Reading for and about translation in translator training

By Anne Neveu (Kent State University, USA)

Abstract & Keywords

Reading for translation has been little explored although it underpins the translation process. It heavily relies not only on the translator’s linguistic skills, both in the native and the foreign language, prior knowledge and schemata, as well as resourcing skills, but also on the view the translator has on his/her own reading behavior as a translator. How has reading for translation been taught up to now in translator training courses? When does or should the honing of reading skills occur in translator training curricula? Being aware of one’s own reading strategies, or metacognitive awareness, is a self-reflective process that depends on the student’s critical thinking skills. This study is aiming at providing collaborative learning tasks to foster the development of reading and critical thinking skills for translation. First, an overview of the literature on reading as a transactional and cognitive activity is proposed. Then, reading in translator training curricula is situated, emphasizing the role of reading and developing critical thinking skills in a translation practice seminar. Finally, collaborative learning tasks are outlined, aiming at fostering the honing of critical thinking skills when reading for translation.

Keywords: reading for translation, strategic reading, critical thinking skills, collaborative learning, metacognitive awareness

©inTRAlinea & Anne Neveu (2019).
"Reading for and about translation in translator training"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Translator Training
Edited by: Paulina Pietrzak
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[...]reading is a form of translation, and conversely translation is obviously
a form of intense reading. [...] Hence reading is translation and translation is reading.

Willis Barnstone (1993: 7)

1. Introduction

Translation is a hermeneutic process involving reading the world beyond reading the word (Freire 1987: 49, Cherland and Harper 2007: 23) rather than a switch from one language code to another (as suggested by Nuttall [1982] with ‘word-‘ and ‘text-attacking skills’). Reading for translation, as Neubert and Shreve (1992) first termed it, involves assessing the relevance and reliability of the information provided in the text as well as the context in which the text is situated (Washbourne 2012: 38). When reading, readers’ knowledge structures are modified in three possible ways according to Rumelhart and Norman (1978). New information can fit into an already existing schema, allowing the comprehension process to be quick: this is called accretion. New information can also lead to the creation of a new schema: this is restructuring. Finally, the reader can use the new information to update an existing schema, making it more relevant and accurate: this is the tuning process. Reading therefore is an active as opposed to a passive skill, and thus deserves explicit attention to be honed.

At present, reading is an implicit skill in translator training curricula: it is assumed that student translators already know how to read optimally to translate, while in reality, the learning of specific reading strategies could improve the reading process for translation. In addition, focusing on reading could help students reframe their approach to translation, viewing it not only as a product, but also as a process. This would guide students in reflecting on the translation task and their own process. In turn, this metacognitive knowledge would build self-awareness and self-confidence, which are key to develop professional translator behavior (Kussmaul 2005: 32).

An emphasis on the reading process in translation could also be an opportunity for students to develop their critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is “self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way” (Elder 2007). Metacognitive awareness cannot be achieved without critically assessing one’s own behavior. In her 1949 essay, Rosenblatt defines critical reading as the process of identifying the underlying values of a text, assessing how much of those values are retained when reading and whether they correspond to the reader’s own set of values (30). Critical thinking and reading skills are transferable skills, needed in translator training: why not use translator training as an opportunity to hone these skills?

Developing critical thinking skills could be a channel to introduce ethics in translator curricula, an issue that emerged in the late 1990s and that is still current today (Chesterman 1997, Pym 2001, Hermans 2009, Munday 2012, Cronin 2017). Indeed, Chesterman (1997) proposes a shift of focus from translator duties to translator values, from questions of loyalty to the source text, freedom between source and target and invisibility of the translator, to values of clarity (conforming to target audience expectations), truth (appropriate relation between source and target text), trust (maintaining the communication between author and audience) and understanding (accountability of the translator towards the source and the target) serving as basis to translation ethics.

This work helps contribute to fill in the gap of teaching reading for translation in translator training by delineating reading tasks tailored for a progressive adaptation and development of reading skills for translation. These tasks are suggestions to support the primary purpose of this article, which is to emphasize the relevance of reading for translation and how it is under-researched at present as part of the translation process and training. This article first reviews reading as a meaning making process, then discusses types of reading for translation and finally suggests how to include reading in translator training curricula while fostering the development of critical thinking skills.

