Another Canadian Standard for Translation

The Fall term has just wrapped up here at York University, which means the second Reacting to the Past game in my undergraduate translation theory class is now over. (For the results of the first game, take a look at my earlier post). This time, we focused on CAN/CGSB-131.10-2008, the Canadian Standard for Translation, and tried to recreate the context in which the standard was developed. Students were assigned roles based on the organizations involved in drafting CGSB-131.10-2008, including translation service providers, universities, industry associations, and companies that purchase translation services and/or have their own in-house translation departments.

In the published version of the standard, these organizations were grouped into three categories: general interest (universities, professional translator associations and translation technology companies), producers (small, medium and large translation companies), and users (government agencies, corporations, and professional associations like the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants). Our game included most of these organizations, but I did have to try to choose a representative sample, since 30 voting members were involved in the drafting process, while only 21 students were enrolled in my course.

The published standard also covered six areas: human resources, technical resources, quality management system, client-Translation Service Provider (TSP) relationship, TSP management procedures, and the translation process. For the purposes of the game, I decided to focus on just four of these areas so that we could debate a different one each week and then spend one final week revising the standard. This game involved a lot of collaboration, as the students had to work within their groups (users, producers or general interest) to agree on a proposal for each issue, which they then presented to the other groups. The groups were then able to ask questions of and negotiate with one another in order to arrive at a draft version of each issue that at least two groups could agree on. Given the varied interests I had assigned each group, the negotiation process was sometimes quite long and in some cases (as one student pointed out), rather frustrating. But that, I imagine, is what many of those involved in drafting the actual standard also experienced.

In week 1, we debated the Human Resources component of the standard. Talks actually broke down on this issue, because the question of whether translators should be certified by a professional translator association was too contentious. We had to leave that particular point for the final week of debate instead. The Users and Producers managed to reach an agreement that meant our standard recommended-but did not require–professional development for translators (since the smaller TSPs were concerned about the potential cost and time investment of mandatory professional development). In addition, our standard specifically acknowledged that a translation service provider (TSP) could be a single person, since the smaller TSPs worried the standard might otherwise exclude individual freelancers.

Week 2 focused on the translation process, and because the producers had won the previous round, they managed to allocate enough votes to this issue that they would have to be involved in any winning proposal if it were to have enough votes to succeed. This meant they were able to push through their proposal that revision need not be completed by a second person, unless clients requested it (so that individual freelance translators wouldn’t be disadvantaged by the standard). They also finally agreed that translators should be informed of any changes to their work, although they were careful to note that this was just a recommendation, rather than an obligation, as some of the students representing large TSPs were concerned that if they were informed of all changes every client might make to the finished translations, they would have to deal with too much extra administrative work.

In our third week, we debated the quality management portion of the standard. This time, the general interest group and the users were quick to come to an agreement that excluded the producers’ views, as they felt that the producers had been too hard to negotiate with in previous weeks. This meant the producers were not able to prevent the standard from including a clause that required TSPs to have an automated quality management system, nor were they able to get the other groups to agree to a clause that required the QM system to be “relative to the size and structure of the TSP”, as the users argued that this kind of wording was not really creating any sort of standard at all.

In Week 4, we addressed the issue of technical resources, and here debate mainly centred around whether computer-assisted translation tools should be mandatory or recommended, but the producers eventually agreed that these tools should be required. By this point, students had been required to submit their first written assignment associated with the game: a blog post presenting their organization’s views on the standard. When presenting their arguments to the class, several students referred to their blog posts, which was one way I had been hoping the written work would be integrated into the game.

Finally, on our last week of class, we looked at the draft standard as a whole document and addressed the issue of whether translators should be certified. The compromise most students agreed to was that translators had to be certified by a Canadian professional association, unless the language combination was not available. I then gave the students some feedback on our draft based on the comments organizations and translators had made when the actual standard was produced, provided these points were also relevant to our version. Students were then able to vote on the draft on an individual basis (up until this point, everyone had been obliged to vote with their groups), but they still had to represent the organization they had been assigned. On our first round of voting, only a minority supported the draft. Some objected to the certification requirement, while others objected to the fact that translations did not have to be revised by a second person. After we changed the standard to require that all translations be revised by a second person, everyone but the producers agreed to support the draft, and it became our new Canadian standard. If you’d like to take a look at it, here’s a link to the Google Document.

