Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)


Department: Modern Languages and Cultures


Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap
Tied to R9K107


  • None.


  • MELA40430 Translation Theory.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • No more than two Specialised Translation modules can be taken.


  • The module aims to provide students with a solid grounding and training in translating from German into English and from English into German.
  • To allow students to translate in both directions so as to gain experience and confidence to translate independently between German and English through practice.
  • To help students to acquire the relevant skills in relation to the linguistic characteristics and varieties of German.


  • The module provides intensive practice in both directions of translation. Students receive a dossier of texts for translation, with the classes being designed to provide translation practice over a range of text-types and genres. The texts will be drawn from some of the following subject areas: technology, business, literature, science, social science and law. Through abundant examples, the module focuses on crucial aspects of translation and contrastive stylistics between German and English such as:
  • morphological, lexical and semantic repetition;
  • cultural transposition and borrowing;
  • denotative and connotative meaning, including collocations, synonymy, homonymy, hyperonymy, meronymy and parallelism;
  • phonic and prosodic issues in translation, including alliteration and onomatopoeia;
  • coherence and cohesion, including devices such as reference, substitution and ellipsis;
  • fronting and emphasis;
  • figurative language, rhetorical devices, intertextuality, and cultural references;
  • language variation, including register, dialect, idiolect, sociolect and jargon;
  • basic concepts of text/discourse analysis; basic characteristics of textuality; the thematic, functional and argumentative structures of texts; characteristics of texts types and genres; analysis of translation situations, assignments and functions;
  • development of a personal translation technique.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will acquire an in-depth knowledge of the processes involved in German<>English translation.
  • Students will acquire a knowledge of:
  • the lexicological and terminological issues attendant upon translation into and from German language;
  • key translation procedures and devices within the framework of comparative stylistics between German and English;
  • standard reference tools, including electronic source materials, and their use in German<>English translation;
  • the use of computer-assisted translation tools in German<>English translation.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will acquire a capacity to understand texts in the source language and render them correctly in the target language, using the register and other language conventions that correspond to their intended purpose;
  • Students will acquire a thorough grounding in the skills required for translating between English and German;
  • Students will acquire the ability:
  • to deal with the transference of connotative and denotative meaning in German<>English translation;
  • to deal with collocative aspects of German<>English translation;
  • to address sentential issues in translation, including fronting and backgrounding, theme/rheme, topic/comment;
  • to deal with intertextual elements in German<>English translation;
  • to deal with language variety in German<>English translation, including aspects related to register, sociolect, dialect, and regional varieties;
  • to deal with intercultural elements in German<>English translation;
  • to deal with phonic, graphic and prosodic issues in German<>English translation, including alliteration, rhyme and onomatopeia;
  • to use research tools and become familiar with research skills;
  • to locate, access and exploit relevant lexicological and terminological sources;
  • to translate German content-specific structures into the appropriate target-language register and style;
  • to master computer-assisted translation and terminology tools.
Key Skills:
  • the development of organisational and time management skills;
  • the use of IT resources and facilities;
  • the ability to work in a team;
  • the ability to evaluate personal achievements;
  • the ability to work independently;
  • the ability to produce clearly structured and presented written work.

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

  • The module is assessed by a portfolio of translations, two 1,000 word texts in Terms 1 and 2 respectively and 1,000 word translation commentary, providing a sample of the variety of text-types with which the students have engaged during the module and a final timed translation of a 'general' text, following the conventions of professional standards for translators' accreditation. The timed translation assessment will be accredited as one component of the Diploma in Translation (DipTrans) of the Chartered Institute of Linguists.
  • The translation portfolio is designed to allow students to focus on a variety of texts that belong to different subject areas of translation as happens in freelance translation work.
  • The students choose the texts they wish to translate from the text-types studied in the module, and from a selected pool of texts previously approved by the course tutor.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 18 Weekly 2 hours 36
Student Preparation and Reading Time associated with Contact Hours 114
General Background Reading; Revision for Translation Preparation 150
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Commentary Component Weighting: 10%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Translation Commentary 1,000 words 100% Y
Component: German > English Translation Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Text German > English 1,000 words 100% Y
Component: English > German Translation Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Text English > German 1,000 words 100% Y
Component: Timed Translation Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Translation into language of accreditation 600 words 100% Y

Formative Assessment:

Seminar teaching allows tutors to provide oral feedback at every session. Oral feedback contributes to the development of the students' skill to comment on translation choices and to the students' improvement of translation skills.

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