REVIEW: Didactics of Translation and Interpreting in Slovakia (2018)

Reviewed by Natália Rondziková

The translation and interpreting market has been undergoing more rapid changes these days than ever before. A translation-studies-oriented didactics of translation and interpreting, still a novelty of sorts, has barely had time to address the basics. Yet it has had to respond to the growing market demands on the translating profession which it needs to incorporate into its theoretical frameworks so that the discipline could justify its necessity and that the graduates of Slovak translation study programs would be able to hold their own against their competitors.                    The collective monograph Didactics of Translation and Interpreting in Slovakia aims to reflect on the changing professional circumstances with highlighting the state of the art of Slovak translation and interpreting didactics theory and practice. The book covers all the basic translation and interpreting types, namely literary translation (A. Keníž), translation of children’s and young adult literature (M. Gavurová), specialized translation (Z. Angelovičová), interpreting (M. Djovčoš and P. Šveda), sworn interpreting and translation (M. Štefková), and audiovisual translation (L. Paulínyová and E. Perez).

The initial chapter was penned by E. Gromová and D. Müglová. It introduces the readers to the main areas of Slovak translation and interpreting didactics both present and past and both from a theoretical and practical standpoint. In the first part of the chapter, the authors discuss ten binary oppositions reflected on a past-present axis which enable them to construe a thorough survey of the changing market and the translator’s status on it. In the second part they map out the development of translators’ university study programs. The third part is an overview of the most significant publications dealing with translation and interpreting didactics along with their authors. In the last two parts of the chapter, the authors delve into the structures of the current Slovak study programs in the translation and interpreting study field, and they reflect on future teaching paths which would also account for market needs.

The second chapter was written by A. Keníž. The author uses an essay-like style and anecdotal explanatory manner to address approaches to teaching literary translation in Slovakia by relying on his rich experience as a translation theorist, a translation teacher, and, above all, a practicing literary translator.

The next chapter was written by M. Gavurová and deals with the translation of children’s and young adult literature. This kind of translation is not covered systematically at Slovak universities. Rather, it is part of general translation seminars or literary translation seminars. Gavurová focuses more on the translation specifics of children’s and young adult literature, not so much on the didactics aspects of this subtype of literary translation. The chapter comprehensibly covers relevant publications on children’s and young adult literature, and it lists the specifics of this kind of translation. This overview could serve as a starting point for future research in translation of children’s and young adult literature didactics.

The forth chapter was penned by Z. Angelovičová, and it is about the didactics of specialized (i.e. non-literary and/or technical) translation. The author proposes a teaching model which she calls “an integrated teaching method of specialized translation”. According to this model, specialized translation should be taught along with so-called secondary competences (technical, thematic, etc.). Angelovičová also lists a systematically organized set of learning prerequisites the students should meet before they proceed to specialized translation itself. What deserves merit in this chapter is the fact that it reflects market realities and connects them with sociological surveys of the given areas as well as with the author’s own experience as a freelance professional. The author expands the known translator’s competences with new ones that are derived from real situation on the specialized translation market. The author recommends implementing these new competences into specialized translation teaching models so that they could ensure the most relevant connections to market practices.

Chapter five is the result of the collaboration between M. Djovčoš and P. Šveda, and it introduces us to the state of Slovak interpreting didactics. The authors focus mainly on how simultaneous and consecutive interpreting are featured in the current study plans of the five Slovak universities where the field of translation and interpreting is taught. They cover what they view as an ideal proportion of interpreting seminars in study plans and also delve into particular content recommendations. They propose four models of acquiring interpreting skills which could help students betters specialize for the interpreting profession. The authors support their assumptions about the future development of Slovak interpreting didactics with the most current sociological research of the Slovak interpreting practice.

In chapter six M. Štefková writes about sworn translation and interpreting in Slovakia. In the first half of the chapter the author describes the specifics of a sworn interpreter and translator work in great detail and looks at the requirement that must be met in order for a translator to be recognized as a sworn translator. Given the absence of a common sworn translation specialization framework, in the second part Štefková analyzes various specialization pathways: “As of today there is no Slovak institution to provide comprehensive training to help candidates prepare for the state examination and help them become competent professionals” (p. 171). This is why she presents two training and certification models for sworn translators and interpreters working with less widely used languages. However, the author focuses more on the professionalization provided outside the university, i.e. through professional courses, seminars, etc.

The seventh chapter was written by L. Paulínyová and E. Perez. It deals with probably the youngest of all translation types taught – audiovisual translation. First of all the authors describe the present state of audiovisual translation teaching in Slovakia, and then they cover the necessary competences of the audiovisual translator. Having examined the existing competence models and aided by their own practical experience, the authors recommend audiovisual translation be introduced as a separate, specialized subject, ideally for MA study programs. In the second part of their chapter Paulínyová and Perez describe teaching models for the particular audiovisual translation genres: dubbing translation, voice-over, dubbing editing, subtitling, SDH, and audio description.

In the last part of the collective monograph, the editors M. Djovčoš and P. Šveda offer their summed-up view of the present state as well as future prospects of the translation and interpreting study field in Slovakia. At the very beginning they remind the reader that time restrictions prevented them from including chapters on the teaching of two very important mainstays of translation and interpreting study programs – translation history and translation criticism – to the monograph. Another important topic they bring up is the future pathways of translation and interpreting didactics. They propose four models for its streamlining: 1. specialization of translation and interpreting teaching universities; 2. reducing the number of obligatory subjects in favor of more core translation- and interpreting-related subjects in the study programs; 3. further cooperation between the universities and an establishment of an interstate student exchange network; 4. student’s performance monitoring, greater motivation for talented students from the beginning of their studies, and support based on extraordinary prowess.

A need for universities to respond to the rapidly changing translation and interpreting market is a rallying cry that gets repeated throughout the book. The editors are quick to pick it up at the end and warn against merely preserving the current status quo, since this might “ultimately lead if not to the demise of the study field, then to its absolute marginalization” (p. 211). I do sincerely hope that this unique book will help Slovak translation scholars talk about and engage more in the much-needed didactics work. Even though the dire prospects might seem as a mere afterthought, preventing their shear possibility is the only way forward.