In general, I was happy with the way this game worked. Compared to the previous game, this one required much less work on my part, since the students played just one role throughout the game and their role descriptions did not change over the course of the game. This meant I didn’t have to send out 20 emails every week with revised role descriptions and victory objectives, as I did with the William Tyndale game. I was also able to keep track of the points, since these were awarded to groups rather than individual students. Interestingly, the group that had the greatest success was the General Interest group composed of universities, professional associations and other organizations. In fact, the the professional associations (OTTIAQ, the Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council, and Society of Translators and Interpreters of British Columbia) were the only ones to achieve all their victory objectives. I’m currently surveying the students who completed the course to see what they thought of the two games, so I’ll post some of their feedback once I’ve finished collecting and analyzing the responses.

William Tyndale’s fate

We’ve just finished playing the first Reacting to the Past game I developed for an undergraduate Theory of Translation class here at Glendon. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this game was set in England from 1528-1536, and it focused on William Tyndale and his English translation of the bible at a time when unauthorized translations were being burned by Church authorities and anyone caught with these banned translations risked being convicted of heresy. The game allowed us to explore issues like translation and censorship, the influence of powerful institutions on the translations produced in a given society, and the history and politics of translating sacred texts.

In Week 1, we had a great debate about whether translation of the bible should be forbidden by the Church, with most of the class representing the views of various scholars at Oxford in 1528. Although several players were betrayed to the authorities (Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Thomas More, Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall and Bishop John Longland) by a spy who was taking notes at the meeting of the Oxford scholars, everyone managed to evade arrest.

In Weeks 2 and 3, we had another debate–this time from the point of view of various bishops, cardinals and other clergymen in 1530–about whether the Catholic Church should authorize an English translation of the bible to help combat the unauthorized (and very Lutheran) translations circulating in England at the time. Students also debated whether William Tyndale’s translation was heretical. Three characters–Hugh Latimer, Bishop John Clerk, and even Thomas Cromwell–were accused (and convicted) of heresy during the debates. The students playing these roles all recanted and managed to avoid being accused of heresy a second time, which would have led to their characters being executed. After the debates, we voted on the issues at hand. The results: An English translation of the bible was not authorized and William Tyndale’s translation was declared heretical. No surprises here, given that the vast majority of the students in the class had victory objectives that included ensuring the vote turned out this way.

Finally, in Week 4, which was set in 1535, after William Tyndale had been arrested in Antwerp, students took on roles ranging from English merchants to bishops, archbishops and other clergymen and tried to convince one another that Tyndale should either be left to his fate in the Low Countries or extradited to England (so that he could either be put on trial for heresy in England, or set free). The vote this time was much closer: although many students voted to leave Tyndale in the Low Countries, a few extra votes were cast for extraditing Tyndale to England in order to save his life. Unfortunately, as I mentioned to the class after the vote was calculated, this decision did not rest entirely in their hands: ultimately, it depended on the slim chance (represented by the roll of a die) that King Charles would agree to release Tyndale, so our effort to save Tyndale’s life failed. Our game therefore had the same result as history: William Tyndale was executed in the Low Countries in October 1536.

In December or January, after the course is over, I’ll be conducting a survey with the students who were enrolled in the course so that I can prepare an article about the Reacting to the Past format and its pedagogical value in translation classes. For now, though, I’m happy that early feedback from my students has generally been positive.

As for my own experience, I was definitely happy with the way the game worked. Although I will make some minor changes to the format the next time I teach this course, I was happy to see the students thinking critically about translation-related issues. Because students were expected to talk for just a few minutes each, the attention of other students in the class didn’t waver as easily as it typically does during a 15-20-minute student presentation. Moreover, students took notes while their peers were presenting their arguments, because they knew they would have to question and critique these arguments later. And, although some did so more successfully than others, nearly all students ensured their remarks fit within the historical context in which the game was set, which helped make the debates feel more authentic.

The main problem with the game was that I had originally designed it for 13 students, and I now have 22 in the class. This meant the debates took longer than I had initially planned, since all students were expected to speak for at least a few minutes each week. We didn’t get a chance to cover all the discussion questions I had prepared, although I tried to make up for this by using Tyndale as a case study whenever we covered material from Introducing Translation Studies prior to the game. For instance, when we studied Polysystem theory, we discussed whether translation occupied a central or a peripheral role in England in the late 1520s and 30s, based on the controversy Tyndale’s translation generated at the time.

