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The Open University’s Life-Changing Distance Learning MA in Translation – Blog post for Tranix Translation & Proof-Editing services

After completing my BA degree in German & Spanish with the Open University, I had an idea that I wanted to be a translator but didn’t really know how to become one. I looked online and saw that anyone can call themselves a translator, so ideally a qualification would benefit me. I began hunting online at universities that offer MAs in Translation. Lo and behold, my old university was just about to start an MA in Translation and it would be their first intake of students.

I read about the course on the website – full time study would take just short of 2 years and part time study, up to 6 years. The course was split into 3 modules (more on this later). I knew how the OU worked and so I took the plunge and registered for the first module L801 starting February 2017 ending September 2017. The language combinations are German, Spanish, French, Italian, Mandarin Chinese or Arabic combined with English. You don’t have to be a native English speaker to be on the course!

The course is delivered solely online. Each module has its own website and all of the teaching materials are on the website and easily accessible. There is a forum, dedicated to each study block and language combination, but you can access all forum posts, so you’re not confined to just your language combination. Tutors are available via the forum and email and don’t worry – the forums are checked regularly. All assignments are submitted and returned electronically through the OU’s TMA online service. It’s very easy to use, click the submit button, attach your assignment, check the boxes to agree that you haven’t copied someone else’s work and then it will submit, and you can also download a copy of what you’ve submitted. You also receive a confirmation email.

During L801, we learned more about the theory of translation, from the beginnings where it was linguistics based, all the way through to the cultural turn in the 1990s and 2000s. Then we looked at how technology has come into the profession and the different types of CAT Tools. Three assignments throughout the module and one final assignment (EMA – End of Module Assignment) followed.

The next module (L802) started in October 2017 and finished in May 2018. This was my favourite as we had the opportunity to practise translations. The website for L802 functioned the same way as L801. We could put the theory into practice. We translated many specialisations, e.g. subtitling, finance, legal, tourism, news, literature, humour, marketing, technical and medical. Again, we had 3 assignments throughout the course and one final assignment. To pass the module you need to get over 40% in both the overall score on the 3 assignments and above 40% on the EMA.

In June 2018 to January 2019, we completed our dissertations (L803). This module was slightly different, we had to choose a source text of our choice and then had to choose what we wanted to analyse and research. There are two options: complete a translation with a commentary or conduct translation research. I chose the extended translation with commentary. The first two assignments are plans for the dissertation, which the tutor marks, and they tally up to 30% of the module. The dissertation itself is worth 70% of the module. I chose an excerpt from an autobiography of a former German footballer and analysed the translation of football terminology and player/manager discourse – I won’t bore you any further!

Hearing from the other students about their projects has really shown how far we’d all come and how much we’d all learned from the course. The way the course was structured meant that by understanding the theory behind translation we could then apply it and see it used in practice during L802 and in our dissertations in L803.

I think that this MA has been particularly useful as I haven’t just learned about translation itself but also about the wider scope of things, e.g. what to expect as a freelancer and what potential clients and employers will expect from us. Studying with a distance-learning provider has also proved that with dedication and motivation, you can achieve anything as this course is mainly self-taught. You have the module team and tutors for guidance, but you go through the module materials by yourself at your own pace. Added to this, you can fit this course around your life. On our course we’ve had people who work full time, some work part time with families and children. One of our students attended a webinar with her child asleep on her lap! You can take what you want from the course and adapt it to your requirements. The main piece of advice is, use the forum and ask any questions you may have. Even though you’re studying alone and may feel like no one else is in the same boat, trust me they are. We have our own Facebook group and we’ve all bonded on the forum, I feel like I really know some of the people on the course and we haven’t met. However, we are trying to arrange a gathering. This MA is great value for money and I don’t regret a single penny of it!

What’s more MAs in Translation are important as institutions like ITI and CIOL do like their members to be qualified in translation or interpreting. The Open University is a member of ITI so becoming a student member is straightforward and being a student member of CIOL is free. Lastly, having an MA in Translation can help you stand out from the ‘supposed’ translators who aren’t qualified. It proves to employees, institutions and clients that you are dedicated and understand your profession.

The Open University’s recent advert had the tagline, ‘Life-changing learning.’ This MA has certainly been life-changing for me, as I can now enter my dream profession with a qualification.

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Luke Hubbard

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