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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures

MELA47230: Translation Theory, Research and Practice

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2021/22
Tied to R9K107 Translation Studies


  • Knowledge of a language other than English


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The module examines various theories of translation and issues in translation, considering questions of text type, target audience of both the original and translation (which may differ in significant respects), translation strategies, general versus language-specific considerations. All theoretical points will be considered against practical translation cases. The broad theoretical perspective on translation provided by this course complements the specific orientation of the translation modules and prepares students for their specialised translation courses. On completion of this module, students should have a sound understanding and insight into key aspects of modern theories in translation. The module is also intended to improve students’ understanding of the processes involved in translation and of the main assessment criteria of ‘good’ translation practice. The module also will provide students with an introduction to the essential research skills required, in the first instance, for the successful completion of an MA programme Translation Studies and, in the second instance, for future research at doctoral and postdoctoral level. In a hands-on tutorial, students will be introduced to CAT tools that are essential in order to be a professional translator.


  • Within a loosely chronological approach, the module addresses the process of translation through a discussion of translation theories from the second half of the twentieth to the present with a focus on: translation shifts, the various types of equivalence (dynamic, functional, formal, etc.), functional and discourse theories, hermeneutics, and cultural and social aspects within the translation process. Students will be introduced to the role technology plays in the present-day translation practice. In terms of research into translation, the main academic research skills will be presented (primarily, planning and conducting a research project, identifying literature relevant to a translation project, standards of referencing, translation commentary).

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of this module, students will acquire knowledge of:
  • the underlying ideas of contemporary translation theory and of the various factors at play in the science of translation
  • key translation concepts such as: equivalence, translation shift, discourse and register, cross-cultural parameters and social aspects of translation
  • the various approaches to translation within various theories of translation as linguistic, semiotic, (inter)cultural, social/intersocietal activity
  • the relationship between the source and target texts and the role of the translator in the translation process
  • the importance of cultural elements within the translation process
  • the social nature of translation
  • knowledge of research methodologies relevant for those working in modern languages, literary and cultural studies and translation studies
  • the basic skills of working with translation technologies
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of this module, students will acquire the ability
  • to analyse critically the approaches to translation posited in translation theories, both past and present
  • to increase their understanding of the translation process and strategies
  • to examine critically and analyse the underlying translation processes within a theoretical framework
  • to isolate and identify the various factors involved in the translation process
  • to examine target texts against a theoretical background and to isolate the various elements that come into play in the production of the text
  • to discuss the role and function of the translator as a social actor, rather than as a mere intermediary, and the translation agency in the translation process and the end product, i.e. the target text
  • to appreciate the various types of relationship between the source and target texts
  • to carry out research in modern languages, literary and cultural studies and translation studies, observing norms and standards of bibliographic research and academic writing skills
  • to use translation technologies at least at the basic level.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of this module, students will be able to
  • identify and use effectively various types of resource relevant to their theoretical and practical translation projects
  • apply effectively translation theories to the act of translation and its evaluation
  • increase synthetic and analytical skills in respect of the translation activity
  • analyse effectively the translation activity as manifested in the transfer from ST to TT
  • apply a broad range of research skills including academic writing skills, the compiling of research bibliographies, writing self-reflexive translation commentary and understanding the position of translation technologies in professional and research activity
  • use translation technologies at least at the basic level.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Students will be taught by a series of lectures and seminars.
  • In the lectures various translation theories are discussed and illustrated by means of examples taken from a wide variety of sources. The mode of instruction is interactive, and relies on the critical analysis of the key features of translation theories and testing them against the actual translation activity
  • In the course of the seminars, students will be able to deepen their knowledge of the theories discussed in the course of the lectures and/or to familiarise themselves with additional theories and approaches. The format offers scope for formative assessment through classroom feedback on students’ presentations
  • Students will be given specific advice on identifying and working with literature, guidance concerning information retrieval and academic referencing
  • There will be a series of hands-on sessions introducing the students to Computer-Aided Translation tools (CAT tools) and other translation technologies assessed formatively
  • The module is assessed by means of two essays, of 2,500 words each, on a topic related to translation theory and/or studies

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 weekly 2 hours 20
Seminars 6 3 per term 2 hours 12
Computer Assisted Translation Tools Tutorial 8 weekly 1 hour 8
Student preparation & reading time 260
Total SLAT hours 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay 1 Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 2,500 words 100% Yes
Component: Essay 2 Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2 2,500 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Students’ presentations in seminars and CAT tools hands-on sessions will be assessed by the instructor giving feedback.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University