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493Re: [itit] Questions without answers

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  • David Ashworth
    Nov 18, 2001
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      Here at the Center for Interpretation and Translation Studies at the
      University of Hawaii (http://cits.hawaii.edu/ )we have been experimenting
      with online translation courses for a couple of years. Since our strength
      is in Asian languages, primarily Japanese and Chinese, we have offered
      bidirectional courses in Japanese < >English and Mandarin < > English with
      participants from various countries. Our course format is as follows:
      We use WebCT as the course bulletin board. Although it has a
      chatroom feature, we cannot use it because it does not support double-byte
      characters (i.e. characters based on Chinese, which also includes Japanese
      and Korean). The chat is a javascript application whose character encoding
      cannot be changed. Another reason for not using chat is simply that the
      students come from various places - Scotland, Australia, Singapore, Japan
      and there is no economical/ efficient way to arrange for a synchronous
      meetings of all students.
      We try to use common English source texts for all
      English<>language x combinations, so that students can analyze, discuss
      and share their viewpoints on source text problems across language
      boundaries. This has proved interesting mainly at the level of discourse
      and pragmatics comprehension, as well as expression problems anticipated
      by native speakers of English attempting to translate from their native
      I noticed a complaint that in online courses involving students on
      both sides of the Atlantic (Stecconi) that there were some problems that
      seemed to each side to give the other an advantage. We have not had such
      an experience to date. Usually the number of non-native speakers of
      English (NNSE) far outweigh the number of native speakers of English ( a
      problem also common in Australia, which prompted recently the publication
      of a book on "Translation into the Second Language" Stuart Campbell,
      Cambridge 1998). At least here in Hawaii we must rely on NNSE for much
      translation into English as well as in community interpreting. Hence we
      assign some texts to both NS and NNS of target languages for collaborative
      work. Although we need to measure this to make any valid statement, we
      feel that such collaboration facilitates language acquisition and may lead
      to increased ability to translate from the Native Language at a higher
      level of difficulty.
      I agree with "WFR" (see Discussion, Nov. 17) of the urgency for
      building research into the cornerstone of our online, distance-learning
      efforts. We have done poorly in this regard, maybe because of the great
      effort expended in just getting the courses off the ground and the
      exhaustion at the end of each course. Other than asking people what they
      felt they got from the courses and providing an evaluation of their work
      based on our own criteria. There are many questions on translation
      pedagogy to be studied in the collaborative environments that one can
      create in computer mediated communication. Don Kiraly's work on social
      constructive approaches to translation pedagogy contain a lot of
      interesting questions in this regard.

      We have meager resources in our center to do much of anything, so we can
      only offer courses when there are enough participants to support the
      tuition paid to the instructors. This, unfortuantely, makes the tuition
      out of reach for students from China (PRC) - doubly unfortunate because we
      expect there would be a pretty high demand from there. Even if there were
      a high demand, however, we prefer to interact as frequently as possible
      with the students, and cannot handle more than ten or fifteen students per
      language combination per course. CMC is an exciting mode for learning and
      interaction and I expect it will in the long run prove to be a solid means
      for teaching and learning translation.

      (I tried to post this in Yahoo, but was rebuffed. I hope it gets through
      our Unix system here in Hawaii)

      Dave Ashworth, University of Hawaii
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