or: Where does the academic world of translation and interpreting meet reality?
Naturally, those who have made the transition from one world to the other are most capable of answering this question. In other words, those who have just finished university and now face the challenges of working life. What would be better than doing a survey among the target group to answer this question?
Please note that this survey was carried out only among former students of the FASK (School of Applied Linguistics and Cultural Studies), therefore the results refer to this institution. It is very likely, however, that there are many parallels to other universities. This report reflects the personal opinion of one particular student. We would appreciate any feedback.
These are the results of the survey:
1) Many former students complained about the discrepancy between theory and practice. In translation classes, the texts to be translated often do not prepare the students properly for their professional lives as translators. Some of them recommended an obligatory semester of practical training in a company; others complained about the insufficient teaching of translation-relevant computer skills.
2) Other students complained that extremely subject-specific skills were taught, while wide areas remained uncovered. According to them, the knowledge acquired at the FASK lacks coherence.
3) There were also complaints that the students often are not aware that the FASK is an academic institution and not a language school.
These opinions point out the controversy concerning the academic programme at the FASK. On the one hand, the FASK claims to be an academic institution that does not aim at teaching skills covering all fields as would be the case with an apprenticeship. Instead, the intention is to show ways to study and acquire knowledge independently. Translation-relevant computer skills are taught at the FASK, but it is up to the students to take advantage of the classes offered. The same applies to training on the job; each student is free to find his or her own internship in Germany or abroad. To a certain extent, some departments offer their assistance in this respect. Apparently, the so-called German 'academic freedom' is an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time.
On the other hand, the FASK also purports to prepare the students for their professional lives as translators or interpreters - that is, to offer a certain number of job-related classes. The students do not have a great deal of influence on the curriculum. Here, the question of how teachers and students interpret each other's roles needs to be clarified: a survey among first-semester students that focused on this question revealed that almost all of them considered the teacher as someone who conveys knowledge and whose opinion and statements are not to be doubted at all. Almost none of them considered the teacher as an advisor and assistant in one's own learning process.
A survey among current FASK students revealed equally interesting and informative results.