Master of Arts in Text and Translation in the Media
From Translated Ebook to Barrier-free Soap Opera

The campus at the Stiftung Universität Hildesheim
The campus at the Stiftung Universität Hildesheim | Photo (detail): Chris Gossmann

The master’s degree course in “Text and Translation in the Media” in Hildesheim is the only course in Germany that focuses on writing media texts and translating audio-visual and electronic media.

Publishers are developing audiobooks and ebooks, museums use audio guides, and companies develop training films for their staff – in all areas of professional life today, work is done using multimedia text forms. These different products, as well as feature films, documentaries and television series, are also becoming increasingly available in different languages or made accessible to people with a hearing or visual impairment by means of subtitles.

From subtitle to audio guide

It is self-evident that writing texts for the media and translating audio-visual and electronic media involve many practical challenges. How does one sum up a lengthy dialogue in pithy subtitles? How does one find a translation that is synchronous with the actors’ lip movements? What does one have to take into account when making a voiceover? How does one have to express oneself when developing a film script, an audio guide for a museum or a leaflet for a computer game?

The master’s degree course in “Text and Translation in the Media” at the University of Hildesheim offers its students ideal opportunities to prepare for the practical challenges of this vocational field. At computer workstations in the new media text laboratory, students have access to modern software where they can practise handling, translating and processing multimedia texts. There are also four booths for live subtitling, like those used, for example, at sports events.

From practice to science

Yet the course designers are keen to ensure that the two-year master’s degree course is not primarily a practical, but rather a comprehensive academic training programme. “In practice, many poorly-qualified people do these jobs for low pay, which is often reflected in the quality of the products. The sector has an interest in revaluating the quality of this vocational field and that is why we would like to give our students professional training,” says the Annette Sabban, Professor of Applied Linguistics and Romance Studies, who developed the course together with Dr. Nathalie Mälzer, a literary translator and researcher at the Institute.

Through combining translation studies, media linguistics and media science, the two-year university course is able to offer more varied contents than the many purely practical crash courses and seminars on subtitling or synchronous translation, which are offered by companies or sometimes as part of courses of study. What role do language, pictures, and sound play in the media and what is their relationship with one another? What effect does it have on the reception of a film if a viewer looks at the subtitle first rather than at the protagonists’ faces? What happens, for example, when noises are “translated” in a subtitle for hearing-impaired viewers? Because the course addresses theoretical questions of this kind, it is not only preparation for practical work in the sector, but also for a doctorate or work as a lecturer.

Potential areas of work: from corporate communication to film script translation

This master’s course has been available for a year, and most of the students in the first year had previously taken a bachelor’s degree in “Intercultural Communication & Translation” in Hildesheim. Deborah Berschmann, for example, decided to take a master’s degree because she wanted to stay at her university and because she is being prepared here for a new emerging market. Later on, she hopes to find a job in a subtitling company or in corporate communication, for example.

The master’s programme is also targeted at graduates of other bachelor’s degree courses focusing on language or the media, however. A good knowledge of English, French or Spanish is required, as these are the working languages for translations into German. Isabelle Schneider, for example, previously read Scandinavian Studies and English at Kiel and was looking for a master’s programme that combined language and the media and also opened up specific vocational fields. What she particularly likes here is that in the very first semester one can use one’s creativity in a writing workshop while at the same time acquiring skills such as the technical expertise required for writing subtitles. She dreams of translating film scripts one day. The second year of the programme started in October 2012. Seventy graduates of various bachelor’s courses applied for the 25 places.