The first thing I realized when I began my master’s in New York University’s online Master of Science in Translation program was that it was going to be a completely difference experience from my bachelor’s.
I attended a small, private liberal arts college for my undergraduate degree, earning a B.A. in English with a Spanish minor. At the time, this college offered no courses in translation or interpretation, and the only way a student could take an online course was if there was absolutely no way he or she could make it to campus in person.
My experience at NYU has been completely different. Not only was I required to take several of the available courses on translation, but the courses are even divided up by language and subdivided by specialization. Furthermore, depending on the student’s language pair, none of the courses in the program is offered on campus; the entire program is conducted online. It has been an entirely different experience from taking a program on a college campus, but when I graduate this May, I think I will be able to look back on it and say that it was equally as rewarding.
NYU’s master’s program offers three language pairs for study: Spanish to English (my language pair), French to English, and Chinese to English. The program is 36 credits and can take from 15 months to 5 years to complete, depending on whether the student is attending full-time or part-time. The curriculum is similar for each language pair:
- 2 required courses in language and translation theory plus 1 elective in pragmatics, contrastive stylistics, or a similar topic;
- 1 required course in subject matter background (either comparative banking & accounting systems or comparative legal systems) plus 1 elective on either corporate practice or global economics;
- 3 required translation courses (e.g. legal translation, financial translation, & software and website localization) plus 3 further electives that go more in-depth into the translation specialization (e.g. patents translation, translation of contracts, & translation of accounting documents); and finally,
- The thesis project, which can be either a theoretical paper or a complex translation of at least 10,000 words.
During my first semester I enrolled in the program as a full-time student and worked part-time as a tutor. Full-time enrollment amounted to 4 courses. I can’t speak for all graduate students everywhere, of course, but in my case 4 courses was too many. Graduate-level work is difficult regardless of the institution, and it takes a great deal of time management skill, focus, and sheer determination to pass, not to mention knowledge of and aptitude in the field of study. I passed all 4 courses that semester (and I have passed all of my courses since) but it was very difficult. After that semester I reduced my course load to 2 or 3 per semester and my enrollment status to part-time, and it’s been much more manageable.
The most challenging part of the program for me, however, has been its online nature. Each professor has his or her own requirements for each particular class, but here are some of the characteristics and/or requirements most of my classes have had in common:
- Live class sessions involving video and text chat held at a day and time (usually a weeknight) when the majority of students are available
- A set number of forum posts, and responses to other students’ posts, that students are required to make per week
- A set number of blog posts that students are required to make
- Weekly homework assignments, including readings, video viewings, and actual work to be completed
- In the generalized classes, tests and exams; in the specialized classes, one or two major projects
The program has gone through two platforms since I first enrolled—first Blackboard, now Epsilen—and each has had numerous technical bugs and kinks that we’ve had to deal with. These problems have ranged from minor inconveniences to major impediments in the effects they have had on classes and assignments. At times we have simply had problems hearing each other during live sessions as the audio cuts in and out; at other times we have been unable to attend sessions because the system kicks us out every time we log in. For a program that is offered solely online, these issues are very serious and have proved to be one of the major drawbacks of the program.
Fortunately, however, technical problems have not prevented me from meeting new friends and colleagues through the program. We are assigned group work as well as individual assignments, just like in on-campus programs; the difference is that we have to work out times to talk on Skype, instant messenger, or over the phone based on time zone differences. In my experience, this has not been an impediment to completing assignments, but rather has been an opportunity to meet and talk with colleagues all over the world whom I might not ever meet in person. It has helped me to grow my professional network and to form relationships just as can be done in an on-campus program. The only difference is that if we talk over coffee, I’ll be in North Carolina and my classmate(s) will be in New York or Paris or Brazil.
All in all, I have found the M.S. in Translation program at NYU to be completely worthwhile. I have learned about translation theory, gained practical experience in translating real-world texts, and formed relationships with colleagues around the world. Not bad for two years and a summer!
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