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.