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.
Problem solving is very interesting, that is out of question. What I doubt is whether directly isolating problematic text segments and classifying them or else qualitatively delving in their circumstances will yield any significant results, mainly because the psychological frameworks for problem-solving and creativity being applied seem in need of a thorough shake and update. Corpora techniques may today help us look into text segments which are unproblematic for experts but not so for non-experts, and new data gathering techniques might help us get closer to what is going on in the translators’ minds. New tempora, new mores.
Screen recording, keylogging and eye-tracking techniques for collecting translation process data have appeared in the relatively short time span of a decade, and their potential needs to be explored. Hence, methodology is all the buzz. Even on a conservative account, about half of the sixty-odd entries in Hansen’s select select TPR bibliography focus on research methods. Once books, meta-research analyses, guides and bibliography are also removed, the remaining 18 entries may be considered a still shot of what was going on in cognitive translatology in the last decade (the 00s?).
The picture is as varied as one could expect: revision, emotions, time pressure, writing, parallels between translation and interpreting, pedagogy, evaluation, some construct validational testing, you name it. Now, one of the things that stand out from this and other lists is that only very few articles in them seem likely to attract the attention of somebody else than a cognitive translatologist. One of the welcome exceptions is O’Brien (2006), which shows why cognitive translatology is relevant for CAT.
Comparisons between professionals or experts and trainees—four entries in Hansen’s biblio, big time topic—are useful to find out what makes experts different from laypeople. The ultimate goal may be how to get some people in the second group somehow become part of the first one. Here, the operative word is somehow. But translator employers seem to be interested only in the skills newcomers do have, not in the way they acquired them, so these pieces of work do not really count as profession-oriented TPR for them.
There does not seem to be a specific reason for cognitive translatology to stay away from professional concerns. Some topics such as mental fatigue due to task length have been devoted some efforts in simultaneous interpreting (Moser-Mercer, Künzli & Korac 1998; AIIC 2002, summarized in Mackintosh s.d.) and definitely deserve more attention. To my knowledge, Petra Klimant’s ongoing research may be an all-time first attempt to extend this thread to translators (corrections welcomed). So this seems to be a promising path, one of the several tracks we need to tread to get out of the ivory tower. There are other topics, such as the influence of computing on mental processing, cognitive implications of CAT tool design, sight-translating + transcribing vs. translating (compare to Gorm Hansen & Dragsted 2007) and so on. So let’s get the ball rolling. Let us show them why they should be interested in what we do.
Gorm Hansen, Inge & Barbara Dragsted. 2007. Speaking your translation: Exploiting synergies between translation and interpreting. F Pöchhacker, AL Jakobsen & IM Mees, eds. Interpreting studies and beyond: A tribute to Miriam Shlesinger. Copenhagen: Samfunslitteratur, pp. 251-274.
Moser-Mercer, Barbara, Alexander Künzli & Marina Korac. 1998. Prolonged turns in interpreting: Effects on quality, physiological and psychological stress (Pilot study). Interpreting 3/1: 47-64.
O’Brien, Sharon. 2006. Eye-tracking and translation memory matches. Perspectives: Studies in Translatology 14/3: 185-205.