Personal Knowledge Management. Knowledge Mapping Techniques in the Training of LSP Translators

By Marianne Grove Ditlevsen & Peter Kastberg (Aarhus School of Business)


This article deals with the integration of the two spheres of knowledge and skills commonly accepted to be essential to the technical translator, i.e. linguistics/translation and subject matter. The focus is on one of the spheres, namely that of subject matter, and how subject matter is integrated into translator curricula. Whereas we do not question the need for subject matter knowledge, we do question the way in which such knowledge is typically conveyed in translator training. Consequently we define and discuss two prototypical approaches to integrating content into translator training. On the basis of a critical discussion of these approaches, we argue that neither way is optimal when it comes to preparing students for coping with real-life translations. We proceed to introduce the framework of Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) as a totally different way of integrating subject matter into LSP translator curricula. Based on this introduction we focus on one particular PKM technique, that of knowledge mapping, and conclude the article by means of a case study of knowledge mapping-in-use at an Italian university.

Keywords: personal knowledge management, mapping, teaching subject matter, translator and interpreter training

©inTRAlinea & Marianne Grove Ditlevsen & Peter Kastberg (2009).
"Personal Knowledge Management. Knowledge Mapping Techniques in the Training of LSP Translators"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Specialised Translation I
Edited by: Danio Maldussi & Eva Wiesmann
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
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1. Background

To be able to translate an LSP text (be it from a technical, a legal or a business setting) the translator must have a thorough command of not just linguistic, rhetorical, communicative and translational knowledge and competences. The non-literary translator must also be in possession of considerable subject matter knowledge:

The translation of technical texts or any other domain specific text requires considerable specific knowledge, i.e., not only knowledge about linguistic rules and structures, but also knowledge about the topic of the text to be translated. Knowledge of just one of these two aspects does not suffice to produce a correct translation. (Galinski/Budin 1993: 209).

That it is necessary for the LSP translator to have a thorough knowledge of the subject matter of the text, which s/he is to translate, is beyond question. As a conditio sine qua non stands the notion that you cannot translate what you do not understand. But apparently this seems insufficient when speaking of the knowledge and skills needed by the LSP translator. In fact the ideal LSP translator is often defined as someone who possesses two complementary types of knowledge and skills:

Unbestritten sind die Notwendigkeit von Fachwissen und die als Ideal anerkannte Einheit von Sprach- und Fachwissen [...]. (Fluck 1992: 221).

For such a unity of translation and subject matter knowledge and competences to come into existence in one person, however, it seems that the non-literary translator would have to be a combination of the trained professional (e.g. the engineer) and the trained LSP translator. A fact that tends to idolize the professional (der Fachmann) and his/her knowledge. What we would like to propose in this article is a radical shift in educational focus induced by a new way of integrating the two spheres of knowledge and skills (i.e. linguistics/translation and subject matter) into a LSP translator curriculum. An integration where not the professional (der Fachmann) and his/her knowledge is idolized but where the LSP translator to be and his/her capacity for learning is the focal point.

We will start out with a critical discussion of two prototypical ways of integrating subject matter knowledge into LSP translator curricula. Based on this discussion we introduce the idea behind Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) and some of its techniques. In the second part of the article we will focus on one PKM technique, namely that of mapping, and - via a case - follow the learning progression, content-wise, in the mapping procedure. 

2.Two Prototypical Approaches to Teaching Subject Matter

Based on relevant literature as well as a survey of translation schools in Germany and Denmark featuring information about their LSP translation curricula on the Internet, two approaches to teaching subject matter competences may be summarized: A deductive and an inductive oriented approach.

