27 August, 2010

Job Letters

Job Letters

  • Never underestimate the power of correspondence in your job search process.

Because there is no single formula or model of job application applicable for all occasions, we describe and provide examples and templates of letters you may use in your international job search:

  • Job Cover letters,

  • Thank you letters,

  • Job Acceptance letters,

  • Job Reference letters,

  • Job Reference lists,

  • Job Rejection letters.
Experienced job letter's writers follow these basic principles:

  1. Job letters should be brief, demonstrating that you understand the value of the reader's time.

  2. Avoid lengthy job letters exceeding 1 page.

  3. Ensure that you include your contact address, e-mail and phone/fax numbers.

  4. Place the most important items first, supported by facts.

  5. In your job letters be positive in tone, content and expectations.

  6. Do not add to your letters details about yourself or your past experience that may call attention to your weaknesses.

  7. Use active voice and powerful action verbs in your writing to hold the reader's interest and convey a sense of energy.

  8. Group similar items together in a paragraph.

  9. Organize paragraphs so that they relate to each other logically.

  10. Always back up general statements with facts or examples.

  11. Documentation creates credibility, reduces uncertainty and abstraction for the reader.

  12. Avoid jargon and cliches.

  13. Check the spelling and grammar in all correspondence. If you are not confident of your ability to detect grammatical, punctuation or English usage errors or if you need help in organizing your letters, bring your correspondence to a professional for assistance

26 August, 2010

Job Interviews

Job Interviews

• There are various kinds of Job interviews :

  1. One to One Job Interview
  2. Panel Job Interview
  3. Group Job Interview
  4. Phone Job Interview
  5. Lunch Job Interview
• Whatever the kind is, candidates have general tips of what to do and what to wear in their interviews.

• After the interview, the candidate may write an “interview thank you letter” to the interviewer.

General Job Interview Tips
• Do not smoke, chew gum, or eat garlic beforehand.

• Wear suitable interview clothes.

• Take copies of your CV with you.

• Arrive on time for your job interview.

• Any applications handed before the interview begins, are to be filled in as accurately as possible, make sure they match the information in your CV and the Cover Letter.

• Always greet the interviewers by his/her last name and try to pronounce it correctly.

• Have a good firm handshake.

• Look alert and interested. Scan the room once then keep your eye on the interviewers.

• Wait until you are offered a chair before you sit down.

• Stress your achievements.

• Always conduct yourself professionally and if something beyond your control occurs, show a sense of humor

• Be enthusiastic and show it in your replies and body language.

• Answer the interview question by more than a simple yes or no but try to go over 60 second limit.

• Avoid at all cost complaining about your current or former employer

• Do not answer questions about politics or religion if the job is completely unrelated.

• Do not raise salary discussions on your first interview – this is usually done on the second.

What to Wear for a Job Interview

General tips on what to wear for a job interview for both men and women:

• Be conservative

• Well-groomed hair style

• Clean, trimmed finger nails

• Minimal cologne or perfume

• No visible piercing

• No gum, candy or cigarettes

• Wear one ring and limited jewelry

What women should wear for a job interview:
• Avoid dresses

• Shoes should have conservative heels

• Use a briefcase rather than a purse

• Conservative nail polish

• Minimal use of make up

• Limit jewelry to one wedding ring and one set of earrings.

After the interview has completed, the candidate may also write an “interview thank you letter” to the interviewer.

15 August, 2010


8 Steps to Job Applications

Eight steps to making the best job application:

1. Read the blurb

An application pack will usually consist of more than just the application form. The original advert, job description, person specification and some background information on the company in question are sometimes included. This is to help you learn more about the job and guide you in completing the application correctly.
2. Do your research

Read up on the company you're applying to and research the industry, sector and particular role or function you're after. Check the company's website and read around the career area so that you can include jargon words. Do a draft. Never write straight on the application.

3. Answer all the questions

But don't volunteer information that isn't asked for. Employers are checking you off against education, skills and work experience. Don't add any extra bits of information. Where a particular question is not relevant to your background or experience, write 'not applicable' in the space provided otherwise it'll look like you've either forgotten or not bothered to answer it.

4. Use the right keywords

There are clues in the advert, job description and person specification as to what the employer wants. If they ask for someone who's a dynamic team leader or works on their own initiative, give appropriate examples of when you last did those things using the given key words.

5. Take time to consider the personal statement

Application forms are by their nature uniform documents but the personal statement is there for you to set yourself apart from the crowd and sell yourself. Address each point in the person specification faithfully but stay focused. The function of writing a personal statement is just to get you through the door. You are most likely to succeed in this by offering more evidence that you have the skills and qualities the employer is looking for. Bring the dry factual sections of your application to life by elaborating on key relevant points. Inject a hint of personality into your personal statement. Don't give standard responses or rehash old forms. Try and approach it afresh and think laterally.

6. Choose appropriate referees

This will nearly always be your current employer or a lecturer from university if you have little work experience. Always ask before using someone as a referee. That way, they won't be taken off guard when they're approached by the company and will be more inclined to give a considered and comprehensive appraisal of your work.

7. Treat online forms the same as hard copy forms

However, be aware that in an electronic format an optic eye scans for keywords. This means it's even more important to make sure that you're mentioning words out of the advert or job spec because that's what's going to get you to the top of the heap.

8. Do a final check

Ensure that there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Keep it concise and avoid repetition. Use a range of examples to illustrate your experience. When you've written your dummy application read it back and ask yourself, "If this landed on my desk and I was a recruiter would I want to see this person?" If the answer is 'no', do it again. Keep going until you think someone would want to see you on the basis of this information.

Electronic Tools for Translators in the 21st Century

Electronic Tools for Translators in the 21st Century
by Pablo Muñoz Sánchez

1. Introduction

The profession of translator is gaining in popularity. Consequently, there has been a significant increase in the number of academic institutions all around the world that offer translation programs to train prospective translators. In addition, there are also many recent studies dealing with the improvement of translator training models which take into account not only the trainees' translation competence, but also the market demands(Muñoz Martín, 2002; Pym, 2003; Reineke and Sánchez Muñoz, 2005; Rico Pérez, 2002; etc.). Other works refer to the vital role that technology plays for translators in the present era (Biau Gil and Pym, 2006), and to the new professional, the translator/localizer (Gouadec, 2004). As can be concluded for the above, translators have switched from pencil and paper to more effective and sophisticated electronic tools.

Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) software is helpful to translators, since it speeds up the translation process either with the help of translation memories when working with very repetitive texts or using translation software for texts written using controlled language (Nyberg, Mitamura and Huijsen, 2003). Terminology management tools also have a valuable applicability when working on big translation projects. However, CAT tools are seldom sufficient for obtaining a final product. They do help translators in their task,
but do not create, from scratch, the specific format the client asks for. While the Microsoft Word format may be considered a standard in most cases, in the real world clients also want translations with a fancy, well-designed layout, PDF being the preferred file format. Of course, they can always contact other professionals to undertake this task, but a translator capable of delivering a really finished translation will be eligible for complex assignments while others may only bed able to apply for jobs which 'only' require translating.

