Trainee Translators’ Positioning in Discussing Translation Decisions

A Diachronic Case Study

By Nermeen Al Nafra (University of Birmingham, UK)

Abstract & Keywords

English:

Taking into consideration the calls for different translation training approaches in order to equip translators with the theoretical knowledge necessary to empower them in their role as cultural mediators, this study will investigate how following a training programme at postgraduate level affects trainee translators’ social competence. This study examines the effect of following a translation training programme at postgraduate level on the way trainee translators justify the strategies applied to solve translation problems, in particular, the positions they adopt while discussing their translation decisions. The Translation Studies programme at the University of Birmingham is used as a case study. The trainee translators completed a translation task which involved commenting on translation problems and translation strategies according to a pre-prepared form while translating a text. This task, preceded by a questionnaire, was repeated at three stages throughout the academic year (2012-13). This paper reports on a part of the findings resulting from the data analysis. It suggests that trainee translators become more assertive in the justification of their solutions to translation problems as a consequence of following a translation training programme. This study also indicates that the students seem to be less willing to engage with alternative viewpoints by the end of the programme.

Keywords: translator training, translation problems, translation strategies, decision-making in translation, justification

©inTRAlinea & Nermeen Al Nafra (2018).
"Trainee Translators’ Positioning in Discussing Translation Decisions A Diachronic Case Study", inTRAlinea Vol. 20.
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: http://www.intralinea.org/archive/article/2332

1. Introduction

Many approaches to translator training, such as the Social Constructivist (Kiraly 2000), Holistic (Robinson 2003) and Task-Based (González Davies 2004) approaches, emphasise the importance of developing the trainee translator’s social competence, including the ‘ability to work with other professionals involved in translation processes’ (Kelly 2007: 134), and the degree to which student involvement in the teaching/learning process can help to prepare autonomous and lifelong learners. These approaches tend to emphasize the translator’s social active role and also stress the importance of combining theoretical knowledge with vocational training in order to develop the trainee translators’ social competence. Rico argues that, at European universities,

[the] new pedagogical trend runs parallel to recent developments in translator training, such as social constructivism (Kiraly 2000) or task-based learning (González Davies 2004), which also revolve around the student as the centre of the learning process. (Rico 2010: 89)

In his view, this was due to the new development in translation training programmes after the Bologna process which started in 1999 and aimed at establishing a common system of learning and teaching in universities across Europe and which is based on student-centred pedagogical principles and student-teacher interaction (Rico 2010: 89). Since translator training at university level is still considered a recent phenomenon and insufficiently researched in Translation Studies (Pym 2009: 1), this study will provide empirical evidence concerning the effect of following an academic translator training programme on the trainee translators’ social competence, in particular, the degree of assertiveness with which trainee translators justify their translation decisions while following a programme that combines both theory and practice. This article starts with providing a description of the general design of the study and the research methods employed. This is followed by an overview of the procedures used to analyse the data. The findings of the study are then presented.

2. The Case Study

It was decided to use a case study because this research method allows us to investigate the ‘phenomenon in depth and within its real-life context’ (Yin 2009: 18) and also ‘make contributions to knowledge beyond the particular’ (Saldanha & O’Brien 2013: 209). Therefore, the case study focused exclusively on the one-year Master’s degree in Translation Studies at the University of Birmingham in order to obtain information regarding formal translation training at an academic level. It should be noted that the author/researcher is completing her studies at the same university. Although this may raise concerns about a possible bias, being familiar with the programme can also be seen as an advantage when it comes to interpreting the results of the study. Even though it is difficult to generalize on the basis of one case study, hopefully this research offers data which will be of interest to the wider translation training community.