2.1 The deductive approach

The deductive approach means that the translation student will be taught or at least exposed to, say, the basics of technical science. From authentic course catalogues we have extracted these titles: 

- An Introduction to Technical Science
- The Basics of Technical Science
- Domain Specific Technical Theory

From this knowledge base the trainee translators are obviously supposed to derive the knowledge needed to understand and subsequently translate any given technical text. Bachmann points to two general problems when implementing a deductive approach:     

Jede Übersetzerin und jeder Übersetzer wird sicherlich leichten Herzens der Erkenntnis zustimmen, daß es nicht möglich ist, auf vielen technischen Gebieten, mit denen man in Form eines zu übersetzenden Textes konfrontiert werden kann, so sachkundig wie der jeweilige Autor zu sein. Um so mehr möchte ich aber hervorheben, daß es m.E. auch nicht möglich ist, mit dem zitierten und nie so ganz faßbaren “technischen Grundwissen” [i.e. basic technical knowledge], das in der Übersetzerausbildung oft ohne Integration studienbegleitend vermittelt wird, den Anforderungen an professionell angefertigte Fachübersetzungen gerecht zu werden. (Bachmann 1992: 145)

The fundamental problem is centred on the following question: What constitutes the ‘basics of technical science’? Should it be an introduction to the laws of physics or the periodic system? Even if one were to keep the content at a very rudimentary or abstract level, the list of possible basics would be infinite. A brief look into for instance “How things work” or any other technical encyclopaedia provides amble proof of that. If we look at the usefulness of technical science for the trainee translator then we may easily derive yet another problem. How can one expect that a student of translation should manage to bridge the gap from such abstract or rudimentary basics to implementing them or - what would typically be the case - to implementing content derived from these basics in an actual translation? A prerequisite being, of course, that the topic of the translation is in fact covered by the basics taught in class. For which there - for obvious reasons - is no guarantee.

2.2 The inductive approach

One way of trying to eliminate these problems is to apply a more inductive approach to integrating subject matter knowledge. Here the translation student is taught or exposed to a (usually) small number of domain specific disciplines. Based on this knowledge of individual disciplines, the student is then obviously supposed to understand and subsequently translate any given LSP text. In favour of the inductive approach is Horn-Helf when she states:

[...] daß es in der Praxis kaum übersetzungsirrelevante Fachgebiete gibt. Diese Vielfalt kann in Übersetzungsübungen auch nicht annährend behandelt werden [...], dafür ist das Spektrum der an übersetzungspraktisch einschlägigen Texten und Berufssituationen einfach zu groß [...]. Die Beschränkung auf einige ist daher unausweichlich. Es wäre allerdings wünschenswert, auch hier vorrangig die zu berücksichtigen, die als Prototypen gelten können (insbesondere Maschinenbau, Elektrotechnik, Informatik).  (Horn-Helf 1999: 300).

Although it seems that this approach has an answer to what the deductive approach lacks in depth, it is at the expense of the holistic perspective of the former. For by choosing to expose the students to a catalogue of domain specific disciplines, one is immediately confronted with two issues that need further consideration: The selection of disciplines and the future practical value of such disciplinary knowledge. In the catalogue proposed, Horn-Helf advocates the selection of prototypical disciplines; it does, however, become clear that what she understands by a prototypical discipline is one from which translation services are requested hic et nunc, giving the selection a short term perspective at best. But apart from that, we are concerned with the practical value of the inductive approach. The students’ acquired domain specific knowledge could very well prove to be of a fragmentary - or even kaleidoscopic - nature.

Nord gives an example of this kind of integration:

Sach- und Fachwissen wird im Rahmen der Sach- oder Ergänzungsfächer ermittelt; hier erhebt sich allerdings weithin die Frage der Koordinierung bzw. Verzahnung: Im Idealfall sollte das Fachwissen, das für die Ausfertigung einer Fachübersetzung erforderlich ist, auch tatsächlich im Rahmen der Sachfachausbildung kurz vor der Anwendung erworben worden sein. (Nord 1996: 316).

From the above quotation it is quite obvious that the students in question will be given assignments which correspond nicely to the kind of domain specific knowledge they have recently acquired. But how is this integration supposed to prepare students for dealing with real-life translations later on, where they are sure to be dealing with cross-disciplinary issues or topics from disciplines that were not part of this selection. We find it very hard to concur with what we take is the underlying idea; namely that some structural common ground should ‘rub off’ somehow or that trainee translators should - as an instance of ‘incidental learning’ - (through exposure to a pre-defined catalogue of disciplines) gain knowledge enabling them to translate LSP texts from disciplines not dealt with in class. Although laconic, Teague’s comments to this issue from the practitioner’s point of view are quite illustrative:

Sci/tech translators may dream of serving one market sector, doing translations on a narrowing range of subjects (and hence progressively easier ones), becoming more and more valuable to fewer and fewer clients (and choosing, among those, the least vexing), and cocooning themselves in a blanket of job security. Those lemonade springs and peppermint trees remain just a dream for most. (Teague 1993: 161).