Translation software has been the subject of many authors in recent years. For instance, Somers (2003) presents an overview to the different software packages that translators must deal with in their everyday work, although he does not describe any specific tool in articular, unlike Dohler (1997) and Nogueira (2002). Austermühl (2001) gives more etails about certain CAT tools such as Trados, as well as he provides a useful list of nternet resources in each chapter of his book. However, these studies lack a realistic rofessional approach because they are mainly focused on CAT tools, without mentioning ther tools commonly used such as image editors or PDF tools. The aim of this paper is hus to overcome these shortcomings, presenting a quick overview of a wide variety of lectronic tools for Windows which make the translation process easier and faster and of hich translators should have a good command in order to satisfy today's market emands.

2. Electronic Tools for Translators

First of all, it is necessary to consider the software licenses restricting the use of a rogram and its cost. There are principally two categories of licensing schemes: opensource/free software and closed-source/proprietary software. The programs listed in this aper—apart from Internet resources—are of one of the following types:

  • Commercial: Commercial software is computer software sold for commercial purposes generally in retail shops or on the Internet.

  • Free: Free software, as defined by the Free Software Foundation, is software which can be used, copied, studied, modified and redistributed without restriction. Although this type of software is usually available at no cost, free should be understood as free (of freedom) and not as free of charge.

  • Freeware: Copyrighted computer software which is made available for use free of charge and for an unlimited time.

  • Shareware: As opposed to freeware, the user has to pay after some trial period which is usually no longer than 30 days.
2.1. Word Processors

Word processors are the main tools for translators. They allow the translator to easily type a translation. In addition, clients often ask for word processor file formats, Microsoft Word format (.doc) being the most popular. Spelling and grammar checkers are also important subprograms of word processors. There are, however, other good spell checkers such as Aspell (http://aspell.sourceforge.net/, free) apart from those built into word processors.

Another useful feature of word processors is that they can count the total number of words in a document, although there are other utilities like CATCount (http://www.catcount.com/, freeware), which facilitate the task of word counting in CAT jobs, and AnyCount (http://www.anycount.com/, shareware), which can count words in RTF, HTML or PDF documents among others.

Nowadays, the word processors which enjoy most popularity are Microsoft Word (http://office.microsoft.com/word/ , commercial) and OpenOffice.org Writer (http://www.openoffice.org/, free), although a good alternative which is gaining in popularity is AbiWord (http://www.abisource.com/, free).

2.2. Electronic Dictionaries and Encyclopaedias

One of the translator's basic skills is reading and writing proficiency in both source and target languages. Nevertheless, since even native speakers do not have full mastery of their languages, it is understandable that translators need to look up reference sources to solve their terminology and spelling problems. Electronic dictionaries have the advantage of speed and convenience of lookup, and portability over their printed counterparts.

English bilingual and monolingual electronic dictionaries like those of Oxford or Collins—available on CD-ROM—should be borne in mind when working with English, thanks to their capability of being searched for expressions and collocations using boolean operators. For instance, if you look for "serves AND you AND right," the search will return the term serve and will highlight the serves you right definition. Another interesting feature is that you can read and hear the pronunciation of most entries.

Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary and Thesaurus (http://www.m-w.com/) can be accessed online freely, albeit only its CD-ROM version has a boolean-based search. Each entry has the following fields apart from the entry and definitions: pronunciation (you can also hear it), function (e.g. verb), and etymology. In addition, hypertext links allow the user to navigate quickly between the different entries.

WordReference (http://www.wordreference.com/) is a good and free choice when working with different language pairs such as Spanish, French, Portuguese, or Italian. It offers bilingual and monolingual dictionaries, as well as synonyms dictionaries. In addition, its forums (http://forum.wordreference.com/) and sub-forums for specific languages like German or Arabic may be helpful with vocabulary or expressions in a given language.

With regard to electronic encyclopaedias, Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org/) is considered by many Internet users as the best one at the moment, since all its articles are written by people from all around the world. This may lead to an a priori assumption of poor reliability, but recent studies show that Wikipedia comes close to Britannica in terms of the accuracy of its science entries (Giles, 2006). Moreover, it is important to note that, since users are the ones who create or edit the content of the articles, you can find information about a wide variety of topics that do not appear in other commercial encyclopaedias. Wikipedia is in constant evolution, so the content of the articles is generally up-to-date. Last but not least, Wikipedia articles are written in many languages, although English articles usually cover more topics.

2.3. Tools for the Internet

2.3.1. Web Browsers

The Internet is the transport vehicle for the information stored in files on another computer. The majority of these files are available on the World Wide Web, a network of sites that can be searched and retrieved by a special protocol known as HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP). In order to surf through these sites, it is necessary to use a web explorer known as "browser." Nowadays, the most popular browsers are Internet Explorer (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/default.mspx, freeware), Mozilla Firefox(http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/, free) and Opera (http://www.opera.com/, freeware). In addition to web surfing, these browsers present some characteristics that make net surfing more comfortable. For example, Mozilla Firefox has a pop-up blocker—a pop-up is a window with adds which appears from nowhere—a toolbar which allows the user to do searches in Google or Wikipedia among others, and also lets the user to navigate through tabs, that is, to load Web pages in separate tabs of a single browser window to jump between them quickly and easily. Customized plug-ins and toolbars can be added to most other browsers, as well.

2.3.2. E-mail Software

The advent of the Internet has virtually replaced the traditional letter with the electronic mail or e-mail. Most Internet users use free webmail e-mail services such as Hotmail, Yahoo! or Gmail, but to keep track of inbox messages and have them organized, it is better to use an e-mail application like Microsoft Outlook (http://www.microsoft.com/outlook, commercial), Mozilla Thunderbird (http://www.mozilla.com/thunderbird/, free) or Eudora (http://www.eudora.com/, shareware). These e-mail clients help their users to manage all their e-mail POP3 accounts and retrieve e-mails from a remote server. On the other hand, it is also possible to download messages from webmail accounts thanks to FreePOPs (http://www.freepops.org/, free), a piece of software able to download e-mail from most webmail services.

2.3.3. Search Engines

Translators frequently need to research the topics they work with, and the best they can do to overcome their lack of knowledge in a specific field is to consult a search engine as Google (http://www.google.com/) or AltaVista (http://www.altavista.com). If need be, translators can also consult specialized literature using Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com/). In any case, translators have to use their common sense to decide whether a result is relevant and whether the information is reliable. Search engines use boolean operators to search the selected terms through the Web, and this is why a good search strategy is necessary in order to obtain the desired document—the better the strategy, the better the results will be. Hoefman (2004) gives some tips to refine searches with Google. Some useful commands for solving terminology problems are to enter the following in the Google search box: (a) define: term; (b) term + glossary; (c) term means.

2.3.4. Specialized Databases

There are also plenty of information that search engines cannot retrieve—the so-called "Invisible Web." Most of the Invisible Web is made up of the contents in thousands of specialised searchable databases. Some medical and scientific online databases are the Web of Knowledge
Unfortunately, the vast quantity of documents hosted in these databases can be only accessed by means of institutions' computers such as universities given their high subscription costs.

