Teaching Localisation in Spanish Universities
Montserrat Bermúdez Bausela
Universidad Alfonso X el Sabio (Madrid)
Originally published in September 2005 issue of Localisation Focus. To learn more about Localisation Focus, click here.
Montserrat Bermúdez Bausela discusses her experience of teaching localisation in Spain, and suggests how to bridge the gap between industry requirements and the training on offer there.
Localisation is currently a growing industry in Spain. Most translation agencies have had to adapt
to meet the demands and requirements of emerging markets.
According to the Spanish market registers, there are approximately
775 translation agencies in Spain and it is estimated that 50% of
them offer localisation services. However, there is still a disparity
between the industry requirements and the training offered by
Universities. From the perspective of Spanish academia, this disparity
poses an important challenge; namely that of building a bridge
between the industry requirements and the training on offer, in
order to compensate for the current lack of training.
Juan José Arevalillo Doval, Managing Director of Hermes
Traducciones y Servicios Lingüísticos, denounces this situation in
Spain in his article Introducción a la localización, su presencia en el
Mercado y su formación específica, published in La linterna del traductor
nº 8 – March, 2004. He mentions that in 2001 there were
775 translation companies in Spain that collectively declared an
income of €71,055,133.58, of which over €24m corresponded to
one multinational localisation company. Also, according to the
information provided by the American Translators Association
(ATA), only 10% of world production in translation goes to literary
translation, while the rest goes to technical, scientific, audiovisual,
legal, economic translation and localisation. Taking these figures
into account, it is quite puzzling that, up to now, Universities have
not paid much attention to providing the skills and specific industry
knowledge — concepts, methods and tools — to train future localisation
Another issue is to determine which University degree or degrees
should aim to provide localisation training. In Spain, university
degree courses in Translation and Interpreting have recently begun
teaching specific localisation-related subjects. On successful completion
of such a degree, a Masters in Localisation can be pursued.
Software localisers in Spain mainly deal with the translation (as
opposed to other technical issues) of software products, so this
degree in Translation and Interpreting is a course which equips
future employees of this job profile with necessary skills.
Localisation is usually part of the course programme in Universities
that offer a degree in Translation and Interpreting (they may also
offer Masters or Postgraduate courses in Technical and Translation
topics). Localisation studies are also, in an incipient way, becoming
an integral part of the syllabus of some undergraduate subjects.
The seed for the new academic demands can be found in the
localisation industry itself. The needs of software developers forced
them to look beyond their own frontiers if profits were to increase.
Initially, it was in-house linguists, translators and technicians who worked on the localisation tasks. But as the increased workload
became too heavy to remain in-house, software developers started
to outsource the translation and localisation parts of the projects —
so it then became the turn of the translation companies to adapt
themselves to the new market demands. However, there was no formal
training defined in University subjects or course syllabi to meet
these new demands.
The degree in Translation and Interpreting is relatively new in
Spain. The first Spanish University that offered this degree was The
Universidad de Granada in 1979 — even though in 1974 the
Universidad Complutense in Madrid created the Instituto
Universitario de Lenguas Modernas y Traductores (University
Institute of Modern Languages and Translators). It was around this
time that the localisation industry also came into existence.
However, translation students from that period were probably
unaware of localisation and what it involved. Nowadays, on the
contrary, improvements have been made in order to build the aforementioned
bridge between the industry requirements and the training
on offer so that students end up with the appropriate skills and
knowledge needed in their future careers as localisation professionals.
Such skills and knowledge are mainly acquired by pursuing
Postgraduate Diploma and Masters courses which are beginning to
include the basics of localisation — as evidenced by the syllabus of
specific subjects, usually under names such as ‘Translation and New
Technologies’, or ‘Computing and Translation’. But more than the
basics of localisation, it is still the translation of texts — both software
and technical — which is mainly taught, thereby placing more
emphasis on linguistic and translation aspects at the expense of
activities that are specific to the localisation process.
Localisation studies are, for the most part, included in Masters
and Postgraduate Diplomas. It is not my intention to provide a
comprehensive list of all Spanish Universities that offer training in
localisation, but I would like to mention a few significant examples:
Universitat Rovira i Virgili (Tarragona) offers a Masters in
Translation and Localisation over two academic years, and is running
since 2000. It also offers a Postgraduate Diploma in
Translation and Localisation over one academic year; the
Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona) offers a Postgraduate
Diploma in Translation and Computing Processing Information,
lasting one academic year; the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
(UAB) has recently started to offer a Masters in Tradumática,
specifically aimed at professional translators; the Universitat Jaume
I (Castellón) offers postgraduate studies in Translation and
Localisation technologies, also for a duration of one academic year.
The Universidad Alfonso X el Sabio will begin offering a
Postgraduate Diploma in Tradumática in November 2005. This
course will consist of three modules: software localisation (which
includes localisation, translation tools and videogame localisation),
audiovisual translation (both dubbing and subtitling), and project
management. The goal of all these courses is to produce localisation
experts who are fully competent in using translation and localisation tools, as well as in project management. The target audience in
all these Postgraduate Diploma and Masters courses consists mainly
of translators, teachers and technical writers working with Spanish
Other Universities organise localisation training through summer
courses, as well as conferences and congresses, e.g. this year the
Universidad Alfonso X el Sabio organised their second series of
conferences focused on localisation and new technologies. The
Universidad Europea de Madrid, and the Universitat de Vic
(Barcelona) also organise courses of this type.
