Why should we re-examine Translator education and training at university level in Morocco ?

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 »  Articles Overview  »  Art of Translation and Interpreting  »  Translator Education  »  Why should we re-examine Translator education and training at university level in Morocco ?

Why should we re-examine Translator education and training at university level in Morocco ?

By Fouad El karnichi | Published  08/2/2010 | Translator Education | Recommendation:
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Quicklink: http://pol.proz.com/doc/3029
The need to institutionalize translation at the Moroccan universities:

Following recent reforms in higher education in Morocco pledging for a review and re-examination of the current pedagogy at tertiary level and seeking to develop innovative, dynamic and efficient tools and methodologies in the curriculum to gear the educational output to serve durable, social and economical needs, few professional or fundamental programs were created to satisfy both professional and academic purposes. Translation programs at Masters Level were amongst those programs. Still, although translator education and training was established in many universities around the world as a unit or department whereby the translation act was taught as an end in itself and not a means to enhance language competence and help students to improve their second language skills. In the words of Susan Bassnet (2002: 1):

“Today interest in the field (of translation) has never been stronger and the study of translation is taking place alongside an increase in its practice all over the world.”

It seems that the first step to follow in order to equip our future translators with the education and training that could ease their integration into the professional world and job market is a careful rethinking and examining of the methodologies as well as the institutionalization of the discipline .The last point is the focus of this article. If the first factor could provide the tools and the aptitude the student translator need the latter (institutionalization) would provide the social recognition, respect and face value that is worthy of every profession. In this respect Anthony Pym (2010:198) states:

“Regardless of whatever the theories (of translation) might actually say, the institutionalization of this field within the social sciences is a supportive correlative of the professionalization of Translation ".

In the same vein Caminade and Pym (2001:1716) stipulated the ‘dramatic’ increase in the number of translation and institutions offering diplomas in the west during the last 3 decades. Further they pointed out that the number of translator training institutes was raised from “49 in 1960 up to 250 in 1995”.

Further ,in relation to the impact of institutionalizing translation on the development of research and translation pedagogy, Caminade and Pym (2001:1717) states that after translator training was integrated within the academic arena it became gradually ‘attached’ to TRANSLATION STUDIES “ as a result of which pedagogical programmes gained “greater legitimacy within the university environment”.

Further, Ulrych (1996:253) argues that “trends in translation pedagogy are increasingly in favour of interfacing vocational and educational components», which adds to the ongoing literature that supports the idea that a balance between the professional and the academic sides are feasible.

Has Moroccan universities been active in this sense in responding to the ongoing advances and progress that is taking place to a discipline that has been underestimated within the academic corridors for so long?

The situation In Morocco:

Unlike other countries in the world, including the Arab world, Translator training programs at university level had taken a very slow path in Morocco. Apart from The Fahd School of Translation (1986) (annexed to the University of Abdel Malik saadi later on, only a timid tentative had been launched to establish two Master level translation programs in the Faculties of Arts and Human Sciences at Al Jadida (University Chouaib Doukali) and Mohammedia (Hassan2 University) and more recently at the Sultane Moulay Slimane University in Beni Melal.

In Algeria ,Universities in Major Cities(Oran ,Algier and Annaba),and following a state decree and major changes in the management and organization of Algiers university during the eighties, had even went far in including Translation units ,departments or annexing existing institutes of translation within the foreign languages departments. In the new millennium, the universities went far to include postgraduate degrees including a doctorate program ,in addition to the already existing four year undergraduate programmes Aisssani (2000: 482-484).Seems that our neighbours are doing better.

In Morocco, despite this sloppy surge in translator training and education programs within the foreign language departments in the last 10 years , we fear that we still lag behind in terms of fundamental factors necessary for enhancing and establishing the institutionalization of the interdisciplinary field of translation ;such as integrating adequate and viable theoretical framework ,establishing pertinent databases for corpus studies and terminology, providing pedagogical tools and methods that make use of both theory and practice as well as introducing authentic real life situation into practical translation classroom….not to forget training teaching personnel to deliver sound and appropriate methods within the classroom…ect.It seems that there is a call to actively catch up with the fastly growing activities worldwide in translation practice, theory and research that had taken place during the last few years especially after Holme’s (1972/2000) initiative of envisaging his Map (Holme’s map) of Translation Studies as a prominent theoretical framework for the practice of translation .Holmes classified Translation studies as a field of scientific research into three categories :Descriptive translation ,Theoretical translation and applied translation (this includes translator training).Our field of research falls within the last category.

