lunes, 26 de diciembre de 2011

Somebody is thinking —somebody is translating. Embodiment in cognitive translation research

I couldn't agree more with Sandra Halverson when, in her post of 19 October 2011, she claims that translation would benefit from adopting integrated, non-dualistic approaches. Perhaps such approaches could help us solve difficulties like those humorously depicted by Jorge Amigo (see his posts on 21 November and 6 December 2011) when confronted with the task to teach "the culture of a country" to translation students. Understanding and describing translation processes without preconceived divisions and dichotomies might be helpful in the design of syllabi for translation or interpreting training programs. This is an area where current wisdom needs to be thoroughly revised. The way translation learning is still now conceived of, as reflected in current program syllabi, might be arbitrarily dividing the acquisition and development of translator's complex skills.
In the last decades, cognitive science has challenged traditional dualistic oppositions such as those of input and output, mind and body, and subject and object. Embodied, embedded and distributed cognition is the (compound) umbrella label for various approaches that try to offer an integrated picture of human cognition. In this post, I would like to take a closer view at embodiment from different perspectives, and also to outline some possible implications of these views for translation process research. What does it mean for translation to be embodied? Let's dig it out a little bit.

martes, 6 de diciembre de 2011

Can we teach "culture" in Translation and Interpreting Studies? (2/2)

In my previous post I wrote about my first experience in teaching 'US culture' and the possibility of focusing course sessions on what Agar (1992:231) called rich points and/or what Seelye (1993:74-75) labeled culture capsules. This option, however interesting and widely used in ELF teaching, could pose some problems that I will address at the end of this post. Now I would like to focus on the second option I sketched in my first post on the issue:

lunes, 28 de noviembre de 2011


Freelancers definition of a weekend? Two working days till Monday
 —What do you do?
—I'm a translator.
—Oh, really? How nice!
—Sure but I meant, what do you do for a living?
—You mean, work? I don't work.
—You don't?
—No, I make so much money from my translations that I don't need to work.
—Can I have this back within three days? I'm really pressed here.
—How much will that be?
—US$ 500.
—Isn't that too much for a three-day job?
—I can do it in one week if that will make you feel better.

Ode to a spell checker

I have a spelling chequer
It came with my PC
It plainly marks for my revue
miss takes I cannot see
I've run this poem threw it
I'm shore your pleased to no
its letter perfect in its weigh
my chequer tolled me sew!

lunes, 21 de noviembre de 2011

Can we teach "culture" in Translation and Interpreting Studies? (1/2)

A few months ago, I was required to teach a subject called "Culture and History of English-speaking countries", a sophomore seminar from the current BA in Translation and Interpreting at the University of Córdoba, Spain. As I am quite new in teaching, I was entrusted with the "United States' side" of the subject, i.e., I was expected to teach the whole culture and history of the USA in around thirty hours. No more, no less.

jueves, 27 de octubre de 2011

Busca las diferencias

¿En qué se parecen dos oraciones? Esta cuestión, engañosamente sencilla, es importante para los traductores autónomos. La mayoría de las agencias de traducción exigen a empleados y autónomos que usen sistemas de traducción asistida con memorias de traducción. Estos sistemas clasifican una a una las oraciones del texto por traducir como nuevas, si no se parecen a ninguna de las que incluye la memoria de traducción de referencia, o de coincidencia parcial, si son razonablemente similares a alguna de las traducciones que sí contiene.

miércoles, 19 de octubre de 2011

You can quote me on this one (2/4)

Would be so nice if you’d ibidem-ize my work

Now that you know how to quote the right way (not yet? Check the first post of this series), here you will learn the most important points on title identifiers such as ISBN, ISSN and DOI, which you should always quote as far as possible at the end of your bibliographical entry, to give your reader several options to locate each reference. If you don’t know what those acronyms are all about yet, don’t worry, you will after reading this post. I will also introduce you to the author-date system, the referencing style used by academics all over the world. Let’s start with the identification codes, i.e. with codes to identify sources such as books, serial and digital publications.

miércoles, 12 de octubre de 2011

‘Translation’ without ‘trans-’, ‘inter-’, ‘cross-’, or ‘over-’

One of the most interesting developments within Translation Studies in recent years is the emerging focus on the individual human translator. This development has already been described, among others by Pym (2009) and Chesterman (2009), and is also touched on by Muñoz (2010). As Chesterman points out, the development is actually following three separate trajectories: one in translation sociology, one in translation history, and one in translation process research (2009:13). In other words, the renewed focus on the translator is a result of understandings being developed within quite separate research groups, with quite separate research agendas, theories, and methodologies. That parallelism in itself merits some attention, but is not my primary concern here.

