The Routledge Guide to Teaching Translation and Interpreting Online
eBook - ePub

The Routledge Guide to Teaching Translation and Interpreting Online

Cristiano Mazzei, Laurence Jay-Rayon Ibrahim Aibo

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  1. 154 pages
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

The Routledge Guide to Teaching Translation and Interpreting Online

Cristiano Mazzei, Laurence Jay-Rayon Ibrahim Aibo

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About This Book

Routledge Guides to Teaching Translation and Interpreting is a series of practical guides to key areas of translation and interpreting for instructors, lecturers, and course designers.

The Routledge Guide to Teaching Translation and Interpreting Online is for educators of translation and interpreting teaching online in a variety of curricular combinations: fully online, partially online, hybrid, multimodal, or face-to-face with online components. Offering suggestions for the development of curriculum and course design in addition to online tools that can be used in skill-building activities, and adaptable to specific instructional needs, this textbook is suitable for both multilingual and language-specific classes.

Fully comprehensive, the book addresses the tenets and importance of process-oriented pedagogy for students of translation and interpreting, best practices in online curriculum and course design, instructor online presence, detailed illustrations of specific online assignments, the importance of regular and timely feedback, and teaching across the online translation and interpreting (T&I) curriculum.

Written by two experienced translators, interpreters, and scholars who have been teaching online for many years and in various settings, this book is an essential guide for all instructors of translation and interpreting as professional activities and academic disciplines.

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1Online Translation and Interpreting Education

DOI: 10.4324/9781003149316-2
First, we want to acknowledge that this book was written during one of the worst health crises the world has ever experienced together, the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many others around the globe, our interactions with our family members, co-workers, friends, and loved ones changed dramatically toward a more virtual experience. Like many other areas of life, education has been affected in major ways, with levels of disruption never seen before. In general, most educational institutions were not prepared to transition to a fully online environment and the process evolved gradually, with instructional designers working in overdrive to provide support to teachers. We are not sure how this will influence online learning in the future, but one thing is certain: Those who had never considered teaching online “were forced” to do so, and now have a more informed idea of the demands and realities of this type of educational space. Some of those who pivoted to remote teaching decided to try to emulate their in-person classes by requiring students to attend synchronous meetings, simply did not have time to learn online education best practices, or did not want to since we were all told the pandemic was temporary and that eventually we would all go back to “normal.” All of this has led to a certain level of frustration among students who had to transition to a different educational environment, and who have cited increased stress and negative consequences to their health and social lives. However, it is not clear that education alone is the cause of such negative experiences, since all aspects of our lives have been changed due to the forced isolation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The fact is that there has been a tremendous increase in distance learning as a result of this health crisis and many of our colleagues, especially those who resisted this environment for a long time, were surprised by what instructors and students were able to successfully do online.

1.1 Distance Learning and Translation and Interpreting (T&I)

Like any other technological development, online education has been met with skepticism since its inception, initially framed as “distance learning” in the late 1980s. It owes a lot to other forms of remote education that came before it, including correspondence programs offered by postal services and classes broadcast by public television and radio networks across the globe, fostering the idea that students could study from their homes at their own pace. Distance learning has also been hailed as a way to democratize knowledge and education and improve literacy rates among adult populations in certain countries, including Brazil, which has had government-funded educational programs broadcast via radio and television since the 1920s (Barros Filho 2018).
While the democratizing power of virtual learning cannot be underestimated, one needs to take into account the many challenges faced by online learners, including the lack of access and cost of reliable Internet connections, computers/devices, and technology literacy levels. For example, a recent article on online T&I education efforts in some African countries because of the COVID-19 pandemic illustrates the stark differences between the Global North and Global South when it comes to access. Afolabi and Oyetoyan conducted qualitative research with T&I students and educators in the Republic of Benin, Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo, to find out about their experience pivoting to virtual learning in 2020 and 2021. Even though the response rate was low (20 out of 150 individuals), the results revealed that the “transition to online teaching and learning has not been smooth, due to the economic challenges, insufficient technological infrastructure and skilled human resources” (2021, 327). Despite creative efforts from teachers and institutions, including using WhatsApp for group discussions, receiving/sending assignments, and voice-recorded feedback, students listed poor or no Internet connection, electricity problems, and costly data plans as some of the challenges faced (341).
Moreover, professional and personal issues faced by many non-traditional students who seek online education, including working full-time while studying, raising families, and delayed pursuit of their education, also add to the complexities experienced by distance learners. However, according to Flower Darby (2019), “these factors are the very reason many of our online students choose to take college classes online. They need a flexible option that accommodates their work and family obligations” (8), which are important considerations that should guide teachers and instructional designers when developing their courses. Nevertheless, online education has grown incredibly fast in the last few years. According to the report Grade Increase: Tracking Distance Education in the United States, “distance education enrollments increased for the fourteenth straight year, growing faster than they have for the past several years” (Seaman, Allen, & Seaman 2018, 3).
Unlike many other disciplines, translation and interpreting have been late in joining virtual and distant learning, despite the fact that written translation, for example, has been practiced with the support of personal computers and the Internet in robust ways since the 1990s, and that interpreting has been offered via telephone since the 1970s. One finds sporadic research papers published on online translation and interpreting teaching, with topics ranging from the challenges of such an environment, to the need for educational approaches to reflect current technological developments, different tools available such as blogs, various learning management systems, theoretical underpinnings and pedagogies, and synchronous and asynchronous modalities (Chen and Ko 2009; Azizinezhad and Hashemi 2011; Sachtleben 2015; Gorozhanov, Kosichenko, and Guseynova 2018; Bilić 2020; Perramon and Ugarte 2020).