This initiative had paved the way for the mushrooming of various translator training and education programs at tertiary level in the west followed by some Asian countries the likes of china and India and then other countries in the developing world: Africa, the Middle east and south America .However, the question remains -as far as the Moroccan context is concerned-did we make use of that broad body of ‘translatorial’ knowledge and integrate it in our post grade programs as a reference framework to use by teachers and students alike in our translation programs and open the doors for research initiatives in Translation as well as improving the teaching and learning objectives to be geared towards professional ends?. Did any teaching staff had ever tempted to use theoretical inputs from translation studies to explain and justify translation problems during the translation workshops /group works or even in classroom teaching? Did the students ever use that type of metalanguage either in their classroom discussion or in their BA monograph? Did any professional practicing translator have ever though to embed this substance in their revision commentaries or in discussing their translation choices with their clients or their fellow colleagues?

In our opinion answers to the above questions may shed some lights into finding the right pathways to plan an efficient, innovative and realistic translation curriculum for advanced translation students in our universities. Institutionalising the discipline with the university context can be a promising platform to launch the said translation project that could serve not only academia but society and the economy as well.

In this article, am going to limit my intervention to explain and analyze the first point that deals with the integration of theory and practice in the postgraduate university translation curriculum as a crucial step to move forward to institutionalizing the discipline and gain the respect it deserves within our society.

University, Translation and Society

Universities as institutions have their social obligation to equip students with the best education and with life long durable competences and knowledge that they could use to contribute to social and economic developments. In this regard, Neubert (1989:5) states that the type of translation studied at universities should not be taught to stay within the coffins of ‘an intellectual ivory tower’, but to serve ‘social needs”.

A clear example about the social benefits that translation activities could deliver to society is the dubbing of the south American soap series at the national TV channel 2M .After being carried out for too long with French and then Egyptian series and movies, the idea of localizing the foreign movies and series could well improve the social and economical development in the country and translation industry alike. It makes perfect sense to diffuse a program in a language that most of our population can understand: Moroccan dialect. From the perspective of translation studies, as an area of research and knowledge on translation (spoken or written) ,this is an innovative initiative and welcoming move. Translation studies, as we mentioned before, is broader in scope and it comprises the study of both standard languages and local varieties .It is a professional activity that satisfies communicative social needs. Still, there seems to be resistance from conservative views which considers that the use of non-standard Arabic or even native-indigenous languages as a form of public speech or discourse is politically motivated and part of the colonial campaign against the use and usage of standard Arabic.

Another example consists in the work of some NGOs in Morocco who tend to reach the far remote neglected social groups and areas in the country to either fight poverty or aridity in the framework of humanitarian and sustainable development activities. These organizations always use local intermediaries to mediate with the local population and, perhaps, translating documents as well. So translators /Interpreters facilitate the communication between the organizations that seek to help the needy persons who-themselves- benefit from the action respectively. We believe that a better structuring of that activity via delivering appropriate and professional training could well benefit the system, the NGOs and the beneficiaries; such community interpreting ,sight translation…ect.

On the other hand some of these organizations have recently went far in spreading missionary work taking advantage of both the untrained interpreters (at least training on ethics) and the poverty and ignorance of the local population. This is indeed a point to reconsider as it threatens a major pillar of our identity: Islam and our system of beliefs.

Finally, and due to the strategic geopolitical position of Morocco on the world map , the language mediation sector is quite an important product that is in demand to satisfy the needs of the business ,international cooperation and socio-economic development. Currently, there seems to be chaos in the market as to the real actors and market mechanisms that govern the translation and interpreting industries in Morocco. We hope to give to the outside world a professional outlook of the communications we provide in other languages for the investors ,foreign governments ,foreign entities of any type about the quality ,professional standards of our documents or communications –be it written or oral. Therefore, we support the idea that it is helpful for the actors in the translation industry and practice to receive a type of education and training in translation /interpreting: short term or long term, either for aspiring new translators in the market or for already practicing translators. They need to be recognized and visible.

Hence, well structured quality and professional education in translation may contribute to a remarkable output and benefit remarkably both society and the economy alike. In the below paragraphs we shall highlight the current translator training environment at Moroccan universities and diagnose the existing syllabuses and course contents and their viability vis-à-vis the Moroccan context and the ongoing practices worldwide.

In the below section, I shall tackle the issues highlighted in the previous paragraphs: The existence or non-existence of an adequate and convenient theoretical components proper to the practice of translation as an end in its own right and a field of research, and which will serve as the resource for the development of a metalanguage that future professional translators or researchers in translation may need in their professional practice

Current Issues the teaching of Translation at Moroccan universities: Undergraduates and Postgraduates.