Universities in the UK offer different types of degrees in Translation Studies at different levels: Diploma, MSc, MA, and PhD. Concerning masters-level programmes, universities either focus on translation alongside other types of studies (comparative literature, interpreting, subtitling, TESOL, linguistics and intercultural communication), such as the MA in Translation and Linguistics at the University of Westminster, or offer programmes in specific language pairs (MA in Chinese – English Translation at The University of Bristol) or contexts (MA in Translation in a European Context at Aston University). Training in MA-Translation Studies programmes, such as the MA in Translation Studies at the Universities of Aston, Birmingham and Durham in the UK are based on a combination of practice and theory. Although these generalist programmes may differ in terms of the way the modules are organized throughout the academic year and their focus, they share many characteristics. Employing the MA in Translation Studies at the University of Birmingham as a case study can be particularly useful for translation training programmes sharing the same characteristics or aspects of this programme. For example, these programmes follow the UK higher education system; include national, European and overseas students; allow students to work with a variety of languages; and give the students the opportunity to work on research and translation projects to complete the programme. Lecturers in such programmes are of different nationalities and have professional translation experience. These programmes also offer students core and optional modules which aim at developing a range of translation-oriented skills, such as linguistic, intercultural, instrumental and social skills.

3. Research Methods

A variety of research methods were employed in the present study. A questionnaire was initially used in order to collect background information about the trainee translators attending the Translation Studies programme at the University of Birmingham, to define the context of the study and the variables affecting translator training. A set of open and closed questions were employed to gather background information concerning the participants’ age, gender, linguistic, educational and professional experience which was used to construct the participants’ profiles.

This preliminary approach was then followed by a translation task. The students were required to perform a translation task which included translating a text and simultaneously commenting on the translation according to a pre-prepared form. The source text was an excerpt from a tourist information brochure. The choice of a tourist brochure was meant to address the respondents’ cultural diversity through texts that are interesting, and which contain some cultural specific references that tend to present problems in translation while having limited syntactic complexity since they are meant to be read by a general audience, including speakers of English as a second language. The text was also short to encourage students to participate in the study as the task can be time consuming. The text was written in contemporary English, since English is one of the trainee translators’ working languages in this programme (either the trainees’ first, second or third language). Students were required to translate the text into another language as they speak different native languages. They were asked to assume that the target audience was similar to that of the source text. Students were informed that they were free to use dictionaries or reference material and discuss their translation with whoever they wish and no time frame was given.

The trainees were asked to complete a form whilst translating. This provided them with a systematic way of recording all information related to their decision-making processes whilst completing the task. The form included six sections which allowed the participants to record: the translation problems identified, the types of these problems, the information sources used, the solutions, the strategies applied and justification for these strategies. Literature on translation problems indicates that there is no agreement on a clear definition of what a translation problem is (see Toury 2012: 38-46). Therefore, no specific definition of translation problems was given to the students in order to examine the way they perceive these problems. They were not provided with any specific classification of translation problems, information sources or strategies to avoid offering a list of predefined categories that would force them either to select a category, which may not reflect their actual response, or skip filling in sections of the form because they could not find an appropriate answer. However, in order to direct the respondents to what they were expected to do, as it was essential that they understood the concepts used in the study in the same way as the researcher, the participants were provided with definitions of the terms ‘information resources’ and ‘translation strategies’. The information resources were defined as hard copy documents (such as dictionaries), electronic sources or human sources (for example, a fellow student) (Gile 2009: 131). Since the focus of the present study is on how trainee translators justify the translation strategies used in the formulation of a translated text, and the forms were designed with this purpose in mind, Chesterman’s (2000: 87-116) definition of strategies was adopted because he focuses on textual strategies, rather than on the cognitive procedures occurring in the human mind while encountering translation problems (see Molina & Hurtado Albir 2002). Thus, the definition of strategies was: ‘the way you manipulate the linguistic material in the text in order to produce an appropriate target text, such as literal translation, paraphrase or information change, etc.’

The data for this case study was collected at three stages during the academic year (in the Autumn, Spring and Summer terms) and the analysis involved a comparison of data between the three periods. During the three stages of the data collection process, the participants were provided with texts of a similar genre (tourist texts) and length to translate (no more than 200 words). The purpose of replicating the data collection process was to examine and explain the trainee translators’ progress throughout the programme. This longitudinal type of research is useful to ‘describe patterns of change, and to explain causal relationships’ (Dörnyei 2007: 79) and can be used to examine dynamic processes in human learning or development in relation to different types of variables (Menard 2002: 2).

4. Data Analysis  

The data produced by the study was analysed using the appraisal system developed by Martin and White (2005), within the framework of Functional Grammar (Halliday and Matthiessen 2004), for exploring interpersonal meanings by explaining and describing the way language users evaluate arguments, adopt textual stances and negotiate positioning and relationships (White 2002). It served to examine the language employed by the students in discussing their translation decisions in order to investigate the way they positioned themselves in their arguments.