The other problem was that because the game covered an 8-year period, most students had to play two (or even three) characters over the course of the four weeks. Having to send new character descriptions and victory objectives to 22 students each week was time-consuming for me, and it did result in a little confusion for the students, as the first written assignment was based on the viewpoint of the characters in weeks 2-3, while the second assignment was based on the role students played in week 4. I’ll have to clarify the descriptions of the assignments next time.

Game 2, which is set in 2007 and focuses on the development of CAN/CGSB-131.10 2008, the Canadian Standard for translation, starts in two weeks. At the end of this term, I’ll write a post about how well this game worked and offer some thoughts about which one seemed most relevant to the students.

Will William Tyndale be executed for heresy once again?

With just two weeks to go before the start of classes, I’ve finally (!) finished the materials for the second Reacting to the Past game I’m incorporating into an undergraduate Theory of Translation course this fall. This one is set in England and unfolds over the course of several years, touching on key dates leading up to (and including) William Tyndale’s trial for heresy. It opens in 1528, with a debate on whether translating the bible into vernacular languages like English should be considered heresy. It then jumps to 1530, when the English clergy meet to a) discuss whether a vernacular translation of the bible should be authorized and b) draw up a list of potentially heretical statements in Tyndale’s translation. It ends in 1535-1536, when Tyndale is tried for heresy and the players debate about and then vote on whether to try to have Tyndale’s life spared or leave him to be executed in Antwerp, where he was arrested. Along the way, students will have to watch out for spies, accusations of heresy, and changing political circumstances that affect each player’s ability to win the game.

The game is designed to be played with up to 13 students over four weeks, with about 1.5 to 2 hours devoted to the game during each of the four sessions. I’ve tried to provide thematic discussion questions related to each week of game play so instructors can draw links between the game and Translation Studies issues (e.g. translation and power, censorship, activism, and institutions).

So, as I offered for the other game I developed this summer, if anyone is interested in integrating this game into one of their classes, please let me know and I’d be happy to make the materials available: I have a 20-page list of role descriptions, a 9-page set of instructions for course instructors, and an 8-page handout for students. (I realize it’s too late now for the Fall term, but there’s still time to adopt this for a Winter term course).

I’ll post an update once I’ve had a chance to try the game out in the classroom. I also plan to survey students after the course, so I’ll post some comments on what they thought of the game and its pedagogical value.

Reacting to the Past Game 1 completed

In an earlier post, I discussed my plans to create two Reacting-to-the-Past-inspired games for the undergraduate theory of translation class I’ll be teaching in the fall.

One of these games is based on the development of CAN/CGSB-131.10-2008, the Canadian standard for translation. With roles for up to 29 students (though if necessary, the game could accommodate about 50 students if each role were played by partners instead of individuals), the game involves students representing the three types of organizations that sat on the drafting committee: general interest groups (e.g. academic institutions, professional associations and language technology companies), Translation Service Providers of varying sizes, and government and corporate users of translation services. Players need to present proposals for four of the six issues that were covered by the standard: Human resources, technical resources, quality management systems and the translation process. The game is organized to be played over 5 weeks, with 1.5 hours of gameplay each week for the first four weeks, and 30-40 minutes in the final week as the game is wrapped up. Descriptions of two written assignments related to the game are also provided. The goals are threefold: 1) To help students reflect on the standards for professional translations, the qualifications of professional translators, and the effects of these kinds of standards on those who work within the language industry and those who purchase language services, 2) To encourage students to critically apply arguments offered by various approaches to translation (functional theories, discourse, register analysis, etc.), in line with the position(s) of the organizations they represent, and 3) To provide a forum for students to use various argumentation techniques to debate with opponents.

