Finnish University Makes Real World Simulation Workshop a Compulsory Course

After graduating from university, many translators find themselves with less than the requisite skills to achieve success in business. This is because traditional curricula may not necessarily offer adequate training to transform the translator from artisan into business professional. Finland’s University of Turku tries to bridge this gap with its Multilingual Translation Workshop (MTW), a compulsory course offered at the Master’s level.

To integrate translator and entrepreneurial competencies into translator education, the MTW uses real-world simulations where students work in specialized roles as part of an organization. Students are then required to integrate previously learned skills in practical, real-life situations, rapidly take on new knowledge and skills, and share what they have learned with others.

The MTW starts mid-January and involves two separate modules of one semester each. Participating in the course are students and teachers from six different language departments; English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Finnish.

The course is basically an initiation into working life through simulation; that is, students set up (fictive) multilingual translation companies and translation jobs are assigned by teachers acting as clients. “Companies” then take on the responsibility of organizing translation work — from sending an offer to writing an invoice — and meeting deadlines.

The workshop also includes the development of a “translation market,” a comparison in the effectiveness of different organizations, and understanding the relationship between translation quality and negotiated price.

A number of language service providers have participated in the MTW by sending professionals from their organization to serve as mentors and speak on the different aspects of the translation business. XTRF and Memsource have provided licenses for the course at no charge, and Tilde will likewise participate beginning February 2017.

Self-evaluations by students show that through the MTW approach, translator and entrepreneurial competencies can improve significantly over a short period of time. The approach is also flexible enough to offer various possibilities for the course’s development and innovation.

“It was a huge success,” according to Kim Harris, Managing Partner at text&form and Editorial Board Member of the Language Industry Web Platform LIND-Web, a European Commission Directorate-General program, which supports the MTW, among other training initiatives.

“We are now looking to find other LSPs interested and willing to take the MTW blueprint and apply it to other schools as well as technology providers who would do the same — both on a volunteer basis. And we are, of course, looking to spread the word among universities that these activities are available,” said Harris.