In a paper submitted for a book edited by Ana Rojo and Iraide Ibarretxe-Antuñano, I presented some initial thoughts regarding the potential contributions of cognitive linguistics to TS. Among other things, one of my concerns was the effects this paradigm could (read: should) have on our conceptualization of our object of study. Without repeating that paper’s contents in full, I think it might be worthwhile to put some of those thoughts into this format, in the interest of discussion. The complete line of reasoning is presented as part of a much broader set of arguments in the full paper. As I was working on this short post, I also found that Celia Martín has presented some related ideas in her post of 18 May 2011, entitled ‘Transfer? What transfer?’ So here’s my two cents worth.

viernes, 7 de octubre de 2011

Excellence in Interpreting

Fresh out of interpreting school, I was lucky to start working with very experienced colleagues. Although I considered myself lucky working with them it was also a daunting experience in many respects. Naturally, I was filled with respects for these linguistic wizards with all their experience and flair. Most of them were also amazingly skilled in interpreting. I spent months, maybe even years listening, taking notes and trying to copy them. I think that I was also intimidated by the old interpreter teacher saying that “it takes at least five years to become a full-fledged interpreter”.

Years later I was struggling to start a career in research. As I was outlining my project, I came back to my early interpreting experiences and felt that I wanted to explore what made those interpreters so skillful. At this point my supervisor pointed me in the direction of the expertise approach. The expertise approach came from psychology became popular in interpreting studies in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Barbara Moser-Mercer invited expertise guru, Karl Anders Ericsson to the Ascona workshops. Unfortunately, this was before my time and my understanding of expertise comes from the readings I have done in the subject.

domingo, 2 de octubre de 2011

TPRW2 Giessen 2011

In July 27-29, 2011, the 2nd international research workshop on the Methodology of Translation Process Research was held at the University of Giessen's Rauischholzhausen Castle in Germany, organized by Susanne Göpferich. The program was very interesting and indeed, presentations lived up to their abstracts. Below you may read some highlights from most presentations. Full-screen viewing or PPS-file download recommended (embedded links).

lunes, 19 de septiembre de 2011

Ducking the rabbit back into the top hat

Review of
Schmid, Benjamin. 2008. A duck in rabbit’s clothing. Integrating intralingual translation @ M. Kaiser-Cooke, Hrsg. Das Entenprinzip. Translation aus neuen Perspektiven. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, pp 19–75.

Let’s start with a key idea: human beings are not able to perceive the world without distortions. What we perceive as a tangible reality is never reality itself: what we see is not always what it is. This leads us to create labels and then to organize these labels into typologies; and each person conceives them in very different ways. The same happens in Translation Studies with old conceptions still in force despite our efforts to make the cognitive turn come true.

miércoles, 14 de septiembre de 2011

viernes, 2 de septiembre de 2011

Int'l Conference on Translation Process Research

December 9, 2011

Séverine Hubscher-Davidson and her colleagues at Aston University (Birmingham, UK) are organizing a one-day series of free online live webinars (audio and image streamed to your web browser with "Elluminate") on several aspects of translation and interpreting process research for December 9, 2011. Speakers include Sharon O'Brien, Petra Klimant, Riita Jääskeläinen, Adelina Hild, Erik Angelone. Exchanges after each intervention will be arranged through a chat. No fee, but registration necessary. More information here.

viernes, 5 de agosto de 2011

You can quote me on this one (1/4)

Please do
About six months ago Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the German Defense Minister at that time, was on everyone’s lips. The Internet platform Wikiplag established proof that zu Guttenberg had cheated in his dissertation, five years ago. He had copied more than half of “his” work without indicating any references. The whole story becomes even more remarkable when you consider the slogan under which zu Guttenberg is still promoting his website: “responsibility is a commitment”. So let’s commit ourselves to responsibility and go the right way of citing the references in our scientific works to avoid plagiarism, which is in no way acceptable—not only in scientific work, but in any area of life.

