Translation and interpreting course at Munich FH closed

Richard Schneider, in his Nachrichtenportal at Alexander von Obert’s Übersetzerportal, reports that the course for translators and interpreters at the Fachhochschule in Munich is being closed.

The report is long and quotes both Dr. Anne Hueglin, the American who is the professor in charge of the program (she is a professor of English in the economics department), and a former student, Tanja Burger. Here’s the department’s website.

A Fachhochschule is rather like a polytechnic in Britain, before they were converted into universities. It doesn’t have quite the cachet of a university, but it is not far off. It tends to be more oriented towards the working world. FHs call themselves ‘University of Applied Sciences’, which is misleading, because they don’t just do sciences, nor can what they do automatically be defined as ‘applied’.

This FH has the peculiarity, though, that for its diploma, instead of offering a four-year course, it offers a two-year course, the first two years of study being done at one of the five Fachakademien in Bavaria. At A Fachakademie a student can, in two or three years, study for the Staatsprüfung für Übersetzer und Dolmetscher. This qualification in most Länder (states) of Germany qualifies a student to be a certified translator and/or interpreter for the courts. In Bavaria it functions as a final exam for these colleges too.

FAKs (at the SDI in Munich they pronounce it F – A – K, but in Erlangen we pronounced it you-know-how) in Erlangen, Munich – SDI and FIM, Würzburg and Kempten. (I won’t say which website is best).

So the FH had to persuade people it was worth studying for two more years to get the diploma.

I taught at a Fachakademie for twenty years, so I often heard about the Fachhochschule. One of the things I liked best about the FAK was the amount of useful special-subject and background studies courses given. For instance, someone who did English and law would do a German course in law and some two-language law courses, legal translation classes EN>DE and DE>EN, liaison interpreting with a legal basis (and voluntarily also consecutive interpreting), and at-sight legal translation. (The FH only does technology or economics).

One of the things I liked least was the recurring feedback from many students that what they were doing wasn’t worth doing, and I see that Tanja Burger’s account says that she didn’t have much self-confidence after finishing at the FAK (the SDI in Munich), whereas after the FH she had the confidence to start her own translation business. And qualifications are very important in Germany.

Then again, it depends on the individual and the market situation. I don’t know how many students of translation at the more traditional university courses get in-house translation jobs nowadays – there are certainly some of those around that only take students from Mainz-Germersheim or Saarbrücken or Heidelberg, but the number of in-house positions has much decreased.

2 thoughts on “Translation and interpreting course at Munich FH closed

  1. Maybe it’s no coincidence that the SDI – with an incredibly long 172pp brochure in Eng. – and the FIM are on opposite sides of coffee-house connoisseur’s Amalienstraße in Munich Schwabing, a place also well-known for its night-life.

    Weinfest-revelling Würzburg and Kempten in Allgäu dairyland are not places I would normally associate with such courses – but interesting websites all the same.

    I doubt paper trans. quals. are needed even in Germany to run a trans. & interpreting agency. Certainly, back in the UK, there are non-linguists running the show – no comment on the business practices used, as they are well known in some cases.

  2. Paper qualifications would help, and would probably be necessary to get a different job if the agency didn’t work out.
    These Fachakademien are nearly all private, but state-recognized. This means they charge fees, just to cover their costs (they aren’t allowed to make a profit, and the Bavarian government pays money to students to cover daily attendance). The fees are not high, but they are regarded as astronomical. However, the FIM is run by the City of Munich, and both it and the FH charge no fees. Hence you get a situation in Munich where the FIM might be more attractive to students. Similarly, if the FH offered the Grundstudium or first two years, it would threaten the FAKs.

    They were talking recently about offering people who went first to FAK and then to FH some kind of B.A. I suspect the FH didn’t get enough students, in any case, but I don’t know.

    I don’t know if the SDI brochure you refer to includes the timetable of lessons, but I think the Erlangen one (probably not available online) is the same kind of length. They have two colleges, the Fachakademie for translators and interpreters and the Berufsfachschule for bilingual secretaries, and after explaining both systems and adding information and publications for teachers, that’s the length it turns out.

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