By Maria Guzenko
Introducing the CEU Watch Column
Having up-to-date subject-matter, technology, and business expertise is one of the things that sets the professional translator apart from the amateur. In addition, if you are certified by the American Translators Association (ATA) or another translation/interpreting organization, you need to accrue continuing education credits to maintain your credential. The requirements will vary depending on the organization, and those for the ATA can be found here.
With that in mind, I would like to start a column where we review continuing education opportunities, whether specific to the languages of the SLD, focused on a certain subject area or text type, or promoting any other skill useful for translators. If you have taken a course, watched a webinar, or attended an event in the last year or so and would like to review it for the SLD blog, please get in touch with Maria Guzenko at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My American Master’s degree, while incredibly helpful in many ways, did not offer practical English-to-Russian classes. Since I mostly translate into Russian, I wanted to fill that gap and started looking for language-specific classes where I could get some tips, guided practice, and feedback. My search brought me to the website of Alliance Pro («Альянс Про»), a company that offers Russian translation and interpreting classes, either as live webinars or as recordings of past events. I have no financial or business relationship with this course provider, other than paying for their class.
The class I took was called Medical Translation («Медицинский перевод») and “met” via teleconference twice a week for two hours. Four weeks of webinars were followed by a final test, which determined whether the participant would get a certificate of completion. Because the live sessions were held in the evening, Moscow time, I was able to join in the early afternoon on the East Coast. Webinar recordings and PowerPoints were available for later viewing if you had to miss the live session, which was also convenient for the times I had to be away from my desk.
Content and Instructor
The course was taught by Olga Gilyarevskaya (Ольга Гиляревская), the chief editor of a Moscow-based translation agency and a former pharmaceutical representative. It appeared that the curriculum largely reflected the types of documents and subjects Ms. Gilyarevskaya regularly saw in her work, such as clinical study protocols and disease descriptions. Each week covered a different area; by the end of the course, we had looked at clinical trials, evidence-based medicine, oncology, cardiology, pharmaceutical companies, and ophthalmology.
Each webinar started with the instructor going over the homework from the previous class, and she would either comment on our cohort’s proposed solutions or discuss typical errors for the homework passage. Next, the instructor would present new material. Beware, a typical PowerPoint had more than 100 slides, which can definitely be a lot of information, especially if you are trying to take notes! Fortunately, the PowerPoints were available to the course participants online so you could always go over them later.
On the positive side, Ms. Gilyarevskaya did not only lecture and share information; she made sure to keep the group engaged by asking us for possible translations and giving us feedback. Clinical studies can be intimidating for a newcomer, and the teacher put the group at ease with her down-to-earth attitude and not being hard on those giving incorrect answers.
Workload and Homework
At the end of each class, the instructor would assign homework for the following class. There were two differently priced “access tiers” for this course, so some participants turned in homework and had it corrected, while others simply audited the class. We would normally get a choice of two texts, one more advanced than the other. A typical passage would be some 3-4 paragraphs long, and we would usually get about 2 days to upload our translation. Between going over the new material and doing your homework, you would probably need a minimum of two hours after each session, so I do not recommend taking this class if you are overloaded with work or family responsibilities!
A lot of homework passages came from clinical trial documentation, and I appreciated that we worked on real-life texts. On the other hand, the homework would regularly include concepts we had not discussed in the previous lecture. It could be a bit discouraging when some things in the passage were not clear even after you went over your class notes. I suppose that reflects real-world working conditions, where we often have to research things as we go along.
Any review is bound to be subjective, so what I say here reflects my professional goals and preferences. If you come to this class expecting a comprehensive overview of medicine and different text types in various specialties, you are likely to be disappointed. For instance, the text types I translate most often—patient education materials and descriptions of health benefits—were not represented. Neither were such areas as mental health or diagnostic imaging. That makes perfect sense, though—no single month-long class can cover all possible text types you come across in the medical field.
Personally, I am happy I took this class. I now have a better understanding of clinical trials, statistics, immune therapy, and the cellular mechanisms underlying cancer, even though I still have a lot more to learn. I also enjoyed the easygoing teacher and the “can-do” attitude she encouraged in her students. I would recommend this class to English-Russian translators who are interested in clinical studies and are willing to put in several hours of study and homework every week.
Maria Guzenko is an ATA-certified English<>Russian translator and a certified medical interpreter (CMI-Russian). She holds an MA in translation from Kent State University and specializes in healthcare and marketing content. Maria has also worked as a project manager and has taught college Russian and writing classes. More information can be found on Maria’s website at https://intorussian.net.