miércoles, 20 de julio de 2011

Mirror mirror in the brain

The correspondences between cognitive and neural operations are difficult to characterize. In the field of neuroscience of language, some researchers favor a modular division between syntactic and semantic neuroanatomical areas (for a review, see Carota & Sirigu 2008) while others like Hagoort (2005, apud Toni 2008) emphasize functional gradients. Empirical evidence is not a mirror of reality. Both empirical evidence and reality need to be interpreted; and empirical evidence has also to be obtained. And yet, there seems to be empirical evidence of some kind of internal mirror in our brains. Not a mirror of reality, but a mirror of others’ actions and feelings.

miércoles, 13 de julio de 2011

«Máquinas que piensan: Una incursión personal en la historia y las perspectivas de la inteligencia artificial» de Pamela McCorduck

Los ordenadores no sólo han transformado nuestra manera de llevar a cabo las tareas cotidianas, sino que también han revolucionado el concepto que tenemos de nosotros mismos. Gracias a ellos, hemos descubierto que muchas tareas que considerábamos inteligentes se pueden mecanizar con facilidad y que, por el contrario, otras tareas que creíamos sencillas son sorprendentemente complejas. Además, gracias a las simulaciones por ordenador, también hemos aprendido que con frecuencia no pensamos como creemos que lo hacemos. Al esquematizar una tarea, ya sea traducir un texto o levantar una caja del suelo, solemos pasar por alto una infinidad de detalles, aparentemente nimios, que resultan cruciales para efectuar con éxito esa tarea. En este libro, McCorduck propone un recorrido por la historia de la inteligencia artificial que no sólo resulta muy útil para entender los cimientos de esta moderna disciplina, sino que también resulta absorbente. La autora tiene la suerte de haber conocido a muchos de los personajes más eminentes de este campo. Al haber trabajado también con ellos, puede desvelar una interesante dimensión humana para contribuir a esclarecer las motivaciones y los retos a los que se enfrentaron los pioneros de esta disciplina. Desde el malogrado genio Alan Turing (padre de la informática moderna), quien tras caer en desgracia se suicidó con una manzana envenenada, hasta los primitivos éxitos del hoy clásico SHRDLU y el sistema conversador Eliza, este libro ofrece una perspectiva única y personal que constituirá una enorme fuente de inspiración a los interesados en la inteligencia artificial.

lunes, 4 de julio de 2011

First specialist seminar on the didactics of translation


18-20 June 2012

20 hours

Registration from February 1st through May 31, 2012
Registration fee: 300 € before March 30; and 350 € afterwards. Special conditions apply for UAB students and staff.

More info, here.

domingo, 26 de junio de 2011

The times, they are a-changin’ (2/3)

In the first post on this topic, I wrote that scholarly e-journals are definitely better than their printed counterparts in many respects. They are, however, just an improvement on an existing research resource. The same is often said about digital libraries such as ACM, ISI Web of Knowledge and Google Scholar, although they should not be seen as catalogues or bibliographical databases, such as BITRA, but as sources for documents. These new libraries are actually turning good old packed and dusty shelves into computer directories cluttered with large numbers of pdf documents scholars need to manage.

viernes, 24 de junio de 2011

When you think you got it

So you have been preparing the pilot study for your translation process research project with passion: You have been weighing the pros and cons of every single method and tool of data collection—you just want the best one, of course. You have been choosing the source texts meticulously, screening them from many different angles. You have been defining your experimental subjects and recruiting people, some of whom you finally managed to convince to participate in the test.

Then came the D-day: You carried out the experiment, or, properly speaking, you let your subjects carry it out—the subjects patiently translated with Translog (; they also filled out some questionnaires. And, afterwards, evaluators had a look at their translations.

This is the moment when you start feeling that you made it, that the first big step is done, your first tentative data collected; and it’s true, but it’s also true that there is a much steeper step awaiting you now:

The analysis of data

(“Night on Bald Mountain” might do as a soundtrack effect here).

viernes, 17 de junio de 2011

petraTAG: new release

petraTAG has evolved from a simple demo application and now includes some basic concordancing functionality. With the new release, it is possible to select a set of text files, tag them and perform several kinds of searches. One of the most advanced features is the ability to automatically obtain the distribution of words according to the criteria specified by the user. For instance, you can search all the instances of the group noun-adjective and see instantly which adjectives are most frequently used with which nouns, as the following picture shows:

lunes, 6 de junio de 2011

Training on Research

Ph.D Course in Translation Processes Research

15 – 19 August 2011

Theoretical aspects of process research; experimental research design and methodology; data visualization and human translation process modeling; qualitative and quantitative data analysis; user interaction with language technological tools.

