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Review of  Translation and Interpreting Schools

Reviewer: Rethore Christophe
Book Title: Translation and Interpreting Schools
Book Author: Brian Harris
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Translation
Issue Number: 10.274

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Harris, Brian. (1997) Translation and Interpreting Schools, Language
International World Directory, vol. 2, John Benjamins Publishing
Company: Amsterdam/Philadelphia, 238 p.

Reviewed by Christophe Rethore, James Madison University,


This book contains basic information about 235 translation and
interpreting (TI) programs found in 60 countries. Interestingly
enough only seven countries (Canada, the UK, France, Spain, the USA,
Belgium and Germany) account for half of the total number of
programs listed, but the directory also mentions TI programs in
Sudan, New Zealand, Latvia, Nicaragua, etc. The information,
apparently compiled with data base software, appears in a
standardized fashion, and each program gets a full page: name,
address, email, phone and fax numbers of the host institution, date
of establishment, contact, staff, students and tuition fees,
degrees/diplomas granted, language combinations, specializations
and publications.

Critical evaluation

There is a real need for a world directory of TI programs. Before
the publication of Harris's directory (1997) someone looking for a
complete list and description of training programs in translation
and interpreting throughout the world had no choice but to search
the web or contact other sources of information at the national
level (e.g. associations of professional translators and
interpreters). Some information can be found on the web, but it is
presented in a rather disorganized fashion (see for instance As for professional
associations, the information they give is sometimes restricted to
the members or it is not free (for example, see the survey of US
translation programs conducted by the American Translators
Association). Therefore, the idea which has led to the realization
of the directory was very timely.

As in any dictionary or directory, the macrostructure of the book is
self-evident: preface, abbreviations, directory A-Z, plus an
1998/1999 entry form to facilitate the publication of a second
edition. Regarding the microstructure (i.e., the internal structure
of each "fact sheet" of the programs herein described), it is
presented in a rather clear format. For the reader's convenience,
this review has been divided into two parts: macrostructure and

1) Macrostructure of the TI programs directory

The preface surprisingly starts off with a series of generalizations
which could have been very instructive, had they been supported by
quantitative data. Unfortunately, without such data, they become
unfounded cliches which look like they have been directly taken from
a Marketing 101 textbook:

There is no doubt that the training of translators
and interpreters in universities has been one of
the biggest growth areas in academic circles in the
last decade. The reason can be expressed in one
word. Globalisation.

We live in a world (or global village, as the
cliche has it) where everyone trades with
everyone else;

Those who train translators and interpreters need
to be outward-looking and future-oriented. Their
students, after all, will be pursuing their careers
into the 21st century. (p. vii)

However, the author also reminds the would-be, wannabe or soon-to-be
language professional who will read his book that translation
involves more and more multi-disciplinary training, and he
encourages course organizers "to be in touch with one another, to
exchange experiences, and be aware of developments." This
encouragement is very timely and much-needed.

I acknowledge the warning given by the author stating that (1) the
compiled was "provided by the educational institutions," (2) "it
refers to the academic year 1996/1997" and (3) information like
"tuition fees are approximations and may be subject to change."
Therefore, "the publisher and compiler can take no responsibility
for the accuracy of the information provided" (p. viii). However,
there are inaccuracies in the directory which indicate that other
sources of information may have been used. I wish these sources had
been mentioned, were they primary or secondary sources. I also
believe that some of the data is seriously out of date, and predates
the supposed collection date of 1995. For example, I personally
checked on some of the information about programs in Quebec, and
found several errors and out of date material.

I think it would have been nice to have some form of disclaimer
explicitly mentioning that this directory is not exhaustive and does
not intend to reflect the relative importance of TI training
throughout the world. Thus, the reader should not be misguided by
certain figures. The directory shows that only seven countries
(Canada, the UK, France, Spain, the USA, Belgium and Germany)
account for half of the 235 programs listed, but other programs may
exist in the 60 countries researched or elsewhere. In addition, such
information is not always available in all countries. In other words
it is already impressive that the compiler was able to locate and
describe programs in China, Sudan, Estonia, Latvia, etc.

The list of abbreviations was obviously needed, and it is very
useful after the preface. However it leaves the reader with the taste of a
work hastily done. The directory is also marred by a number of
typograpical errors, particularly in French.