1.2 Multilingual vs. Language-Specific T&I Education

Until recently, most online translation and interpreting courses have been offered in language-specific classrooms and contexts. However, with increased migration trends, different language policies adopted by various wealthy nations around the world, and the growth of the field of community translation and interpreting, the demand and need for multilingual courses has increased tremendously. In the United States, for instance, more than 20% of US residents (66.6 million) do not speak English as a primary language at home and this number has doubled since 1990 and tripled since 1980. Those languages include Khmer, Hmong, Laotian, Punjabi, Urdu, Haitian Creole, and Vietnamese (Esther 2018); not to mention emerging languages that are a result of different new immigration waves, such as is the case of the Karen people from Myanmar, or indigenous languages from Central America, such as Q’anjob’al, K’ichĂ©, or Mam, as reported by The New York Times in an article about the dire need for interpreters in the US court system (Reefer 2019).
Multilingual translation and interpreting courses have diverse student populations in terms of their educational backgrounds and life experiences. Some of them are recent or late immigrants, many of whom have bachelor’s degrees from their countries of origin in different areas; some have not completed their formal education in their native countries and languages, having achieved their high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) certification in the new host country. Many of them are native English speakers who have pursued second language training and education; some have had extensive formal education in the language, including a bachelor’s or a master’s degree; and some have lived abroad for different lengths of time through study abroad programs. Some students are heritage speakers of their families’ languages, including Hmong, Spanish, Korean, Somali, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Cape Verdean Creole, etc., with different levels of proficiency in their ancestors’ native languages. Because of the fragmented status of translation/interpreting professionalization and education, many of them are working interpreters and translators who have little, some, or no formal translation and interpreter training. Some of them have attended short professional workshops (40 to 120 hours) designed to meet the growing demand for trained translators and interpreters in various countries, while some want to pursue further education.

1.3 Technology Literacy

If online learning literacy is already an issue for native English speakers pursuing education in a wealthy nation such as the United States, imagine being a recent immigrant seeking to add new credentials, or finding a new career path, coming from a developing nation with little or no access to the Internet. According to a press release from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTD), “Almost half the world’s population remains offline and excluded from the benefits of digitalization” (2019). Therefore, online multilingual translation and interpreting programs must meet these challenges if they are to succeed. For courses and trainings that are connected to a technical or community college or university, administrators should work closely with their institutions’ available online support teams to make sure students have access to much-needed assistance in their first encounter with virtual learning, which ranges from video or written tutorials to 24/7 helpdesks with staff trained to interact with students whose first language is not the primary one spoken in the new host country. In some instances, administrators need to seek help from non-profit organizations and sometimes attempt hybrid models to help students overcome the initial hurdles of learning in an online environment.
This was the case, for example, for a large group of Karen students enrolled in a community college program in the state of Minnesota. In 2016, the Karen Organization of Minnesota (KOM), which was created to help integrate the new wave of immigration of more than 9,000 Karen and other refugees from Myanmar, partnered with a large community college, Century College, and the Roseville Adult Learning Center to apply for a grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. The goal was to train Karen translators and interpreters to meet the dire and increasing need for cultural and language mediators across the state as the new immigrants tried to access public services in their journey of settling in their new host country. The translation and interpreting courses were delivered online by the community college with additional in-person support from the Roseville Adult Learning Center. Once or twice a week, Karen students met in-person in classrooms at the KOM’s office with instructors who helped them navigate the online learning environment. Thanks to the success of the multilingual program initiative, the organization invited speakers of other languages to join the classes, including Kinyarwanda, French, and Swahili (Karen Organization of Minnesota 2020). After taking one course with in-person assistance, students continued to pursue the additional online classes on their own.
Online faculty members also play a major role in facilitating access to their courses for students with technology literacy issues. Because many first-time online instructors have never taken an online class themselves before, one great way to walk in our students’ shoes is to enroll in one. If cost is an issue, or funding is not available at their teaching institutions, there are many opportunities to take virtual classes for free through massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other open-source platforms, such as Coursera. At the same time, online faculty members should work closely with their institutions’ online education staff and instructional designers to learn best teaching practices in the virtual environment.
Instructors should get to know their students well in their first week of classes and identify those who are not participating actively due to technology or online literacy issues, which can be done through various “introductory” exercises in online forums or other rich media platforms that allow students to participate via a written comment, audio file, video, or other type of media. Faculty members should make every effort to reach out to those who are not participating to find out if one of the reasons is their inability to navigate technological challenges. Those efforts might include, but are not limited to, email correspondence, telephone, and texting applications such as WhatsApp. However, faculty members should work closely with school administrators and program directors for additional assistance in terms of policies and student privacy laws in different countries. In the United States, for instance, where the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulates the relationship between students and educational institutions, texting apps such as WhatsApp clash with the required privacy protections. A student’s telephone number is considered “personal information collected from students” and may not be disclosed by instructors. There might be a workaround, but teachers must communicate with their institutions to find out about alternative platforms or the possibility of students signing a waiver and allowing their numbers to be shared inside a specific classroom. Obviously, students can decide to share their personal contact information with classmates and instructors.
Some students with technology and online learning challenges will not always respond well to all different types of virtual resources available and might need to speak to a “real person” to solve their issues. That is when strong and robust institutional support is crucial. In the current online Certificate in Professional Translation and Interpreting at the University of Massachusetts (U...

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