2. Reading as a Meaning-Making Process

In 1949, Louise Rosenblatt initially introduces the concept of interaction between the human mind and printed language in the reading process, emphasizing critical reader response. Her work is inspired by Peircean semiotics, namely the triadic conceptualization of language: sign, object, and interpretant (Karolides 2005: xxii). The interpretant links a sign to its object by a mental association, grounding meaning in situated reading events engaged by humans: words and meanings therefore do not exist in a contextual vacuum. Rosenblatt coins the text-reader interaction the Transactional Theory in 1988, where transactions are ‘relationships in which each element conditions and is conditioned by the other in a mutually-constituted situation’. In the reading transaction, the concept of ‘meaning’ is not static and inhabiting a text, it is constructed during a back and forth interaction, or transaction, between reader and text. Reader and text keep interacting to predict and remodel the ‘meaning’, giving way to multiple possible interpretations of a text (ibid.). The transactional approach to reading does not however mean that any textual interpretation is possible. Rosenblatt advocates responsible reading and assesses the quality of an interpretation by how much of the text was taken into account, whether or not the basis of the interpretation is in the text, and if a plausible and mature interpretation is provided (Karolides 2005: xxiv). Sheorey and Mokhtari (2001: 433) also define reading as resulting from the interaction of reader, text and context, and agree with Flavell’s definition of reading as a ‘cognitive enterprise’ (1979: 906). In addition, they also consider knowledge of one’s own reading strategies, in sum, metacognitive reflection on reading, as a complementary element influencing the cognitive process of reading (ibid.). From a literary perspective, Rosenblatt’s approach echoes in Scott’s advocacy of constructivist reading versus hermeneutic reading (2012: 14). Hermeneutic reading is a decoding activity, presupposing the meaning exists in a vacuum, waiting to be put together word by word. In translation terms, this would amount to an exclusive focus on the source and target texts as products. On the contrary, constructivist reading extends the focus to the process of reading that yields a product, which is an interpretation of a text. There would be as many possible interpretations as there are reading strategies and purposes, reading for translation being the epitome of a constructivist reading experience according to the author, as the translation task calls for the involvement of the translator, and different translators can have different approaches to a literary source text (2012: 15).  

From a cognitive science approach, Kintsch (1998) proposes what is now one of the most influential models of reading comprehension: the Construction-Integration (CI) model. The CI model begins with the building of an event model (previously called situation model) from the reader’s own elaborations on the meaning of the text. The event model is integrated by rejecting inappropriate models initially formed, to form a coherent one (Grow 1996; Kintsch 1998). More generally, Van den Broek, Young, Tzeng & Linderholm list four elements influencing the reader’s approach to the text: the text itself, the analysis of previously read text segments, the reactivation of concepts from earlier readings and background knowledge (1999: 72). How could this knowledge of the reading process be best used in honing reading for translation skills? How could students learn to best use their knowledge to understand a text, and to critically assess the quality and relevance of the information read? Let us now turn to the specificities of the reading for translation process and how it is currently taught in translator training.

3. Types of Reading for Translation

In their seminal study, Shreve et al. (1993) show that different types of readings were used in translation, influenced by translator specificities (knowledge of subject area and experience with translating texts in that field, familiarity with the type of text to be translated), and by textual specificities (level of complexity and length of the document). One of the translation subtasks thus consists in the decision-making process on the reading approach to adopt. For example, when reading a text, we apply cognitive strategies such as adjusting speed, guessing meaning, re-reading passages for better comprehension (Sheorey and Mokhtari 2001: 436).

In translation, the initial reading of the source text to be translated provides a gist of the text and helps set expectations for upcoming textual content. This facilitates problem solving when starting the transfer process. Subsequent readings allow updating interpretations of the text (Washbourne 2012: 45). More specifically, Percival (1983: 89) divides the translation process into five steps: initial source text reading, subject matter research, draft translation, setting the draft aside for forty-eight hours and reading through the translation again to check, revise and edit. Reading can be done prior, during and after the translation process. Prior to starting the translation, additional readings on the subject matter may be necessary if the translator is not an expert of the domain (background texts in Table 1). Readings of parallel texts in the target language are also necessary to match target expectations as envisioned by the source text author (see Colina above). Information found in readings should be used to target other relevant readings on the subject matter and pertaining to the same text type. Moreover, a variety of sources should be contrasted to verify the quality of the information given. In sum, reading can be done to learn information, integrate it, use it and evaluate it (Washbourne 2012: 51). During the translation process itself, following the initial reading of the source text and additional parallel readings, re-readings of the source text should be done to update knowledge structures and ensure an in-depth comprehension of the text. Indeed, re-readings allow updating the text experience during and after the reading, making the reader an active and creative agent in the reading process (Washbourne 2012: 44-5). Reading and re-readings of the target text in production during the transfer process also take place, followed by readings to proofread and revise to evaluate the work (this re-reading is still considered as part of the translation process and would take place before the translation is given to another person to proofread and revise again). Based on Washbourne (2012: 45-6), a detailed account of the reading methods used at different stages of the translation process is presented below.

