University of Lund: A Day in the Life

Who wouldn't fall in love with this beauty? Photo courtesy of Mikael Risedal

Who wouldn’t fall in love with this beauty?
Photo courtesy of Mikael Risedal

By Marie Eriksson

I came to Lund University for the first time as winter was just giving way into spring. My father drove me from one side of Sweden to the other in a shaky, noisy truck in a snowstorm, while I tried to sleep against the car window on an itchy old pillow. I arrived with no more than two hours of sleep and armed with a big bag of candy, ready to write my entrance exam for the translation program. Over the lunch break, my father and I walked around campus and discovered the university library.

I decided right then and there that I wanted to stay and study in Lund. Love at first sight is real.

Needless to say, I passed my entrance exam and I’m currently taking the program’s third of four terms. At Lund University, students can select to take a one-year or two-year MA in translation. I chose two years because the courses offered during the second year seemed interesting and because I thought writing the master’s thesis would deepen my understanding of translation studies and research. Of course, there are alternatives for students that aren’t interested in the master’s thesis at all, such as taking three of the four terms and not writing the final master’s thesis.

This program is focused on translation, so there are no interpreting courses or training. Although some assignments include translating fiction, the main focus is translating non-fiction texts. The program is offered entirely in Swedish, with Swedish as the target language and English, French, Spanish, Italian and German as source languages. English is offered every year, but the other source languages have been split up so that two are offered each year. New students can choose English, French or Spanish one year and English, Italian or German the next. It’s also a campus-based program without any online courses, which fits me perfectly.

The first year includes translation courses where the students work with texts from various genres. For example, we were given excerpts from a software user manual for one assignment, followed by a popular science text about sharks for the next assignment. The combination of this level of variety and the tips and tricks from the experienced teachers gave us the resources we needed to handle different genres and find appropriate sources for fact checking and terminology. We also studied Swedish grammar and text analysis, and were introduced to CAT-tools such as SDL Trados Studio and MemoQ.

In the second year, students can choose between translation from a second source language and translation from Danish. Since I don’t speak any of the other source languages offered, I went with Danish. I suppose I can’t say much about my skills, since I haven’t actually passed the course yet, but I feel much more comfortable with Danish now than I did three months ago. The teachers have given us a lot of information on how to think about the small but important differences between Swedish and Danish and how to familiarize ourselves with the language and culture in order to become better translators. The second course of the second year is focused entirely on translation studies and theory. This is partly because it’s an integral part of the program, and partly because it prepares us for the master’s thesis and our future work after graduation.

In addition, the teachers do their best to prepare us for life as a translator after graduation. They give us helpful pointers based on their own professional experiences and regularly send us information about interesting lectures or job offers. There was quite a fuss among them about the EU entrance exams for translators into Swedish earlier this year, and we even had a whole (optional) lecture dedicated to practical information about applying for and taking the exam. They also provide us with links to groups focused on advising and helping translators in the beginning of their professional life and give us information about translator associations such as the Swedish Association of Professional Translators (SFÖ).

I feel much more confident about my language and translation skills after these three terms. I’ve developed a much keener sense of the Swedish language as well, since the natural flow and sound of the resulting target text is such an important part of any translation. Thanks to my education and the network of friends and professionals I’ve developed during my time at Lund University, I now have a solid foundation for my future career.

About the author: Marie Eriksson is a current student of Lund University, in her second year of the translation program. She studied English, Swedish and Japanese at Dalarna University, and graduated from there with a BA in English. She spent four months in Tokyo between graduating from DU and going on to Lund University. She is considering studying medicine to get the skills needed for medical translation, and dreams of translating fantasy novels. Website:


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