Translation Process Research and Translator Training: Trends and Perspectives

For many years, most empirical studies in translation, especially those concerning translator training, made use of product-based approaches. Then, Krings’ seminal work in 1986 initiated a shift of interest toward cognitive processes involved in translation. A few years later, the wave of interdisciplinarity allowed findings and procedures from cognitive psychology, language learning/teaching and other disciplines to further consolidate the turn from the “what” to the “how” (Jakobsen 1999, 2002; Tirkkonen-Condit and Jääskeläinen 2000; Alves, 2003; Hansen 2002, 2005, 2006; Göpferich 2008, 2010).
Papers in this session reflect recent trends in cognitive translation process research. They cover both the novice versus expert as well as the individual differences paradigm. They highlight a lot of aspects of the translation process: translation, revision and learning styles; consultation processes; time distribution; process creativity. Contributions vary in language pairs; combination of methodologies: from state-of the-art tools such as keystroke logging and screen recording to questionnaires, interviews, post-process-dialogue as well as to more traditional introspective methods, such as think-aloud and retrospection. Nevertheless, all of them have in common that they describe and analyse translation processes from various angles in an effort to reveal cognitive processes behind the translation process itself. They all share the primary aim of applying their findings in order to instigate changes in translator training, thus contributing to translation competence acquisition.

Thematic session organised by Kyriaki Kourouni

Alves, Fábio (ed.). 2003. Triangulating translation. Perspectives in Process Oriented Research. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Göpferich, Susanne. 2008. Translationsprozessforschung: Stand – Methoden – Perspektiven.(Translationswissenschaft 4). Tübingen: Narr.

Göpferich, Susanne Alves, Fabio; Mees, Inger (eds.) 2010. New Approaches in Translation Process Research. (Copenhagen Studies in Language Series 39). Copenhagen: Samfundslitteratur

Hansen, Gyde (ed.). 2002. Empirical Translation Studies: Process and Product (Copenhagen Studies in Language Series 27). Copenhagen: Samfundslitteratur.

Hansen, Gyde. 2005. Störquellen in Übersetzungsprozessen. Habilitationsschrift. Copenhagen: Samfundslitteratur.

Hansen, Gyde. 2006. Erfolgreich Übersetzen. Entdecken und Beheben von Störquellen. Tübingen: Narr, Francke, Attempto.

Jakobsen, Arnt Lykke 1999. “Logging target text production with Translog”. In: Hansen, Gyde (ed.) Probing the Process In Translation: Methods and Results (Copenhagen Studies in Language 24). Copenhagen: Samfundslitteratur. 9-20.

Jakobsen, Arnt Lykke. 2002. “Translation drafting by professional translators and by translation students”. In Hansen, Gyde. (ed.) Empirical translation studies: Process and product. Copenhagen: Samfundslitteratur. 191-204.

Krings, Hans Peter. 1986. Was in den Köpfen von Übersetzen vorgeht. Tübingen: Gunter Narr.

Tirkkonen-Condit, Sonja and Jääskeläinen, Riitta (eds.). 2000. Tapping and Mapping the Process of Translation: Outlooks on Empirical Research. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.


1) Problem-solving in translation: Empirical findings of the efficiency of consultation processes and possible improvements

Friederike Prassl
TransComp Research Group, Karl-Franzens-Universität, Graz, Austria

Consultation processes in translation are a multifold phenomenon and rather expensive: That means, they are time consuming, require sources and are cognitively demanding. Comparative studies with groups of participants working without dictionaries and participants using dictionaries showed, that up to a third of the translation time is invested in looking up words or searching information. The quality of the target texts, however, is not always significantly better. Studies focusing on the type of source used (monolingual and bilingual dictionaries as well as parallel texts) did not yield convincing data as to which source provides better help to the translator. Thus, it seems advisable to look at research processes in the wider context of problem-solving.
The present study, which is part of my PhD thesis, presents results from the research project TransComp, a longitudinal study which investigates the development of translation competence in 12 students of translation over a period of three years and compares it with the translation competence of professional translators. Ten popular science texts and two instructional texts had to be translated by the students at different points of measurement, using key-logging, think aloud and screen recordings. The professional translators translated five texts each, at one point of measurement, the same methods being applied. Each text is thereby translated by three groups: six students in their first or second semester, six students in one later semester and five professionals. The target texts are evaluated on the basis of a primarily linguistic error classification scheme, the evaluations carried out by three academically trained translators. The resulting data are converted into translation process protocols which contain all utterances, all reading and writing processes, pauses, paraverbal phenomena and all consultation processes and data regarding the subjective problems that occurred. Drawing together the individual results in one comparative matrix, utterly different problem distributions and problem solving behaviors showed. The resulting tables show, that many, merely lexical, problems could be solved by a majority of participants and that other problems, that required thorough understanding, could not be solved by any of them. A lack of problem awareness proved to be the main source of errors. Some problems remained totally undetected, while others were only partially grasped. Best-practise and worst-practise examples will be discussed and suggestions made on how to prepare students for successful consultation processes.