Highlights on the teaching of translation in Morocco

In terms of course contents ,the teaching of translation at the Moroccan university for advanced students in tertiary level was portrayed to be lacking of a structured and adequate theoretical components that could be of great use and help to both teachers and students. For instance, it has been argued that teachers do neither rely on ongoing models or approaches in the field, nor on the ‘the recent development in functional and text linguistics”, this includes areas like text linguistics, register analysis, pragmatics, discourse analysis (Mehrash 2003: 105).

A point we strongly support after our experience in teaching translation practice and theory for undergraduates and postgraduate students in Morocco. Some translation programs may include a theoretical input such as Discourse analysis or Contrastive linguistics or comparative stylistics .Still, they are taught from a linguistic prescriptive and not applied to translation practice. Their scope is not sufficient to befit an interdisciplinary and multifaceted course like translation. The role of the translator in making conscious choices and strategies seem to be excluded during classroom translation activities .Real life and workplace activities are excluded from the practical translation course. This seems an issue that need to be revised and approached differently and with an appropriate teaching methodology.

Also, few BA monographs written by students of the English department of Mohamed 5 university (Rabat) on the issues they faced in the way translation was taught at their university, they all agree on the very poor use of the theory of translation insights or various other approaches in the field of translation study: such as the linguistic, functional linguistic, text linguistics or discursive approaches that have been known for so long in the literature. They made it clear that it would be helpful for them if their translation workshops were better structured and commented on the part of the teacher and that relevant and applied theoretical contents should be added to the program to support their commentaries and reflexions.Further, there were unhappy responses from the students in their monographs about material (texts) and the teacher centred and monotonous methodology. Still, is it the fault of the administration to appoint unsuitable staff to deliver such a diverse course OR the objectives of the administration for that course are clearly outlined to achieve only language proficiency? or is there an impasse and a lack of innovative methods of teaching translation, also the lack of adequate personnel to do the task? Or just the course is looked at as of minor importance, despite the fact that many scholars (literary or linguists) seem to be highly interested in translation!

Although Mehrash had used the above components as evaluation and assessment criteria in his research on both novice and trained translators to assess the performance of the heterogeneous group of students, we believe that it might be an important tool to be used by competent teachers in the classroom, especially in an advanced specialized translation course. The critical issue, though, is how to apply that theoretical component and bridge it with practice during a translation practicum, or even during delivering a dynamic non-translation ‘cours magistrales’ for translation students using corpus methodology instead of actual translation practice as a pre-translation warm up exercise for the advanced students. Also, whether the functional /textual approach seems not to be a narrow and insufficient to approach authentic translation assignments and projects? I prefer to leave this particular point until the upcoming article on teaching methodology.

In the same vein, (Messoudi :2003)stipulates that the stifling of the translation act or the teaching of translation for inappropriate ends (such as : as a means to teach foreign languages )in Morocco, the lack of pertinent translation manuals ,the ‘timid’ and ‘discrete’ presence of research papers and publications in translation studies ,as well as the delay-including other countries- to promote teaching the role of ethics in translation education ,and finally the delay in developing pertinent professional translation programs ….all these factors contributed to ‘the stagnation’ of the teaching of translation in Morocco.

Messoudi’s highlights seem more curriculum-oriented since she tackles broad issues in the pedagogy, such as the objectives of the program , reference to teaching material, research issues in translation , ethical and professional side of the discipline. These elements –if properly re-examined and tackled- might contribute to major macro improvement in our translation programs at the tertiary level. She also contends that the solution to tackle this problem remains in the hands of authorities in charge as well as the course planners who should see the translation activity as an end in itself and taught as such, and not as a ‘didactic support’. Also she reiterates that reflecting on translation studies in Arabic is strongly encouraged and could be the way ahead to achieve progress in our context (Messoudi 2003).

We adhere to Messoudi’s broad and comprehensive coverage of major issues in translation programs in morocco, but we have reservation on the use of manuals for advanced students of translation; rather we should be looking at resources such as current rewrites in the discipline since we are at an advanced program where not only practice is at stake but research as well .Added to this is the importance of teaching authentic and project based texts to advanced students of translation. For instance students may consult current rewrites(Munday 2000 ,Venuti 2000 ) , in translation studies and other important books comprising insightful theories such as Christiane Nord’s (1997) used by many teachers to teach dynamic texts types such as marketing documentation, advertising, all types of commercially oriented texts. Added to this is the necessity to provide authentic/not outdated materials (texts) for students and that classroom teaching should be addressed with a different pedagogy and that activities should be organized with a more collaborative and cooperative way rather than a purely teacher cantered method.