According to Martin and White (2005: 35), the appraisal system consists of three interacting domains:

  1. Attitude indicates the way feelings and emotional reactions are expressed, behaviours are judged and phenomena are evaluated.
  2. Engagement deals with ‘the linguistic resources by which speakers/ writers adopt a stance towards to the value positions being referenced by the text and with respect to those they address.’ (Martin and White 2005: 92)
  3. Graduation values ‘construe greater or lesser degrees of positivity or negativity’ and ‘scale for the degree of the speaker/writer’s intensity, or the degree of their investment in the utterance.’ (Martin and White 2005: 135-136)

Since the focus in the present study is on the stance adopted by trainee translators while discussing their translation decisions, the data provided by the students was analysed and discussed according to the Engagement domain of the appraisal system.

4.1 Engagement in the Appraisal Theory

According to the system of engagement, utterances can be classified into:

  1. Monoglossic or ‘bare assertions’ when speakers/writers make no reference to other voices and viewpoints (for example, the banks have been greedy). In this example, the writer/speaker excludes other opinions by producing the proposition as a statement with a positive finite.
  2. Heteroglossic when they allow for alternative viewpoints and responses (for example, you do not need to give up potatoes to lose weight). In this example, the writer/speaker refers to other possible opinions while challenging them through the use of negation which allowed her/him to limit the scope of the argument and refuse alternative viewpoints. Martin and White explain the case presented in clause 1, as opposed to clause 2, as follows:

Bare assertions obviously contrast with these heteroglossic options in not overtly referencing other voices or recognising alternative positions. As a consequence, the communicative context is construed as single voiced ... By this, the speaker/writer presents the current proposition as one which has no dialogistic alternatives which need to be recognised, or engaged with, in the current communicative context – as dialogistically inert and hence capable of being declared categorically. (Martin and White 2005: 99)

Examining the system of engagement as used by the students will allow us to investigate the way they positioned their voices in respect to other voices in the communicative context construed while discussing their translation decisions. According to the system of engagement, heteroglossic clauses can be divided into: a) dialogic contractive or b) dialogic expansive, depending on the degree to which an utterance makes allowances for alternative positions and voices. In dialogic contractive, speakers or writers can either:

  1. Proclaim or limit the scope of dialogistic alternatives by endorsing, pronouncing or concurring different opinions. Speakers and writers can endorse and construe that alternative authorial voice as correct and valid by using verbs, such as ‘show’ and ‘prove’. Pronouncement involves authorial emphases and authorial interventions which can be realized through the use of locutions, such as ‘I contend’ and ‘the facts of the matter are’. Speakers and writers can also concur and agree with the alternative voice by using locutions, such as ‘naturally’ and ‘of course’.
  2. Or disclaim and reject contrary positions by either using counter expectancy conjunctions or connectives (for example, although, yet, and still) or denial (negation).

In dialogic expansion, speakers/writers allow for alternative viewpoints. They indicate that their proposition is one of a wide range of possible positions by either:

  1. Attributing their propositions to other resources showing where the authorial voice stands with respect to the proposition by either acknowledging other stands (for example, X believes) or distancing their voices from the attributable propositions (for example, X claimed).
  2. Or entertaining and invoking other opinions by indicating the subjectivity of other opinions (for example, the report suggests). They can also entertain other opinions through the use of expressions of modality (for example, may and probable), discussed by Halliday and Matthiessen (2004).      

Thus, in the present study, monoglossia or ‘bare assertions’ will be interpreted as indicating assertiveness, and heteroglossia will be considered as signalling tentativeness.

5. Procedures of Data Analysis  

The unit of analysis in functional terms is the clause complex: a combination of two or more clauses into a larger unit (Thompson 2004: 48). Thus, in order to carry out an interpersonal analysis of the students’ answers in the forms, the data provided by the students was divided into clauses. One of the problems with applying appraisal theory to the language used by the students is that many clauses included more than one token of evaluation which posed difficulty in classifying these clauses, as was the case in example 1:

  • Example 1: You cannot just say “fire fountain” in German because it is figurative (clause 1). But it does not have this figurative equivalence in German (clause 2).