CBS Center for Research & Innovation in Translation & Translation Technology

Registration fee for PhD students: 190 €
Registration fee for university researchers: 250 €
Reduced registration fee for the immediately ensuing NLPCS workshop: 110 €.
Registration deadline: 15 July 2011 at noon.
Support requests deadline: 15 June 2011.

Writing Process Research 2011: Keystroke Logging and Eye Tracking

7-9 September 2011

Possibilities and limitations of keystroke logging and eye tracking; good practices for ethnographical and experimental writing process research; complementary nature of observation methods; writing process data exploration; data preparation for further analysis; statistical analysis of writing process data; networking.

University of Antwerp Training school
20 trainees max.
Registration fee 125€
Registration deadline:7 July 2011
Confirmation of participation & grants: 1 August 2011

viernes, 3 de junio de 2011

Three good reasons for carrying out a pilot study

Both in experimental and in descriptive research, a pilot study is a small-scale version or trial run of the main study. A pilot study has to be carried out under the same conditions of the main study. Otherwise carrying out a pilot study would not make much sense, since the main goal is to trace possible sources of error to avoid those in your main study. There are at least three good reasons for carrying out a pilot study before you carry out the full-scale experiment:

miércoles, 25 de mayo de 2011

La lexicalización del pensamiento en paralelo y otras metáforas

Aunque la teoría del pensamiento en paralelo ha surgido hace relativamente poco tiempo, resulta muy curioso descubrir cómo en una gran cantidad de expresiones y frases hechas podemos encontrar indicios y veladas referencias a ella. Expresiones como «una parte de mí piensa que...», «la voz de la conciencia le decía que...» o la habitual división entre «lo que opina el corazón y lo que opina la cabeza» nos hacen sospechar de que en nuestro interior no estamos tan solos como pensamos, sino que hay otros que se comunican misteriosamente con nosotros, ayudándonos en algunas ocasiones, saboteándonos en otras y, a veces, sencillamente acompañándonos.

miércoles, 18 de mayo de 2011

Transfer? What transfer?

Like memes (or as such), concepts sometimes seem to jump from generation to generation, from paradigm to paradigm, from approach to approach. This appears to be the case with the concept of “transfer”, when it is meant to point to a phase of the translation process. This transfer phase showed up in deductive models in the 60’s, such as Nida’s (also Seleskovitch’s, but we will not pursue that lead any further here). Nida was, in his turn, inspired by generative linguistics, and hence tended to explain translating as a sequential process, which could be modelled by serial computing. This model depicts human translation as a three-phase process, with a transfer phase between those of comprehension and production. There is no evidence of the alleged transfer activity or phase. However, the notion seems to have been inherited by some approaches in empirical translatology, and I think cognitive translatology should challenge it.

viernes, 6 de mayo de 2011

New TPR network

Amparo Hurtado and PACTE have created a “Thematic network on empirical and experimental translation research”. The network has been funded with 90.000 € by the Spanish Ministry of Education (code FFI2010-11995-E). Current members of the network include research groups of F. Alves, E. Angelone, M. Ehrensberger, B. Englund Dimitrova, A. Fougner Rydning, I. García, M. Giozza, A. Hurtado, R. Jääskaläinen, A. L. Jakobsen, R. Muñoz, and S. O’Brien. Fall 2011 will see the first meeting of the new network take place in Barcelona.

sábado, 30 de abril de 2011

The times, they are a-changin’ (1/3)

The printing press was one of the major inventions that took humankind out of the darkness of the Middle Ages and into a more egalitarian, learned modern era. Many people think that the Internet is but leading to a comparable or even greater revolution (e.g. Bawden & Robinson 2000, Dewar 2010). And so it seems, by the looks of the sweeping democratic revolutions taking place in many countries, which might well be heralding the beginning of deep changes at home too.