2.3.5. Chats and Other Online Communication Systems

Although communicating with people using "chats" may seem only reserved for teenagers, it must be taken into account that due to the use of new technologies it is now possible to exchange ideas and opinions in real time with other translators or specialists thanks to instant messaging clients like MSN Messenger (http://messenger.msn.com/, freeware) or Gaim (http://gaim.sourceforge.net/), free). Furthermore, the recent application of the VoIP technology is a further step in today's communication scene. Thus, thanks to Skype
(http://www.skype.com/, freeware), one can be in touch with other translators or clients in real time wherever they are.

2.3.6. Blogs

The blogosphere revolution means that every single person who owns a computer with Internet access has the oportunity to talk about and publish no matter what just with a few clicks. A blog can be created by following some easy steps in a free weblog publishing system as Blogger (http://www.blogger.com/). Obviously, only a small part of blogs are online diaries, since there are blogs for almost every topic one can imagine. Some recommendations are Translation Notes (http://transnotes.blogspot.com/, in English and Spanish), Slashdot (http://www.slashdot.org/, science and computer related news), Versión Española (http://www.filmica.com/eva_ruiz/, audiovisual translation blog in Spanish), Naked Translation (http://www.nakedtranslations.com/fr/blog.php/, professional translation topics in French), and Curioso Pero Inútil (http://www.curiosoperoinutil.com/, curious science topics in Spanish). Web feeds provide web content together with links to the full versions of it stored in a XML file called "RSS feed." As blogs are updated quite often, it is advisable to install an RSS aggregator like ReadFeeder (http://www.feedreader.com/, free) since web feeds allow a website's frequent reader to track updates on the site by using them.

2.4. Image Editors

Text may be the only element that composes a short fiction story, but that is not the case of websites, magazines or textbooks to cite some examples. Therefore, translators should know how to edit the images that constitute a full product, so translators are expected to have some basic image editing skills in order to undertake a translation job which deals with graphics. Microsoft Paint is very limited, albeit useful for really basic edits, so professionals working with complex graphics should be aware of the existence of image editors such as Photoshop (http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/, commercial), Paint Shop Pro (http://www.corel.com/servlet/Satellitepagename=Corel3/Products/Display&pfid=1047024307383&pid=1047025487586,shareware),
PhotoFiltre (http://www.photofiltre.com/, freeware) and The GIMP (http://www.gimp.org/, free). For those who work constantly with images, it would also be recommended to use a graphic viewer like ACDSee (http://www.acdsee.com/, shareware), IrfanView (http://www.irfanview.com/, freeware), XnView (http://www.xnview.com/, freeware) or Picassa (http://picasa.google.com/, freeware).

2.5. CAT Tools

2.5.1. Translation Memory Systems

As explained before (cf. 1. Introduction), the translation process may be sped up depending on the text type by using translation memories. Basically, the purpose of a translation memory is to allow translators to leverage previous translations, that is, to reuse text parts that have been already translated and as such can be used in the process of translating new documents. One must be aware of the pros and cons of using a translation memory prior to starting a translation, as they can also slow down the translation process in non-repetitive texts such as novels, in which case creativity is more important than terminological consistency. The most popular translation memory system nowadays is SDL Trados (http://www.trados.com/, commercial), which is the program that most clients demand. However, there are other cheaper tools like Wordfast (http://www.wordfast.com/, commercial) or DéjàVu (http://www.atril.com/, commercial), and even free alternatives such as OmegaT (http://sourceforge.net/projects/omegat). Most CAT tools are designed to work with word processor documents, but some can also handle PowerPoint presentations and other formats.

2.5.2. Terminology Tools

Terminological consistency should be of utmost importance when translating in group and/or dealing with a big translation project. For this reason, it would be ideal if terminologists could analyze the source text and build a glossary before translating to prevent last-minute terminology changes once the translation process has already begun. In order to do so, terminologists use term-extraction and concordance tools such as WordSmith Tools (http://www.lexically.net/wordsmith/, commercial; version 3.0 is freeware), TextStat (http://www.niederlandistik.fu-berlin.de/textstat/software-en.html,free) and AntConc
 (http://www.antlab.sci.waseda.ac.jp/antconc_index.html, freeware). To build glossaries and multilingual terminological databases, the best choice is to use terminology management tools as MultiTerm (http://www.trados.com/products.asp? page=22, commercial) or TermStar (http://www.star-group.net/eng/home.html, commercial).

2.5.3. Web Localization Tools

Having a multilingual website is one of the key factors to reach as many potential clients as possible, and that is the reason why web localization has gradually become a soughtafter service in today's market. While HTML knowledge is not a must thanks to poweful WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) HTML editors like Dreamweaver (http://www.adobe.com/products/dreamweaver/, commercial) and NVU(http://www.nvu.com/, free), translators are well advised to become familiar with the HTML syntax. A good introduction to HTML and other mark-up languages such as XML can be found in the W3School site (http://www.w3schools.com/). Nonetheless, there are CAT tools which not only preserve the original layout by avoiding the modification of HTML tags by mistake, but also make it possible to use glossaries or translation memories, and allow the user to see both the source and target texts at the same time and preview the translation in a browser. Trados TagEditor and Catscradle(http://www.stormdance.net/software/catscradle/overview.htm, freeware) are the reference CAT tools for web localization.

2.5.4. Software Localization Tools

Making a mistake when localizing a website is not as serious as in software localization, because losing the original format of the original webpage cannot be compared with a program not responding as it is supposed to or, in the worst case, failing to run. Therefore, in order to translate software, it is necessary to deal with localization tools to either extract all menu, window and message strings in a single resource file or to edit such content with a WYSIWYG localization toolkit. The leading CAT tools for software localization are Alchemy Catalyst (http://www.alchemysoftware.ie/products/catalyst.html, commercial) and Passolo(http://www.passolo.com/, commercial); other alternatives include Resource Hacker(http://www.angusj.com/resourcehacker/, freeware), PE Explorer (http://www.heaventools.com/, shareware) and eXeScope (http://hp.vector.co.jp/authors/VA003525/emysoft.htm#6, shareware). For those who wish to localize videogames, it is important to note that many companies place all text strings into spreadsheets. Consequently, a good command of spreadsheet editors such as Microsoft Excel (http://www.microsoft.com/Excel/, commercial) or OpenOffice.org Calc (http://www.openoffice.org/, free) is necessary to localize this kind of entertainment products.

