STP has a keen interest in promoting cooperation between the translation industry and the academic world. Apart from attending open days at universities, giving talks on the expectations of the employer and providing guidance on how to prepare graduates for commercial realities, we have now held our first credit-awarding university course on the topic of translation project management.

The course took place at the University of Helsinki last week in the form of an interactive three-day workshop, and was deemed a great success by all parties involved. The idea of such a course was so enthusiastically received by the students that the numbers had to be limited. STP has had the pleasure of working with the teaching staff from the university’s translation unit in the Department of Modern Languages before, and it was easy to trust them to make the practical arrangements, select the students and carry out an evaluation of the course afterwards. Apart from this, they sat in only occasionally, turned up to escort us to lunch and participated in the debrief session at the end of the last day. The course content, materials and exercises were planned and provided by STP. They consisted of lectures on the job description and performance assessment of a project manager and an introduction to translation management systems and to CAT tools, as well as a two-day simulation of life at a translation company with clients sending a never-ending stream of jobs, competitors vying for the same jobs and translators’ mistakes leading to client complaints and claims for compensation.

The teaching staff shared with us this hugely encouraging student feedback after the course: “What I liked was that the university had clearly given Anu and Raisa a free reign with the content. The course was down-to-earth, real, skilfully planned and well implemented, so much so that university staff rarely manage to put together anything so closely resembling real life. The lecturers only checked up on us occasionally, which forced us to operate directly under Anu’s and Raisa’s supervision, ask them questions and work more independently than we usually do on our courses. No-one was trying to skive off their duties on this intensive course. The days were long and there was a massive overload of information, but the time passed really quickly and not once did I look at the clock wondering how much time there was left before going home. On the contrary, I could have listened to Anu and Raisa talk even more about their company and ask them lots of silly questions. The schedule held up well, apart from the last day when some of the students in the project manager role were too engrossed in their tasks to take their lunch break. The situation felt very real and we were all extremely keen to do well. The whole course should have been longer, lasting at least a week. I think I learned more about Trados in those three days than I have in the past three years. The course also offered more information about the everyday work of a translator than all the rest of my studies put together. It answered a whole host of questions I have wanted to ask about moving into the real world after university, which I haven’t been able to find answers to elsewhere.”

Interestingly from an LSP’s point of view, this feedback was also welcomed by the lecturers, who were emphatic about the fact that universities do not listen to such comments when they come from teaching staff, but that the words of students carry more weight and are more likely to help steer things in the right direction in the future. This is a useful tip for all of us hoping to better align academic translation studies with the needs of the translation industry.

Academia, Icebreaker, Icebreaker May 2013