Volume 13, Issue 4 (2022)                   LRR 2022, 13(4): 349-386 | Back to browse issues page

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Beikian A, Ganji M. Coverage Level of Language and Culture Competence in the Curricula of B.A. and M.A. English Translation Programs Offered by Iranian State Universities. LRR 2022; 13 (4) :349-386
URL: http://lrr.modares.ac.ir/article-14-46754-en.html
1- Assistant Professor in Translation Studies, Chabahar Maritime University, Chabahar, Iran
2- Assistant Professor in TEFL, , Chabahar Maritime University, Chabahar, Iran; , ganji@cmu.ac.ir
Abstract:   (642 Views)
It is evident that the most important competence emphasized by any translation competence model (TCM) is mastery of source and target languages and cultures. On the other hand, languages and cultures are always closely tied, a fact highlighted more than ever by Agar’s (1994) proposed concept of ‘languaculture’. The present two-phase qualitative study was conducted with the purpose of investigating how the curricula of B.A. and M.A. English translation programs offered by Iranian state universities cover language and culture competence as compared to overseas peer programs and how they can be improved in terms of the said competence. To this end, content analysis of the relevant curricula as well as semi-structured interviews with Iranian experts were used to gather the required data. The principal finding of the present research is that it emphasizes the necessity of revising the current curricula in line with the maximum coverage of topics contained in a proposed list of Persian language and culture topics, English language and culture topics, and joint language and culture topics. The said list of language and culture topics, being another valuable finding of the study, may also be used for designing new autonomous translator, interpreter, and audiovisual translator training programs, or at least concentrations with specialized tracks and strands. Further, the detailed findings of the study, gained through an atomistic approach to language and culture competence, may be availed of by researchers who intend to conduct further studies on each and every element of this competence.

1. Introduction
A close look at various translation competence models (TCMs) shows that they all cover languaculture (LC) competence one way or another. As regards the language side of the coin, knowledge of two languages has been pinpointed using different terms, including ‘linguistic competence’ by Bausch (as cited in Rothe-Neves, 2007), ‘source and target language competences at discourse and style levels’ (Honig, 1991), ‘source and target texts processing’ (Hatim & Mason, 1997; Stolze, 1997), ‘source and target language knowledge’ (Bell, 1991; Kastberg, 2007; Kiraly, 2000; Russo, 2000; Schäffner, 2000; Sim, 2000), ‘grammatical competence’ (Beeby, 1996), ‘language competence’ (EMT Expert Group, 2009; Neubert, 2000), ‘language awareness’ (Fox, 2000), ‘proficiency, being related to certain special bilingual skills’ (Campbell, 1991), ‘communicative and textual sub-competence’ by Kelly (as cited in Brala-Vukanovic, 2016, p. 226), ‘bilingual sub-competence’ (PACTE, 2005, p. 611), ‘communicative competence in at least two languages’ (Göpferich, 2009), ‘comprehension and production strategies’ (Forte, 2012), ‘listening and analysis of source speech and production of target speech’ (Gile, 2009), ‘absolute command of the source and target languages’ (Gouadec, 2007, p. 150), ‘language skills’ (Pöchhacker, 2000), ‘pre-process competence, including language proficiency and terminology management’ (Albl-Mikasa, 2013), ‘perception, decoding, recoding, encoding, and expressing skills’ (Ma, 2013), and more recently ‘language and culture competence’ (Beikian, 2020; EMT, 2017).
Along the same vein, culture sub-competence, albeit variously termed again, goes hand in hand with language sub-competence in most of the models having been examined in the course of the present study. Some terms used by scholars to mention culture sub-competence in their proposed TCMs include ‘communicative competence in source and target language cultures’ (Bell, 1991), ‘cultural knowledge’ by Stolze (1992), ‘cultural knowledge of the source and target language’ (Kiraly, 1995), ‘sociolinguistic and discourse competence’ (Beeby, 1996), ‘cultural competence’ (Kastberg, 2007; Neubert, 2000; Pöchhacker (2000), ‘cultural competence, including knowledge about cultural, historical, political, economic, etc. aspects in the respective countries’ (Schäffner, 2000), ‘sociocultural competence’ (Fox, 2000), ‘source and target culture controls’ (Sim, 2000), ‘cultural sub-competence’ by Kelly (as cited in Brala-Vukanovic, 2016, p. 226), ‘extra-linguistic sub-competence, made up of encyclopedic, thematic and bicultural knowledge’ (PACTE, 2005, p. 611), ‘intercultural competence, consisting of sociolinguistic and textual dimensions’ (EMT Expert Group, 2009, pp. 4-7), ‘multi-cultural competence’ (Gouadec, 2007), and finally ‘language and culture competence’ (Beikian, 2020; EMT, 2017).