As an adapted version of the inductive approach, our department in Aarhus, Denmark, tried (in the early 1990’ies) to integrate technical knowledge by way of a prototypical ‘technical’ life cycle or ontogenesis. The phases of the ontogenesis ranged from materials over production methods to computerization. Corresponding translation assignments then followed each phase. Despite the fact that this seemed to be a reasonable compromise, the result was de facto a radical shift in focus from language, LSP and translation to technical matter. The students were briefly introduced to what in fact amounted to a massive body of technical knowledge and were subsequently expected to be able to translate texts from virtually all areas of technical science and disciplines. Consequently, the students tended to pursue the strategy of learning technical topics by heart, and - in the process - neglecting the other knowledge sphere, that of language, LSP and translation matters.

Without going into details as to the learning aspects of such didactics (see Boud 1987 as well as Kastberg 2000 and 2001), we would like to point to the commonly accepted notion that: “[p]roblem-oriented training promotes spontaneous analogical transfer: Memory oriented training promotes memory for training.” (Needham/Begg 1991: 543).

In as much as both of the two approaches encourage a memory trained for training, as it were, and not for spontaneous analogical transfer of problem solving strategies, both the deductive and the inductive approach are fundamentally equally problematic. Neither approach prepares the student optimally for the world of exponentially growing technical, legal and business knowledge, of ever expanding and overlapping domains as well as constantly developing topics, which s/he will encounter as an LSP translator upon graduation. It goes for many university degrees that there is not necessarily a link between curriculum and what the student will be doing after graduating. This link, however, is and should indeed be present when it comes to training future LSP translators.

3. PKM - A Deliberate Shift in Focus from ‘Teaching’ (Content) to ‘Learning’ (Methods)

Not wanting to avoid the Scylla of the deductive approach at the expense of running into the Charybdis of the inductive one, we propose a common denominator other than that of disciplines; namely the basic building blocks of disciplines and their representation in texts: information. What we advocate is not merely a shift in perspective but in the attitude towards teaching LSP translation with a point of departure along the lines of Barrows when he states: “The acquisition of the skills of effective problem-solving, self-directed learning and team skill is probably more important than the content learned.” (Barrows 1998: 631).

Even if it were our ambition as teachers of translators to teach in class all the domain specific content matter, which the trainee translator will need to know in order to be able to work as an LSP translator, we would surely fail. The sheer amount of knowledge produced every day makes this notion an impossibility.  We suggest that the below three quotations may sufficiently elucidate this claim:

There is a growing mountain of research. But there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends. The investigator is staggered by the findings and the conclusions of thousands of other workers - conclusions that he cannot find time to grasp, much less to remember, as they appear. (Bush 1945).

In his now famous essay, “As we may think” from 1945, Bush gives a vivid account of what must be an early version of information overload. Some twenty years later, Abramson comes to this conclusion:

The amount of scientific information published around the world every 24 hours would fill [...] seven complete 24-volume sets of Encyclopaedia Britannica [...].Reading around the clock, day after day, one man would need about 460 years to cover one year’s output. (Abramson 1964).

Needless to say, in addition to reading, the follow-up activities of understanding and remembering would indeed be very time consuming activities, too. In the early days of the 21st century, Tanner widens the scope considerably: 

Die verfügbare Menge an Informationen wächst und wächst. In den nächsten drei Jahren werden [...] weltweit mehr Informationen erzeugt als in den vergangenen 300.000 Jahren zusammen. Allein 1999 wurden demnach 1,5 Exabyte neue Daten erzeugt - umgerechnet etwa 1,5 Billionen Bücher! (Tanner 2001: 1).

