A Class of its Own

In the summer semester of 2002, about 20 students participated in a translation practice class from German into English for the 5th and 6th semester, with Laura Russell as the facilitator. This course, however, was not run in the usual way. We not only discussed and translated texts; we also dealt with the tasks that will await us after graduation.

In the first four weeks, we wrote and discussed curricula vitae and letters of recommendation, weighing the pros and cons of different styles.

In the following five weeks, our class worked on three translation jobs. The students themselves formed several working groups and planned out their own working hours. They did not only work during the regular lessons, but also at home and in the computer rooms of the FASK. One of the projects was a brochure for the Badisches Landesmuseum (Baden national museum) in Karlsruhe. The texts provide information about the museum itself and the exhibitions presented to visitors, and give useful details in addition to the pictures. The main challenge facing the students was translating as precisely as possible but while at the same time using good style, which the working groups mastered very well. Laura Russell assumed responsibility for the translation project and did the final proofreading. This ensured the high quality of the finished product.

During the last four weeks of the semester, we talked about the work of a freelance translator. Lively discussions were held about topics that many of the students had not been aware of. These included: How do I write a bill? How much can I charge and what is tax-deductible? How fast do I have to work and what effect does this have on my translation jobs? Where can I find someone who proofreads my texts? Is it advantageous to work alone or better in a team? Where do I get help whenever I have questions or am stuck? How do I create a good presentation of my work? Am I aware of my colleagues' professional ethics?

One of the highlights of this class was an additional voluntary question period. Laura invited three freelance translators who came along to answer the students' questions. One of the translators had just graduated the semester before and described vividly how she took her first steps into the working world. The other two guests had already been working as freelance translators for several years. Not only did they provide useful advice, they also talked about their good and bad experiences.

In this class we did not translate a new text every week. However, the students gained an insight into the life that awaits them when they finish studying. This course was a great success because the students were interested in the issues being discussed, and both the lecturer and the students were enthusiastic about it.

Example of a bill

Curriculum vitae (example)

Questions in class