In example 1, the student described the problem encountered with translating into German the phrase ‘which is fired every day during the main season’ in the following sentence:

but in 1937 a fire broke out, and today it is a beautiful ruin, set in spectacular gardens, with an amazing and fully restored Perseus and Andromeda fountain which is fired every day during the main season.

The student used ‘cannot’ to challenge other points of views and the connective ‘just’ to counter alternative expectations. In the second clause, the student used a counter expectancy connective ‘but’ and negation ‘not’ in the same clause which was coded as an instance of both counter-expectancy and denial. Therefore, although in Functional Grammar the unit of analysis is the clause complex, it was more effective in the present study to consider both the clause complex and tokens of evaluation as units of analysis, and discuss the data accordingly. Based on this, in example 1, we have two attitudinal clauses and four attitudinal tokens in the two clauses, each including instances of both denial and counter-expectancy.

Because this was a small-scale study, data provided in the questionnaire was analysed manually. Raw frequencies and percentages were used to quantify the data. Percentage difference across the three stages was calculated using an online calculator[1] in order to examine whether there was a difference in the percentages of the raw frequencies in the data collected. In the analysis, we focused on the most prominent patterns which reflected a change in the data collected throughout the academic year. A test of statistical significance was also performed in order to test whether there was a significant difference in the data provided by the students across the three stages. It has to be acknowledged that this methodology, coupled with the small sample size and the fact that a number of participants opted to leave the study before it was concluded, creates the possibility of several types of bias: specifically, attrition bias on the part of subjects and detection bias on the part of the researcher. In order for the conclusions made in this study to validated, the observations would need to be repeated with a new group and a clear hypothesis established before the start of data collection. However, using this test helped us to determine how high or low the probability that the decrease or increase in the data throughout the three stages was due to chance. We used the chi-square test[2] since it is more sensitive than other tests, such as t-test and Wilcoxon’s rank sum test, and does not assume that the data is normally distributed which is not a feature of linguistic data (McEnery and Wilson 2001: 70). The chi-square test ‘allows an estimation of whether the frequencies in a table differ significantly from each other. It allows the comparison of frequencies found experimentally with those expected on the basis of some theoretical model’ (Oakes 1998: 24). The chi-square test compares the values of the data proportionally where probability values (P) of 0.05 or less are assumed to be significant whereas those greater than 0.05 are not. Thus, the null hypothesis (H0) in the present study is that any difference between the data presented by the students at each stage is due to chance, and therefore not significant. If the calculated value of the chi-square is less than or equal to the probability value of 0.05 and the difference is significant, the alternative hypothesis (H1) is supported, which indicates that there is some reason other than chance behind the difference, which in the case of this study is most probably the training followed by the students in the Translation Studies programme at the University of Birmingham.

6. The Students’ Profiles

There was a drop-off of 37.5 per cent from the first to the second stage and one of 62.5 per cent from the first to the third stage. The data of the students who dropped out of the study was removed and therefore only the data of the twelve students (four males and eight females) who took part in all three stages of the study was included. It seems that the participants had many common characteristics: they had little/no translation experience, were of approximately the same age (21-29 years), and were educated to BA level. On the other hand, these participants came from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The respondents who took part in all the three stages of the study were given codes according to their gender (M for male and F for female), in addition to a numeric value added to each of these codes. The two letter code system of languages (ISO 639-1) was also used to indicate the language of the target text. Most of the participants translated the text from English into their first language (Chinese: ZH, Spanish: ES, Greek: EL, Arabic: AR and German: DE) as English was their second language. Only three of the students were native English speakers and therefore translated the text into their second language (French: FR, Portuguese: PT and Spanish: ES).  The decision to use English as the source language in this study may have affected the translators' levels of confidence, as students translating into their native language might present different levels of self-assertion than students translating into their second language. However, this was alleviated by choosing a text with a certain level of syntactical difficulty that is meant to pose the same level of difficulty for both native English speakers and speakers of English as a second language, as previously mentioned. In addition, the interest in this study was in the way the translators perceived translation problems and justified their decisions rather than in how they approached these specific texts.

