Malena Samaniego, 2013 Gruener Awardee

Malena Samaniego
Ph.D. Student
Second Language Acquisition & Teaching GIDP

Research Location: 

Three college-level translation programs in Chile-Santiago,Temuco and Concepcion

On Site Research Dates:

June 15-August 13, 2013

Title of Research Project:

"Compound derivation and representation in Turkish speaking aphasics"

I spent most of the boreal summer of 2013 (June-August) in southern and central Chile meeting with translation majors and professors at two different universities and cities, Temuco and Santiago. My goal was to complement research that I completed in the summers of 2010 and 2011 on the beliefs and practices of college translation professors in Chile with funding from a Tinker Research Travel grant. Even though this trip was a valuable opportunity to follow up on my previous conversations with translator trainers, my main goal this time was to conduct preliminary research on the views and experiences of students with respect to translating, bilingualism, the translation profession and training in translation and in modern languages. This preliminary study on students beliefs and experiences around translator training would then inform the design of a larger study I conducted online during the Fall of 2013 with 100 translation students taking classes in three colleges located in different cities: Arica, to the far north on the border with Peru; Santiago, the capital; and Temuco 650 kilometers south.

I arrived in Chile in June of 2013 at the start of large college student protests for a better quality and more financially accessible education, which have been at the forefront of national politics over the last three to four years. Students were on strike picketing all entrances to university buildings. No classes were in session, at least at the Universidad de Santiago, where I had planned on recruiting students. Several students in the translation program were involved in the movement and had in fact gone beyond the general demands for a better and less market-driven education and drafted specific demands for the translation program itself. This unforeseen event delayed my efforts to get in contact with students, yet it also improved my chances to spend more time with their professors and made me focus on how the social and political context of the place and moment may be informing the views and experiences that were the focus of my study.

In Santiago, with the help of faculty who emailed the striking students of my interest in meeting with them, I was able to meet with a total of 10 students individually and in groups of 2 or 3. Our conversations were held in public places of their choice and they were always very excited and enthusiastic to have the opportunity to discuss the programs they were enrolled in, and their views of the field and the profession they were being trained in. Several of the students interviewed had been and were just returning from study abroad sessions and therefore had an even more enriching perspective on the topics I brought up during our open-ended interviews. Many, though not all of them, saw and established a link between the issues addressed during our conversations and the student strike they were participating in. Their interest in contributing to research on the state of translation pedagogy in Chile and on students’ and educators’ views was evident. Their level of engagement and refined understanding of the social contexts informing pedagogical approaches and activities surprised me as it contrasted with many statements by faculty about disengaged students in the classroom.

After two weeks of interviews in Santiago, I traveled 650 kilometers south to the city of Temuco, where I established contact with faculty and students of the Catholic University of Temuco, which has a program of translation (English-Spanish) since 1995. Due to my delay in Santiago, by the time I arrived in Temuco the semester was coming to a close. I just had time to briefly meet with students, inform them of my research and agree on meeting again for interviews after their (austral) winter break in early August. During that week I observed the teaching sessions of some of the instructors I had interviewed in previous visits and had further conversations with them on teaching and this second student-focused part of my study. Upon return from the winter break I met with about 10 students individually and in groups. Their level of interest and engagement with the topics I proposed was no less striking than in Santiago.

College student’s winter break in July and the delays encountered in Santiago due to the strikes forced me to abort a trip planed to a third translation teaching program at the University of Concepcion. Time was too short and I decided that the data I had gathered so far would suffice to draft the online blogging protocol I was planning to work on with translation students from different programs in Chile, including the University of Concepcion.

My trip ended with an incredibly enriching experience around translation pedagogy. I was invited to give a workshop on translation testing for educational contexts at the Second Symposium on Translation Teaching and Learning in Chile—a scarce and very much needed forum in translation teaching communities around the world. In Chile this forum for the exchange of experiences of translation trainers was inaugurated during the boreal winter of 2012 and I had the honor of giving the keynote address with a summary of my research on translation teaching to date.

Overall, my time in southern and central Chile was very enriching and productive; I accomplished my goals of establishing face-to-face contact with Chilean translation students and holding follow up conversation with their instructors. This has given me a better understanding of the major themes and concerns among the translation teaching/learning community in Chile and prepared me upon return to launch an online study of students’ perspectives and experiences. That project was also accomplished successfully over the Fall semester. I will now begin to analyze that data. In addition to being valuable in itself, it will also complement and enrich a paper I am now preparing for publication on the beliefs, cognition, and practices of instructors of translation in Chile.

Last updated 8 Mar 2016