2.5.5. Subtitling Tools

Audiovisual translation is one of the most appealing modalities of translation, as many young translators prefer to translate a film rather than a legal contract. However, dubbing and subtitling pose several challenges to the translator of films, because it is necessary to be very creative to synchronize the lip movements with the translation or, in the case of subtitling, to leave the audience enough time to read the subtitles. There is a wide range of tools for subtitling, which is the preferred method of translation in countries such as Greece, Belgium or the Nederlands. Surprisingly, many of these applications stem from amateur subtitlers—known as fansubbers2—who subtitle TV shows in their spare time to spread them over the Internet and who are capable of writing programs to subtitle their favourite TV series. What they do is to code software which meet the subtitler's needs thanks to their constant feedback via forums. Some of these pieces of software are VisualSubSync (http://visualsubsync.corecodec.org/, freeware), Sabbu (http://www.sabbu.com/en/index.html
, free), Aegisub (http://aegisub.cellosoft.com/, free), and SSATool (http://kawaii-shoujo.net/AntiAliased/index.html, free). If video and audio editing is required for a particular reason, VirtualDub (http://www.virtualdub.org/, free) for video and Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/, free) for audio come very handy. Of course, a good multimedia player such as Media Player Classic(http://sourceforge.net/projects/guliverkli/, free), VLC (http://www.videolan.org/vlc/,free) or The KMPlayer (http://www.kmplayer.com/forums/index.php, freeware) is the perfect combination of these tools for a final quality check of the subtitled TV show.

2.5.6. Machine Translation Systems

Machine Translation technology has been improved over time to produce good-quality results, but by no means should be seen as the panacea for communicating with other cultures. In effect, it can only achieve a good ouput when working with very simple texts or when controlled language is used. For example, Hutchins and Somers (1992) show the effectiveness of machine translation for weather forecasts. But to exploit the real power of machine translation, some editing is required before and after processing a text in a machine translation system as Somers (1997) and Allen (2003) suggest. There are many free online machine translation systems such as Altavista's Babelfish (http://babelfish.altavista.com/); commercial systems include @promt (http://www.smartlinkcorp.com/), Systran (http://www.systransoft.com/) and Power Translator (http://www.avanquest.com/).

2.6. PDF Tools

PDF (Portable Document Format) files are used when there is no interest in modifying a document and thus the final version is the only thing that matters. One of its advantages is that what you see is what you get, i.e. it is not necessary to run the risk of losing the format when using different versions of the same software. Therefore, PDF files are considered by many as the the best solution for printing purposes.

2.6.1. PDF Readers

The PDF Reader par excellence is Acrobat Reader
(http://www.adobe.com/uk/products/acrobat/readstep2.html, freeware), but one has to admit that it lacks speed when opening PDF files for the first time. An alternative to Acrobat is Foxit Reader (http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/rd_intro.php, freeware), which has the same display quality but loads significantly faster.

2.6.2. PDF Creators

Being PDF the de facto standard to exchange documents with other people, it is necessary to know how to produce PDF files. If the word processor OpenOffice.org Writer is used (cf. 2.1. Word processors), then it is as easy as to click on the "Export to PDF" button. However, the file size of the resulting PDF will not be as optimized as when using other PDF creators such as Acrobat Professional
 (http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobatpro/, commercial) or PDFCreator
(http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator/, free). This kind of software is installed as "virtual printers," so it is possible to create PDFs from every application that has a print option. This can be very useful for instance to proofread an HTML document—the best solution is to convert it to PDF and then edit it with a proofreading tool (cf. 2.8. Proofreading tools).

2.6.3. PDF Converters

Sometimes the client sends a PDF file to the translator and wants the translation to have the same layout. The easiest way to do so is to convert the PDF file to a Word document so it can be edited and pray for an accurate conversion, since images, fonts and tables are not always preserved. Some good converters are Solid Converter (http://www.solidpdf.com/, shareware) and ABBYY PDF Transformer(http://www.abbyy.com/pdftransformer/, shareware).

2.6.4. PDF Editors

If it is impossible to convert a PDF file to a Word document with sufficient quality, the last resort is to use a PDF editor. While it may seem very tedious to edit PDFs directly, it is the safest way to preserve the original layout. When non-Latin characters are not used in the original document, one must bear in mind that, in order to use them, a different font must be chosen. Some of the PDF editors out there are Infix PDF Editor(http://www.iceni.com/infix.htm, shareware) and Foxit PDF Editor
(http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/pe_intro.php, shareware).

2.7. Desktop Publishing Tools

The purpose of word processors is to write office and correspondence documents or reports among other things, but not to design a stylish layout for a journal. Thus, Desktop Publishing (DTP) tools are used by professionals to create an appealing layout for magazines or sales brochures. Of course, translators do not necessarily need to know anything about DTP to apply for a translation job, but they can indeed benefit from having DTP skills to enjoy a better income. However, translators should not be asked in principle to create a new document from scratch—that is the job of DTP specialists. DTP tools are dramatically different from word processors regarding the way they handle texts and graphics, so it may take some time until a translator becomes familiar with this type of complex software. The best-known DTP tools are FrameMaker(http://www.adobe.com/products/framemaker/index.html, commercial), InDesign
(http://www.adobe.com/products/indesign/, commercial), QuarkXPress
(http://www.quark.com/, commercial) and Scribus (http://www.scribus.net/, free).
There is also another free DTP alternative that is primarily used for the communication and publication of scientific documents—the LaTeX typesetting system. The idea behind LaTeX is that authors should focus more on what they want to say rather than on the document layout. In preparing a LaTeX document, the author specifies the logical structure using familiar concepts such as chapter, section, table, figure, etc., and lets the LaTeX system worry about the presentation of these structures. In addition to this, using LaTeX is one of the simplest ways to achieve the highest typesetting quality. Moreover, it is the most flexible solution to write complex mathematical formulas. On the other hand, the main drawback of LaTeX is that it has no WYSIWYG editor. There are many LaTeX sites on the Internet, and some of them have intuitive interfaces that help the user to write LaTeX documents in a friendly environment. For instance, MiKTeX (http://www.miktex.org/) is one of the most popular versions. For further reading on LaTeX, see Oetiker et al. (2006) for a good introduction to this powerful DTP system.

2.8. Proofreading Tools

Once the translation and its editing are finished, everything sould be proofread before the final product is delivered. Proofreading is the process which focus on the correction of errors such as misspellings or typos and mistakes in grammar and punctuation. Microsoft Word comes with a built-in proofreading function called "track changes" which lets the user not only make changes to the document that will require a later acceptance to become permament, but also to add comments or suggestions. Thus, when the translator gets back the revised version of his/her work, the translator can still consider the modifications made, as well as the comments and suggestions, to decide whether to accept or reject the changes, so the translation remains faithful as well as polished. Nevertheless, most proofreaders have to work with PDF files, so PDF proofreading tools are required apart from those PDF tools mentioned above (cf. 2.6. PDF tools). Acrobat Professional, apart from creating PDF files, is the leading software for revising the final version of a document thanks to its commenting tools like the Higlight Tool or the Strikethrough Tool among others. These commenting tools imitate the traditional marks that proofreaders use to proofread a printed document, so it should be very easy for an old-fashioned proofreader to get used to this tool. Other cheaper alternatives are Foxit Reader Pro (http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/rd_pro.php, shareware), Jaws PDF Editor(http://www.jawspdf.com/pdf_editor/index.html, shareware) and Bluebeam Revu
(http://www.bluebeam.com/web03/products/BbRevu.asp, shareware).

