Translation Competence: Research Data in Multilateral and Interprofessional Collaborative Learning

Translation Competence: Research Data in Multilateral and Interprofessional Collaborative Learning

Sonia Vandepitte (Universiteit Gent, Belgium), Birthe Mousten (Aarhus Universitet, Denmark), Bruce Maylath (North Dakota State University, USA), Suvi Isohella (Vasa Universitet/Vaasan Yliopisto, Finland), Maria Teresa Musacchio (Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy), and Giuseppe Palumbo (Università degli Studi di Trieste, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6615-3.ch009
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After Kiraly (2000) introduced the collaborative form of translation in classrooms, Pavlovic (2007), Kenny (2008), and Huertas Barros (2011) provided empirical evidence that testifies to the impact of collaborative learning. This chapter sets out to describe the collaborative forms of learning at different stages in the translation processes in the Trans-Atlantic and Pacific Project, a long-term cross-cultural virtual team. It describes the forms of collaborative learning practised in this multilateral international project in technical communication and translator training programmes and explores the empirical data that the project may provide for future research into learning translation.
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This chapter seeks to explore the empirical evidence that may show that collaboration is an appropriate means to acquire higher levels of translation competences and that learning is taking place to the extent desirable in translation training programmes. The sections to follow illustrate various stages and activities in the translation event (a notion adopted from Toury, 1995/2012), in which the students’ learning has been programmed as a collaborative activity, and relate them to diverse competences that translation students in the 21st century need to develop beyond the obvious linguistic, technological and social ones (cf., the various translation competence and translation training models as in PACTE [2003]; Kelly [2005, p. 64]; EMT Expert Group [2009]; Way [2008, p. 90], Göpferich [2009]; Angelone [2013]). Various types of empirical data are discussed, with potential paths outlined for investigating how students can acquire translation competences more effectively.

Launched in the 1999-2000 academic year as the Trans-Atlantic Project and redubbed the Trans-Atlantic & Pacific Project (TAPP) when China was added in 2014, TAPP has developed into a higher educational network of bilateral writing-translation projects (since 2000), bilateral translation-editing projects (since 2001), and multilateral projects (since 2010). By 2014, the TAPP network had, over time, connected classes in writing, usability testing and/or translation at three universities in the U.S., three in Italy, two each in Belgium and Portugal, and one each in Austria, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Kenya, Russia and Spain, involving scores of instructors and thousands of students. TAPP’s main aim is twofold: 1) to provide students with a simulated professional environment, and 2) to share insights into collaborative writing and translation, and how to overcome cultural differences.

The typical bi-lateral writing/translation project involves a writing class in the U.S. and a translation class in Europe. For example, an intermediate or advanced translation student team receives a text, produced by an introductory technical writing course student, which contains instructions for a particular activity. The translation team may test the instructions, look up the terminology, ask questions of the technical writing student, translate and/or localize, and apply some quality assessment. In some groups, these questions and answers are filtered through a ‘project manager’ to better simulate real-world language industry dynamics. Readers interested in projects’ logistics and operations can find full descriptions, along with workflow charts and work breakdown structures in Humbley et al. (2005), Maylath et al. (2008) and Mousten et al. (2010b). The typical bilateral translation/editing project requires a European translation student to translate a published article and ask questions of her or his ‘native reviewer’ (sometimes called editor), a role which, to date, is taken up by a U.S.-based writing student who edits the translations for idiomatic American English and asks questions of the translator. In turn, a multilateral project can be either 1) a writing-translation project that involves co-authoring in Spain and the U.S., user-testing in English in the U.S. and Finland, and translation to Dutch, French and Italian, or 2) a translation-editing project with translations from Danish, Dutch and Italian to English, all followed by editing for idiomatic American English (Maylath, Vandepitte, et al., 2013; Maylath, King, & Arnò Maciá, 2013).

The beauty of the TAPP is that it combines translation trainees at different levels: advanced undergraduates at Trieste have worked with new graduate students at Padua, even as graduate students at Ghent and Paris are advanced. At the same time it connects students interculturally and interprofessionally, thereby mirroring real-life conditions. These most complex international learning-by-doing (Lesgold, 2001) projects closely resemble the complexity of international documentation workplaces of language service providers: cross-cultural virtual teams (CCVTs) need to process commissions and manage workflows and, in the fashion of Freire (2000), teachers’ guidance varies according to the task and learners.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Learning Aptitude: Having the general skills and will to learn and the specific skills and will to learn in a particular profession and social setting.

Problem-Solving Competences: A set of competences required to solve any kind of problem that occurs during an activity.

Interpersonal Competences: A set of competences required to establish and maintain social relationships.

Self-Reflection Competences: A set of competences required to observe oneself before, during and/or after a process.

Cross-Cultural Virtual Team: A team of students from different cultures collaborating with each other online only.

Conflict-Solving Competences: Interpersonal competences required to settle conflicts while maintaining collaborative relationships.

Intercultural Competences: Interpersonal competences across cultures.

Collaborative Learning: Acquisition of competences together with others.

Translation Decision: The act or series of acts that lead to a certain translation rendering.

Usability Testing: The activity of checking whether a product fulfills the client’s requirements and, in the case of translation, whether the perspective of the target text’s users has been observed.

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