A new translation school in central Athens keeps faith with its students

School’s in at Metaphrasi, a new college specializing in translation studies in downtown Athens. The atmosphere was businesslike on Tuesday when Kathimerini English Edition visited a class that was getting to grips with the vocabulary of Economic and Monetary Union. There was no hint of the stormy events that brought the school into being. In early 2001, foreign cultural institutes in Athens began to rationalize their operations. The repercussions included severe cutbacks in the number and range of courses the institutes had provided for many years. Translation studies teachers at the British Council were astounded to learn that their popular course was among those destined for the scrap heap. Students who had enrolled in two- and three-year courses suddenly found themselves in limbo, explains teacher Pauline Seale. An uneasy period followed as teachers and students fought to save the course. Matters of substance and detail were hotly contested throughout much of 2001, until both sides’ legal representatives finally managed to negotiate an agreement whereby the teachers would continue to run the course and the British Council would certify the diplomas earned by the current intake of students until 2004, when they complete their original courses. That was a big step forward, but it was just the beginning. Going into business Four of the teachers – Constantina Triantafillopoulou, Pauline Seale, Georgia Papadopoulou and Vassilis Barbouris – came up with the idea of starting their own school. Initially, they considered transferring the whole course as a going concern to an existing school. They had talks with a number of establishments, but were unable to find an appropriate solution, says Papadopoulou. Three of them (Seale decided to work as an employee) then embarked on setting up their own business. This was no straightforward matter. «It was daunting,» says Papadopoulou. «We wanted so much to go on with what we were doing, and we knew we were doing it well. But none of us knew anything about finance or setting up a company.» And it was a risk. All four have invested a huge amount of effort in the new project, and the proprietors have invested all their resources. Eventually, after a false start or two, suitable premises were found at 52 Academias, a location formerly used by the Omiros School. Then the paperwork for the requisite permits began in earnest, all the classrooms received a complete makeover, and Metaphrasi finally came into being as an ergastirio eleftheron spoudon, or liberal arts college. Classes began January 15. Satisfied students The transition was smooth and the students are obviously satisfied. As Katherine Begaki, a French teacher taking the diploma year of the course, explains: «There’s no difference. We have the same high level of teaching and conditions that we were used to.» The course offers participants the opportunity to add to or improve their qualifications, and, in some cases, to change direction. Anya Papavassileiou has a degree in marketing and management but, she says, «I wanted to do something that suited me better.» There’s a happy atmosphere at Metaphrasi which comes partly from the cheerful, brightly lit classrooms, with desks tailor-made for groups working with cumbersome dictionaries and reference books. But it also comes from the strong sense of a team of teachers and students who are used to working together and know where they are going. The course: Now and in the future About 140 students are currently enrolled in translation studies at the Metaphrasi school. They do Greek to English and English to Greek translation. The course is part-time – six teaching hours per week – and prepares students for the Greek job market and postgraduate studies in translation. There is also a literary translation course attended by people who are already involved in literary translation or who have completed the general translation course. Metaphrasi may branch out in the future and offer some other courses, such as teacher training, says Triantafillopoulou: «We are thinking about having smaller departments for legal and economic translation. We have specialist staff for this.» Many of the students are interested in doing postgraduate studies in Britain. The diploma entitles them to do an MA in translation studies at some colleges without an undergraduate degree. «We will work on expanding our links with colleges that can certify our courses in the future,» says Triantafillopoulou.Metaphrasi is located at 52 Academias Street, on the first floor, tel 010.362.90.