Tips from the DipTrans Chief Moderator on preparing for the exam

Blog Published on Friday, 02 October 2020 Parent Category: News Share page with AddThis

By Mike Routledge

These are the tips from Mike Routledge, DipTrans Chief Moderator (French into English), on preparing for the exam.

The last issue of The Linguist featured the first of a regular column for IoLET Affiliates and gave an overview of the benefits of this grade of CIOL membership. Here we offer tips for candidates preparing for the Diploma in Translation (DipTrans) and highlights the resources available on the CIOL website.

Preparing for the DipTrans exam requires reflection and practice. Reflection means considering what the exam is testing: the production of a target text that is:

  • Accurate: it says exactly what the source text says;
  • Appropriate: it uses language that fits the subject matter and the intended reader;
  • Authentic: it uses language that is grammatically correct, consistent and coherent (i.e. your target text reads like an original, not a translation);
  • Acceptable: it is legible and follows the conventions of presentation (punctuation, orthography, paragraphing, speech marks etc) of the target language.

The DipTrans is a professional qualification; your translation must satisfy a potential client. Frequent practice using source texts or past papers (obtainable from CIOL) is important. Choose 600-word texts from good journalistic sources for Unit 01 (Written translation of a general text), not from ‘redtops’ or their equivalent in other cultures, and 450-word texts from semi-specialised journals or newspapers for Units 02 (Translation of a semi-specialised text in either Technology, Business, or Literature) and 03 (a semi-specialised text in either Science, Social Science, or Law).

The rules allow you to refer to bilingual and monolingual dictionaries, encyclopaedias and thesauruses (printed, not electronic), so practise using these. When you look up a word or expression, do not pounce on the first equivalent given, but read the whole entry to avoid mistakes. You will probably learn something new in the process. 

Practice also means reading good-quality articles in source and target languages, especially with the semi-specialised units in mind. For the literature option, choose literary works in both languages, making careful notes about literary style, dialogue, varying registers, stylistic devices etc.

For the exam, choose your Unit 02 and 03 options carefully, and have a back-up in case the set passage deals with an unfamiliar topic.

  • Read the rubric: it dictates your target readership and may offer help with technical terms that occur in the passage;
  • Read the whole passage first to grasp the general sense or ‘argument’;
  • Don’t do a full-scale ‘rough’ version and then a final polished copy – it takes too long. When you’re unsure of something, don’t linger too long on it: pencil it in (or, if word-processing, type it in red) and come back to it later;
  • Don’t decide not to look something up; it’s always worth the trouble;
  • Check strategically: reserve time for checking and check methodically for omissions (a very common error), grammar, spelling, figures, punctuation and proper names. If you are word-processing, use the spellchecker but don’t rely on it exclusively.

For further guidance, I would recommend reading Peter Newmark’s A Textbook of Translation (1995), Mona Baker’s In Other Words: A coursebook on translation (1992) and Routledge’s Thinking Translation series.

For more advice on preparing for the DipTrans, CIOL members have access to Mike Routledge's webinar - just login to MyCIOL and click here

See ciol.org.uk/diptrans for available languages and resources. Please note some texts are subject to copyright. Texts from the last three sessions are offered as a benefit of membership.

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