RUS-494: The Art of Translation

Prof. Lee B. Croft

A 3-credit seminar ON-LINE.

This is your Professor, Lee B. Croft.

You can get by him... Just read this syllabus.


How to Contact the Professor:   Messages can be left by telephone during 8-5, M-F at the Department of Languages and Literatures at 480-965-6281.   My actual office (G. Homer Durham Languages and Literatures Building, room 402-D) telephone number is 480-965-1002, but I’m often in class and deliberately have no voice mail.   The DLL Fax machine is 480-965-0135, but be sure to specify that your fax message is meant for me, Prof. Croft, since more than a hundred people share this fax.   My main email address is: Lee.Croft@ASU.EDU and that is the best way to reach me.   My home telephone is 480-496-0229 (again, no voice mail) and my cell is 480-567-4501.  

Syllabus:   The course works on an elaborated contract system.   The method is to learn the “Art of Translation” by actually doing English-to-Russian translations of increasingly difficult literary material.   Each English text to be translated into Russian is itself already the translation into English of a pre-existing Russian original (which I initially withold, of course, so that you have no access to it).   Your task is to translate the English text into Russian and submit your Russian translation for grading, discussion, and for eventual comparison with the Russian original which generated it.   To repeat, this means that you will be translating English into Russian…and the English you are working from will already be a translation from a Russian original you will subequently be given for comparison.   This is the method.   Incrementality is important—i.e. you should do the first one in week one, see it graded, discuss it, then see the original for comparison, THEN move on to week two…and so on.   Do not move on to the next one until all aspects of the one before are completed (translation, grading, discussion, comparison with original).   This method will optimize the learning process.

A translation will only be accepted in TYPED, DOUBLE-SPACED CYRILLIC WORD FILES (cf. for downloads of programs/fonts)…which can be submitted in hard copy or digitally (email).   An initial screening of the submitted translations for gross “mechanical” errors…subject-verb agreements, gender agreement, case governance, spellings, etc…will be performed on each submission.   A grade of “Accepted” will be recorded ONLY IF THE TRANSLATION CONTAINS LESS THAN SIX SUCH ERRORS.   Unacceptable submissions will be promptly returned with the gross errors marked…to facilitate resubmission.

Grade Schedule:   There are 14 translations numbered 1-14, all being of long paragraph length and incorporating ever-more-difficult grammatical constructions and literary tropes.   There are also 14 Mondays in the semester (not a coincidental fact).   The idea is for you to submit a translation each Monday, get your feedback by Wednesday of that week, then begin work on the next…   As for consultation with others…Russian-native parents or friends or… or finding the original Russian text by internet search techniques and ….     You should use your own judgment about the appropriate level of interaction with others in the task of translating these texts.   YOU CANNOT LEARN OPTIMALLY WITHOUT DOING INDEPENDENT WORK.    A key part of the submission process involves the editing and interaction of trusted others, BUT honest individual effort will find appropriate reward in language understanding and increased facility…and that’s our goal.

Your GRADE: 12 or more accepted translations means an A in the course, 9 means a B, 6 means a C, 3 means a D, and less than 3 accepted translations can, depending on the reason, mean a directed drop, and “I” (incomplete) or “E” (a failing grade.

You may have noticed, the process described mimics the process by which many types of text, artistic, journalistic, business, or scholarly, become published.   You do your best work…hopefully advancing the art and/or science…and you submit it to some editor’s judgment for an “accept,” a “redo,” or a “reject.”   This is the way the course should work.   I hope you will have, at the end, a file as a course memento…14 translations with an “Accepted” (Принято!) written on them above my initials and 14 accompanying Russian originals for comparison and inspiration.   That’s the plan.   Good Luck! (Ни пуха, ни пера!).         

Weekly Translations (1-14):