Department of Modern Languages and Cultures

Alex Mével, Associate Professor in Translation Studies

Alex is sat in front of a microphone smiling

Alex talks about the Translation Studies MA and his research interests.

We chat about who this course would suit and what careers past students have gone on to.

We discuss the support available for translation students and why Nottingham is a great choice for this subject.


How did you come to translation?

"I've always had an interest in translation and early on in my studies I came across the French movie La Haine. I discovered it had two sets of English subtitles and when I watched them side by side they were really different. I wanted to understand how this had happened so I decided to write my MRes dissertation on the subject. For my PhD I looked at it the other way, how African American English was subtitled into French in a corpus of films, a lot of them by Spike Lee. During that time I was also working as a subtitler for a French company and producing French subtitles for short programmes for MTV."

You’re currently on research leave, what is your research focus?

"I work almost exclusively with screens and audio visual stuff. I've just finished a big project with Red Earth theatre company where we're working on something we call creative subtitles. You might have come across these before if you've seen something like Sherlock on the BBC where they use subtitles for text messages. We call these creative subtitles because of the way they are presented; they're often in an unusual position or written in a special font/colour.

The project consisted of creating technological tools that would allow captions to be embedded into the aesthetics of the performance, so predominantly aimed at deaf people, but not exclusively. Instead of having the captions projected on the top of the stage, we developed a system where the captions could be projected anywhere on the set, even on the actors. The aim of this is to avoid what we call attention splitting, having to look at the stage and then read the caption, go back to the stage go back to the captions - the Wimbledon effect!"

How does translation study differ from language study?

"Translation is a great tool to learn a language so we usually include some translation tasks in our undergraduate degrees. That said, the way we do translation as part of a language studies degree is not necessarily the way translation actually works in a professional environment. 

At MA study level, we take a much more profession-oriented approach.

When you start working as a translator you have to follow very specific patterns and we prepare you for that. We also introduce you to professional tools, electronic tools in particular, which you'll use when you work in the language services industry. These include translation management software, audio visual translation software and professional workflow software.

We also recognise that translation isn't exclusively something that happens between languages. Something we do as part of my 'audio visual translation' module is to create subtitles for deaf members of an audience. In that module we work with English language material, and write English language captions, but specifically tailored for deaf members of the audience. We also work with audio description where we provide translation for blind members of the audience."

What are the qualities needed in a student to do well on these courses?

"You'll need to be a good linguist, by which I mean having a feeling for the way that languages work and connect to others. Also, attention to detail is crucial as you'll need to pick up on the finer nuances of texts. As a translator, you spend a lot of time editing so you need to be a good proof-reader. It's also important to be good with technology, because of the nature of the work technology and translation have become completely embedded."

If a student feels that they need help, where can they turn?

"If you're studying on my course, you can turn to me as the course director, I can help with a lot of things from registration to module selection, all the practical things to do with the course itself. I can also help with questions about career options.

If you need support that is of a more personal nature, you may speak with your personal tutor who you'll meet several times during your year with us.

We also offer careers services which are very good and can provide advice on anything to do with what happens after you've graduated."

Help is everywhere. If there is something you need help with, we'll either help you ourselves or find the right person for you.

Why would you recommend Nottingham for studying translation at PGT level?

"Here, at Nottingham, we offer a very well rounded Translation Studies MA. We cover everything from interlingual translation to translation across languages as well as audio visual translation in the form of subtitling for deaf audiences and audio description for blind audiences.

We also train students to use translation management software, the idea behind this is to give them a head start when they start applying for jobs - it's very important working in the professional environment to be able to use translation management software.

We also cover theory of course. It's important particularly for the final translation projects that students complete. The final project gives you an opportunity to choose an area of translation that interests you most, it's very open. You can work on literary translation, audio visual translation or technical translation. It's a great way of preparing for the professional world."

What careers have past students from these courses gone on to?

"There's a real variety in what our students do after graduation: some have chosen to go freelance, some work in the translation industry either in translation management or as translators. Some work at big broadcasters such as Sky producing audio visual translation and there are others at Netflix. Some take up placements in global institutions such as the UN and some decide to further their academic career with a PhD."

What is the language services market like at the moment?

"So as far as I can tell, there is always a need for translators. At the moment audio visual translators are in demand because, as a society, we churn out more and more audio visual content whcih needs to be translated or made accessible to different groups of the of the population. Take Netflix for example, they produce a lot of content and it needs to be released in several languages."

The language services market is healthy, especially for those who are ready to embrace change, the market is so interconnected with technology, it's always changing and doing so quickly.

What advice do you have for people considering studying translation with us?

"Do it. You will learn a lot. You will get a well-rounded education and learn very practical skills. What you learn on this course is very useful in the real world outside the walls of the university."Explore our translation courses.

Department of Modern Languages and Cultures

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