7. Engagement in the Language Used by the Trainee Translators 

Clauses used by the students in the forms were categorised as monoglossic when they did not include any tokens of engagement, and heteroglossic when they did. Thus they were classified according to whether the students negotiated their decisions by making a reference to alternative voices and viewpoints or presented their justifications objectively, as is clear in example 2:

  • Example 2: F8FR: It is the name of the institute (clause 1). So a direct translation would not be appropriate (clause 2). Explanation provides additional information.

In this example, student F8FR justified including an explanation of her translation of the title of the text into French, using monoglossic and heteroglossic clauses. Clauses 1 and 3 are monoglossic since student F8FR excludes other opinions by using a positive finite ‘is/provides’. However, clause 2 is heteroglossic since student F8FR makes reference to other opinions by challenging them through the use of negation ‘not’. 

In some cases, an elliptical subject and finite were assumed. Since these cases are less clear cut than those where the subject and finite are explicit, and they involve an extra layer of interpretation on the part of the researcher, these clauses were considered separately from the explicit ones, so as to offer a more transparent view of the analysis. Table 1 gives an overview of results.

 

1st stage

2nd stage

3rd stage

Engagement

RF

Percentage

RF

Percentage

RF

Percentage

Total number of monoglossic clauses

159

67.37%

230

69.48%

217

71.14%

Total number of monoglossic clauses with assumed subject and verb

137

58.05%

196

59.21%

191

62.62%

Total number of explicit monoglossic clauses

22

9.32%

34

10.27%

26

8.52%

Total number of heteroglossic clauses

77

32.62%

101

30.51%

88

28.85%

Total number of clauses

236

331

305

Total number of heteroglossic tokens

RF

Percentage

RF

Percentage

RF

Percentage

91

6.57%

129

5.65%

114

3.96%

Total number of words

1,385

2,281

2,874

Table 1: The FR and Percentage of the Monoglossic and Heteroglossic Clauses Used by the Students

By looking at Table 1, we can notice that the students used more monoglossic clauses than heteroglossic clauses while discussing translation problems, which is expected. A diachronic comparison shows that the number of monoglossic clauses increased by 2.11 percentage points (3.13 per cent) during the second stage when compared with the beginning of the programme. This number further increased by 1.66 percentage points (2.38 per cent) during the third stage in comparison with the second stage, leading to a decrease in the number of heteroglossic clauses. However, the chi-square test indicates that this development is not statistically significant {x2 = 0.89, df = 2, P = 0.6408}, which means that the H1 cannot be supported, and as a result this distribution could be attributed to chance. This suggests that students showed a stable preference towards monoglossic clauses throughout the programme.

Concerning the number of heteroglossic tokens, the comparison of the three stages of data analysis indicates that the number of heteroglossic tokens used in the language offered by the students decreased by 0.92 percentage points (14 per cent) in the middle of the year, only to further decrease by 1.69 percentage point (29.91 per cent) by the end of the year in comparison with the second stage. The chi-square test indicates that the change in the number of the heteroglossic tokens used by the students across the three stages is statistically significant {x2 = 15.25, df = 2, P = 0.0005}. This supports the H1, and suggests that the decrease in the number of heteroglossic tokens by the end of the year is not due to chance. As explained above, monoglossia is typical of more assertive positions, where the speaker/writer does not feel the need to refer to alternative viewpoints and opinions, and heteroglossia suggests an awareness of multiple viewpoints and a less categorical attitude. Thus, despite the fact that no significant changes were observed in the number of heteroglossic clauses, the decrease in the number of heteroglossic tokens towards the end of the year is significant and the changes in the percentages of heteroglossic clauses and tokens are parallel and consistent with one another, as Figure 1 shows. This could allow us to tentatively hypothesise that trainee translators become more assertive after following a translation training programme.

img1

Figure 1: Heteroglossic tokens and clauses in the language used by the students

7.1 The Types of Heteroglossic Tokens Used by the Trainee Translators 

The heteroglossic tokens provided by the students in the forms were classified into contractive and expansive tokens. This classification was based on whether the students included or excluded alternative viewpoints while discussing their translation decisions. When students included alternative viewpoints, they used expansive tokens of the type employed in example 3:

  • Example 3: M3ZH: In Chinese, meaning of words tend to be more concrete (clause 1). Literal translation may sound strange here (clause 2).