In the face of the insurmountability of the amount of information available, we have taken the consequence and radically de- and re-constructed the integration of content in translator curricula in Aarhus. The students, therefore, are neither taught or exposed to, say, ‘the basics of technical science’ nor are they set to learn a pre-selected number of (more or less relevant) disciplines. Instead we focus on teaching methods enabling the trainee translator to cope with the content of - in principle - any domain specific matter. In order to make such a change, it will not suffice to make adjustments with regard to the curriculum; the adjustments will first have to be made with regard to one’s perception of a curriculum. Driver/Oldham states the fundamental issue when it comes to changing the perception of what a curriculum is:

[...] the curriculum is seen not as a body of knowledge or skills but the programme of activities from which such knowledge or skills can possibly be acquired or constructed, though we acknowledge that the selection of possible learning experiences is guided by the knowledge of experts. (Driver/Oldham 1986: 112).

Compared to the approaches discussed in the previous chapter, with their focus on the “body of knowledge”, the focus of attention in this approach has shifted to “the programme of activities from which such knowledge or skills can possibly be acquired”. The programme of activities from which to obtain the subject matter knowledge needed is basically a process model for knowledge management (Choo 1998: 23). The model applied is centred on two partially overlapping dimensions. The first dimension sees personal knowledge management as a dynamic tool for informational problem solving. Here, the students are not taught or exposed to, say, the discipline of ‘machinery’ or the phenomenon of ‘arbitration’; instead they are trained intensively and systematically in how to recognize what specific, individual information needs they have with regard to a given translation assignment and how to fulfil that need. In our approach, this dimension consists of the following rudimentary phases:

• Recognize individual information need

On the basis of the translation assignment the student is trained to sort out his or her personal knowledge deficits.

• Locate information

On the basis of the recognized knowledge deficits, the student seeks out relevant information carriers, activates relevant personal and professional networks etc., enabling him or her to fill said gaps. 

• Evaluate information

On the basis of such information compilation, information processing may begin; the student performs an analysis with regard to authenticity and authority of the information carriers etc. chosen. 

• Use information

E.g. in relation to skopos, target culture and genre, addressee, etc.

Whenever needed, these phases may be recursive, adding to the mere compilatory nature of the chronology a cyclic and, in turn, dynamic quality (Winkel 1988: 91).

With its focus on the students’ individual needs as well as on the translation assignment at hand as a stepping stone, we radically shift the focus of the integration of content and thus go on to the second dimension of PKM. Here the students are, first of all, no longer measured against the (typically idolized but always illusive) knowledge of the professional (der Fachmann) - since for obvious reasons this is a standard they cannot and should not live up to - instead they are measured against how well they find and utilize information in accordance with the translation assignment they are given. Secondly they are not required to learn and know everything about, say, machinery or arbitration but exactly that which they need to know in order to produce the translation in question. This constitutes a deliberate shift in focus from teaching (content) to learning (methods). This shift - at a more general level - means that it is not primarily important what and how much domain specific subject matter is taught: of primary importance is the student’s ability to cope with any subject matter. Thirdly, personal knowledge management forms a link between translator training and working as a technical translator in the sense that the professional LSP translator will be forced to manage new and changing subject matter each and every day of his/her professional life. And last but not least, we would like to point to the long-term effect of this approach in the sense that it mirrors - albeit in a practicable and down-to-earth manor - the very essence of ‘life-long learning’.

We do consider the general idea conveyed in Kiraly 2000, namely to advocate that translator training is abstractly speaking about enabling students to learn how to learn (introduced by Argyris and Schön in 1978 as deutero learning), to be in line with the approach of this article. And indeed Kiraly may count as a point of departure at a more general level, but since it is not Kiraly’s intention to work specifically with the teaching and learning of subject matter competence, it is necessary to supplement Kiraly with other formative ideas. Three theories or schools of thought were formative in the theoretical framing of PKM:

- Library science (e.g. Kuhltau 2004),
- Constructivist learning theories (e.g. Dunn/Griggs 2003), and
- Knowledge Management (e.g. Davenport/Prusak 1998).