Reading method

Purpose/Translation subtask


- Source-text orientation

- Choosing parallel texts and background texts


- Identifying terminology and/or collocations

Exploratory reading

- Gaining further insight into the subject matter by reading texts in the target language

Close reading/re-reading

- Reading to write (with the use of annotations)

- Finding patterns

- Multiple strategic readings of the text to actualize textual experience

Reading to integrate, or ‘stereoscopic reading’ (Gaddis Rose, 1997)

- Create one organizing frame using compare-contrast and problem solving strategies across the source text and complementary texts

-The triangulation of the source text with other translations allows to find common patterns among both (Gaddis Rose ‘stereoscopic reading’, 1997, p.90)

Revision reading/Proofreading

- Unilingual rereading

- Comparative rereading

Table 1. Methods and purposes of reading types for translation

In translator training, this knowledge of different reading types and strategies to adopt as a function of text and translator is not explicitly taught. In her translation teaching handbook, Colina (2003a) adds another layer to this issue by arguing that reading comprehension is a necessary skill in translation as the translator is a different reader than the one originally pictured by the author. Therefore, the two categories of readers do not have the same knowledge structures. Similarly to Rumelhart and Norman (1978), she explains that the reader uses schemata (prior knowledge structures), to construct knowledge and that the text additionally provides new information that can modify the schemata should it be incomplete or inaccurate. Successful comprehension hence occurs when schemata between the reader and the text author are matching. Much like Rosenblatt, Colina (2003a: 47) argues that current models of reading comprehension view reading as an interactive process between the reader and the text. Colina also builds on Fillmore’s scenes-and-frames semantics (1976): words correspond to frames associated with scenes, together forming meaning. Therefore meaning is equal to the potential for a word to activate a scene. Words do not contain meaning but a potential for meaning, activated through context. That is why it is of crucial importance that student translators learn to identify what they know and what they do not know in a text to optimize the interpretation process and enhance the final translation product. Introducing a reading for translation course or reading for translation tasks in translator training curricula would be a step in that direction.

4. Reading in Translator Training Curricula: Current State and Proposed Tasks

Reading is a fundamental skill learned very early on as part of literacy development. It allows the reader to grasp meaning beyond words and it is a tool to survive in society (Wilson 2002: xvi). According to Whyatt (2003: 5) however, students in translation do not distinguish the translation product from the overall act of translating, and therefore give little importance to the subtasks of reading and re-reading. To overcome this deficiency, students have to learn to be constructively responsive readers (Pressley and Afflerbach 1995: 98-105; Sheorey and Mokhtari 2001: 446; Washbourne 2012: 39). This should be achieved by raising student translator’s metacognitive awareness in the translation process, specifically during the reading processes and the creation of meaning (Gruba 2004: 54).

How has reading for translation been taught up to now in translator training courses? When does or should the honing of reading skills occur in translator training curricula? Reading is not explicitly shown as being part of translator training curricula: there are not any courses entitled ‘Reading for translators’ or ‘Reading comprehension for translators’. However, Cronin (2005) proposes a ‘Reading for Translators’ course model to be included in translation programs. The course would comprise learning to distinguish written from oral discourse, typologizing reading, establishing reading-writing connections, developing context-dependent reading strategies, heightening self-awareness of reading as decision-making and operationalizing reading for professional purposes.

4.1 Reading for Translation

In a language-specific translation practice seminar, course content is aiming at honing students’ pragmatic translation skills from the foreign language into the native language[1] to learn how to produce translations that meet professional levels of acceptability. Let’s take the example of a French scientific and technical translation practice seminar for native speakers of English. In this class, readings in both L1 and L2 – called parallel readings – should comprise specialized texts on the specific scientific or technical domain(s) to which source texts belong (Mayoral 2000), to both enhance students’ knowledge of the subject matter and knowledge of the specialized terminology, style and register (Gabr 2001).

We will use a scenario in which a text about volcanology has to be translated for the second class of a translation practice course. Students have little to no experience translating. They might use bilingual dictionaries to translate the text, leading to a more literal translation, which would likely cause some issues in the product. To work through these issues, students could be introduced to theory by reading about equivalence in translation, beginning with the fundamental debate of word-for-word versus sense-for-sense translation. This would open the way for reflection on what one can do during the translation process to produce an acceptable translation. With this layer of knowledge, students can become more attuned to elements such as collocations and specialized terminology which contribute to formulating a target text that conforms to target language standards. Learning to recognize these elements forms part of reading strategies to adopt when reading for translation.