From the above interventions on the situation of the translation didactics and pedagogy in morocco, we could sense the flaws in which we are in and the urgent need to revise the curriculum, develop and reorganize the syllabus as well as the teaching pedagogy for both the programs and the independent courses of translation taught in undergraduate levels for final year students in the department of modern languages.

Further highlights

In parallel to the previous inputs regarding the importance of embedding the teaching of theoretical components, Ulrych (1996:257) raises the following questions: “what kind of theory is to be presented? and how much ?”.She suggests representing theories of translation that refer to translation as a product (a body of knowledge comprising history, principles ...ect) and then as a process (which deals with the actual ‘translating’ act that translators undergo).She further adds that:

“Members of all professions have a historical and theoretical component to their expertise. It is only against a theoretical background of translation that effective decision making and production can take place………...The problem arises, therefore, of how to integrate a course on translation theory within the curriculum.”

In my opinion, and in an answer to Ulrych’s previous statement on how to integrate theory as content material in a postgraduate translation program in the Moroccan context, and in reference to our experience in teaching theoretical inputs in translation courses at university level in Morocco, we propose:

Either to teach translation theory and principles in the first semester of a Masters course or –preferably- teach the component in parallel with the translation course in third year undergraduate studies in English language departments (i.e including two course elements of translation for finalist undergraduates: the translation practicum and the course about the principles, techniques of translation) .This would yield the following outputs:

1-Equip students of the English department who are willing to embark on a translation program with sufficient basic background about the area of study they wish to represent in the real world: its principles and strategies. Also, it will be the type of knowledge that will serve them for life time as professionals, practitioners, teachers or researchers in the field.

2-Allow the students to have basic metalanguage to address their assignments in the classroom vis-à-vis their teacher (provided that a more interactive dynamic pedagogy is applied) or as a theoretical framework for their final BA project if they choose to undertake it in translation.

At the Masters level, we propose the translation theory/principles component to be taught along the history of translation prior to teaching Translation Studies and its recent developments. The first to address the principles and practices of translation over the ages either in the west or in the east (including Islamic or Arabic experiences, mainly the translation tradition in Morocco).We believe that historical background is of great importance to the future professional translator to enhance his/her status and be conscious of heritage of the discipline he /she has chosen to engage in. Also ,teaching or learning the history of translation by both translator trainees and practicing translators is a crucial step into building professional translation aptitude since ‘ they develop a self concept as translators working in a specific historical situation’ like their fellow colleagues did over the ages . Brian Mossop (2003:49).

Also , other scholars in translation studies had highlighted that trainee translators should not feel that they are entering a “brand new profession” with no historic roots whatsoever; rather , they should be aware of the roles played by its professionals (western or eastern professionals) and it is a profession that has “evolved over time like other forms of human activity” ,and that holding such an attitude on the part of the students “may also contribute to enhancing the social status of the profession” (Chesterman, 1996: p 67).

Added to the previous highlights on bridging the practical and educational parts in translator training as well as the importance of teaching theory and critical thinking and its applicability in the practical translation sessions of the future language mediator expert, Echeverri (2005:9) contends that the teaching of a translation proper metalanguage should be a strategic factor in the syllabus design and curriculum building. He stipulates that ‘familiarizing’ students with the translation metalanguage as well as promoting its use (through classroom discussion, research, assignments and group projects, and commentaries) is one of the “determining factors of the professional character of university education”.

Echeveri’s view point clearly determines the importance of combining the substance(the metalinguistic and metacognitive baggage) with the practice (the actual transferring ,instrumental and generic and relational skills that would facilitate the integration of the trainee translator in the modern market place ).He further elaborates on the pedagogical outcome of that initiative , especially in collaborative work between students within an actual and realistic classroom interaction, whereby they autonomously identify translation problems ,use various instrumental and non instrumental means to solve them and find solutions .In this regards Echeveri,follows the footsteps of kiraly’s(2001) social constructivism trend applied in the actual classroom context of translator training.

At a postgraduate level, the institutionalization and balancing of education and practice of the translation act, as well as improving the infrastructure and providing resources to run the pedagogical operations should yield quality output and achieve sustainable results.

Also, Maria Gonzales (2005) enthusiastically supports the idea of embedding the teaching of translation studies in university translation programmes .She argues the great benefits that an ‘intertwinement’ and ‘parallelism’ between various theoretical developments in translation studies and the translation didactics may bring into a translator training program .She, advocates the use of a variety of theoretical approaches (not only textual /linguistic approaches ) in translation classes during practical assignments.