2) Evidence about translational creativity: Some implications for translation pedagogy

Gerrit Bayer-Hohenwarter
TransComp Research Group, Karl-Franzens-Universität, Graz, Austria

The nature and the development of translational creativity have been the focus of my research within the longitudinal study TransComp (see bdef:Container/get as of November 30, 2010). TransComp collects data produced by 10 professionals and 12 students from their first to their sixth semesters within their BA programme by means of keystroke logging, screen recording, thinking aloud, retrospective interviews and questionnaires. In my PhD project, translational creativity is seen as an expression of beneficial translational processes and novel and flexible translation products that show that the path of least resistance in cognitive terms has been left and that “creative strength” has been at work. A creativity assessment procedure was thus developed in which bonus points are awarded for desirable behaviour related to flexible problem-solving and fluent routine translation.
The results of my analyses are to provide answers to a number of assumptions. It is, for instance, claimed that the more proficient translators show higher overall creativity and that translational creativity develops in line with Jääskeläinen’s developmental hypothesis (1996, etc.). The relevant findings and other observations made about the nature of translational creativity and the strengths and weaknesses of individual students of translation bear important implications for translation pedagogy. These implications cover areas such as 1) nature vs. nurture, 2) individual particularities, and 3) emotional factors affecting the creative performance and the development of translational creativity. It is argued that translation teachers should be well aware of what expressions of translational creativity are in the first place, what techniques potentially foster certain aspects of translational creativity, and what emotional factors come into play. A plea is made for student-centred learning in a constructivist translation classroom that makes heavy use of the methods and findings made in translation process research. Moreover, it is underlined that empirical research needs to be carried out in order to find out about the actual value of the creativity-enhancing techniques for translators that are suggested in this paper.

Jääskeläinen, Riitta. 1996. „Hard Work will Bear Beautiful Fruit. A Comparison of Two Think-Aloud Protocol Studies.” Meta 41/1. 60-74


3) Individual translation and revision styles

Gyde Hansen
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

In an empirical longitudinal study on translation and revision processes, I compare students’ processes with the processes of professional translators. I carry out experiments with the software Translog combined with retrospection, and additionally with questionnaires, interviews and a post-process-dialogue.
Usually the fundamental idea of comparisons between processes of students with those of professionals is that the latter know how to translate, and that their processes reveal ideas, methods and strategies which could be useful for the training of translators.
In my study, I focus especially on the participants’ movements during their translation processes from Danish into German and vice versa. The overall goal of my research is to discover factors that constitute “success in translation”. That is why I primarily investigate the processes of students and professionals which result in very good target texts and compare them with processes with quite poor results.
All changes, errors and revisions during and after the translation processes are evaluated, characterised and classified with respect to the affected pragmatic, linguistic and stylistic levels.
In my paper, I will present some surprising results with respect to individual translation and revision styles which may have an impact on future translator training.

4) Go with the flow? Translation students’ performance from a process-oriented perspective

Kyriaki Kourouni
Aristotle University, Greece/Universitat Rovira I Virgili, Spain

The present study forms part of a doctoral thesis examining possible effects of learning styles on translation quality under time constraints. Translating under time constraints is a familiar concept for professional translators. The ability to cope with it becomes of utmost importance within a training environment, when taking into account that translation graduates will have to face increasingly shorter deadlines in the current era of globalisation. In studying how students can learn and/or be taught to translate efficiently under time constraints, it may be relevant to look specifically at students’ learning styles, defined as innate patterns of “thinking, perceiving, problem solving and remembering when approaching a learning task” (Cassidy 2004: 408), as this can be hypothesised to strongly influence their ability to cope with the time constraints. The hope is to demonstrate that by diagnosing the learning styles of otherwise comparable students, we can predict who will most likely be able to cope with time constraints and how and take “therapeutic” measures, if necessary, thereby creating a learning environment conducive for all parties, students and trainers, involved.
Within this larger framework, the present paper presents results from experimental work with 54 translation students of the School of English, Aristotle University. It is based on data collected through keystroke logging, screen recording and retrospective questionnaires. It focuses on the analysis of translation production flow. Attention is paid to time distribution per translation phase as well as on manifestations of linearity and omission. Emerging performance patterns are then checked for possible correspondence to dominant learning styles. Based on findings arising from the critical presentation of student experiences in relation to the translation process, implications for a more learner-centred and student-friendly approach to translator training are discussed.

Cassidy, Simon. 2004. “Learning styles: An overview of theories, models and measures”. In Educational Psychology 24 (4): 407-419.

Session contributors:

Gerrit Bayer-Hohenwarter has six years of experience as a technical translator and leader of a translation team in Graz. She is working as translation teacher at the University of Graz and is about to finish her PhD on translational creativity. Her thesis forms part of the longitudinal study TransComp ( Her main research interest lies in translation process research and translator training.

Dr. Gyde Hansen is professor at the Copenhagen Business School (CBS) where she teaches in the disciplines: translation theory and practice, translation processes, textual analysis and text revision, comparative linguistics, intercultural communication, semiotics and marketing and philosophy of science. Her empirical research projects include: the TRAP-project (Translation processes, from 1996–2002), the Copenhagen Retrospection Project (2004) and a longitudinal study in translation and revision processes From Student to Expert (1997–2011).

Kyriaki Kourouni is a Senior Fellow at the Department of Translation and Intercultural Studies, School of English, Aristotle University, Greece. She teaches courses related to scientific and technical translation as well as translation technology. She has over 10 years experience in translation and subtitling. Her research interests include translator training and translation technology. She has served as Vice-President of the Panhellenic Association of Translators (, 2008-2010). She is currently a member of the Translation Technology Committee set up by the International Federation of Translators ( and a member of the Intercultural Studies Group (, Universitat Rovira i Virgili.

Friederike Prassl has an MA in translation studies from the University of Graz. She is currently working on her PhD thesis on research processes and decision-making in translation. Her thesis forms part of the longitudinal study TransComp ( Her research interest focuses on the acquisition of translation competence.