From library science came insights as to the design of personal information retrieval systems, strategies for information seeking, models of decision making with respect to information retrieval and processing. From constructivist learning theories came the general insights that subject matter knowledge cannot be conveyed but must be constructed by the individual learner and that motivation is the pivotal point of all learning. And finally from Knowledge Management came ideas for how to structure and systematize knowledge construction in particular and knowledge work in general (see Kastberg/Ditlevsen 2007 as well as Kastberg et al. 2007 for in-depth accounts).

Frand and Lippincot have this description of PKM:

Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) is a conceptual framework used to organize and integrate information so that it can become part of our personal knowledge. PKM is a strategy for transforming what might be random pieces of information into something that is more systematic and expands our personal knowledge. (Frand & Lippincot 2002).

And further to the personal aspects they have this statement:

PKM’s strengths lies in the fact that it is a personalized system designed by an individual for his or her own use. This means that it is organic, growing and changing with an individual’s personal lifestyle and interest. (Frand & Lippincot 2002).

As we understand it, however, PKM does not only offer the intellectual framework for content integration into LSP translator curricula, we have also developed an array of concrete PKM techniques. This third dimension of PKM is especially developed to help the student to navigate intelligently within domain specific knowledge(s) (see Kastberg et al. 2007 for a detailed description and application).  The most widely used techniques are techniques for:

- Decision making (Kastberg et al. 2007, chapter 3)
- Information gathering (Kastberg et al. 2007, chapter 4)
- Knowledge mapping (Kastberg et al. 2007, chapter 5)

In the next section we will take a closer look at the mapping techniques used within PKM; we will put special emphasis on the design of the student’s learning progression when using the mapping techniques. Following the below 4th section comes sections 5 and 6 in which we apply and discuss the mapping theory presented unto a case.   

4. Knowledge Mapping as a PKM Technique

As we know from cartpography, mapping is a commonly known and accepted technique that is used in order to visualize information in different ways. The two predominant methods are mind mapping (e.g. Buzan 1991, Buzan 2003a, Buzan 2003b) and concept mapping (e.g. Novak 1990, Novak 1998, Novak/Cañas 2006). The underlying idea behind mapping is, generally speaking, to make use of the information visualization potential of maps. Firstly, the use of maps allows the map designer to represent a large quantity of information graphically and at a glance. Secondly, the information is organized in a way that the elements of the maps are inevitably shown as interrelated in one way or the other. Within the framework of PKM, we see mapping as a general learning technique as it is used to visualize and organize a large amount of information in a way that supports the learning process of an individual. In this sense mapping as a PKM technique draws on different approaches and makes use of different kinds of maps. In this connection the information map (4.1), the concept map (4.2), and the knowledge map (4.3) are considered the three most relevant and important maps. The Knowledge Management perspective of PKM is supported by the fact that mapping is used as a tool with which to handle large amounts of data and to produce new knowledge. The construtivist learning theories are equally recognizable due to the fact that the mapping out of, say, a concept is done according to the needs of the individual map producer.

The three PKM maps are seen as a manifestation of different phases of a rationally based knowledge acquisition process (see below for further details). This is due to the fact that concurrently with the progression of the different maps a qualitative enrichment is also present; the information map is the basic and least enriched map, the concept map is more enriched, and the knowledge map the most enriched (see fig. 1):

Fig. 1: The three PKM maps

The maps thus reflect the progression of learning. Another characteristic of the maps is that they are all dynamic in as much as together they are seen as a technique which is used to support the learning progression of an individual and consequently that they can and should be optimized at given any point in time according to and in conformity with the individual’s learning progress and needs.

4.1 Information Map

As stated above, the most basic map is the information map. It is made up of a main topic as the nucleus of the map and subordinate topics that are connected to the nucleus by way of association alone (see fig. 2). And, as is the case with mind maps, too, the subordinate topics themselves are often also a result of associations.

Fig. 2: A basic form of an information map

The information map is useful to apply when a learner is exposed to a large quantity of information on a field of knowledge that is new to him/her. Due to the simple structure of the information map the learner will be able to take a comprehensive view of the field - a view that can be refined by means of the concept map.