2.9. Tools for Freelance Translators

Freelance translators can also benefit from computers by using them to manage and track their business thanks to the following software.

2.9.1. Billing Software

Before attempting a freelance translation job, it is advisable to know its cost to decide whether the price the translator will charge is adequate and also to give an estimate to the client. Therefore, it is important to have billing software in order to manage translation invoices. There is a wide variety of billing software on the market, although none of them is specifically designed for translators. However, as these application are generally highly customizable, one can create a suitable template according to one's specific needs. Some examples of billing software are BillQuick (http://www.bqe.com/, shareware), Freeside(http://www.sisd.com/freeside/, free) and FactuSol (http://www.sistemasmultimedia.com/es/factusol.htm, freeware, in Spanish).

2.9.2. Internet Fax Services

While nowadays e-mail has largely superseded the facsimile (fax), there is no harm in having a fax application to send and even receive fax. Windows comes with a fax service that uses a modem to send fax, but another effective solution is to use an Internet fax service like InterFAX (http://www.interfax.net/en/, commercial), FaxZero (http://faxzero.com/, free for the US and Canada) or TrusFax (http://www.trustfax.com/pricing.asp?
code=reseller6, commercial).

3. Other Useful Software Packages

Although the majority of software packages that professional translators use has been covered above, here are some other tools which come handy when using a computer.

3.1. Anti-malware Software

Malicious software is designed to infiltrate or damage a computer. It includes computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware and adware.

3.1.1. Antivirus Software

Surfing the Internet and opening files from an unreliable source is a risk for computers when there is no antivirus software installed on it or its virus definitions are not up-todate. It is important to remember that a good antivirus is capable not only to detect viruses, but also to eliminate them. On the other hand, antivirus software may consume lots of resources, so one has to remember to configure it appropriately in order not to
work with a computer that suddenly slows down. In any case, computer viruses can destroy many months of work, so it is highly recommended to have an antivirus program no matter how it affects the computer's performance. The best antivirus software packages include AVP (http://wwpackagw.kaspersky.com/, commercial), Norton Antivirus (http://www.symantec.com/index.htm, commercial), McAfee Antivirus(http://www.mcafee.com/, commercial), AntiVir (http://www.free-av.com/, freeware) and AVG (http://www.grisoft.com/doc/1, freeware).

3.1.2. Anti-spyware Software

Spyware is a type of malware that is installed in a way invisible to the user in order to gather information about what the user does on the computer and send it to companies that will probably send you spam later. Moreover, spyware may slow down the Internet connection or consume computer resources in the background. The most popular software used to fight spyware is Ad-aware (http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware/, freeware), but there are also good alternatives such as SpyBot Search & Destroy (http://www.safer-networking.org/, freeware) or Spyware Terminator(http://www.spywareterminator.com/, freeware).

3.1.2. Firewalls

A firewall is a piece of software that tracks every attempt to access a computer and asks its user to grant permission to execute something when software receives data from the Internet. Thus, it is the perfect partner together with antivirus software to block online viruses. There is no need to worry if some software stops to work as it would normally do after installing a firewall—it just need to be configured to specify what programs can use the Internet connection. Examples of firewalls are ZoneAlarm(http://www.zonelabs.com/store/content/home.jsp, both freeware and shareware versions), Kerio (http://www.kerio.com/, shareware) and NetDefender
(http://www.programmerworld.net/personal/firewall.htm, free).

3.2. File Compressors/Decompressors

File compression is a must when sending and receiving files on the Internet, as the file size can be reduced considerably depending on the file type. There are many compression file formats—zip, rar, ace, 7z -, zip being the most popular. Many people use WinZip (http://www.winzip.com/, commercial), but there are other good alternatives such as WinRAR (http://www.rarlab.com/, shareware), WinACE (http://www.winace.com/, shareware), 7-Zip (http://www.7-zip.org/, free), ALZip (http://www.altools.net/, freeware) and IZArc (http://www.izarc.org/, freeware).

3.3. Miscellaneous Tools

There are some other useful little tools that translators can benefit from to make their task easier. For example:

Search and Replace Tools3: InfoRapid Search & Replace (http://www.inforapid.de/html/searchreplace.htm, freeware) and Actual Search & Replace (http://www.divlocsoft.com/, shareware).

Screen Capture Tools: WinSnap (http://www.ntwind.com/software/winsnap.html? index.html, freeware), MWSnap (http://www.mirekw.com/winfreeware/mwsnap.html, freeware) and SnagIt (http://www.techsmith.com/snagit.asp, shareware). Text Editors: PSPad (http://www.pspad.com/, freeware), UltraEdit (http://www.idmcomp.com/index.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=10, shareware) and NotePad++ (http://notepad-plus.sourceforge.net/uk/site.htm, free). File Comparison Tools: WinMerge (http://winmerge.sourceforge.net/, free) and ExamDiff (http://www.prestosoft.com/ps.asp?page=edp_examdiff, freeware). Mass Renaming Tools: ReNamer (http://www.redbrick.dcu.ie/~den4b/, freeware), Lupas Rename http://www.azheavymetal.com/~lupasrename/news.php (freeware), Flexible Renamer (http://hp.vector.co.jp/authors/VA014830/english/FlexRena/, freeware).

4. Conclusion

The above presentation should show translators the vital role that computers plays nowadays. Even those who learn reluctantly how to use a computer must recognize its potential benefits. In fact, as Castro Roig (2003) puts it, "a translator without a computer is like a taxi driver without a taxi." There are, of course, many other tools out there. This paper just presents some of the most common software packages for the Windows operating system used by translators. Thus, subsequent studies should focus not only on describing and reviewing new and old electronic tools for translators, but also on presenting translation software for Linux, Macintosh, and other operating systems. So far, Linux for Translators' website (http://www.linuxfortranslators.org/) is the most comprehensive site for open source software available on Linux. Some scholars have already started discussions about free Linux software (Diaz Fouces, 2005; McKay, 2006). However, there is still a long journey to travel in search of open-source solutions for translators.


1 For more details about software localization tools, see Esselink (2000) and Sokoli (2002).

2 This new translation phenomenon is studied in Díaz Cintas and Muñoz Sánchez (2006).

3 To use efficiently the Advanced Find and Replace function in Word, see Környei (2001).


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Biau Gil, José Ramón and Pym, Anthony (2006) "Technology and translation (a pedagogical overview)" [online]. In Pym, Anthony, Perekrestenko, Alexander and Starink, Bram (eds.) Translation Technology and its Teaching (with much mention of localization). Available from: http://isg.urv.es/library/papers/BiauPym_Technology.pdf [Accessed 10/08/2006].

Castro Roig, Xosé (2003) La traducción de películas y audiovisuales [online]. Available from: http://www.elcastellano.org/xcastro.html [Accessed 10/08/2006].

Díaz Cintas, Jorge and Muñoz Sánchez, Pablo (2006) "Fansubs: Audiovisual Translation in an Amateur Environment" [online]. The Journal of Specialised Translation 6, 37-52. Available from: http://www.jostrans.org/issue06/art_diaz_munoz.pdf [Accessed 10/08/2006].

