The FAST Area Studies Program of the University of Tampere,
Finland, is a good example of specialized interdisciplinary curricula
emerging in universities outside the United States to meet the increased
demands for intercultural communication in a rapidly-internationalizing
world. It may also provide many useful resources for international
The FAST Program, an acronym for Foundations in Area
Studies for Translators, is based in Tampere
University's Department of Translation Studies,
whose mission is to provide practical training and a foundation for
advanced study and research for professional translators and interpreters.
While the Translation Program itself offers the full range of university
degrees, B.A. through Ph.D., the FAST Program offerss first or
second-minor options for the Bachelors' and Masters' degrees. Students
wishing to specialize in United States or British, Irish and European
Studies may also receive Certificates for the completion of 10 credits
from these individual components of the curriculum.
The FAST curriculum is interdisciplinary and inter-departmental,
tailored to the needs of translators, interpreters, philologists and
language teachers, media specialists, social scientists, educators and
others whose professions will require a knowledge of intercultural area
studies focusing on the national cultures of the United States, United
Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, and Finland within the context of the
The FAST Core Curriculum
The FAST core curriculum is comprised of 18 courses from wholly within the
Translation Program, providing a reliability and continuity of courses
financed from a hard-money budget. Courses offered on by other
departments can be taken as supplements to FAST basic subjects, as can
courses taken during studies abroad.
While translation students form the majority in most classes, the
Program is open to all Tampere University students; on average about a
third of all FAST students come from other departments, particularly
students of languages and mass communications, and about 10% of the
students come from other countries. Inasmuch as translators are by nature
'international communicators', most of the courses include telematic
collaboration with students and working translators throughout Europe and
North America. All students have access to full internet services, and
all must pass telematics proficiency exams at the
beginning of their studies.
Some courses are also available by telematically-mediated distance
education, though this option is primarily used as a means of continuing
coursework by Tampere students who are working or studying abroad. While
course participation by distance technologies is also available to others,
University regulations require that one must first have been admitted as a
student by the Faculty of the Humanities, in which the Translation and
FAST Programs are located.
Objectives of the FAST Program
The FAST curriculum focuses on the practical needs of translators
working to or from the English language. It is based on an examination
and comparison of the languages and literatures of the United States and
United Kingdom as the cornerstones of world English, the socioeconomic,
cultural, political and educational institutions by which the U.S. and
U.K. are known, and the mass communications structures and technologies
through which the peoples of both nations convey information worldwide in
the English language.
As is the case with most 'Area Studies' curricula, the FAST program was
designed on the premise that cultural studies must by definition be
interdisciplinary or a-disciplinary, e.g. involving cultural relationships
and processes that do not easily correspond to traditional definitions of
academic disciplines such as 'language', 'history' or 'literature' alone.
Each subject within an Area Studies program will provide its own insight,
or 'window' into the whole fabric of the target culture, with a 'holistic
understanding' of how that culture operates the objective of the program.
American, British, Finnish and European Studies
The two primary divisions of the FAST program are United States Studies
and British, Irish and European Studies -- or from the language
perspective of translators, a focus on American English and British
English from the standpoint of understanding the national cultures and
subcultures represented by the two major variants of World English.
The core curriculum for United States Studies includes nine basic
courses: "Introduction to American English", "U.S. Institutions Survey", "U.S. Literature Survey I
and II", "The U.S. Education System", "U.S. Mass
Communications", "U.S. Popular Culture", "Power, Pride & Politics in
American English", and "U.S. Government & Political
System". Basic courses are supplemented internet-based cooperative courses with universities abroad, by English-language offerings
in other departments of Tampere University, or courses by visiting Fulbright and other scholars.
The British, Irish and European Studies core
curriculum in turn includes eight basic courses: "Introduction to British
English", "British Institutions Survey", "Irish Institutions Survey",
"European Institutions Survey", "Introduction to European Arts and
Culture", "English Literature I and II", and "Commonwealth Literature".
Basic subjects are supplemented by offerings from the University's
'European Studies' curriculum, among others.
In addition, there is a Finnish and Integrative
Studies component to the Program which is required of all students,
with the presumption that most students would be studying or working in
Finland, in professions requiring the use of English within the context of
Finnish language and culture. While there is only one course in the
'Finnish Studies' component, "Finnish Institutions Survey" (taught in
English), since 90% of all program students are Finns it has not been
necessary for other courses to be offered in the FAST program itself.
International students may take supplementary courses from the
University's English-language "Finland" curriculum.
A feature of the FAST Program that may especially interest educational
advisers is that course resources are on the Internet, available for
all to use. These include a number of papers and projects on different
aspects of American language and culture especially, as well as further
details on the structure and requirements for the FAST program.
Also, all of the United States Studies courses, the Finnish
Studies course, and a growing number of the British, Irish and
European Studies courses have individual class
e-mail lists to which advisers may subscribe. The course lists enable
the rapid relay of class information, such as schedule changes or the
forwarding of relevant internet lecture resources; provide a forum to
discuss course-related topics outside regular class time; and also provide
the capability for students to cooperate telematically on FAST projects.