4.2 Concept Map

The concept map, is like the information map, made up of a main topic as the nucleus and subordinate topics. But it is different from the information map in the sense that it explicitly visualizes the relations and dependencies of the elements. Figure 3 displays a basic form of a concept map that is similar to the basic form of an information map with the exception that the concept map displays very clearly whether the subordinate topics are related directly or indirectly (i.e., via other topics) to the main topic.

Fig. 3: A basic form of a concept map

The relations between the elements of the concept map can be defined in many different ways like cause relations, part-whole relations, chronological relations, and functional relations which can be used alone or in combination. As a consequence of the personal element as an integral part of PKM the choice of relation type should be consistent with the individual’s purpose with the concept map.

The basic form presented in figure 3 above is just one of many basic forms that allow the visualization of structured hierarchical relations. In fig. 4 below other examples of basic forms are displayed which support the semantic content of a relation type.

Fig. 4: Examples of other basic forms of a concept map

The basic forms 4.1 and 4.2 are typically used to display structured hierarchical relations. Figure 4.1 might for instance be used to display concepts and their relations like in term systems, and figure 4.2 to display organizational departments and their relations like in an organizational chart. The basic forms in figure 4.3 and 4.4 are often used to represent various aspects of processes. The basic form in figure 4.3 can be used to depict hierarchical relations of processes like in a flow chart and the basic form in figure 4.4 to depict chronological relations like in timelines. The basic form in figure 4.5 is a combination of the basic forms in figure 4.3 and 4.4 as both processual and chronological relations are being depicted. This basic form can be found in cause and effect diagrams.

The concept map is useful to apply when a learner wants to organize a restricted and yet larger quantity of information on a field of knowledge that is relatively new to him/her. As a process tool the concept map helps the learner create an overview over the field of knowledge in question because s/he deals explicitly with the relations between the elements in order to create the concept map. As a product the concept map functions to a certain extent as a memory support - a function that is even better supported by the knowledge map.

4.3 Knowledge Map

The knowledge map is based on the concept map and is thus - like the concept map - made up of a main topic as the nucleus and subordinate topics and the structural hierarchical relations between the elements of the map are explicitly displayed. But the knowledge map has a distinct characteristic compared to the concept map; it contains references to information carriers in which the learner will be able to find additional information about the subject matter in question. Despite of the name, a knowledge map does not contain knowledge, but points to information carriers by means of which the learner can create knowledge (cf. Davenport/Prusak 1998: 79). A content table of, say, a monography is considered a prototypical example of a knowledge map; by the means of the page number in the content table which is a display of the structure of the monography the learner is able to find information carriers on the subject matter in question. Another prototypical example is the website menu where the learner via a link is guided to information carriers.

The knowledge map is the most enriched map of the three PKM maps presented here and is considered very useful to apply when a learner wants an easy and efficient access to information carriers on the subject(s) in question.

Fig. 5: A basic form of a knowledge map

5. Knowledge Mapping : a case study

Over the years we have gradually integrated PKM in our LSP translator curricula here in Aarhus, so that PKM is now firmly imbedded in our translator training. Apart from that we have also been able to design a number of electives in which PKM is the core activity. In addition to that, we have taught PKM at various universities outside of Denmark, so far in Norway, Greece and Italy.

For the sake of this article we have singled out a case from a visit to the University of Bologna, Forli, Italy. We had been invited to Forli to give a course on PKM to a group of LSP translation students. The course was designed as a series of lectures, workshops and colloquia all of which were focused around the idea and application of knowledge mapping. In order to involve and challenge the students we developed a workshop, which was designed to lead them through a content learning experience via the three PKM maps (above). The workshop lasted for app. 3-4 hours, during which time the students would take part in an introductory lecture, group work in the class room, group work in the library and on the Internet, followed by presentations and assessment - by both us and the fellow students. The workshop activities were initiated by us in the form of a case description informing the students that they in the near future would be asked to translate texts from the website all dealing with different aspects of the domain of “diabetes” (for a detailed description of the PKM workshop, which was divided into two parts, as well as the assignment itself, see appendix 1). It would therefore be necessary for them to gather, to structure and to make intelligent use of domain specific knowledge, which has not been a part of their training as a translator. As can easily be inferred, the (intentional!) fuzziness of the problem, as it was presented to the students, mirrored a real-life problem. (For an elaboration of Problem-Based Learning, on which we draw here, see Boud 1987).

