.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study221:0022:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

This is a blended learning module that encourages situated learning. Indeed, the translation industry has undergone huge technological changes in the last decade and it is increasingly becoming the norm for translators to work exclusively online. Working online does not necessarily mean working in a void, though. This blended-learning module allows students to become more self-regulating and to learn to manage their workloads and solve problems online through tutor and peer support. The scheduled learning and teaching activities of the module gives them the opportunity to solve any remaining difficulties with the module leader. Lectures involve lecturer input, directed research and reading, independent study and online discussions on the syllabus. Each lecture requires one or two key reading tasks and students are asked to post reflective summaries of their reading on the VLE so they can further their knowledge and understanding of the identified themes (see knowledge outcomes). Practicals enable students to practice and discuss the specifics of translation work in a big institution such as the EU, thus building up their ability to apply their knowledge and skills to practical professional contexts. As a preparation for the practicals, skills practice tasks require students to translate texts routinely translated by the European Commission’s translation service (DGT) into their mother tongue along with a short critical commentary of the translation and/or of some specific translation points/difficulties. Whenever possible, the translations are then peer-evaluated so students can work on their professional ability to revise and edit translations. The commentary is also peer-reviewed and discussed as a group in the seminars in light of the lecture materials (thus serving as input) and students are encouraged to reflect on the challenges faced by an institutional translator in light of their own and their peers’ work.
The four seminars also provide an opportunity for students to discuss lecture materials with their peers and the
module leader if required. Swapping experiences across languages, this peer work enables students to confront the practical issues involved in translating EU-specific sources, to develop theoretical and critical skills and insights by sharing experiences, strategies and translation solutions with peers and to develop a range of key skills such as communication, oral presentation, teamwork, initiative etc.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2M100Students can choose to complete either a 1800 word case study of a situated translation OR a 1800 word critical essay.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

In the spirit of this module that encourages self-regulated and situated learning, students can choose between
working on a case study or an essay. It is expected that the case study will best suit students who want to reflect on institutional translation from a constructivist perspective as they are encouraged to situate their own translating experience in – and test it against – existing knowledge and theories on institutional translations in general, and translation at the EU institutions in particular. Similarly, it is expected that the essay will best suit students who would like to further develop their research skills by looking critically and analytically into a specific aspect of institutional translation and testing these theories against their own or others’ institutional translation work wherever possible.
Whether students choose to go from practice to theory (case study) or from theory to practice (essay), both forms of assessment test the students’ theoretical knowledge of institutional translation and of the issues/challenges associated with it while feeding on the work carried out for and during both lectures and practicals. It also tests their understanding of the relevant professional principles and ethos when translating for a big institution and their ability to reflect critically on them.

Reading Lists