Translators self-concepts and the realities of the translation workplace
Ehrensberger-Dow, Maureen; Massey, Gary (2011). Translators self-concepts and the realities of the translation workplace : Conference presentation. In: AILA 2011, the 16th World Congress of Applied Linguistics. Harmony in Diversity: Language, Culture, Society. (23-28 August). Beijing: Beijing Foreign Studies University.
Although in recent years English has become a lingua franca of the business and research world, the need for well-trained professional translators and interpreters has actually increased as more companies and governments reach outside of their language area. Since translation is an economic activity, there are commercial interests and needs to consider. Non-literary translators must balance their linguistic, information, and time resources to achieve fit-for-purpose translation, with differing demands on quality. Throughout the process, translators occupy a central position as experts in the complex system of translational action, managing their cognitive resources and bringing various types of competence to bear in order to complete the translation task.
Translational action and translation processes are probably best explained in social realist terms: the situated activity of translating is of primary interest here, but the other domain associated with people or agency (the psychobiography of the translator) as well as the two domains associated with social structures (the social setting of the translator's workplace and the contextual resources) must also be considered. Translation studies, too, has recently moved from an almost exclusive focus on products towards considering workplace and cognitive processes and the effects of those processes on the quality of products. The latter are the result of the interaction between societal expectations of what translations should be, what translators should do, and translators' emergent practices and translation competence that allow them to produce acceptable translations within temporal and economic constraints.
Investigating translation processes becomes truly relevant to translation competence and curriculum development when the processes investigated reflect actual workplace practices of working translators and not artefacts of experimental settings and tasks. We will report on an ongoing research project using a multimethod approach that allows us to monitor professional translators at their usual workplace in as controlled and non-invasive a manner as possible and has made it possible to infer what background conditions, linguistic, metalinguistic, aptitude, socioeconomic, and psychological characteristics fit the profile of a successful language professional. In particular, we will focus on the translators' self-concepts and their understanding of what their roles are. We will discuss differences between translation into the language of the surrounding community and into other languages as well as translators' conceptualizations of who has primary responsibility for various stages of the translation process (i.e. source text quality, terminology, research, revision, target text quality, etc.).