Subsequently the students were then giving instructions as to their learning goals. This was done in order for them to obtain the insight and the know-how which would enable them to consciously design their own personal concept maps for translation purposes on the basis of their own information maps. They were also informed of what output we expected from them in the form of two information maps and two concept maps; all of which we asked them to design themselves. Having worked on their own for a while, the students came back into the class room, and we discussed their progress in general and their maps in particular. After this debriefing and assessment period, the students once again began working on their own. This time the groups were to transform their four newly developed maps into one knowledge map (again, see appendix 1 for details). In terms of learning goals, this part of the workshop was designed to give the students the insight and the know-how which would enable them to consciously design and establish their own personal knowledge maps for translation purposes on the basis of their own concept maps. In the process of synthesizing / transforming their maps we wanted them to take into special consideration issues such as structure, navigation issues, and labelling/coding. Finally they were asked to establish their own knowledge map as a Word document.

The workshop I and II were presented to the students in an almost narrative fashion, at all times allowing the students to see where they were in the process as well as constantly making them externalize where they were intellectually and in relation to the learning goals and output.

6. Discussion and Evaluation

From the many student assignments we received, we have chosen one assignment as our point of departure for discussing and evaluating our ideas and their implementation in the workshop. The student group chosen to represent the learning output from the workshop consisted of three students, Agnese Carnazzola, Serena Ruggiero und Nadia Pandolfi, who graciously allowed us to make use of their work in this article. The group handed in a total of five maps (see appendices 2-4): two information maps, two concept maps and one knowledge map.

In accordance with the workshop description the students started out by a thematic information map of the topic of diabetes. Without being experts in the field it soon dawned upon them that they were in fact capable of associating quite a lot just by talking in the group about diabetes. Soon they had - on their own account - produced a relatively exhaustive information map featuring a wide range of elements which they associated with the disease such as diet, dialysis, blood pressure, insulin, physical activity etc. (see appendix 2). The other information map was constructed along the same procedure, the only difference being that here they were asked to think about not the topic, but where to find information carriers about the topic (see appendix 2). Out of the group’s discussions came an information map featuring information carriers from a variety of media (TV, internet and radio), genres (brochures, encyclopedia, and journals etc.) as well as people (in the form of patients, experts, pharmacists) and organizations. Again the group managed from scratch, so to speak, to establish a diverse information map of information carriers. These information maps allow the students to form a general view of the knowledge field and the topics in question, insights which facilitate their further knowledge acquisition process. Needless to say, had they had more time for the creation of the information maps they would have benefitted from using further sources of inspiration like introductory texts on diabetes in order to refine the information maps.

In order to make the transition from the information maps with its free associations in response to topic or information carriers, the students were (again according to the workshop description, see appendix 1) asked to think about the nature of the relationship between nucleus and elements in the information maps and to deliberate which relations would be most suitable to their needs. Out of these discussions came two concept maps - one for each dimension of their work. For the concept map dealing with the topic of diabetes they opted for a tree diagram depicting structured hierarchical relations unto which they applied an almost narrative meta-structure (see appendix 3). First they stipulated the characteristics of the disease, next came the symptoms, followed by causes and ending with the treatment. Each element was then further broken down to some of its most salient constitutive sub-elements. Under causes, for instance, we find obesity, genetics, cholesterol etc. Going back to the general sort of narrative tree diagram structure we believe that this structure was chosen for the very reason that even if they did not know much of diabetes in particular, they - as human beings basically - know something about diseases in general. Naturally, they are well aware that different diseases have different characteristics and that all illnesses can be seen as a sort of narrative - what are the symptoms, what causes this illness and what can we do about it. In other words they individualized their understanding of a complex medical condition and visualized it accordingly. In their work with turning their information map of the information carriers into a concept map of information carriers, they did the same (see appendix 3). In their discussions of how to categorize their information carriers, they came to the conclusion that what suited them the best was a differentiation between online resources, people and printed materials. This structure revealed their underlying notion that if they were to find out more about diabetes this is how they would structure their information gathering process. Not surprisingly, this structure is a visualization of the resources they would typically use for translation purposes - with the additions of specific references to resources dealing with diabetes.