Diaz Fouces, Oscar (2005) "Software libre y software propietario. Algunas preguntas y algunas respuestas." In: Reineke, Detlief (ed.) Traducción y localización. Mercado, gestión y tecnologías, 317-346. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: Anroart.

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Gouadec, Daniel (2004) "Le bagage spécifique du localiseur/localisateur: le vrai 'nouveau profi' requis." In: Archibald, James (ed.) La localisation, problématique de la formation, 39-68. Montréal: Linguatech.

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McKay, Corinne (2006) "Free and Open Source Software for Translators" [online]. Panace@ 23, 95-98. Available from: http://www.medtrad.org/panacea/IndiceGeneral/n23_tribuna_McKay.pdf [Accessed 10/08/2006].

Muñoz Martín, Ricardo (2002) "Parameters in the teaching of translation" [online]. Actes del Primer Simposi sobre l'Ensenyament a distància i semipresencial de la Tradumàtica. Available from: http://www.fti.uab.es/tradumatica/papers/articles/10_eng.pdf [Accessed 10/08/2006].

Nyberg, Eric, Mitamura, Teruko, and Huijsen, Willem-Olaf (2003) "Controlled language for authoring and translation." In: Somers, Harold (ed.) Computers and Translation. A translator's guide, 245-282. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

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Pym, Anthony (2003) "Redefining Translation Competence in an Electronic Age. In Defence of a Minimalist Approach." Meta 48 (4), 481-497.

Reineke, Detlef and Sánchez León, Elizabeth (2005) "Perfil laboral y formación de traductores: Una encuesta a proveedores de servicios." In: Reineke, Detlef (ed.) Traducción y localización. Mercado, gestión y tecnologías, 347-363. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: Anroart.

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Sokoli, Roula (2002) "Catálogo de herramientas para la localización de software y páginas web" [online]. Tradumàtica 1. Available from: http://www.fti.uab.es/tradumatica/revista/articles/rsokoli/rsokoli.PDF [Accessed 10/08/2006].

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11 August, 2010


by Julia Eka Rini, Dra.
Petra Christian University
Surabaya, Indonesia

In teaching translation in the English department a balance between theory and practice should be kept although it can lean a little bit on practice, because it is practice that actually produces a good translator (Samudra, 1993). Based on this point also, the translation course is designed in such away that students who take this course will practice translating as much as possible. The task designed in this course is a real world task from analysing the text in the source language (SL) until restructuring and evaluating the translation in the target language (TL).

The first point to consider in choosing the assignment is the students's background, expectation, experience, knowledge about translation and interest. All of these can be asked through a simple questionaire distributed in the beginning of the semester. It might be helpful for the instructor to know the background of the students, for instance what reading class they have taken (Reading I, II, III or IV) or what writing class they have taken, sociolinguistics etc. If the instructor knows about students' knowledge and experience in translation, he/she can consider the level of difficulty of the text assignments. If they do not have any experience in translating, probably the first text chosen is not as difficult as when they already have some experience. Knowing their interest will be useful in choosing the text assignment.

On the first day after asking the students to complete a simple questionnaire, the main theory of translation is usually explained: process of translation and criteria of a good translation. What is important to be transferred in translation is the content of the text, not the form. The diagram below (Suryawinata, 1989) can be drawn on the blackboard.

From this diagram it can be seen clearly that it is the content that is transferred, not the form. The example used is usually the sentence "I cut my finger." If it is translated in Bahasa Indonesia, it will be "Jari saya teriris." (finger=jari, to cut=mengiris). The active form becomes passive voice in Indonesian. If the active English sentence is no changed into passive in Indonesian, then the meaning will be different. The English sentence does not give a connotation that the action "cut" is done on purpose, while the Indonesian does. To omit the connotation, the active must be changed into passive.

Based on this diagram also, students are given strategies in the analysis and restucturing of a text. Students are also given examples to evaluate their own translation. All of these examples are given when assignments are discussed in class discussion.

 What is emphasized in this course is that translation is for communication. It is not supposed to hinder or destroy communication. Therefore, dictionaries have to be used. Students are supposed to consult three dictionaries if they have difficult words: two monolingual dictionaries (English-English and Indonesian-Indonesian) and one bilingual dictionaries (English- Indonesian). The grading system is: 50% (mid term+final test+small test) and 50% for weekly assignments (there are about 6 assignmnets in one semester). The point is that if they do not do the assignments, they will not pass the course.

 All assignments should be done on transparancies and be photocopied. Students have to submit both. All assignments will be discussed in class using OHP. The discussion of the first assignment will be done by the teacher. The rest will be presented by the students in front of the class, or done in group beforehand. The teacher will explain important points which are not covered by the students, especially the ones concerning theory or guidelines of translation.

 The first three texts to be translated are short-text humor. Short-text humor usually contains a single layer of joke consisting of a build up and a punch line (Soedjatmiko, 1988). The materials are usually taken from Reader's Digest because the language is not difficult and the cultural differences are not difficult to understand.The first text humor is given to the students, but students can choose the other two texts from any Reader's Digest. After doing and discussing three short-text humor, students are given a small test on short-text humor which will also be discussed in class.

The function of using the short text humor is to train students to transfer the content of a text from SL to TL. If the readers of the TL cannot laugh, it means that the translation is not good. This is the point that can be used by students to check their own translation, whether they have transferred the content or just the form.

After the humor, the text given is manual, or if the students are interested, is recipe. After that, students can be given scientific texts, for example one paragraph of a chapter. The topic depends on the students' interest.

After the midterm, students can be given readings on the theory of translation or students can choose the readings by themselves and consult them first to the teacher. Students can present in front of the class, in the group or can do it by peer teaching. Students can ask questions to the teacher if they have difficulty in understanding the concept in the theory.

Students can choose whether they want a final project which is translating a chapter of a book (8-9 pages double space quarto of translation) or just a final test which is translating two paragraphs of a text. If they choose the final project, than there will be no final test and the translation will be discussed in class. If they choose the latter, the final test will not be discuused in class, because it is not too different with the weekly assignments.

The method and the material used in teaching translation are based on Nunan's principles for designing language teaching materials (Nunan, 1988). Among the six points, five are very useful for translation class. First, materials should be authentic in terms of texts and tasks. This will be a great help for the students if they face real-world texts and tasks; in other words, when they become translators.

Second, materials should stimulate interaction. This is imporant for active class discussion. If students are accustomed to discussing translation problems in class, it is likely that they are more critical in evaluating their translation when they work as translator.

Third, materials should allow learners to focus on formal aspects of the language. A translation might be read by audience from different educational level. Therefore, students should be trained to decide how they should restructure the same message in different language in such a way that is common for the readers in that language.

 Fourth, materials should encourage learners to develop learning skills and skills in learning-how-to-learn. The class discussion in discussing the assignments are meant to provide students with efficient translation strategies: how to cope with the problem of long sentences, how to choose words etc.