Some universities include localisation specific training as part of
an undergraduate course syllabus. Such is the case at the
Universidad Alfonso X el Sabio (Madrid). I have been teaching software
localisation for three years as part of the subject entitled
‘Professional Translation BA’ in which B always stands for English
(the second and compulsory working language) and A stands for
Spanish (the first and native working language). It is a year-long
module included in the 4th year of the degree and is one of three
electives — the two other choices being ‘Legal Translation’ and
‘Interpreting’. Although the course runs over a year, localisation is
only taught during the first semester, while in the second semester
scientific and technical translation, literary translation and audiovisual
translation is taught. In total, the amount of time devoted to
localisation is approximately 80 hours.
What follows is a brief account of the objectives, content topics,
specific tools covered by the syllabus, and the methodology of
teaching; all of which take into account the specific audience of the
course — final (4th) year translation students.
The objectives established in the course syllabus include:
• introducing students to the main concepts of software localisation
• familiarising students with new terminology related to a typical localisation project
• providing hands-on experience with some of the localisation and translation tools available in the marketplace
• studying the specific difficulties of localising from English into Spanish
• translating and localising part of a software product
• introducing students to the main concepts of project management.
The syllabus is divided into the following content topics:
• an overview of the history of localisation, as well as other introductory topics
• an introduction to the main concepts
• the difference between translation and localisation
• localisation models
One of the most important units of the module deals with internationalisation
— including the importance of resource files for
effective internationalisation. This is followed by a unit on the
localisation process, where students view a typical localisation
process and are given instruction in the use of localisation tools,
such as Catalyst, PASSOLO and SDL Insight. It is important to
cover locales and teach students about linguistic, cultural and character
code issues as well as local conventions and localisation engineering
issues in the process of localising from an English market to
a Spanish one. Students then translate a software application and its
documentation, and are made aware of the elements in the graphical user interface that need to be localised: In doing this they learn
about graphical issues and the importance of cultural differences
and local conventions. Some of the applications students have
localised in the past include Concapp (a lexicographical tool) and
WordPad. In the final stage of the course, students investigate the
principles of Project Management — both for the purpose of learning
how to use MS Project and so they have a chance to put into
practice their newly acquired knowledge of the typical localisation
Translation tools — such as translation memory tools, alignment
tools, machine translation tools, terminology and lexicographical
tools — are not taught in the ‘Professional Translation BA’ module.
Instead they are taught in another module I teach (entitled
‘Translation and New Technologies’), which is also included in the
4th year programme.
Regarding the teaching methodology, I organise the module into
detailed tutorials — which are half way between tutorials and lectures
in style — and laboratory sessions. I consider the labs to be of
the utmost importance because it is here that the students learn how
to use the various localisation tools and put into practice the knowledge
acquired in the more theoretical classes.
Students also have the opportunity to gain practical experience
by working in translation companies, some of which also specialise
in software localisation. This is a great opportunity for them to
complement their studies while getting hands-on experience of the
industry. Work experience is aimed at 3rd and 4th year students. It
may take place during either the academic year or the summer holidays
and the amount of working hours is flexible, depending on the
needs of both the employer and students. Each student is assigned a
supervisor from the translation company who acts as a mentor.
From the outset the student is required to fulfil translation and linguistic
tasks and, before the final translation draft is delivered to the
client, their work is assessed by an editor (a senior translator or a
senior editor who is, in most cases, the supervisor) who provides the
student with all the necessary feedback to improve his or her skills.
Students receive specific training in translation and localisation
tools if the supervisor considers it to be necessary.
As we have seen, localisation is a growing industry in Spain.
However, when one examines the training that future localisation
experts receive in Spanish Universities, there emerges a gap — due
to the lack of a specific syllabus that focuses on providing students
with the appropriate knowledge of methods, concepts and tools.
Such a syllabus is the keystone of a bridge that would close this gap
between the industry requirements and the training on offer. For the
moment this gap is being filled, albeit in a somewhat disjointed
manner, by the emergence of Masters Degrees, Postgraduate
Diplomas and undergraduate subjects that include training and
tuition in software localisation.
Monserrat Bermúdez Bausela is a lecturer at the University
Alfonso X el Sabio (Madrid, Spain), teaching English-Spanish
Professional Translation and Translation and New Technologies
amongst other subjects. Prior to this Monserrat worked for the
University of Valladolid (Spain). Her education includes a five-year
degree in English Studies obtained from the University of Valladolid
(Spain), followed by an MSc in Software Localisation from the
University of Limerick (Ireland) and an MA in Specialised
Translation from the University of Valladolid (Spain). She is currently
pursuing a PhD in Textual Linguistics, Translation and
English for Specific Purposes. Monserrat can be contacted at: mbermbauNOSPAM@uax.es (remove NOSPAM to email).