Here student M3ZH (example 3, clause 1) uses an expansive clause by employing the verb ‘tend to’ to hedge and tone down his description of the problem he encountered while translating the sentence ‘there is so much to see and do’ into Chinese. Similarly, he uses the modal finite of probability ‘may’ in his description of the problem (example 3, clause 2) to signal that his proposition is open for negotiation.

When students excluded alternative viewpoints, they used contractive tokens, similar to the one employed by student M2DE in example 4 below. In example 4, student M2DE justifies explaining the title ‘Cadbury World’ into German, rejecting other textual opinions by negating clause 1 in order to counter the expectations of alternative voices through the use of the token ‘however’ in clause 2.

  • Example 4: M2DE: In German, the name of the brand/firm remains untranslated (clause 1). However, there was a need of translation in regards to the next sentence describing this world (clause 2).

Both contractive and expansive tokens were employed by the trainee translators in their discussion of translation decisions. Comparing the number of contractive and expansive tokens out of the total number of heteroglossic tokens indicates that most of the tokens used by the students were contractive (see example 4 above), challenging other textual voices, rather than expansive, through which they allowed alternative opinions to take part in the argument during the three stages, as in example 3 (see Figure 2).  

img2

Figure 2: The percentage for the contractive and expansive tokens used by the students

 

1st stage

2nd stage

3rd stage

Tokens of Engagement

RF

Percentage

RF

Percentage

RF

Percentage

Total number of contractive tokens

72

5.19%

86

3.77%

89

3.09%

Total number of expansive tokens

19

1.37%

43

1.88%

25

0.86%

Total number of Words

1,385

2,281

2,874

Table 2: The RF and Percentage of the Contractive and Expansive Tokens Used by the Students

The comparison of the percentages of expansive tokens across the three stages indicates that they remained stable, as Table 2 shows. Concerning the trainees’ development in relation to contractive tokens, comparing the percentages of contractive tokens out of the total number of words across the three stages indicates that they decreased by 12.46 percentage points (27.36 per cent) during the second stage, only to remain stable towards the end of the year in comparison with the second stage. Despite the minimal change in the percentages, the chi-square test indicates that the difference in the number of contractive tokens used by the students out of the total number of words across the three stages is statistically significant {x2 = 11.36, df = 2, P = 0.0034}, supporting the H1. This indicates that the change in the number of contractive tokens is not due to chance. This suggests that translation training affects the way students present their discussion of translation problems, making them less concerned about excluding alternative opinions and viewpoints while following a translation training programme.

7.2 Types of Expansive and Contractive Tokens Used by the Trainee Translators

The expansive tokens used by the students in the forms were of an entertaining type, where the students showed their subjectivity while opening their arguments for discussion, as is evident in example 5 below. In this example, student M3ZH uses the grammatical interpersonal metaphor ‘I think’ adjusted to the main clause to frame his justification of explaining certain names (for example, Reredo, Pulpit, pew) in Chinese. The use of this interpersonal metaphor indicates the subjectivity of student M3ZH’s opinion, and that he can be persuaded otherwise:

  • Example 5: M3ZH: I think the translation is clear

Concerning the types of contractive token used, the students first proclaimed and limited the scope of their arguments by either pronouncing or concurring with different opinions, as is evident in examples 6 and 7:

  • Example 6: F8FR: The literal translation leads to an awkward phrase (clause 1). “Open to public” is much more common (clause 2).
  • Example 7: F4EL: Indeed I used the word “έπαυλη” (mansion) for the word court.

In example 6, student F8FR uses a monoglossic clause (clause 1), followed by a heteroglossic clause (clause 2), in which she uses ‘much more’ to emphasise the popularity of the strategy she used, that is changing the phrase ‘shop open to non-visitors’ into ‘open to public’ in French. In example 7, student F4EL employs the locution ‘indeed’ to limit the scope of her argument while showing agreement with alternative viewpoints when describing the solution used to solve the problem encountered in translating the title ‘Whitley Court’ into Greek.

The students also disclaimed and rejected contrary positions by either using counter expectancy conjunctions or negation, as is clear in example 8. In this example, student F9ES explains why she translated the two verbs ‘discover’ and ‘uncover’ into one word in Portuguese by negating her proposition (clause 1) to challenge other viewpoints which might indicate that Portuguese had two separate words for these two verbs. Student F9ES also limits the scope of her argument by using the connective ‘just’ to counter the expectancy of any alternative textual voices in clause 2.

