MOOCs for Translators and Interpreters

Judy at Harvard, 2011.
At this point, most people and probably all of our readers are familiar with MOOC (massive open online courses), which are offered for free (yes!) by some of the world's best universities. They are offered entirely online and all students can sign up, although a few courses are intended for advanced students in certain fields. We've written about MOOCs before, and we are delighted to see that more and more top universities in countries other than the U.S. are adding courses in other languages. Coursera now offers courses in a total of 12 languages.

A few weeks ago, we decided to take a Spanish-language class from the well-known Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (it starts in February). Even though we attended part of elementary, all of middle school and part of high school in Mexico City, we haven't taken college-level classes in Spanish, so this should be a real treat. We also got our recently retired dad to sign up for the class (Scientific Thinking) with us, so it's a family activity! Coursera and EdX are our favorite MOOC platforms, and we've found many courses that might be a good fit for colleagues with very specific specializations and interest. Here are just a few:
We are very strong believers in professional development, as evidenced by the dozens of conferences and workshops we attend in person every year. However, we've never taken a class at an Ivy League university, so this is quite a treat. Regardless of one's field of specialization or interest, there seems to be a MOOC out there that will deepen and broaden one's knowledge and insight. We can't wait to get started. What about you, dear colleagues? Have you taken a MOOC before? Tell us about your experiences!


Annie Sapucaia on December 13, 2013 at 2:44 PM said...

I think it's amazing that these courses are offered for free! On the other hand, it's tough to keep up with them - it's a lot of material and it's easy to get behind on the lectures - lots of listening in front of the computer. I guess I still prefer classroom learning, although the convenience (and affordability) of MOCCs is undeniable. I plan to take more of them in the future.

Alice in Translation on December 14, 2013 at 2:04 AM said...

I've already attended (and happily completed) six MOOCs, actually: one in French (Calvin – Histoire et réception d’une Réforme) and the remaining five in English (Child Nutrition and Cooking, Know Thyself, Aboriginal Worldviews and Education, Think Again: How to Reason and Argue, Obesity Economics). I haven't attended any course in my mother tongue, yet, and I feel like I'm definitely exploiting the linguistic opportunity ;)

EN/FR>IT Freelance Translator

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on December 14, 2013 at 8:33 AM said...

@Annie: Yes, it truly is amazing that universities are essentially donating their time and their professors' time. Quite impressive. You are right: in-person learning is even better, but not sure we would be able to get into Harvard. We do think that this model is groundbreaking, especially when it comes to bringing educational opportunities to those who might otherwise not have access.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on December 14, 2013 at 8:34 AM said...

@Alice: How fantastic! I don't think we know anyone who has completed as many as you have -- great. They sure are a wonderful way to take classes in other languages indeed!

Revé on December 15, 2013 at 12:41 AM said...

I'm excited for "Correctión y estilo en español." I hope a similar class in French will be offered eventually.

Amy Lesiewicz on December 16, 2013 at 6:40 AM said...

I took "Drugs and the Brain" last year, and it was absolutely wonderful! I highly recommend it to everyone. The professor is an excellent and enthusiastic teacher, and the course is well-designed. The professor has added content this year, so I will probably take it again (I really loved it that much).
Thanks for pointing out "Design and Interpretation of Clinical Trials." I just signed up!

Anna on December 16, 2013 at 8:11 AM said...

Dear Judy and Dagmar,

First of all: thanks for your useful insights and tips you post in your blog.

And of course, thanks for the list! Some of the courses are just matching what I'm looking for.

I was also thinking aobut the "Corrección y estilo en español". A few months ago the Madrid based company Cálamo y Cran published "El libro rojo de Cálamo y Cran" ( and which is a compilation and comparison of the most well know style guide resources for Spanish. I just think the Coursera course, will be a good complement for it.

All the best with the MOOCs you take enjoy them!

Anna Agustí

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on December 16, 2013 at 2:08 PM said...

@Amy: That class sounds fantastic, Amy, and that's high praise indeed! Is it through Coursera? We'd be quite interested in taking it as well.

@Revé: "See" you in class! Yes, fingers crossed that these classes also become available in other languages. Slowly but surely...

@Anna: Thanks for your lovely note and for recommending the book. It looks absolutely fantastic!

Unknown on December 17, 2013 at 8:53 AM said...

Thanks so much for the informative post. I just completed a medical term course on Coursera that is designed more for foreigners going to the U.S. to work in clinical settings. It focused on abbreviations and was a wonderful base. Boy was I wrong to think I'd be the only translator; there were over 20 of us and we are helping the program to develop a multi-lingual version of their glossary. It was wonderful to see everyone working together for a common goal. This is a wonderful new frontier in education, and I believe everyone can find something relevant to them.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on December 18, 2013 at 12:28 PM said...

@Mary: Thanks so much for reading and for commenting, Mary! How fantastic -- we love hearing about this collaborative effort that came out of the MOOC you took. What a fantastic experience. Thanks for sharing. It's also great to know that so many translators are taking these classes.

Douglas Carnall, @juliuzbeezer on December 19, 2013 at 11:03 AM said...

I'm really looking forward to the MOOC in corpus linguistics being offered by Lancaster University starting at the end of January. Might see you there?

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on December 20, 2013 at 11:28 AM said...

@Douglas: Oh, that sounds very tempting. We will have to see just how many classes we can handle at the same time! :) Enjoy!

Corinne McKay on January 8, 2014 at 10:57 AM said...

I agree with the previous commenters that MOOCs present a really amazing opportunity if you can make yourself keep up with them. I recently completed a Coursera class on Epidemics: the dynamics of infectious disease (taught by a team from Penn State)and it was truly outstanding. Honestly, I learned more from it than from any in-person science class that I took in college. However, the time commitment was very reasonable; maximum 2 hours a week or so. I agree with Annie that when you already spend your work day in front of the computer, even an extra hour a day can get tiring. But in general, I think MOOCs are an incredible professional development resource.

manu said...

I love MOOCs. I took some at the OpenHPI Institute, which has been founded by Hasso Plattner, SAP. And I am currently enrolled in "Introduction to forensic science" at Coursera. It is a good opportunity to broaden your horizon, get very interesting input in your area of specialitie and best of all: You decide when and how much you can invest time. Great post!

Charlotte Monnier said...

I attended the "Design and Interpretation of Clinical Trials" (Coursera) course earlier this year and can highly recommend it! ;)

Thanks for posting this list of MOOC courses!

Jayne Fox on February 10, 2016 at 9:30 PM said...

Thanks for collating these interesting MOOCs. I love this way of learning and have done some really interesting courses over the last few years. One of my favourites was AnatomyX: Musculoskeletal Cases, at Harvard via edX. I also enjoyed Introduction to Marketing at Wharton via Coursera. I didn't do the certificate for that one, but it's starting again in late February - so I might give it another go. Hope your upcoming course goes well. :)

Unknown on May 6, 2016 at 3:46 PM said...

Fantastic listing of MOOCs here! I personally like the Learning How to Learn course in Coursera because it really applies to learning languages (my forte).

Two additional free resources I'd like to share for language learners and language teachers if I may:
- Free Learning & Teaching Tools for Spanish
- Tips for learning vocabulary in another language (just disregard the medical Spanish context on this one; it applies to any context).

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