I’ve just finished writing the instructions for the game, which consist of a 7-page overview of the game for students, a 16-page list of objectives for the various groups and individual players involved in the game, and a 3-page guide for instructors. To help encourage others to try out the Reacting to the Past model in a translation class, I thought I would offer to make these materials available to anyone who’s interested. Just email me or leave a comment below, and I’ll share PDFs with you, under an Attribution-NonCommercial Creative Commons license, which allows you to tweak and build upon this work non-commercially, provided you acknowledge me as the source of the materials. In keeping with the spirit of this license, I should mention again that I’ve based the format of this game largely on the Reacting to the Past session offered by University of Alberta law professors James Muir and Peter Carver at Congress 2012 in Waterloo two months ago. The session was designed to recreate (to a certain extent) the Quebec Conference of 1864, and participants were assigned roles from one of the delegations at the conference (Tories, bleus, Reformers, Nova Scotians, New Brunswickers, etc.). Muir and Carver were generous enough to provide all the documentation they’d prepared for the game, so although the context of the two games is completely different, the formats are very similar. I expect the planning would have taken longer if I had not had their material as a guide, so I’m very grateful for the experience these two professors had to offer.

I’d love to get feedback from others and/or to find someone else interested in adapting the Reacting to the Past model for Translation Studies, so please get in touch if you’d like to collaborate with me on this or other possible games. After I finish the documentation for the next game (involving Luther’s William Tyndale’s translation of the bible), I’ll write another post about it and make the materials available to anyone who’s interested.

Highlights from Congress 2012 (Part 1)

I’ve just returned from the 2012 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, which I attended mainly for the 25th annual CATS conference. This year, Congress was held at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo. Now that I’m back, I thought I’d write two short posts about some of the presentations I enjoyed. This post will focus on a session I attended outside CATS, and the next will focus on three presentations I found particularly interesting during the CATS conference.

To follow up on my earlier post about role-playing in the classroom, I was particularly happy to have been able to get to Waterloo a day early so I could attend the Reacting to the Past session offered by University of Alberta law professors James Muir and Peter Carver as part of the Canadian History Association’s annual meeting. The session was designed to recreate (to a certain extent) the Quebec Conference of 1864, and participants were assigned roles from one of the delegations at the conference (Tories, bleus, Reformers, Nova Scotians, New Brunswickers, etc.). Something I really appreciated about the session–apart from being able to see a Reacting to the Past game actually being played–was the fact that Muir and Carver provided participants and observers with detailed documentation that outlined the rules and goals of the game, the objectives of each group, the points and voting mechanisms, and the grading system. I also had a helpful chat with James Muir after the session to ask some questions about game play mechanics, such as how much class time should be spent on a game (he recommended between 1.5 and 2 hours per session) and how instructors could assess a student’s participation (he recommended, for instance, marking students on their engagement with the game, their attempt to understand their character, their attempt to consult texts other than assigned readings, and their effort to respect the pedagogical purpose of the game by playing fairly rather than trying to gain points without caring about the content of the proposals they submit). On a less positive note, however, the documentation they provided really opened my eyes to the amount of preparation involved in creating a game: The document students receive is nearly 20 single-spaced pages long, and any game that follows a similar format will require nearly as much detail before it can be integrated into a classroom.

Nonetheless, based on this session, and the documentation Muir and Carver helpfully provided, I’ve been working a game for my undergraduate Theory of Translation course this September. It will be based on the development of CAN/CGSB-131.10-2008, the Canadian standard for Translation Services and will allow us to consider questions like what qualifications professional translators should have and what effects standards have on the language industry and its clients. It will also allow students to apply theoretical approaches like skopos, and discourse or register analysis when they make their arguments.

I’ve also realized that a game like the one demonstrated at Congress takes about 4-6 hours to play, spread out in 1.5-2 hour sessions spanning about 4 weeks. That means I’d need to create 1 or 2 other games if I want to focus the entire 13-week Theory of Translation course on learning through role-playing. The other two scenarios I’ve been mulling over are one of the early controversies over biblical translation (e.g. Luther) to help students debate the source- vs. target-oriented approaches to translation and consider the various effects translation can have in a society, and the the controversy over a Galician translator’s “sexist” translation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I mentioned in my last post on this topic. This particular controversy would allow the class to explore not just feminist approaches to translation, but also ethical, cultural and linguistic issues.

My main idea behind having three different games is to ensure that each one focuses on themes from specific chapters of Jeremy Munday’s Introducing Translation Studies, allowing us to apply the concepts discussed in the books via the game that unfolds over the course of 2-4 weeks. I’ll lecture for 1-1.5 hours, and then we’ll play the game for the remaining 1.5-2 hours. I think this will be a good way to apply translation theories and to help students develop their argumentation skills. I’ll write a follow-up post in April, once I’ve had a chance to use the games in the classroom and see what the students thought.