The list of program entries is sorted by country of origin and by
alphabetical order. I enjoyed this sorting and found it very easy to
browse through. I will comment in greater detail on the format of
the entries in the part of the review devoted to the microstructure.
At the very end of the book, an update form has been added. This is
a practical idea that will expedite the release of the second
edition of the directory.

When the compiler is generating the next edition of this book, I'd
suggest the following changes:
- rework the list of abbreviations;
- upgrade the preface;
- provide the reader with a table of all programs regrouped
by country of origin;
- include a synoptic table of all programs and their features
(especially the programs they offer). The format could be
based on any list of programs found in a university
course catalog;
- give a list of professional associations, useful
addresses and other relevant sources of

2) Microstructure

The template of every entry is adequate and contributes to a
convenient reading of the information. The layout is basic, using
only bold and regular fonts, but it is simple and clear, especially
with the use of graphic symbols for the phone and fax numbers, as
well as the email/Internet address. Information on founding date,
department heads etc. is also found. I personally would have found
it more convenient if there had been some distinction made between
program coordinators and department heads.

Next come tuition fees, and the number of staff and students, which
are important data. The entry then concludes with a list of the
degrees and diplomas granted, language combinations, specializations
and other specialties, and the publications of the program or its
host department.

The interesting thing about the information regarding degrees and
diplomas granted is that the prerequisites are also mentioned. This
is very practical. However, and the educational institutions who
provided the compiler with the information may be guilty of this, it
is virtually impossible to compare the different degrees offered by
different programs in different countries of origin. There is no
systematic, specific indication as to how many credits are needed to
get a Certificate, a Bachelor of Arts (BA), a Master in Fine Arts
(MFA), etc. Nor can I compare the level and value of the various
programs. For the neophyte, how does a US Certificate rank compared
with a Moroccan "Diplome de traducteur,"
a Higher Diploma in Translation and Interpretation
(Hong Kong) or a Canadian Diploma of Translation? And is a
Portuguese Licenciatura or a Spanish Licenciat en Traduccio
equivalent to a French licence? Again, the complier cannot assume
the responsibility for this lack of information given by the
educational institutions, but I'd encourage him to double check the
update form which will be in the next edition of the directory. I
think that the reader would benefit greatly from a table or a
synthesis on the various equivalences (or lack thereof) between TI
diplomas and degrees throughout the world. Could this be added to
the preface?

A general comment comes to mind after going through every entry of
the directory and double checking several entries. It seems like
this database should be taken only as a first draft, and this has
already much value, given the fact that there was hardly any
comparable work before the directory was published. For instance,
the Canadian and American entries contain a number of inaccuracies
or/and omissions. These have been spotted when I called our contacts
in Canadian programs and visited the American institutions' web
sites. It would be tedious to mention every single
inaccuracy here, but I'd suggest checking any crucial information
against a web site.


To sum up, despite the various errors scattered in the directory, I
would like to remind the reader that this 1996/1997 directory is
only a first edition, and that it should be taken as such, for what
it is worth. I also believe that this directory remains a useful
source of information for anyone interested in finding out more
about TI programs throughout the world. But since the book retails
for approximately US$95 in some major cyber-bookstores, I recognize
that the investment has to be seriously assessed. It might be wise
to wait for a second edition. Finally, there will certainly be
another positive consequence of Harris's directory: this initiative
will probably spark other projects in the same vein, be they at
national or international levels, and increase the circulation of
valuable, much-needed information in the field of translation and
interpreting studies.

Short biography of the reviewer

The reviewer, Christophe Rethore, is Director of
Translation Studies at James Madison University, Virginia.
He is also an associate at Tradexpor, a
Montreal, Canada-based translation bureau. He holds a
Bachelor of Commerce (B.Comm.) from ESSCA (Ecole
superieure des sciences commerciales d'Angers, France) and
a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from Auburn
University, USA, and he is currently finishing a PhD
dissertation on the translation of print advertisements. He
has been specializing in translation for ten years and
coauthored the Bilingual Dictionary of Retailing (in print).

Christophe Rethore (
Director of Translation Studies
Department of Foreign Languages - James Madison University
540-568-3512; fax 540-568-6904