2. Purpose
One of the most apparent applications of some of the given TCMs is as valid frameworks, the aim of which is to shape curriculum proposals in higher education (Campbell, 1998; Schäffner, 2000; Kelly, 2002; Pym, 2003; Colina, 2003; Kearns, 2006; Morón, 2009, Beikian, 2020). The present two-phase qualitative study was conducted with the purpose of investigating how the curricula of B.A. and M.A English translation programs offered by Iranian state universities cover LC competence as compared to overseas peer programs and how the said national programs can be improved in terms of covering this pivotal competence.

3. Research Method
The first phase of the study aimed at finding how LC competence is covered by Iranian state universities offering B.A. and M.A. translation programs in English and their overseas peer programs. Since Iranian state universities are not ranked officially, all 23 B.A. translator training programs and 8 M.A. translation studies programs offered in English by Iranian state universities were included in the study. As regards overseas peer programs, based on U21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems in 2020, translation programs offered in 49 countries enjoying top systems of higher education were included in the study, which resulted in examining 20 B.A. programs and 73 M.A. programs. In order to access the curriculum of each program, first we consulted the program website; and if the required data were not found, we used personal communication with the program contact person. Then the contents of the national and overseas curricula were analyzed and all language and culture courses were extracted. Afterward, the said courses were categorized based on the themes which the researchers had extracted from the relevant literature. In addition, the courses extracted from the national and overseas curricula were further compared and contrasted for the purpose of finding the similarities and differences among them.
In the second phase, we interviewed 55 Iranian experts who had been defined to be either university teachers having taught translation and/or interpreting courses at Iranian state universities for at least 3 years or translation studies Ph.D. candidates being graduates of both B.A. and M.A. translation programs offered in English by Iranian state universities. Then semi-structured interviews were transcribed and analyzed using the ‘structuring’ form of qualitative content analysis method. To this end, first of all, tentative categories were defined and explained in the coding agenda; and for the purpose of differentiating the categories, coding rules were defined. Subsequently, the transcript of each interview was read and every statement seeming relevant at a first glance was underlined. After reconsidering the developed categories, the content of each transcript was structured using a color scheme. Then statements, opinions, and quotes were taken out by order of their color and summarized into the category system, although some were quoted directly. In the end, the categories and subcategories were analyzed by tallying their frequencies, which were then represented using tables.

