Charles University educates a new generation of translators and interpreters

By Jessica Varia

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Jessica with Veronika Trusová, a student at Charles University, Czech Republic.

The high reputation of students completing language translation degrees at Charles University has opened the door for many of them to gain prestigious careers working as translators and interpreters for European Union institutions. This is further cemented by the university being a member of organisations such as the International Permanent Conference of University Institutes of Translators and Interpreters (CIUTI) and many more.

Charles University is the only university-level centre in the Czech Republic that systematically trains translators and interpreters (English programs with a focus on translation and interpreting can also be found at the University of Olomouc), specialising in six languages; Czech, English, French, German, Russian and Spanish.  Students can complete a comprehensive BA degree and a follow-up MA.

Many of the course tutors are themselves accredited as conference interpreters at EU institutions. Charles University’s Institute of Translation Studies has approximately 550 undergraduate and postgraduate students studying its various courses every year.

The programme of studies maintains a careful balance of practical training on the one hand and theoretical background in translation studies on the other. It also focuses on relating disciplines together with the development of analytical skills. The students develop a sense of confidence throughout the course, starting off with interpreting fairy tales, everyday life stories and short simple texts to help them into their first steps of translation or interpreting

Why Charles University? As the oldest university in Europe north of the Alps and east of Paris, it has long-established connections with institutions across the continent and in particular those within the EU. The course comes under the Faculty of Arts but has its own institute and is, therefore, able to focus heavily on the course curriculum to ensure its students do well in their future ambitions. MA student Veronika Trusová said: “I think that the Translating and Interpretation course is one of the best programmes that the university has to offer.”

She said studying such a specific course is ideal for those who have a love for translation and interpreting. The course enables students to study the working of foreign languages, the importance of translation and of translators and interpreters in international and intercultural exchanges. It also helps them to develop their skills and learn new terminology and the technologies of translation.

Charles University has opened many doors for its students, including for 23-year-old Veronika, who is studying for her MA in Interpreting, English and French, having completed her BA degree. She said: “Our teachers offer us placements and different training internships which helps you a lot with gaining experience and building a portfolio.”

Veronika herself has gained multiple job opportunities thanks to the course and added: “I believe there will always be a demand for translation and interpreting services, in one form or another. There are a lot of things you can do once you graduate, some of us teach, some of us are self-employed. A lot of the students on my course, including myself, want to go and work in the European Union institutions. Veronika has been working alongside her studies as a language teacher, translator, interpreter, proofreader, as well as an administrative worker. She also used to have a part-time job as a tour guide in French and English, which is ideal for her curriculum vitae. She said that without her studying her MA in Interpretation this would not have been available to her.

The programme provided by Charles University is broken down into modules. Each module focuses on a different aspect, whether practical or theoretical, each topic is designed to help the students advance in the new skill. Veronika believes it is a very good way of gaining a grasp of the language but warned it is vital for the students to have a clear understanding of the language they are interested in before entering the course. There is an entry-level examination that they will need to pass. As Veronika explained: “The Translation and Interpretation course does not teach you a language, we learn about the language, why we use it and how it is formed, but most importantly, we learn the interpreting and translating skills.”

This course at Charles University focuses on practical training as well as theory. Within the course, students will get a lot of practical training, an introduction to interpretation, and theoretical subjects such as those studying grammar and lexicology. Other modules include learning about the history and the culture of the chosen language. Within the Translation part of the course, students gain an understanding of literature and the scientific analogy of language and learn how to put that into words themselves.

The university also strongly believes that students should receive as much help as possible for them to improve on their studies, therefore it runs seminars, as well as lectures, made up of a concise group of five to six people. This system enables all students to speak to the teachers and receive one-to-one feedback and is also a great way to share their work with classmates. The seminars also help students put everything they have learnt in their lecture into practice and enable them to prepare their own speeches and move into study groups.

It is this depth of learning and understanding of language provided by the Translation and Interpretation course at Charles University that educates students to a standard suitable for a profession which can lead them to have high-level jobs within the European Union. Of course, completing a degree at Charles University within the magnificent and historic surroundings of the city of Prague, with its rich and diverse culture and opportunities, not only helps its students become successful in future careers but it also ensures that they have fun while learning new skills.

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