This paper presents the results of a study on the teaching philosophy and classroom practices of legal translation lecturers in Spain at undergraduate level. While it has been suggested that, in general terms, adapting the Spanish higher education scenario to the requirements of the EHEA was a complex endeavour, the Spanish degrees in Translation and Interpreting (TI) had an advantage: being a younger, more practice-oriented discipline that already matched most of the pedagogical tenets of the EHEA. Even before the European harmonisation process took place, many TI lecturers were intuitively implementing task- and project-based modules, for example, and the debate on competences as a tool to conceptualise the education of TI students had been present for some time in forums on translation education for their ability to draw together conceptual, behavioural and, especially, procedural knowledge.
Today, nearly twenty years after the signing of the Bologna Declaration, different degrees in Translation and Interpreting are offered in 31 Spanish universities (20 public, 11 private), and as is evident from the recent proliferation of institutions where the degree can be taken, there is a growing interest in translation as an academic discipline. Yet, although the 2018 Paris Communiqué speaks of the “full” implementation of student-centred learning, the extent to which this applies in everyday translation classrooms remains unknown.
The study we present aims to analyse to what extent legal translation lecturers have successfully transformed their teaching in their legal translation course units (if at all) in order to adjust to the requirements by the EHEA. As opposed to general translation, legal translation is deeply marked by the asymmetries between the legal systems involved, hence the heavy conceptual weight of this field of translation. Legal translation students, who tend to be unfamiliar with legal discourses and legal texts, are confronted for the first time in their lives with these asymmetries and the problems they entail, ranging from the need to resort to ad-hoc functional equivalence to the debate on legal universals and the ongoing globalisation of legal concepts.
Following an exploratory analysis of the syllabuses of the 94 legal translation modules currently offered at undergraduate level in Spain, a questionnaire comprising three scales (student- and teacher-centred models and teaching skills) structured according to the Likert scale was distributed among all legal translations lecturers in the country with a view to mapping their teaching philosophy and practices. The study included the whole population of legal translation lecturers in Spain, as this population was countable, well-defined and relatively accessible. The results show, among others, that although lecturers acknowledge the need to foster student-centered learning environments eclectic models coexist.