  • Example 8: F9ES: They do not have a separate word for these two (clause 1). They just use the same word just one (clause 2).

By classifying the contractive tokens employed by the students into disclaim and proclaim, we will examine whether the students excluded alternative opinions and closed down their arguments by challenging alternative textual voices, using tokens of disclaim, or by endorsing different opinions through the employment of tokens of proclaim. This will help us investigate in more depth the changes in the manner in which trainee translators justified their decisions while following the translation training programme. The comparison of the percentages of disclaim and proclaim tokens used by the students out of the total number of contractive tokens indicates the overall prominence of disclaim tokens throughout the three stages, as Figure 3 shows.

img3

Figure 3: The percentage for the types of contractive tokens used by the students

 

1st stage

2nd stage

3rd stage

Contractive tokens

RF

Percentage

RF

Percentage

RF

Percentage

Disclaim

Counter

8

0.57%

21

1.05%

10

0.34%

Denial

43

3.1%

35

1.53%

58

2.01%

Total

51

3.68%

56

2.45%

68

2.36%

Proclaim

Pronounce

21

1.51%

28

1.22%

20

0.69%

Concur

0

0

2

0.08%

1

0.03%

Total

21

1.51%

30

1.31%

21

0.73%

Total number of Words

1,385

2,281

2,874

Table 3: The RF and Percentage of the Types of Contractive Tokens Used by the Students

Table 3 indicates that the percentages of tokens of proclaim remained stable across the three stages. By comparing the percentages of contractive tokens of disclaim out of the total number of words, we find that the number of tokens where the students disclaimed alternative opinions decreased by 1.23 percentage points (33.42 per cent) during the second stage in comparison with the first stage, only to remain stable during the third stage in comparison with the second stage. The chi-square test indicates that this development across the three stages out of the total number of words is statistically significant {x2 = 6.87, df = 2, P = 0.0322}. This result supports the H1 and suggests that this is not due to chance and could be related to translation training. The decrease in the number of tokens of disclaim reflects the decrease in the total number of contractive tokens. This also suggests that the students become less willing to engage with alternative viewpoints after following a translation training programme.

8. Conclusion

Through the presentation of these findings, the purpose of this paper was to examine the language employed by the students in order to investigate the effect of following a translation training programme at postgraduate level on trainee translators’ social competence; in particular, the way they negotiate their positions and adopt stances while discussing their translation decisions, using the appraisal system developed by Martin and White (2005). Despite the small sample size and the small number of frequencies, it is possible to draw some tentative conclusions concerning the students’ manner in which they describe translation problems and justify their decisions when solving translation problems.

This study of the engagement system in the data provided by the students indicates a decrease in the number of heteroglossic tokens by the end of the academic year in comparison with the beginning of the year. This finding may indicate that trainee translators adopt a more assertive positioning in their discussion of translation problems after following a translation training programme. This assertiveness was reflected in the decrease in the number of contractive tokens, more specifically tokens of disclaim, towards the end of the year. This suggests that this assertive positioning on the part of trainee translators is signalled by fewer cases of heteroglossia used to challenge alternative opinions. Thus the students seemed to be less willing to engage with alternative viewpoints, which could be interpreted as an increased confidence in their own judgement. This could show that following a translation training programme at academic level can enhance trainee translators’ confidence and eventually their self-esteem, and consequently raise their professional standards. However, it also suggests that trainee translators become less considerate of alternative viewpoints and opinions and thus, arguably, become less critical. This might necessitate a reconsideration of translation training approaches followed in such translation training programmes. It might also become important to reconsider priorities in translation training programmes in a way that helps the trainee translators to increase their ability to justify their decisions and claim their rights as active participants in the translation process.

These findings make future research in this area necessary in order to investigate the effect of translation training programmes at academic level on developing the trainee translators’ social skills. In this respect, the context of this study can be extended to include more than one translation training programme. It is advisable to use a more homogenous sample of trainees within specific language pairs which would allow the researcher to also analyze the translated texts and examine the effect of following the translating training programme on their skills in translation. It could also include a comparison between the effects of different theories in translation on the trainee translators’ decisions whilst translating to define the type of theories that tend to inform their translation decisions more and the way they discuss them. Furthermore, future research could also involve a study of the attitude and graduation domains of the appraisal theory in relation to the students’ discussion of translation decisions while following a translation training programme.

