Team of the Month 04/2019: WU Translation Team

The work of Kathleen Knaus and Benjamin Schmid gives WU a clear and consistent voice in English. This ensures that we all understand each other at WU, and it also creates an important part of WU’s corporate identity. The two translators from WU’s Marketing and Communications office have been chosen as our new Team of the Month, in recognition of their excellent work on the translation of the WU Strategic Plan.

WU is home to students, teachers, and researchers from over 100 countries. More and more students are going abroad to study at international universities. The world of research has become increasingly international as researchers exchange ideas as part of a global community. And WU’s administrative staff also includes people who speak a variety of different languages. Together, all this makes WU a very multilingual place. For this reason, WU has adopted a policy of active bilingualism in German and English to ensure its success in the globalized higher education market.

This means that numerous texts need to be translated into English at WU every day, from web texts and circulars to press releases, brochures, forms, contracts, and certificates. The WU translation team works to ensure that WU communicates effectively and efficiently in English.

“In addition to this daily business, another important aspect of our work is translating publications like the Annual Report and important strategic documents. One example is the WU Strategic Plan,” says Kathleen Knaus, a US native. “That was quite a big chunk of work. We split the document up between us and translated all the parts over the summer. As always, we also proofread each other’s work before we handed in the finished translation.”

Parallel to their usual daily business, Kathleen Knaus and Benjamin Schmid spent three months working on the translation of the roughly 70-page document. The Strategic Plan is one of WU’s key strategic documents. It defines WU’s strategic goals in teaching, research, and internationalization, articulates WU’s vision, and outlines WU’s active commitment to the role of a responsible university. The Strategic Plan sets out WU’s mission statement, its key goals, and the key areas on which the university focuses its energy. In short, it provides a roadmap for WU’s future development. Its content and the way it’s presented (and translated) is a central element of WU’s identity.

 “What was that called in English again?”

Finding good and correct translations for technical terms is a challenge, and this is particularly true in the field of higher education. Sometimes, the appropriate English word looks very different from the corresponding German expression. For example, WU translates “Matrikelnummer” as “student ID number.” And sometimes, several different English expressions are needed to translate a single German word, depending on the context. For an example, we don’t have to look further than WU’s English name, where the very broad German concept of “Wirtschaft” is rendered as “economics and business” – “Vienna University of Economics and Business.”

The terminology tool WU Term is a useful source of information for dealing with these challenges. This terminology database is continuously updated by the translation team. It’s like a German-English dictionary that works both ways and helps WU staff and faculty find the right terms that conform to WU’s corporate language.

“Our job is to give WU an English voice that helps all members of the WU community understand each other and that allows WU to make itself understood around the world. WU Term is a big help with that. It’s a dynamic tool that is updated continuously. It’s constantly evolving, like language itself,” Benjamin Schmid explains.

The work of Kathy Knaus and Ben Schmid is more than just turning texts from German into English. With their translations, they give WU an English voice that reflects the spirit of the WU community and connects with WU’s stakeholders. This is an important part of WU’s professional external communications and helps strengthen WU’s profile as a truly international university.