As a specialist translator of academic research from the humanities and social sciences (including educational research) from German to English, I also translate texts that relate to educational policy and texts addressing practical communication requirements arising in educational institutions in Germanophone countries.
Such texts are often best entrusted to a translator with a specialism in education, practical experience in the area and an overview of the political, legal and organisational structures influencing education and research. At S Swift Translation, I am particularly familiar with the vocational education and training (VET) and tertiary education sectors in Germany. This page focuses on translation in those areas; my general approach to translation and translation projects is described elsewhere.
- German > English translations for tertiary institutions
- German > English translations for the VET sector
- German > English translations of course and teaching materials
Top quality German > English translations for tertiary institutions
With specialist expertise in the higher education sector, S Swift Translation is able to supply accomplished translations to higher education institutions to meet their translation requirements in several areas. Course credits and degrees awarded need to be documented precisely in English to secure their recognition in international contexts and make it easier for students and graduates to take advantage of opportunities to study, work and carry out research abroad. Clear information in English on the content of programmes and on the practical workings of universities makes it easier for students and researchers from abroad to find their way around institutions and to teach and learn successfully. Attractive translations into English are, finally, also useful for image branding purposes and can underscore the international reputation of tertiary institutions.
Making academic performance and qualifications transparent
Precise descriptions of learning outcomes smooth the international recognition of course credits and degree courses. Making qualifications and what they mean transparent is a particular challenge for translators who work in education. Clear and consistent translations that make it easier for periods of study and entire degrees to be recognised boost the mobility and the career prospects of students and graduates. It is, of course, not the task of translators to evaluate qualifications and determine their equivalents in other countries; such questions are best dealt with by the specialist competent bodies. Even within Germany and without any of the added complications of multilingualism, the precise significance of particular qualifications is often far from clear at first sight.
Translators must, however, avoid exaggeration and understatement when translating texts such as certificate or diploma supplements – that is decisive and a matter of fairness. Europass diploma supplements are a proven instrument, but their translation requires enormous precision in pinpointing the exact standard of the knowledge, skills and competences which have been gained and demonstrated so that employers and higher education institutions abroad can attain a clear sense of the academic expertise and professional competences of a candidate. Such seemingly harmless concepts as “basic” skills need to be handled with caution to avoid misrepresenting or distorting the achievements of graduates. English texts could, for example, inadvertently suggest that graduates of a particular programme have acquired only the most rudimentary knowledge of a field when what is meant is not that the learning outcomes were trivial, but simply that Bachelor students have not acquired quite the same profound grasp of a subject as Masters students, or that minor subjects have not been studied in the same breath and depth as majors. It follows that translators of certificate and diploma supplements need to pay close attention to both the specific texts they are translating and the wider context. Accurate, multilingual documentation of learning outcomes is becoming ever more relevant as the ideal of lifelong learning gains in importance and increasingly flexible learning pathways in increasingly permeable and internationally-oriented education systems come to depend more and more on the provision of correct, transparent and readily comprehensible documentation.
Professional translations for clarity, efficiency and practicality in routine communication
Clear, professional communication can also simplify routine administrative matters. A lack of clarity in translations of course admission requirements, course content or job descriptions could potentially create confusion and lead to unnecessary queries (adding to the workload of staff) or even to costly legal disputes. Such confusion can be avoided by translators and higher education institutions co-operating closely: when a translator encounters an ambiguity in a text and asks a question in order to resolve it, staff are spared from responding to the same query numerous times when translation users stumble across the issue.
Attractive translations that underscore the reputation of higher education institutions
Good translations support tertiary institutions as they strive for internationalisation and excellence. Thorough, consistent and readable translations can contribute to preparing the ground for successful cooperative ventures with partner institutions. Unfortunately, however, the converse is equally true: inconsistent or erroneous translations can undermine confidence in an institution. And since English texts used in tertiary education institutions tend to be produced by many different people, it is near-inevitable that inconsistencies will creep in over time. Professional translators with appropriate tools at their disposal can monitor the consistency of translations (verifying, for example, that defined corporate wording or spelling guidelines have been adhered to). Using modern Translation Memory systems also ensures that translations can easily be updated from semester to semester or from one year to the next, and that their content can be recycled in a variety of file formats – from printed texts such as image brochures, information material and prospectuses through to use on the university website.
German-English translations for the vocational education and training sector
As a translator with vocational education and training among my key specialisms, I translate texts relating to research and to the formulation of policy in the field as well as more practically-oriented texts needed for administrative or promotional activities.