Role playing in the classoom

A message I received via the H-Canada listserve piqued my interest the other day. It invited anyone attending the upcoming Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Kitchener/Waterloo later this month to participate in a session demonstrating the Reacting to the Past model of game-based teaching. Having never heard of game-based teaching, I did some searching and came across Bernard College’s Reacting to the Past website, which describes the approach. In addition to including videos demonstrating game-based teaching in the history classroom, the site contains various documents that explain the pedagogical approach in detail, such as this PDF.

Here’s how the website explains the approach:

Reacting to the Past (RTTP) consists of elaborate games, set in the past, in which students are assigned roles informed by classic texts in the history of ideas. Class sessions are run entirely by students; instructors advise and guide students and grade their oral and written work. It seeks to draw students into the past, promote engagement with big ideas, and improve intellectual and academic skills.

As the above quote suggests, the goal of the games is to have each student defend a position consistent with the historical person they have been assigned to play. Each student must therefore learn to express his or her ideas persuasively not only in oral presentations to the class, but also in written assignments that are shared with the class (e.g. via discussion boards or hard copy) in an effort to sway the opinions of other students. While the official RTTP program involves teaching with published games books that focus on specific historical people and periods (e.g. Henry VIII and the Reformation Parliament, Athens in 403 BCE), the general approach could be adapted for other contexts, including an undergraduate translation studies course. I can think of many translation-related situations that could be taught via the game model. For instance, instructors using books like Introducing Translation Studies or The Translation Studies Reader as part of the curriculum probably spend at least one class discussing translation theories prevalent prior to the twentieth century. A game focusing, for instance, on Martin Luther’s or William Tyndale’s translations of the bible would allow students to explore the source-oriented vs. target-oriented arguments from the point of view of the translators, the religious institutions and the public at a specific point in history. As the game rules stipulate, students would be required to study texts from that period to help them formulate opinions and arguments. During the game, students are permitted to cite only sources published prior to the historical period they are enacting; however, during the “post-mortem” phase after the game is over, students are expected to reflect on the game and its results from their own, more modern perspective.

The pre-twentieth-century cases are not the only ones that could be adapted to the games model. One could also, for instance, select a controversy that has been discussed in the news, such as the lawsuit launched over a Galician translator’s “sexist” translation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and create a game that revolves around the historical and cultural context in which that controversy arose. Students would then have to play the roles of the people involved in these events, defending their views based on the first- and second-hand sources the students have consulted. The goal is not to reconstruct the exact chain of events: Reacting to the Past games “may depart from the actual events and outcomes of the past”, as the Pedagogical introduction explains. To win the game, each student is attempting to achieve specific objectives associated with the person they are pretending to be–objectives that are assigned by the instructor at the start of the game and which are known only by the instructor and that specific student. The players must win debates and sway characters whose opinions have not been pre-defined by the instructor but who are instead representing a “typical” person of that historical period. In a case like that of the Galician translator, one way to incorporate a game into the classroom would be to have the translator and the publisher plead their case to a judge. Students would then be able to take on various roles: that of the translator, the publisher, the author, the lawyer(s), the judge, the representatives from professional translator associations, etc. Players would be trying to persuade the judge of their position, and he or she would render a verdict at the end of the game. Consistent with the guidelines for Reacting to the Past games, students would be marked on their oral presentations and their written work, with a focus on the suitability of references that were consulted, whether these texts were interpreted in a way that is consistent with the role the student is playing, and whether the student’s arguments are strong.

The entire course needn’t rest on the game, which could, depending on the number of students involved, require six or seven hours of classroom time, spread over several weeks. One option is for the game to replace traditional student presentations–since a large component of the game involves oral debates–and help make the classes more dynamic. One advantage of the games approach is that students should be able to develop their argumentation skills because their work is shared with their classmates, allowing each student to build their own arguments on the basis of the work their classmates have submitted (either on the course website or in oral debates). I hope to attend the session at Congress to see how the game approach works in practice, but I am considering integrating at least one game into the undergraduate translation theory course I’ll likely be teaching next year. If I do, I’ll prepare another post to discuss how the games worked in a translation studies–instead of a history–course.