Many colleagues are at odds. Some think that the new scholarship 2.0 is just a fad (Wheeler 2008), while others think new media can and must change universities in the 21st century (Thompson 2009). What is sure is that, just as the printing press enlarged the number of readers and shrank physical and cultural distances, the Internet is widening and strengthening the ties amongst distant members of scientific communities in ways that were just unthinkable back in 1989, when I sent my first e-mail to a friend sitting in front of another computer across the hall. Let us start with scholarly e-journals.

viernes, 29 de abril de 2011

Danger, no trespassing

On a gate at the feet of the Alhambra, 2002.
Picture taken by and courtesy of Bart De Rooze.

martes, 26 de abril de 2011

Writing an exposé

Once you have found your doctoral advisor, you can start writing the exposé, i.e., a summary of your first thoughts on the PhD project. Depending on the country or even the university you are in, you may need to present it and have it approved by a committee, or else you may want to send it to some important scholar to convince her to become your supervisor. In any case, it will be very useful to you, to clarify your ideas. You should always bear in mind that what you are going to put down in your exposé are just preliminary notions. Also, before you get into this jungle, there is something you should be aware of:
There is no explicit model for an exposé
[sudden drum banging in the dark]

sábado, 16 de abril de 2011

Research & the market

Now and then it feels like some of the topics we have been researching came as a freebie in the same package of the methods we imported. Take problem solving—a nice example, since so much effort has been devoted to it. Problem solving and decision-taking seem to have come wrapped with think-aloud techniques and protocols and all in a ready-made set which did not necessarily respond to established interests, testable hypotheses, construct validation needs or theoretical development plans within cognitive translatology.

True, research methods condition what can be studied. Conversation analysis, for instance, may have focused on turn taking and sequence organization (adjacency pairs and the like) simply because videotaping quality in the 1960s and the 70s was pretty much the same we have in our cell phones today. Thus, researchers at the time seemed to prefer tape-recorded (mainly phone) dyadic conversations, for they provided much better audio quality, even though image was lost. The choice certainly colored the way CA developed. In our case, think-aloud techniques were very well suited to capture comments on conscious mental experience and that meant that interiorized, procedural knowledge was to be sacrificed. So that was it.

viernes, 15 de abril de 2011

«Defensa apasionada del idioma español» de Alex Grijelmo

Alex Grijelmo se muestra en este libro, ante todo, como un excelente divulgador que consigue, mediante un texto claro y ameno, iniciar al lector en el estudio de la lengua española. Para ello, el autor mezcla un poco de todo, desde la historia de nuestro idioma hasta valoraciones de las reformas gramaticales propuestas, enhebrándolo mediante una fértil metáfora que asimila el idioma a un ser vivo, provisto de genética, genes y cromosomas. También abundan las opiniones personales y, en ocasiones, los razonamientos propuestos por el autor son cuestionables y se acercan peligrosamente a la demagogia. No obstante, es de admirar la valentía con la que se abordan temas espinosos (como por ejemplo la diversidad de españoles que conviven actualmente en el mundo).

jueves, 14 de abril de 2011

Starting a PhD project on Cognitive Translatology

As in any project, there is one urgent question to be answered on starting a PhD project as well: Where do I start? This is what I found when planning to do a doctorate, particularly regarding Cognitive Translatology.

Looking for a doctoral advisor
When you set to start a PhD project on Cognitive Translatology, you should be aware of the fact that, however young the discipline of Translation Studies (as a supercategory of Cognitive Translatology) may seem, there are already quite a few people investigating in this field all over the world. This is not necessarily a disadvantage, because once you have found your advisor and a project to work on, you become a member of this translation researchers’ community. So when it comes to looking for an advisor in this field, you will probably have to expand your search crossing national borders.

lunes, 4 de abril de 2011

Situatedness without mind?

The most radically dynamic approaches to cognition depict it as a series of embodied, situated processes closely intertwined with action and environment. Some advocates of these approaches claim, for example, that robots designed without representationalist programming techniques —which do not manipulate internal representations like symbols— can behave intelligently (Brooks 1991). Others explain early human cognitive development in terms of dynamic systems theory (Thelen & Smith 1996). These scopes do not seem very interested in things such as minds, thoughts or mental representations. That is why they have been criticized as a return to behaviorism. After all, we have internal representations, don’t we? I can imagine the sea, and I can see the waves dancing before my mental eye. So, what is the point of denying it?

viernes, 1 de abril de 2011

Welcome to PETRA's back office

PETRA’s Back Office Blog is devoted to the many facets of the empirical research of translation and interpreting processes, products, and environment mainly, but not only, from second-generation cognitive science perspectives. That is what we call cognitive translatology. We know that you may object to this label, but we agree that you may call it as you please, as long as you focus on using the scientific method to build knowledge on (the mental aspects of) translation and interpreting. In fact, we do not exclude other scientifically-minded frameworks, as long as they can interact with cognitive approaches, even to criticize or disprove them.