Capturing the realities of the translation workplace

; (). Capturing the realities of the translation workplace: Conference paper. In: IATIS 2012. 4th Conference of the International Association for Translation and Intercultural Studies. (24-27 July). Belfast: Queen's University Belfast.

Although optimal implementation of technology has become a prerequisite to operating efficiently in the domain of commercial translation, systematic research has only recently begun focusing on how translation tools and resources are impacting translators’ practices. People trained as knowledge workers are increasingly expected to be highly competent as technicians, which has implications for their roles in the chain of multilingual text production. Working conditions, educational background, aptitude, and socio-psychological characteristics all play a part in determining translators’ self-concepts, but today's technologies, tools, and information resources are presumably also influential. Recent empirical findings suggest that these can affect translators’ decision-making processes and their understanding of what their responsibilities are.
We will report on the last phase of a research project using a multi-method approach that has allowed us, in as controlled and non-invasive a manner as possible, to monitor the situated activity of students and staff translators at work. The approach provides data at the micro and macro levels that permit inferences to be made about how psychobiographical factors , workplace settings, and contextual resources interact to allow translators to produce fit-for-purpose translations within the time available. We will discuss differences between translation in an isolated setting, where the translator has sole responsibility for the target text, and translation as part of a chain of activities within a language services organization. The types of texts that staff translators consider interesting and the reasons they give for this help us understand the constraints under which they usually operate and what they consider their role to be. The realities of such non-literary translation carried out by staff translators in highly digitized and tool-oriented environments force a re-examination of the model of the multiply-competent translator working in isolation on which many educational programs have been based.
The ergonomics of tools, originally designed to relieve translators of tedious, repetitious tasks, may actually be affecting efficiency and cognitive processes in unforeseen ways. For example, inefficient resource and desktop management, inadequate knowledge of (automated) tool features, ineffective interaction with user interfaces, and an over-reliance on readily available, easily accessible on-line dictionaries can be detrimental by both slowing down the process and diminishing the quality of the product, particularly amongst beginners. It is suggested that these effects can be counteracted by heightening problem awareness, improving familiarity with resource features and capabilities, and adequately evaluating, selecting and manipulating resources.