Technical and Instrumental Competence in Translation: Investigating Workplace Processes and Practices
Massey, Gary; Ehrensberger-Dow, Maureen (2010). Technical and Instrumental Competence in Translation: Investigating Workplace Processes and Practices: Conference presentation. In: International Conference. Translation and Ergonomics. (15-16 October). Grenoble: Université Stendhal Grenoble 3.
Although technical and instrumental competence feature large in translation competence models (e.g. PACTE 2009, Göpferich 2009) and profiles (e.g. EMT expert group 2009), systematic cognitive research has only recently begun on how they develop, how they can be fostered, and how today's technologies, tools and information resources are impacting on the workplace processes and practices of translators (e.g. Alves & Campos 2009, O'Brien 2006, Pinto & Sales 2008, White et al. 2008). In this paper, we report on the initial phases of a process-oriented research project investigating student and professional translators' technical and information behavior in the workplace. The study, which forms part of the large-scale Capturing Translation Processes project at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences' Institute of Translation and Interpreting, adopts a multi-method approach which combines data from ethnographic observation of the translation situation, surveys and semi-structured interviews to determine self-reported practices, keystroke logging, computer screenshot recordings, cue-based retrospective verbalizations of recorded translation processes as well as additional techniques such as eye-tracking. The diverse aspects of translation processes we capture as students and professionals translate and revise their texts allow us to gain insight into their technical and information behavior by triangulating the data from observation, self-report, and computer recordings (cf. Ehrensberger-Dow & Massey 2008, Ehrensberger-Dow & Perrin 2009).
In the course of our research, we have identified instances where technological aids actually appear to interfere with the cognitive process of translation. In this paper, we indicate how research of this kind can help identify potential ergonomic problems inherent in the design of user interfaces, including those of standardized translation aids such as readily available online dictionaries. These can impede the efficiency of translation by both slowing down the translation process and diminishing the quality of the product, particularly amongst beginners. It is suggested that targeted instruction in technical and instrumental competence (cf. Massey et al. 2008) can counteract these effects, for example by raising translators? awareness of the potential pitfalls of indiscriminate use of technology, teaching them how to optimize their workplace practices and thus helping them to meet their ergonomic needs.