Educational institutions for translators and interpreters in comparison: Germersheim and Munich

Educational institutions for translators and interpreters in comparison: Germersheim and Munich

We have already hinted at the possible career paths of language mediators in our German article Der Weg zum Beruf des Übersetzers. Now we invite you to take a closer look at two German educational institutions in this field: the University of Mainz in Germersheim with the Department 06 "Language, Culture, Translation" (FTSK) and the SDI (Language and interpreting institute) in Munich.

Translation and interpreting studies at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz in Germersheim

Let’s have a look at the most important facts: Germersheim is Germany's leading institution when it comes to the training of translators and interpreters. Dating back to the post-war Nuremberg Trials, the university department now has around 1700 students, for whom the Bachelor's and Master's degree programs offer a freely selectable combination of up to 3 out of 13 languages, including Arabic and Chinese. The studies of European languages require a language level of at least B2 before the start of the course, while there is no such limitation for other languages.

In regard to the choice of languages, it is also important to note that the kind of language acquisition in the third foreign language is more school-like, with a focus on grammar and vocabulary instead of practical translation. If you are aware of this hierarchy between languages before the start of the courses, it is easier to make a sensible choice. Unfortunately, there is an apparent lack of information here.

Apart from that, the translation and interpreting studies in Germersheim are very well-founded in terms of content. The Bachelor's program is not only about translation skills, but also about basic knowledge in linguistics, cultural studies and a freely selectable subject (medicine, law, technology and computer science). The subsequent Master's program is either translation (with individual specializations) or conference interpreting. Unfortunately, actively learning the foreign language by speaking is underrepresented – which seems confusing as the majority of the highly qualified lecturers are native speakers. Germersheim students have to look for non-university groups for this purpose if they want to improve their speaking skills.

Another downside of the training in Germersheim must be mentioned: the lack of a compulsory module or even a single compulsory course on the subject of "computer-assisted translation" – bearing in mind that CAT experience is a prerequisite in almost every job advertisement in the sector. The future translator or interpreter must either acquire these skills by himself or first complete appropriate internships, where he might otherwise already have a full-time employment.

The Sprachen- und Dolmetscherinstitut (Language and interpreting institute) in Munich from our trainee's point of view

To make a fair statement about the SDI in Munich, it is important to know that it houses three types of training institutes – Berufsfachschule (vocational school), Fachakademie (professional academy) and the quite young university offering three-term master's degree programs. While the vocational school has classes in language professions such as foreign language correspondent, the professional academy offers a degree as "state-certified translator" or "state-certified interpreter" after usually 6 semesters. you can choose between several languages: English, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish and Turkish. If your goal is a bachelor's degree, you have to take one or two additional terms, which – in addition to the translation courses at the professional academy – cover all the university content at once. Given the fact that a Bachelor's thesis is compulsory while it was not even required to write one single term paper in the professional academy, it becomes evident that this results in a workload that should not be underestimated.

The lessons at the professional academy, for their part, have high standards, with courses in sight-reading translation (also called "impromptu translation" or "spontaneous translation") and negotiation interpreting already included. This is definitely advantageous, enabling rapid learning progress and the practice of interactive skills necessary for every interpreter. Germersheim would be well advised to take a leaf out of that book.

The awareness of trends in the professional world can also be seen in several bachelor's degree programs on Chinese language and culture. The SDI's university and especially its master's programs are suitable for people who fear that "mere" translation training is not challenging enough and who wish to gain a better foothold in the job market by developing business administration and management skills. It should be mentioned that studying at the SDI only makes sense for students who have a dual education in mind right from the start, i.e. who are already looking for a job during, or best, before the studies. The fact that there are three days off per week in every term conveys this message. Unfortunately, the current Corona crisis does not allow everyone to do so.

Central differences in formalities

Finding the educational institution for translators and interpreters that suits you best depends on personal preferences and objectives. As a student, you will be equipped with linguistic competence in both places. The question is whether you look for a traditional straightforward course of study in Germersheim or a rapid completion of studies over several formal educational hurdles at the SDI. This is an example where the "state vs. private university" conflict is reflected at its core. The former is focused on theory, the latter is practically oriented and designed as a "high-speed course". It may be comforting to know that, before the HR manager, all transcultural language professionals are considered equal.