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Introduction

The present-day rapid development of science and technology, as well as the

continuous growth of cultural, economic, and political relations between

nations, have confronted humanity with exceptional difficulties in the assimilation

of useful and necessary information. No way has yet been found to solve

the problems in overcoming language barriers and of accelerated assimilation

of scientific and technological achievements by either the traditional or modern

methods of teaching. A new approach to the process of teaching and learning

is, therefore, required if the world is to meet the needs of today and tomorrow.

Georgi Lozanov, Suggestologj and Outlines of Suggestopedy (1971)

The study of translation and the training of professional translators is without question

an integral part of the explosion of both intercultural relations and the transmission

of scientific and technological knowledge; the need for a new approach to the

process of teaching and learning is certainly felt in translator and interpreter training

programs around the world as well. How best to bring student translators up to speed,

in the literal sense of helping them to learn and to translate rapidly and effectively?

How best to get them both to retain the linguistic and cultural knowledge and to

master the learning and translation skills they will need to be effective professionals?

At present the prevailing pedagogical assumptions in translator training programs

are (1) that there is no substitute for practical experience — to learn how to translate

one must translate, translate, translate — and (2) that there is no way to accelerate

that process without damaging students' ability to detect errors in their own work.

Faster is generally better in the professional world, where faster translators —

provided that they continue to translate accurately — earn more money; but it is

generally not considered better in the pedagogical world, where faster learners are

thought to be necessarily careless, sloppy, or superficial.

This book is grounded in a simultaneous acceptance of assumption (1) and rejection

of assumption (2). There is no substitute for practical experience, and translator

training programs should continue to provide their students with as much of it as

they can. But there are ways of accelerating that process that do not simply foster

bad work habits.

The methodological shift involved is from a pedagogy that places primary

emphasis on conscious analysis to a pedagogy that balances conscious analysis with

subliminal discovery and assimilation. The more consciously, analytically, rationally,

logically, systematically a subject is presented to students, and the more consciously

and analytically they are expected to process the materials presented, the more

slowly those materials are internalized.

And this is often a good thing. Professional translators need to be able to slow

down to examine a problematic word or phrase or syntactic structure or cultural

assumption painstakingly, with full analytical awareness of the problem and its

possible solutions. Slow analysis is also a powerful source of new knowledge.

Without the kinds of problems that slow the translation process down to a snail's

pace, the translator would quickly fall into a rut.

The premise of this book is, however, that in the professional world slow,

painstaking, analytical learning is the exception rather than the rule — and should

be in the academic world of translator training as well. All humans learn better,

faster, more effectively, more naturally, and more enjoy ably through rapid and

holistic subliminal channels. Conscious, analytical learning is a useful check on more

efficient learning channels; it is not, or at least it should not be, the only or even

main channel through which material is presented.

This book, therefore, is set up to shuttle between the two extremes of subliminal

or unconscious learning, the "natural" way people learn outside of class, and

conscious, analytical learning, the "artificial" way people are traditionally taught in

class. As teaching methods move away from traditional analytical modes, learning

speeds up and becomes more enjoyable and more effective; as it approaches the

subliminal extreme, students learn enormous quantities of material at up to ten

times the speed of traditional methods while hardly even noticing that they're

learning anything. Because learning is unconscious, it seems they haven't learned

anything; to their surprise, however, they can perform complicated tasks much more

rapidly and confidently and accurately than they ever believed possible.

Effective as these subliminal methods are, however, they are also somewhat

mindless, in the sense of involving very little critical reflection, metathinking, testing

of material against experience or reason. Translators need to be able to process

linguistic materials quickly and efficiently; but they also need to be able to recognize

problem areas and to slow down to solve them in complex analytical ways. The main

reason for integrating conscious with subliminal teaching methods is that learners

need to be able to test and challenge the materials and patterns that they sublimate

so quickly and effectively. Translators need to be able to shuttle back and forth

between rapid subliminal translating and slow, painstaking critical analysis — which

means not only that they should be trained to do both, but that their training should

embody the shuttle movement between the two, subliminal-becoming-analytical,

analytical-becoming-subliminal. Translators need to be able not only to perform

both subliminal speed-translating and conscious analytical problem-solving, but also

to shift from one to the other when the situation requires it (and also to recognize

when the situation does require it).

Hence the rather strange look of some of the chapters, and especially the exercises

at the end of the chapters. Teachers and students accustomed to traditional analytical

pedagogies will probably shy away at first from critical perspectives and hands-on

exercises designed to develop subliminal skills. And this critical caution is a good

thing: it is part of the shuttle movement from subliminal to conscious processing.

The topics for discussion that precede the exercises at the end of every chapter are

in fact designed to foster just this sort of critical skepticism about the claims made

in the chapter. Students should be given a chance both to experience the power of

subliminal learning and translating and to question the nature and impact of what

they are experiencing. Subliminal functioning without critical self-awareness quickly

becomes mind-numbing mechanical routine; analytical critiques without rich playful

experience quickly become inert scholasticism.

The primary course for which this textbook is intended is the introduction to the

theory and practice of translation. Such introductory courses are designed to give

undergraduate (and, in some cases, graduate) students an overall view of what

translators do and how translation is studied. To these ends the book is full of

practical details regarding the professional activities of translators, and in Chapters

6—10 it offers ways of integrating a whole series of theoretical perspectives on

translation, from psychological theories in Chapter 6 through terminological

theories in Chapter 7, linguistic theories in Chapter 8, and social theories in Chapter

9 to cultural theories in Chapter 10.

In addition, however, the exercises are designed not only to teach about translation

but to help students translate better as well; and the book might also be used as

supplementary material in practical translation seminars. Since the book is not

written for a specific language combination, the teacher will have to do some work

to adapt the exercises to the specific language combination in which the students

are working; while suggestions are given on how this might be done, it would be

impossible to anticipate the specific needs of individual students in countries around

the world. If this requires more active and creative input from teachers, it also allows

teachers more latitude to adapt the book's exercises to their students' needs.

Since most translators traditionally (myself included) were not trained for the

job, and many still undergo no formal training even today, I have also set up the book

for self-study. Readers not currently enrolled in, or employed to teach in, translator

training programs can benefit from the book by reading the chapters and doing the

exercises that do not require group work. Many of the exercises designed for group

work can easily be adapted for individuals. The main thing is doing the exercises and

not just thinking about them. Thought experiments work only when they are truly

experiments and not just reflection upon what this or that experiment might be like.