4. Findings and Discussion
As regards language sub-competence, while Iranian programs mostly focus on receptive and productive skills as well as such components as grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation, foreign peer programs offer quite variegated courses such as etymology, text analysis, appreciating written texts, language consolidation for translation and interpreting purposes, business communication, communication skills, language and communication studies, health communication, characteristics of specialized texts, text analysis for translation, creative writing, intensive writing, advanced native language, native language skills for translation, multilingual debate, conversation analysis, analysis of persuasive texts, language fluency for interpreters, native language for conference interpreters, native language fluency enhancement, editing in native language writing, native language in audio-visual translation, documentation and terminology for translation, lexicology, applied terminology, and foreign language semantic factoring.
When it comes to culture sub-competence, there are only a total number of 6 culture courses contained in the curricula of Iranian B.A and M.A. programs. What adds fuel to this flame of failure to cover culture adequately is that some of the courses (e.g., ‘cultural elements in two languages’ and ‘culture and sociology in translation) are electives, allowing Iranian universities either not to offer them at all or, in the best scenario, suffice to offering only one (Rezvani &Vakilinejad, 2012). This is while foreign peer programs offer a multitude of various courses intended to form students’ cultural competence, such as communication across cultures, subjects in culture and communication, variation and change, discourse analysis, discourse and power, language and power, language and culture, culture and conflict, intercultural studies, intercultural communication, cross-cultural perspectives on society, representation of cultures, intercultural perspectives on sustainable development, institutional discourse, changing topics from the intercultural communication area, culture and business, advanced intercultural communication/negotiations, advanced political and legal communication, and advanced health communication.
According to the Iranian experts, national B.A. programs are afflicted with such problems as applicants’ not having good commands of English language proficiency (agreeing with Behafarin, 2015; Hadipour, 2017; Riazi & Razmjou, 2004; Yousefi, 2014; Ziahosseiny, 2003) and Persian language proficiency (consistent with Behafarin, 2015; Miremadi, 2003; Riazi & Razmjou, 2004) and their ill-informedness about the nature and requirements of the program. The said experts argued that Iranian M.A. programs suffer from such deficiencies as admission of applicants who are mostly ill-informed about the nature and requirements of the program (consistent with Birjandi & Nosratinia, 2009), unsatisfactory admission system, applicants’ not having good commands of Persian and English proficiency (compatible with Miremadi, 2003), and inadequate prerequisite courses for the students not having done their B.A. in translation. Added to these are out-of-date curricula and departments’ lack of adequate autonomy to determine admission criteria.
When asked about how the B.A. situation could be improved, the interviewees suggested that admission criteria be made stricter (confirming Hadipour, 2017; Khazaee Farid & Khoshsaligheh, 2010) by adding independent English and Persian proficiency tests to the current entrance exam and including English and Persian writing competence tests in the same; departments be given autonomy on admitting applicants using admission interviews; applicants be required to provide an acceptable TOEFL or IELTS score; an English proficiency placement test be given to newly admitted students (compatible with Ziahosseiny, 2003); courses on Persian language reading, writing, and editing (consistent with Khoshsaligheh, 2014; Miremadi, 2003; Riazi & Razmjou, 2004; Sohrabi, Rahimi & Arjmandi, 2015) as well as courses on English and Persian cultures (in agreement with Behafarin, 2015; Khoshsaligheh, 2010; Salari & Khazaee Farid, 2015) be added to the curricula; the present curricula be revised by modeling successful leading programs worldwide (agreeing with Heydarian, 2003; Khazaee Farid, 2001; Miremadi, 2003); and textbooks be localized.
As a way out of the current M.A. situation, the Iranian experts proposed that the current entrance exam be made stricter by adding an admission interview and a practical translation aptitude test in the form of essay questions; stricter language proficiency criteria be established by requiring applicants to provide an acceptable TOEFL or IELTS score; applicants not having done their B.A. in translation either not be admitted or be required to provide an English proficiency certificate; courses directed at training political and journalistic text translators and localization experts be included in the curriculum; courses be directed at training specialized translators and interpreters; courses such as Localization, Foundations of History, Editing and Proofreading, CDA and Translation, and Foundations of Culture and Sociology be included in the curriculum; the course Sociocultural Studies in Translation be offered as a compulsory course; and the present curricula be revised by modeling successful leading programs worldwide (confirming Heydarian, 2003; Khazaee Farid, 2001; Miremadi, 2003).

5. Innovation and Contribution
Upon integrating the findings of the two phases of the study, we prepared a list of course topics jointly recommended by the interviewees and extracted from the curricula of peer overseas programs. The principal contribution of the present research is that it emphasizes the necessity of revising the current curricula in line with maximum coverage of topics proposed as a list of Persian LC topics, English LC topics, and Joint LC topics. The novelty of the study lies in the fact that this list is based both on Iranian experts’ views and the insights gained from the curricula of a total of 93 foreign peer programs offered by leading universities worldwide. The said list can prove very useful for both revising the current curricula and devising new ones. It is axiomatic that the proposed LC course topics are too many to be assigned individual courses. This is why they have been labeled ‘course topics’, which implies that when revising the exiting curricula or devising new ones, curriculum designers need to merge several related course topics in one single course. In addition, these course topics have been proposed with an eye to designing autonomous translation, interpreting, and audiovisual translation programs, concentrations, and specialized tracks.

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Article Type: مقالات علمی پژوهشی | Subject: assessment
Published: 2022/10/2

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