A Brief Overview of Translation Process Research Over Time

In the fall term of 2015/2016 students attending a seminar offered by Dr. Kiraly entitled "Looking Inside the Translator's Black Box: Past, Present and Future" put together a concise overview of translation process research over the past few decades.

The pages in this section present the results of the students' research, which they compiled in interactive presentations and handouts that can be accessed in the corresponding subsections via the lefthand menu.

A Brief Outline of Translation Process Research Over the Years

Research on cognitive processes in translation began in the 1980s with the first generation of cognitive researchers – almost all of who relied on the ‘think-aloud protocol’ technique in which a subject would 'think aloud' while translating a text. Their expressed thoughts were analysed by the researcher in an attempt to find out what was going on in the translator’s ‘black box’, i.e. his mind. At that time, the dominant paradigm for understanding the functioning of the brain was to see it essentially as a computer.

In the 1990s, additional tools like keystroke logging and eye-tracking were introduced in an attempt to grasp a deeper understanding of the mental processes involved in translation – but the concept of the mind as computer remained the dominant paradigm.

By the beginning of the new millennium, a new theoretical (if not philosophical) paradigm emerged: this was the perspective of 'embodied cognition' which holds that the brain, far from being a mechanical tool like a computer, is inextricably interwoven with the affective and physical aspects of being human. At this stage of research progress, various tools for scanning brain activities (like EEG) began to be used with the objective of being even more scientific in terms of what processes really occur inside the human brain during translation processes.

Current Translation Process Research at the FTSK

In the early spring of 2016, a research center and laboratory for cognitive processes were created at the FTSK by Prof. Dr. Hansen-Schirra to pursue research in this domain. The laboratory has been specifically built to serve as a research center for cognitive translation process research based on eye-tracking and EEG technology. To celebrate the inauguration of the new laboratory, termed TRA&CO Center, the Translation & Cognition Symposium was held in April 2016.

As a number of post graduate students are tackling state-of-the-art projects related to cognitive processes in translation within the scope of the laboratory, they were invited to participate in the conference at the end of the semester.

Disclaimer: Parts of this description are quoted directly from Dr. Kiraly's overview of the course "Looking Inside the Translator's Black Box: Past, Present and Future".