If we look at the concept map on the subject matter as a manifestation of the students’ knowledge acquisition process, it is reasonable to claim that the students have constructed structural knowledge on diabetes (as the subject matter in question) as they have built different categories containing different topics related in different ways to diabetes as the overall subject. In that sense the concept map has served the intended purpose as a tool for knowledge construction. If we compare the concept map on the subject matter with the corresponding information map, it is interesting to see that concepts have been added to the concept map that were not part of the information map (i.e. category labels and specific terms like pancreatic dysfunctions) whereas some very general concepts from the information map (i.e. blood, disease, sugar, etc.) have not been transferred unto the concept map. This can be seen as another manifestation of the progress of the students’ knowledge construction. Having said that, there is, naturally, room for optimizing the concept map. It is thus not self-evident why the two rather general concepts different degrees of seriousness and risk factor should be a part of the concept map. But maybe the students had inferred more specific concepts? If that is the case it might simply be a question of not knowing the specific term. If not, these two concepts would probably be left out in an optimizing process. Finally, if the concept maps both on the subject matter and on information carriers were to be used for translation purposes - as it was intended to, cf. the workshop assignment - it would have been both natural and relevant had the students paid attention to the two or more languages in question.

The students’ last task in the workshop proper was to merge the two concept maps and turn them into one knowledge map (see appendix 4). As the underlying structure for their knowledge map they chose their concept map of information carriers. The workshop description allowed them to choose between the two concept maps and opting for the information carriers shows, we take it, that finding the right (kind of) information was - at that point in time - more important to the students than knowing exactly “how the disease progresses”. Something which makes sense to a student of translation, who is asked to translate the texts of others and not, as it were, to compose them him- or herself. In other words, the students again individualized according to their specific needs.

It is quite interesting to observe two major changes compared to the corresponding concept map on information carriers which - as was the case with the concept map compared with the information map - can be seen as a manifestation of the students’ knowledge acquisition process. Firstly, a language annotation has been added. Secondly much more detailed and specific information on the information resources can be found. Both changes are refinements which in this respect makes the knowledge map more useful for translation purposes. But having said that, for the knowledge map to function more optimally for translation purposes, it is to be expected that the students would soon experience a need for paying attention to the subject matter in their knowledge map as well.

By way of conclusion, we would like to mention that that which stands out quite vividly from the work carried out by the students in the workshop this far, is the fact that even if they were novices in relation to diabetes, they were more than capable of both analyzing the topic and of pointing to resources with which to bridge whatever knowledge deficits they did encounter. PKM, in other words, puts natural emphasis on the typical translation students’ strength, i.e., a keen analytical mind and a knack for finding and utilizing information carriers; and not, as it were, on idolizing the knowledge of the professional. Apart from this accomplishment, which is in itself quite interesting and thought-provoking, one more comment is noteworthy. It is quite remarkable that - if we take a closer look at the concept map of the topic of the disease - we recognize that the structure shown here clearly (albeit unconsciously!) mirrors the generic structure you would typically find in handbooks dealing with diseases - a structure, therefore, which bears clear resemblances to how the professional (der Fachmann) would structure his or her knowledge. Referring back to section 3 the students for all intent and purposes showed what another approach to integrating subject matter into LSP translator curricula may result in in a matter of a few hours.


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About the author(s)

Marianne Grove Ditlevsen
Associate Professor
Aarhus School of Business
Department of Language and Business Communication

Peter Kastberg
Associate Professor
Aarhus School of Business
Department of Language and Business Communication

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

©inTRAlinea & Marianne Grove Ditlevsen & Peter Kastberg (2009).
"Personal Knowledge Management. Knowledge Mapping Techniques in the Training of LSP Translators"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Specialised Translation I
Edited by: Danio Maldussi & Eva Wiesmann
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