Introduction to translation theory and practice

In this online module, you’ll explore different approaches to translation and develop an understanding of the links between theory and practice. You can choose to study French, German, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin Chinese or Modern Standard Arabic, in combination with English. With a focus on recent research, you’ll develop an awareness of the wider cultural, ethical and professional contexts of translation. You’ll acquire a solid grounding in a range of ideas within translation studies (e.g. linguistic and functionalist approaches, translation as norm-governed behaviour, cultural and sociological turns, gender and postcolonial theories, translation technologies) and apply this to a range of translation activities. You'll enhance your understanding of how this research can be useful in your professional practice, and learn how to use various translation technologies.

Vocational relevance

This module can be taken as part of our MA in Translation (F79) which provides an academic qualification for those intending to become, or who already are, professional translators.


L801 is a compulsory module in our:

L801 is an optional module in our:


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

This online module will introduce you to translation concepts, debates and analytical approaches in order to develop your understanding of translation in a wider context and to equip you with the necessary skills to improve your translation practice. You will find that this kind of knowledge allows you look at various contexts where translation is used, such as children’s literature or museums, in a new light and to understand how things could be improved or why translations may not always fulfil a particular purpose. The module consists of the following four blocks:

Block 1 - Translation Production
The first block introduces you to the field of translation studies and covers linguistic and functionalist approaches to translation. In particular, it will focus on the idea that translation is a purposeful activity performed by experts.

Block 2 - Translation in Society
This block focuses on translation as norm-governed behaviour. It will focus on different contexts where translation is practised and demonstrate how these can influence different translation behaviours. Concepts covered include the cultural and sociological turns in translation, as well as gender and postcolonial theories of translation.

Block 3 - The Translation Profession
This block focuses on various aspects of professional translation work such as codes of ethics and translation tools. You will explore current and complex practices, such as the revision of machine translation output, and you'll learn how to use translation technology.

Block 4 - Recent Innovations
In the final block, you will explore recent innovations, both in terms of translation research and translation technologies. For example, you will be introduced to comparatively new forms of translation such as crowdsourcing, fansubbing, localisation, and collaborative translation, and this will bring out the real-world relevance of what you are learning.

The frameworks, theories and approaches introduced in the module are applied to real-life translation examples. The aim is to link the development of expertise in advanced translation skills with theoretical and professional aspects of translation. You will have the opportunity to compare and contrast individual approaches and perspectives in relation to each other, in relation to different real-life contexts, and in relation to your own experiences.

All the study materials are available online from the module website and you will use third-party translation software that is freely available on the web.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. You and your tutor will primarily communicate with each other and with the rest of the students on your tutor group through the online tutor group forum. There will also be forums for all students on the course, and these will be facilitated by a number of tutors.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

Course work includes

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Future availability

Introduction to translation theory and practice starts once a year – in February.

This page describes the module that will start in February 2025. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2026.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

1If you don't have an honours degree, talk to an advisor.

2If your first language is English and you’ve passed an OU level 3 module in your second language, your language proficiency should be suitable, as the exit level of our OU level 3 language courses is CEFR C1.


Start End England fee Register
01 Feb 2025 Oct 2025 £2720.00

Registration closes 09/01/25 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in February 2026.

Future availability

Introduction to translation theory and practice starts once a year – in February.

This page describes the module that will start in February 2025. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2026.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

All study materials are provided on the module website. This includes the module study guide and activities, audio/video material and a range of tools to support your study, including real-time conferencing and online forums. Before you start, we’ll provide a list of recommended books to read in preparation.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader (foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way). Other alternative formats of the module materials may be available in the future.

This module makes use of third-party translation software that is freely available on the web. The module team has chosen software which is as accessible as possible, but may not be fully accessible, particularly if you use assistive technology. Further information will be available via the Student Support Team to help you make a decision on your ability to study the module before registering.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.

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