Translation Studies MSc students at the University of Edinburgh, CC-BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons

Translation and Open Education – An Experiment using Wikipedia

This post is the fourth in a series of blog posts for Open Education Week.

By Dr Iraklis Pantopoulos, Edinburgh College of Art, and Dr Charlotte Bosseaux, Translation Studies, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, University of Edinburgh.

Translation and open education go hand in hand! The historical role played by translation in the proliferation and dissemination of knowledge goes back probably to the very beginnings of the act of translation itself. So there can be no doubt translation is a natural fit in the field of Open Education.

So, when the idea was pitched to begin a project working with Wikipedia as a tool in the MSc in Translation Studies it immediately clicked!

The Projects

The idea for the project was simple: As part of their Portfolio of translation, the practice component of their studies, MSc in Translation Studies students need to translate 4,000 words per semester on a topic of their own choosing. This is the independent study component of their portfolio. So, rather than them having to choose any text to translate their project was to select (either individually or in same-language groups) a Wikipedia entry of the right size and create a version of that entry in their target language.

To provide some scaffolded support in their task, two two-hour introductory workshops on the basics of Wikipedia editing and the new Content Translation tool were held by the Wikimedian in Residence. By the second workshop they needed to have chosen the entry to translate. Then the students were left to their own devices, with tutor support when needed.

At the same time, the students were taking a Technology and Translation in the Workplace course, focusing on the impact of digital tools on the translation ecosystem and developing the skills to prepare for a digital translation industry. Reflecting on their experience of working on the Wikipedia project clearly gave them something to draw on and quickly led to very confident discussions in a way that was not possible in previous years.

A Translation From One Language to Another, artwork by by Lawrence Weiner, CC BY SA, brbbl on Wikimedia Commons

The Outputs

Twenty-nine people took part in the assignment in 15/16 and 28 in 16/17, translating articles from English to Arabic, Chinese, French, Greek, Turkish, Japanese and from Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and Norwegian into English.

There was a big number of positives from the project and students on the programme were quick to acknowledge this.

Developing their digital capabilities (in line with the University’s graduate attributes) in broader areas such as the use and importance of formatting, in sensitive areas such as their online presence and identity, or even in specialist areas such as the use of machine translation within the Content Translation tool was a clear benefit.

But the things that really excited them and enriched their experience were to do with their participation in the Open Education community!

Members of a community

The change in role from the traditional one of passive “consumers” of knowledge to the active role of producers was fundamental for the students and a crucial step in developing their identity both as postgraduate students and future translators.

Writing to be read not writing merely to be assessed made a huge change in the mindset of the students and was a challenge they were eager to tackle! They now wrote with a potential global audience in mind and were very conscious of the fact that Wikipedia editors would be scrutinising their work. This openness of their translation and the instant audience also resulted in theoretical discussions in class. And coupled with the fact that they were clearly working to create something tangible and lasting (an OER) the increase in their motivation was evident. But even more, this was the first step towards developing an openly available “portfolio” as fledgling translators.

Some of the students were happy to talk about their experiences of the project.

View from the office

For us, as members of the course team, the teething problems of incorporating the Wikipedia project in the programme were quickly outweighed by the possibilities it opened up. Some of our thoughts can be heard in summary here (at 5:35).

One of the common challenges we face with postgraduate students is how to build their research skills. Through their engagement with Wikipedia, and OER in general, students got hands on experience of such skills as the triangulation of sources and the critical evaluation of online material. They were also able to move past a rigid view of research material and view the inherent value in Wikipedia as an aggregator of resources. They were then able to incorporate these skills in more demanding upcoming projects such as their dissertation.

We also as a group got the chance to see how Wikipedia quantity varies from language to language, and how translation can address and redress this inequality, a great motivation for students and another great area for discussion and further research.

We ourselves managed to overcome our initial reservations and were left with genuine enthusiasm for this fresh outlook on the potential of translation to contribute to the dissemination of knowledge.

 

About the authors

Dr Charlotte Bosseaux has wide experience teaching in all areas of translation studies at postgraduate level. She has taught translation theory and methodology and has frequently been course organiser for core courses such as Translation Studies 1 and Research in Translation Studies. She has also organised the TRSS summer schools for doctoral students, where she also taught and offered feedback student presentations. She is also on the international panel of associates for ARTIS (Advanced Research in Translation and Interpreting Studies). She has been on Erasmus exchange programme to various European universities including Milan, Madrid, Zagreb, and Oslo teaching at UG and PG level in translation studies.

Dr Iraklis Pantopoulos has been working in Higher Education for 9 years in a wide variety of academic, support, and learning technology-related roles. He has always been curious about how we teach and how we learn. He developed a particular interest in the place of digital tools in pedagogy and research during my doctoral studies and early teaching and he is always looking for ways to improve the learning experience. In 2018, he completed a PGDip in Digital Education from the University of Edinburgh. He is currently a member of the Learning Technology team at the Edinburgh College of Art.

 

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