Evaluating translation processes: opportunities and challenges
Massey, Gary; Ehrensberger-Dow, Maureen (2012). Evaluating translation processes: opportunities and challenges: Conference paper. In: IATIS 2012. 4th Conference of the International Association for Translation and Intercultural Studies. (24-27 July). Belfast: Queen's University Belfast.
Translation pedagogy has long recognized the importance of students reflecting on decisions and actions during the translation process and the role that such reflection has in the development of translation competence. More recently, it has also recognised that evaluating translation performance can be aided by knowledge of the process by which it came about. Many of the methods that are used to investigate translation processes in laboratory-based and workplace research projects can be exploited in translation pedagogy to encourage self-reflection and to complement traditional teaching techniques and product assessments. A simple method such as examining screenshot recordings allows teachers and students to re-construct the process between intermediate and final solutions, thus gaining insights into search behaviour as well as use and integration of thematic and linguistic material from parallel texts and other sources. In addition, the transparency facilitates individual coaching more than traditional evaluations of translation products can, since many of the considerations in reaching translation solutions can be observed and do not just have to be assumed. Supplementing screenshot recordings with cue-based retrospective verbalisations encourages reflection and fosters self-awareness not only by the students but also by teachers.
In a study designed to evaluate how knowledge gleaned from observing processes is integrated into existing conceptions of translation competence, teachers sometimes related what they saw in the recordings of their students’ translation processes to their own teaching practices. They also seemed to acquire new knowledge of the individual and often non-standard behaviour of their students, which would indicate the usefulness of these process research methods in both diagnostic, formative student evaluation and the provision of genuinely needs-based training. Students frequently commented on how insightful and instructive they found viewing their own and their peers’ recordings to be. While reflecting aloud about what they were observing, they seemed to be acquiring information about their own and others’ problem awareness and identification, search behaviour, resource use, revision practices, and work efficiency. Learning about one’s own and others’ practices in such a non-threatening way has the potential to be both enlightening and empowering.
At our institute, we have started transferring the findings from our research by applying these methods in the translation classroom. In addition to viewing and commenting on their own and peers’ processes, students are able to observe those of professionals and teachers, potentially providing them with good practice models for their own translational behaviour. The teachers, in turn, can benefit both from richer information on individual students’ competence and from the self-reflection such methods appear to encourage among all participants. The challenges of using process recordings for pedagogical or evaluation purposes include time, infrastructure, resources, students’ proficiency, and group size. With careful planning, however, they need not exceed those presented by wholly product-oriented methods.