Fifth, materials should encourage learners to apply their knowledge to work as translators. It is assumed that students will know how to cope with problems of translation after they finish the course.

The materials and the teaching methodology are used with the goal that students are ready to become translators after they take the course.

05 August, 2010


By L. Dee Fink
Published in Improving College Teaching by Peter Seldin (ed.).
Reprinted here with permission of the University of Oklahoma Instructional Development Program, July 20, 1999.

Each year faculty members in institutions of higher education take on the task of teaching others. For most of these people, this is a recurring task. In fact, for the majority, this is the central task of a life-long career.

 Assuming that no one is perfect and therefore everyone has room for improvement, evaluation is the means by which we try to identify which aspects of our teaching are good and which need to be changed. The question then arises as to who should take responsibility for doing this evaluation. My belief is that evaluation is an inherent part of good teaching. Therefore it is the teacher himself or herself who should take primary responsibility for doing the evaluation.

In this chapter, I will offer a basic definition of evaluation, state a few reasons why one should invest time and effort into evaluation, describe five techniques for evaluation, and identify resources for helping us evaluate and improve our teaching.

A Definition of "Evaluation"

Doing good evaluation is like doing good research. In both cases, you are trying to answer some important questions about an important topic. The key to doing both activities well is (a) identifying the right questions to ask and (b) figuring out how to answer them.

What are the key questions in the evaluation of teaching? Basically they are: "How well am I teaching? Which aspects of my teaching are good and which need to be improved?" The first question attempts to provide a global assessment, while the second is analytical and diagnostic in character.

Before moving to the task of figuring out how to answer these questions, we should look at the reasons for taking time to evaluate.

Why Evaluate?

It takes a certain amount of time and effort to effectively evaluate our own teaching. Is this a wise use of time? I would argue that it is, for three reasons.

1. First, consider the following diagram:

Figure 1
The Effect of Evaluation on Our Teaching

Regardless of how good or how poor we are as teachers, we all have the potential to get better over time (see the arrow in Figure 1). Yet some teachers continually improve and approach their potential (see arrow) while others experience a modest improvement early in their career and then seem to level off in quality or sometimes even decline (see arrow). Why? I would argue that the primary difference between those who do and those who do not improve, is that only the former gather information about theirteaching and make an effort to improve some aspect of it -- every time they teach.

2. A second reason to evaluate is to document the quality of one's teaching for others. All career professionals have other people who need to know about the quality of their teaching. It may be the person's current department or institution head, or it may be a potential employer. But once people teach, they have a track record, and others need and want to know how well they taught. The only way a teacher can provide them with that information is to gather it, and that means evaluation. Teaching portfolios are becoming a common way of communicating this information to others. As it turns out, putting a portfolio together also helps the teacher understand his or her own teaching better. (See Zubizarreta, this volume.)

3. Third, there is a very personal and human need to evaluate. This is for our own mental and psychological satisfaction. It is one thing to do a good job and think that it went well; it is quite another, and a far more enjoyable experience, to have solid information and thereby know we did a good job. That knowledge, that certainty, is possible only if we do a thorough job of evaluation.

If evaluation is worth doing then, how do we do it?

Five Sources of Information

There are five basic sources of information that teachers can use to evaluate their teaching. All evaluation efforts use one or more of these basic sources. Each of these five sources has a unique value as well as an inherent limitation.

In the following portion of this chapter, I will discuss the unique value, recommended frequency, limitation, and appropriate response to that limitation, for each of the five sources of information.

Figure 2


1. Self-monitoring

Self-monitoring is what people do semi-automatically and semi-consciously whenever they teach. Most of their mental activity is concerned with making the presentation or leading the discussion. But one portion of their mental attention is concerned with "How is it going?" "Are they with me?" "Am I losing them?" "Are they interested or bored?"

Unique Value. The first value of this is that it is immediate and constant. You do not have to wait a week or a day or even an hour to get the results. It happens right away. Hence adjustments are possible right away.

The second value is that this information is automatically created in terms that are meaningful to the teacher because it is the teacher who creates the information. It is the teacher, not someone else, who looks at the situation and says "This is what is happening." This does not mean that we always know why it is happening, or what to do about it if it is something we do not like. But we do have our own sense of what is happening.

Frequency. This does and should happen all the time. We may only take a mental pause every few minutes to size up the situation. But by comparison with the other sources of information discussed below, this takes place continuously.

Limitation. The very strength of this source is also its weakness. Because this information is created by us for us, it is also subject to our own biases and misinterpretations. I thought they were understanding the material. I thought they looked interested --when in fact they weren't. We all have our own blind spots and lack complete objectivity. This means that, at times, we are going to misread the responses of students to our teaching.

Appropriate Response. What can be done about the subjectivity of self-monitoring? Turn to an objective source of information, one without subjective bias.

  1. Audiotape and Videotape Recordings:
Modern technology has given us relatively inexpensive and easy access to audio and video recordings of what we do as teachers. We can put a small audio recorder on the teachers desk or put a video recorder on the side of the classroom and let it run during a class session. Then later we can listen to or view it. 

Special value. The value of this kind of information is that it gives us totally objective information. It tells us exactly what we really said, what we really did, not what we thought we said or did. How much time did I spend on this topic? How many times did I ask questions? How often did I move around? These are questions the audio and video recordings can answer with complete accuracy and objectivity.

Frequency. I had the experience of giving a workshop once that was recorded. Listening to the recording later, I discovered to my surprise that I had some disruptive speech patterns of which I was completely unaware. And I am an experienced observer of teachers! The lesson from this was that, no matter how good we are at monitoring others, we can only devote a certain amount of our mental attention to monitoring our own teaching; hence we miss things.

As a result of that experience, I now try to do an audio recording at least once or preferably twice in each full-semester course I teach. This gives me a chance to see if any speech problems are still there or if new ones have cropped up. If they have, the second recording tells me if I have gotten them under control.

Video recordings are probably useful once every year or two. What do we look like to others? As we grow older, we change, and we need to know what the continuously anew me looks like to others.

Limitation. What could be more valuable than the objective truth of audio and video recordings? Unfortunately the unavoidable problem with this information is that it is true but meaningless -- by itself. The recordings can tell me if I spoke at the rate of 20 words per minute, or 60 words, but they can't tell me whether that was too slow or too fast for the students. They can tell me whether I moved and gestured and smiled, but it can't tell me if those movements and facial expressions helped or hindered student learning.

Appropriate response. To determine the effect of my teaching behavior, rather than the behavior itself, I need to find another source of information. (Are you starting to see the pattern here?)
2. Information from Students

As the intended beneficiaries of all teaching, students are in a unique position to help their teachers in the evaluation process.

Special value. If we want to know whether students find our explanations of a topic clear, or whether students find our teaching exciting or dull, who else could possibly answer these kinds of questions better than the students themselves? Of the five sources of information described here, students are the best source for understanding the immediate effects of our teaching, i.e., the process of teaching and learning.