All of the lists run under 'ListProc' software at the University of
Tampere Computer Center, and have names such as "USA1-L@uta.fi" and
The FAST Program is a Pioneer in its IT-based Curriculum
The use of interactive information technologies in the FAST program is
part of the growing use of telematic learning aids in higher education
worldwide. In Europe, the FAST program has been a pioneer in the use of
internet technologies, and has served as a model for programs elsewhere
wishing to implement on-line work. In 1996, the FAST program was
designated as one of the Core A-1 leaders among 104 European university
programs selected for an inaugural European Union SOCRATES Thematic
Network on 'Advanced Computing in the
The FAST program uses technology to expand the influence of the
traditional university, to help offset some of the budget cuts faced by
universities worldwide, to involve a greater part of the communities
surrounding but outside the traditional university, and to drive the
ever-growing concept of Life-Long Learning.
Technology is used to enhance the human touch, rather than replacing
it. It supplements personal mentoring, complements human guidance and
enhances face-to-face instruction, while at the same time extending the
reach of university and incorporating those outside the university who
need the training and knowledge universities can provide.
There are several levels of telematic work, starting with e-mail. Each
course has its own e-mail "list" which all the students join. Each list
carries substantive information, such as notes and articles on the
lectures and followup to class discussion, as well as practical
information, such as schedule changes. Through the list there is an
ongoing contact among students and teachers, and with the course material,
to supplement the weekly physical meetings of the class.
Enhanced Learning as well as Budget Savings
Learning is enhanced in several ways. There is more exchange of ideas
and perspectives than would have been possible with the physical class
alone. There is also more involvement. Students who may not have felt
like volunteering ideas during class often do send ideas to the list.
Students open up more to each other. Exchanges on-line lead to discussions
in person. Learning extends beyond the course itself. Students have not
left the lists even after courses have been completed. They stay
subscribed and involved with each new course cycle.
Each class also has its WWW directory, which stores class schedules,
lecture outlines, course exams, student papers and projects, and what used
to be known as 'hand-outs': supplementary teaching and reference materials
which are now made available electronically.
This provides a budget savings as well as a resource benefit. Putting
"handouts" on the web instead of duplicating them on the copy machine
means more material is available at a fraction of the cost. Instead of
duplicating three pages of paper, thirty or three hundred pages can be
archived digitally, extra material the teacher has available, but which
would have been marginal for most students and too expensive to be copied.
Students browse the website, select material of use to them, download it to
their disks, and print out all or parts of it as they wish, or edit it
directly into digital projects. The incremental cost for doing this, with
the infrastructure in place, is just the few minutes needed to put the
International Cooperation is Easily Available
Student work is also published in the website, where it remains, modest
additions to the body of knowledge. For our curriculum needs, benchmarks
are established which successive classes advance; more pride and care is
taken by students in their work, and more visibility gained for both the
students and the Program. But our materials are also used by others, by
school teachers and other language workers throughout Finland, and by
students, staff and advisers in other countries and on other continents.
Freely available and searchable on the internet, the glossaries, projects,
papers and reports produced for our own local needs become a global
resource, at no extra effort for us.
Distance education and continuing education opportunities are inherent
in the technology. Classwork includes collaboration by e-mail with
students and teachers in other institutions and other countries. Sometimes
these lead to new physical exchanges, but ones in which the 'home culture'
need not be left behind. Students can complete credits in our curriculum
at the same time they are studying in another, or directly combine work
done abroad with courses and classmates back home.
The physical classroom is supplemented by a personal 'learning
environment' which is anywhere from which students can be on- line.
Students need not always be present to complete their coursework. Those
who are handicapped, who have child-care duties, who work part-time, or
who simply fall ill and miss a few days, can all be accommodated through
the larger electronic dimension that supplements our physical meetings.
Extension courses for the professional training of translators in
Finland and abroad are also easily enabled. Another e-mail list,
(TRAN-Q@uta.fi) handles questions translators submit when faced with
unusual terminology or obscure cultural references in the books, films, or
TV series on which they are working. With deadlines near and one's
dictionaries not enough, where does one turn? The e-mail list puts one
quickly in touch with hundreds of students, teachers, and colleagues, some
of whom will likely know the answer, which then is shared with all.
There is a mutual benefit from this service. For teaching and
research, the questions are as useful to us as are the answers to the
askers. New definitions go into terminology registers which are on-line
in the website. Through the exchanges of queries and responses, students
get a better view of the reality of working life in their future
professions. In turn, this 'reality' can be coordinated better with
extension and continuing education courses for working translators. These
courses can be completed partly by e-mail while one is working elsewhere,
a convenience which brings more new students to our courses, who then
raise our enrollment figures, which helps our budget problems, and so on
down the line. Technology enables an on-going synergy of benefits. More
can happen. All will gain.
The FAST Program is designed to help professionals who must use English
to communicate the social, political and educational dynamics of the
United States and United Kingdom to and from their own language and
culture. This is precisely the function of educational advisers, as well
as the translators and interpreters for whom the Program was designed.
Advisers are welcome to explore the FAST program website, make use of
any of the materials you feel are helpful, and even subscribe to class
e-mail lists if you would like to join class discussions of American or
British language and culture. There is no obligation, or any cost other
than possibly for your local internet access. Thanks to the new
technologies that link us together, again it's 'more can happen; all will