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The Department of Translation at CUHK was the first of its kind in Asia. Over the years, it has been a training ground for talented graduates serving all sectors of society. Our coherent and comprehensive undergraduate programme equips students with the broad skills and perspectives essential for competent and reliable translators/interpreters.

The curriculum covers a wide range of study areas, including literary translation, legal translation, business translation, subtitling, interpreting, translation studies and computer-aided translation. With its balanced emphasis on both theory and practice, the programme prepares students for further studies and makes them ideal candidates for careers in translation and interpreting, law, business, publishing, journalism, government or education.

Gained in Translation

Much to her surprise, Annie Mak discovered that the Translation programme she signed up for was far more than about converting one language into another. “The name ‘translation’ itself seems to suggest the mere learning of linguistic skills concerning Chinese and English. Interested in these languages as I was, I also wanted to acquire the knowledge of other disciplines. After enrolling in this programme, I find that it not only nurtures students’ language skills, but also provides captivating cultural insight and a wide range of knowledge covering many fields. That translation can help enrich one’s knowledge somewhat surprises me.”

This is in agreement with the thinking behind the programme, as Prof. James St. André, Chairman of the Department of Translation, said, ‘We offer training that makes students become an all-rounder in addition to someone proficient in languages. We aim to help students develop practical skills, critical thinking, a commitment to cultural heritage and an international outlook. These are the capabilities essential for our graduates, trained to be bilingual and multi-cultural talents.’

The programme strives for a balanced coverage of theoretical and practical components. Theory courses present the academic aspect of translation, providing students with intellectual training for approaching translation as an academic discipline, thus nurturing their interest in pursuance of further studies in the field. Practical courses are offered on an exceptionally wide range of specialized areas, such as literature, arts, business, laws, social science, science and subtitling, and provide strong training in simultaneous interpreting, consecutive interpreting and court interpreting.

The practical side is what appeals to Annie the most. ‘This programme has offered students new perspectives into other disciplines, not confined to the teaching and learning of translation skills. Science and technology translation, for example, gives us an opportunity to learn scientific knowledge. Translation incorporates so many different fields of study that we can benefit much from the background research.’

Established in 1972, the Department of Translation at CUHK was the first of its kind in Asia. It features a teaching faculty with members from diverse cultural and academic backgrounds, with strong research and professional expertise. It is equipped with specially designed language laboratories for the teaching and learning of interpreting, and a computer room with up-to-date software and facilities for computer-aided translation.

Another thing that wins Annie’s heart was the amiability of the Department’s faculty and students. ‘Like many of my peers, I imagined and worried about university professors being unapproachable and demanding. Yet the professors I have met are all very friendly. They would memorize the names of all students in class. Even for students who seldom talk to them, they could still remember their names. I am really appreciative of our professors’ efforts and willingness to know each of us.’

As to her fellow students, Annie described them as ‘passionate, curious and easy-going’. ‘They are incredibly enthusiastic about acquiring translation skills. Some told me that they were about to take up literary translation and legal translation. It feels cool to them to be able to specialize in a certain area of translation. Their intellectual curiosity and passion for translation studies are very impressive. My fellow students are also friendly and gentle, always willing to give me a helping hand.’

Experiential learning forms an important part of the Translation programme. The Department has an interpreting services referral system. Students are referred to serve at University meetings or academic conferences as interpreters, and paid at a standardized and reasonable rate. Other short-term job opportunities are posted on the ‘Job Board’ on the Department’s website.

Students are free to pursue minor courses according to their interests, and foreign language is among the most popular choices. ‘I found that translation knowledge acquired from this programme is particularly useful for picking up a new language!’ remarked Annie.

Like her, students of Translation typically came with good academic results, high proficiency in English and Chinese, and keen interest in languages and cultures. Admission scholarships are offered to students with outstanding DSE results, while Academic Performance Awards are awarded to those with the highest year GPA in their respective cohorts.

If you are not sure about what you can do with a Translation degree, Professor St. André has this advice to offer: ‘Some of our graduates work as translators, while most work in different sectors and fields like the government, education, finance, publishing, marketing, management, public relations, etc. Graduates may also pursue further studies in MA, MPhil or PhD programmes at local or overseas universities, in Translation or other disciplines.’

Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2020