This information can be obtained in two distinct ways: questionnaires and interviews, each with its own relative values.

a. Questionnaires. The most common method of obtaining student reactions to our teaching is to use a questionnaire. Lots of different questionnaires exist but most in fact ask similar kinds of questions: student characteristics (e.g., major, GPA, reasons for taking the course), the students characterization of the teaching (e.g., clear, organized, interesting), amount learned, overall assessment of the course and/or the teacher (e.g., compared to other courses or other teachers, this one is ...), and sometimes, anticipated grade.

The special value of questionnaires, compared to interviews, is that they obtain responses from the whole class and they allow for an anonymous (and therefore probably more candid) response. The limitation of questionnaires is that they can only ask a question once, i.e., that cannot probe for further clarification, and they can only ask questions that the writer anticipates as possibly important.

Questionnaires can be given at three different times: the beginning, middle and end of a course. Some teachers use questionnaires at the beginning of a course to get information about the students, e.g., prior course work or experience with the subject, preferred modes of teaching and learning, and special problems a student might have (e.g., dyslexia). Many use mid-term questionnaires to get an early warning of any existing problems so that changes can be made in time to benefit this set of students. The advantage of end-of-term questionnaires is that all the learning activities have been completed. Consequently, students can respond meaningfully to questions about the overall effectiveness of the course.

b. Interviews. The other well-established way of finding out about student reactions is to talk to them. Either the teacher(if sufficient trust and rapport exist) or an outside person (if more anonymity and objectivity are desired) can talk with students for 15-30 minutes about the course and the teacher. As an instructional consultant, I have often done this for other teachers, but I have also done it in some of my own courses. I try to get 6-8 students, preferably a random sample, and visit with them in a focused interview format immediately after class. I have some general topics I want to discuss, such as the quality of the learning thus far, reactions to the lectures, labs, tests, and so forth. But within these topics, I will probe for clarification and examples of perceived strength and weakness. I also note when there is divergence of reactions and when most students seem to agree.

The special value of interviews is that students often identify unanticipated strengths and weaknesses, and the interviewer can probe and follow-up on topics that need clarification. The limitation of course is that a professor can usually only interview a sub-set of the class, not the whole class. This leaves some uncertainty as to whether their reactions represent the whole class or not.

As for the frequency of interviews, I would probably only use a formal interview once or at most twice during a term. Of course, a teacher can informally visit with students about the course many times, and directly or indirectly obtain a sense of their reaction to the course.

General limitation. Returning to the general issue of information from students, regardless of how such information is collected, one needs to remember that this is information from students. Although they know better than anyone what their own reactions are, they can also be biased and limited in their own perspectives. They occasionally have negative feelings, often unconsciously, about women, people who are ethnically different from themselves, and international teachers. Perhaps more significantly, students usually do not have a full understanding of how a course might be taught, either in terms of pedagogy or content. Hence they can effectively address what is, but not what might be.

Appropriate response. As with the other limitations, the appropriate response here is to seek another kind of information. In this case, we need information from someone with a professional understanding of the possibilities of good teaching.

4. Students' test results.

Teachers almost always give students some form of graded exercise, whether it is an in-class test or an out-of-class project. Usually, though, the intent of the test is to assess the quality of student learning. We can also use this same information to assess the quality of our teaching.

Special value. The whole reason for teaching is to help someone else learn. Assuming we can devise a test or graded exercise that effectively measures whether or not students are learning what we want them to learn, the test results basically tell us whether or not we are succeeding in our whole teaching effort. This is critical information for all teachers. Although the other sources of information identified here can partially address this question (I think they are learning, The students think they are learning.), none address it so directly as test results: I know they are learning because they responded with a high level of sophisticated knowledge and thinking to a challenging test.

Frequency. How often should we give tests? Many teachers follow the tradition of two mid-terms and a final. In my view this is inadequate feedback, both for the students and for the teacher. Weekly or even daily feedback is much more effective in letting students and the teacher know whether they are learning what they need to learn as the course goes along. If the teacher's goal is to help the students learn, this is important information for both parties. And remember, not all tests need to be graded and recorded!

Limitation. It might be hard to imagine that this information has a limitation. After all, this is what it's all about, right? Did they learn it or not?

The problem with this information is its lack of a causal connection: we don't know why they did or did not learn. Did they learn because of, or in spite of, our teaching? Some students work very hard in a course, not because the teacher inspires or motivates them but because their major requires a good grade in the course and the teacher is NOT effective. Therefore they work hard to learn it on their own.

Appropriate response. If we need to know whether one's actions as a teacher are helpful or useless in promoting student learning, we need a different source of information, such as the students themselves.

5. Outside observer

In addition to the two parties directly involved in a course, the teacher and the students, valuable information can be obtained from the observations of a third party, someone who brings both an outsider's perspective and professional expertise to the task.

Special value. Part of the value of an outside observer is that they do not have a personal stake in the particular course, hence they are free to reach positive and negative conclusions without any cost to themselves. Also, as a professional, they can bring an expertise either in content and/or in pedagogy that is likely to supplement that of both the teacher and the students.

A variety of kinds of observers exist: a peer colleague, a senior colleague, or an instructional specialist.

  1. Peer colleagues, e.g., two TA's or two junior professors, can visit each others classes and share observations. Here the political risk is low and each one can empathize with the situation and challenges facing the other. Interestingly, the person doing the observing in these exchanges often finds that they learn as much as the person who gets the feedback.
  2. Senior colleagues can be of value because of their accumulated experience. Although one has to be selective and choose someone who is respected and with whom the political risk is low, experienced colleagues can offer ideas on alternative ways of dealing with particular topics, additional examples to illustrate the material, etc.
  3. A third kind of outside observer, an instructional consultant, is available on many campuses. They may or may not be able to give feedback on the clarity and significance of the content material, but their expertise in teaching allows them to comment on presentation techniques, discussion procedures, and ideas for more active learning.

Frequency. Beginning TA's and beginning faculty members should consider inviting one or more outside observers to their classes at least once a semester for two or three years. They need to get as many new perspectives on teaching as soon as possible. After that, more experienced teachers would probably benefit from such feedback at least once every year or two. We change as teachers; as we do, we need all the feedback and fresh ideas we can find.

Limitations. Again, the strength of being an outsider is also its weakness. Outside observers can usually only visit one or two class sessions and therefore do not know what happens in the rest of the course.

Apart from this general problem, each kind of observer has its own limitation. The peer colleague may also have limited experience and perspectives; the senior colleague may be someone who makes departmental decisions about annual evaluations and tenure; and the instructional consultant may have limited knowledge of the subject matter.

Appropriate response. As with the other sources, the response to these limitations is to use a different source, either a different kind of outside observer or one of the other sources described above.

A Comprehensive Evaluation Scenario

The thesis of this chapter is that a comprehensive plan of evaluation for improvement requires all five sources of information. Each one offers a special kind of information that none of the others do. How would this work out in action?

To answer this question, I will describe a hypothetical professor who is not a perfect teacher and therefore has some yet-to-be identified weaknesses in his teaching, but he also wants to improve his teaching. What steps should he take to evaluate his teaching as a way of identifying those aspects that need changing?