Contrary to Gonzales , Hatim and Mason (1997) who emphasize the role of text types and functional text grammar as a determining factor on translator education, which is centred –according to them- around text types and that each type of text imposes different ‘demands’ on the translator in terms of choices and strategies .This approach was well explained by Gonzales in her article , but she contended that it is –within the framework of current trends in Translation studies- narrow and needs more scope such as the embedding of other approaches as well ,not only the textual/discursive dimensions .Still, Hatim’s approach may suit better a an advanced university course in translation where Arabic is involved and due to its academic orientation.

So, in terms of scope, and within university teaching contexts, it is advisable to let students understand that translation process or translation product can be approached from a wide perspective depending on functional, historical, textual, ethical, social and cultural criteria of communicative situation in which the translation act or the text itself operates. Out of all these options, students need to critically build the appropriate strategy to apply a choice to adopt in the translation process. Therefore, flexibility is a feature to account for in the training /education process of future to be translators.


In this paper we tried to present and highlight one of the core issues inhibiting the translator training and education programme at the university level for postgraduate students of translation in Morocco. Perhaps the same issue applies in other educational establishments in the region. Various reasons were at stake of the said stagnation, such as the lack of a proper pedagogy that could gear the advanced translation course towards professional purposes without neglecting the importance of the educational components .If the vocational part of the courses takes care of developing appropriate and tailored skills, the educational elements in the curriculum will ensure delivering students equipped with critical thinking and durable competences.

Universities are the best place to get balanced education-training opportunities for tomorrow’s translators in morocco. Still, the institutionalization of Translator training programs is a major step towards achieving major improvements in professionalizing translation. Still, institutionalizing the new emerged discipline is conditioned by the existing or not of various factors; such as viable pedagogical program, pertinent curricula and adequate teaching methodologies and personnel.

Further, it is to be highlighted that Translation research activities aim to work cooperatively with the practitioners .No one benefits from keeping the divide between academia and the practitioners of translation; Because , the latters are the ones who could provide data and feedback for the scholars (mostly translation problems and issues) .Reciprocally , the practitioners will be in need of the translation studies as a main framework of reference for them when the need to resolve problems in the professions (text problems, ethical problems ..ect) , in addition to the fact that having such institutionalized profession may well enhance the social and professional status of the practitioners as well. Similar to any other type of profession.

The above strategy will yield an important outcome that is badly needed in postgraduate studies related to translation: research data and methodologies. Developing and making use of the metalanguage proper to translation research will contribute remarkably to both institutionalizing and professionalizing translation at university level.

Finally, we hope that by using an adequate and planned theoretical component in a translation curriculum as well as promoting translation research will have a considerable impact on the discipline and the profession and raise from its standards in both the market and society alike.

Bibliograpgy :

- Aïcha Aïssani .2000.« L'enseignement de la traduction en Algérie » Meta, vol. 45, n° 3, p. 480-490.
- Álvaro Echeverri , « la importancia de la investigación colaborativa en la pedagogía de la traducción » Meta,Vol.50, n° 4(2005)

- Calzada Pérez, Maria. 2004. Applying Translation Theory in Teaching, in Perspectives: Studies in Translatology, Vol. 12, No. 2, 2004.

- CAMINADE, M.; PYM, A. (2000). «Translator-training institutions». In: BAKER, M. (eds.).Routledge encyclopedia of Translation Studies. London: Routledge, p. 280-285.

- Hatim, B. & I. Mason (1997): The Translator as Communicator, London:

- Messaoudi HAFIDA « La Traduction au Maroc :Une discipline plurielle » E.N.S-Martil/Tetouan-Maroc .Accessed on 25th Mai on-line @ : http://www.colloque.net/archives/2003/volume_1/maroc.pdf.

- Bassnett, Susan. (1980) 2002. Translation Studies. London: Routledge.

- Chesterman, Andrew. 1996. “Teaching translation theory: the significance of memes”. In Teaching Translation and Interpreting 3, Dollerup, Cay and Vibeke Appel (eds.), 63 ff

- Mehrash, Mohamed,(1997)2003.Introducing Translation as Text.Tangiers :Altopress.

- Mossop ,B.2003.“School, practicum and professional development workshop: toward a rational sequence of topics” in La formation à la traduction professionnelle, Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, , 47-61

- Ulrych, Margherita (1996), ‘Real-world Criteria in Translator Pedagogy’ in Cay Dollerup
& Vibeke Appel (eds) Teaching Translation and Interpreting 3. New Horizon (Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Benjamins).

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