References

Chesterman, Andrew (2000) Memes of Translation, Amsterdam, John Benjamins.

Dörnyei, Zoltán (2007) Research Methods in Applied Linguistics, Oxford, OUP.

Fairclough, Norman (1995a) Media Discourse, London, Edward Arnold.

Fairclough, Norman (1995b) Critical Discourse Analysis, London, Longman.

Gile, Daniel (2009) Basic Concepts and Models for Interpreter and Translator Training, Amsterdam, John Benjamins.

González Davies, Maria (2004) Multiple Voices in the Translation Classroom: Activities, Tasks and Projects, Amsterdam, John Benjamins.

Halliday, Michael Alexander Kirkwood, and Christian M. I. M. Matthiessen (2004) Introduction to Functional Grammar, New York, OUP.

Kelly, Dorothy (2007) “Turning Language Students into Translators: What Do They Need to Learn?” in Across Boundaries: International Perspective on Translation Studies, Dorothy Kenny, and Kyongjoo Ryou (eds), Newcastle, Cambridge Scholars Publishing: 128–142,

Kiraly, Donald (2000) A Social Constructivist Approach to Translator Education, Manchester, St. Jerome,

Martin, James Robert, and Peter R. R. White (2005) The Language of Evaluation, New York, Palgrave Macmillan,

McEnery, Tony, and Andrew Wilson (2001) Corpus Linguistics, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press.

Menard, Scott (2002) Longitudinal Research, Thousand Oaks, Sage.

Molina, Lucía, and Amparo Hurtado Albir (2002) “Translation Techniques Revisited: A Dynamic and Functionalist Approach”, Meta 47, no. 4: 498-512.

Munday, Jeremy (2012a) Evaluation in Translation: Critical Points of Translator Decision-Making, Abingdon, Routledge.

---- (2012b) “New Directions in Discourse Analysis for Translation: A Study of Decision-Making in Crowdsourced Subtitles of Obama's 2012 State of the Union speech”, Language and Intercultural Communication 12, no. 4: 321-334.

Oakes, Michael P. (1998) Statistics for Corpus Linguistics, Cambridge, CUP.

Pym, Anthony (2009) “Translator Training”, URL: http://usuaris.tinet.cat/apym/on-line/training/2009_translator_training.pdf (accessed 3 May 2013).

Rico, Celia (2010) “Translator Training in the European Higher Education Area”, The Interpreter and Translator Trainer 4, no. 1: 89-114.

Robinson, Douglas (2003) Becoming a Translator. An Accelerated Course, London, Routledge.

Saldanha, Gabriela, and Sharon O’Brien (2013) Research Methodologies in Translation Studies, New York, Routledge.

Thompson, Geoff (2004) Introducing Functional Grammar, London, Routledge.

Toury, Gideon (2012) Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond, Amsterdam, John Benjamins.

White, Peter R. R. (2002) “Appraisal – the language of evaluation and stance” in The Handbook of Pragmatics, Jef Verschueren, Jan-Ola Östman, Jan Blommaert, and Chris Bulcaen (eds), Amsterdam, John Benjamins: 1–27.

Yin, Robert K. (2009) Case Study Research: Design and Methods, London, Sage.

Notes

[1] The percentage difference calculator is available at: http://www.calculatorsoup.com/calculators/algebra/percent-change-calculator.php (last accessed on 13/4/2015)

[2] The chi-square test is available online at: http://vassarstats.net/newcs.html (last accessed on 20/4/2015)

 

About the author(s)

I hold a PhD in Translation Studies from the University of Birmingham and an MA in Translation Studies from the same university. I am currently a tutor and a second marker for the specialized translation projects at the University of Birmingham. My research interests are translation training and translation of news.

Email: [please login or register to view author's email address]

©inTRAlinea & Nermeen Al Nafra (2018).
"Trainee Translators’ Positioning in Discussing Translation Decisions A Diachronic Case Study", inTRAlinea Vol. 20.
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: http://www.intralinea.org/archive/article/2332

Go to top of page