Navigating the German VET sector as a translator calls for solid background knowledge
Vocational education and training in Germany strikes a fine balance between the desires and abilities of young people, the interests of individual companies and entire industries, and the needs of society as a whole. The excellent reputation enjoyed by Germany’s vocational education and training system within and outside Germany (nourished, not least, by the country’s strong economic competitiveness and remarkably low levels of youth unemployment) is frequently traced back to the sharing of responsibility for initial and advanced vocational education in the German dual-track training model between the federal government, the federal states, the social partners and companies in a fashion that ensures all have a strong interest in securing and continuing to enhance the quality and attractiveness of vocational training and its relevance to labour market needs.
Translators need to reproduce the distinct positions held by members of this remarkably broad and diverse coalition of stakeholders clearly and precisely. To this end, they must first have understood the different roles of state agencies, training providers and organisations representing companies, employees, and sectoral and regional interests. They also need a comprehensive overview of the institutional and organisational structures underlying the definition and periodic overhauling of training regulations, and of the funding, delivery and assessment of vocational education and training.
The difference between Rahmenlehrpläne and the similar-sounding Ausbildungsrahmenpläne is obvious, for example, to a translator who can draw on background knowledge as well as language competence and is aware that the former term describes the framework curriculum defining the content trainees cover in vocational schools, while the latter encompasses the practical skills to be acquired by trainees in the course of their company-specific training.
Background knowledge helps translators to produce clear and precise translations that lend themselves to bridging the communication gaps that can arise in the exchange of ideas between stakeholders with different vantage points (depending, for example, on whether they are coming from a business perspective or from the state-run education sector, or on whether their backgrounds are in initial and continuing – “post-secondary, non-tertiary” – vocational education, or in higher education). This is particularly true in the context of the current fault line separating the “new” language of learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and competences from the traditional approach to judging qualifications primarily in terms of learning inputs.
International cooperation on VET research and policy
Germany is the world’s biggest donor in the area of vocational training cooperation with developing countries, but demand for cooperative ventures with Germany in the realm of training policy has also run high in developed economies in recent years as various countries have sought to transfer elements from the German model of dual vocational education into their own vocational education and training systems, often with a view to boosting both economic competitiveness and social cohesion and participation. Recent and current EU, OECD and bilateral political initiatives have focused on the value of learning in work processes, especially in the context of company-based training, as well as on the importance of binding standards, qualified training personnel and ongoing research and monitoring programmes.
International co-operation in the area of VET is no one-way street, however, but a reciprocal learning process in which information and ideas exchanged internationally and at European level have also fed into the rapid evolution of VET in Germany in recent years as the new challenges posed by demographic change, rising skill requirements in today’s knowledge-based economy, and the growing popularity of tertiary education among school leavers with rising educational aspirations are addressed. The transparency and comparability of qualifications and the mobility of their holders in the European labour market has been boosted through the establishment and elaboration of the eight-level German Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (integrated with the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning) and the compiling of Europass Certificate Supplements documenting the knowledge, skills and competences acquired by holders of vocational training qualifications. Permeability between the dual system and higher education is currently being enhanced in both directions, and hybrid forms such as dual study programs combining in-company work experience with tertiary studies at institutions like cooperative universities and universities of applied sciences are becoming more widespread. Increasingly differentiated programmes and flexible forms of learning (often with blended learning components) are being developed to promote inclusion and equal opportunities and mitigate future skills bottlenecks by catering better to the needs of disparate groups who have not always been able to access optimal training opportunities and support in the past. The mobility of trainees (and with it the attractiveness of vocational programmes in comparison with tertiary education) is expanding rapidly through the more widespread implementation of Erasmus+ and other programmes. Processes for the assessment and recognition of foreign vocational qualifications in Germany have also improved.
For me as a translator with a focus on education, working to facilitate the successful international transfer of expertise between state organisations, think tanks, foundations, companies and industry organisations in this dynamic environment has repeatedly proven interesting and rewarding. I translate research papers and presentations, administrative documentation such as funding applications and project reports, and consultation and policy documents.
Promoting training internationally and organising mobility
Making high-quality vocational education and training programmes available is half the battle – communicating what is on offer successfully the other half. Skills bottlenecks can develop when information, guidance or transparency are lacking, or when geographical mismatches between the supply and demand of training places go unaddressed. German initial and continuing vocational training providers interested in tapping into the dynamic and growing international market for training services in many regions of the world may benefit from cogent German > English translations as part of their marketing at conferences, seminars, and education fairs. German companies recruiting trainees or skilled staff from outside the country or organising mobility for trainees may also wish to avail of convincing translations of promotional or information material, or of documentation such as learning agreements.
English translations of course and teaching materials
In my core areas of expertise within the humanities and the social sciences, I translate course materials and training manuals for use in higher education, adult education and in further education and training courses. Thanks to my own stock of teaching experience, I can anticipate how content will be received and orient my translations to the needs of specific target groups.