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Cognitive and Physical Ergonomics of Translation (ErgoTrans)

In the interdisciplinary project Physical and Cognitive Ergonomics of Translation, researchers from translation studies, occupational therapy, and usability studies have been studying the ergonomic factors that affect professional translators at their workplace.

Professional translators spend much of their day making decisions at a computer. If the flow of information or level of concentration is impaired, the efficiency of the process can be compromised and the quality of the translation can suffer.

Drawing on perspectives from translation studies and occupational health, the present project will address the following research questions:

  • What are the indications of disturbances to the translation process at the workplace?
  • Which cognitive and physical ergonomic factors are related to those disturbances?
  • How do professional translators cope with disturbances, and which practices seem to be most successful?
  • Which disturbances seem most difficult to compensate, which cannot be compensated at all, and which might actually have a positive impact on translation performance?
  • Which health complaints might be related to the ergonomics of the translation workplace?

Project details

The interdisciplinary research project Cognitive and Physical Ergonomics of Translation, funded by SNF, is a follow-up project of Capturing Translation Processes. The recursive mixed-methods design combines perspectives from

  • translation studies
  • occupational health
  • usability testing
  • language technology.

The large corpus of the precursor study is the source of indications of ergonomic issues. Hypotheses about these are tested and refined with on-site ergonomic assessments and recordings of three groups of professional translators with different work profiles as well as with experiments in the usability lab. The results are expected to have implications for

  • theoretical models of extended cognition
  • theoretical models for situated activity
  • workplace practice
  • education and continuing education of professional translators
  • further developments at human computer interface.


The multi-method design of the research project Cognitive and Physical Ergonomics of Translation includes

  • ethnographic observation of the workplace
  • ergonomic assessments
  • questionnaires
  • interviews
  • computer logging
  • screen recordings
  • video recordings
  • eye-tracking
  • usability experiments
  • retrospective verbalizations.

Online survey

1,850 professional translators from almost 50 countries completed the survey. Our report about the survey results highlights the differences between translators working in freelance, commercial, and institutional settings.

Publications and research activities


Principal investigator


Team members

Vera Aebischer

Isabel Damiano  (until April 2015)

Annina Meyer (until February 2015)