How can the translator practice reading for translation and develop effective strategies to read more effectively? Research in translation pedagogy suggests that reading about translation allows better understanding the translation process, which in turns leads to better practices when translating.

4.2 Reading about Translation

In addition to readings aiming at enhancing the quality of the translation product, Gabr (2001) advocates readings to ‘integrate course content’ and Gouadec (2000) argues that textbooks should be used in class, to enhance metacognitive awareness of the translation process. This latter type of reading, focusing on translation theory, poses several questions: How should theory and practice be combined in the translation curriculum? What should be the proportion of each in the curriculum? Should they complete each other in one same course or should they be taught in separate courses? Should translation theory courses be language-specific or is the theory abstract enough to be applicable to other languages?[2] While the answers to these questions are beyond the scope of this paper, they highlight the relevance of reading about translation in translator training curricula.

Indeed, metacognitive awareness of the translation process fosters self-reflectivity on practice as well as meta-knowledge on the translation task, which serve as basis to develop skills necessary to deliver professional translations (Kussmaul 2005). Sheorey and Mokhtari (2001: 433) study differences in the reported use of reading strategies of native and non-native English speakers when reading academic materials. They show that what makes a skilled reader is the conscious awareness of strategic reading processes and the use of reading strategies. This metacognitive knowledge is built via previous experiences, beliefs, how reading was taught (cultural specificities have to be taken into account for this factor), and L2 proficiency for non-native readers[3]. Results of the study show that integrating the teaching of metacognitive reading strategies such as advanced planning and comprehension-monitoring techniques in the reading curriculum would raise students’ metacognitive awareness and help them become constructively responsive readers. In turn, this would promote skilled academic reading and overall improve academic performance.

Moreover, Paris & Jacobs (1984: 2083) explain that ‘Skilled readers often engage in deliberate activities that require planful thinking, flexible strategies, and periodic self-monitoring... [while] novice readers often seem oblivious to these strategies and the need to use them’. Based on these observations, a parallel can be drawn with reading for translation: novice translators tend to directly engage in the translation process without planning it, which means that strategic reading is overlooked and so are potential translation problems. Beginners in translation have less metacognitive awareness to justify their translation choices or their reading strategies contrary to expert translators.

How could translator training curricula effectively enhance students’ reading skills for and about translation, to allow students to move from the novice stage to journeyman and match the industry’s expectations, by the time they graduate? We argue that an emphasis on honing critical thinking skills might be the cement to relate theory to practice both abstractly (understanding a concept and what form it might take) and concretely (assessing one’s performance and finding ways to enhance it based on theory). Let us first look at the relevance of critical thinking skills in translation practice to then discuss how specific reading tasks in translator training could focus on developing critical thinking and have a cascading effect on developing professional translator skills.

4.3 Developing Critical Thinking Skills in Reading for Translation

When translating, three areas deserve particular attention: our own practice of translation, our knowledge of the world and our socio-cultural awareness. These could be part of an ethics of translation and could be gathered under Chesterman’s value of understanding discussed in introduction. Indeed, all three areas require self-awareness, a necessary skill to be accountable for one’s work.

Reflecting on our own practice of translation begins with a critical approach to source text reading to enhance heuristics. This approach in turn influences the transfer process, and eventually the quality of the translation product. Additionally, critical reading on works about translation is necessary to reassess one’s view of translation as a discipline, as process and as product. Critically reading translation products helps raising the translator’s awareness both on potential cultural biases and translation decisions. This practice fosters the development of the translator’s ‘self-concept’, as termed by Gross (2003) and Kiraly (2000). Both consider the ‘self-concept’ as key in student’s training to become professional translators. Building on Kiraly, Johnson (2003) suggests that portfolios are a useful assessment tool when evaluating translation products to encourage critical thinking and process-oriented learning via intuition and self-reflectiveness.

Regarding our knowledge of the world, Colina (2003b) argues that for students to learn how to use world knowledge appropriately, a professional translator skill, they need to be made aware of which schemata are necessary to comprehend a text. This corresponds to activating relevant background knowledge for adequate text comprehension. During this process, students would apply their critical thinking skills in comparing, classifying, or hypothesizing the necessary schemata. Domain-specific schemata would thus need to be reinforced with theory and practice in translator training.

Critical thinking skills are also essential in translation to raise socio-cultural awareness. This awareness is necessary when identifying text ideologies[4], when translating from and/or into minor or dominant languages, or when resisting dominance of a major language over a local variety among other examples. Christenbury and Kelly identify questioning as an effective way to help students learn and develop critical thinking skills (1983: 9). Students must be given enough time to reflect and answer. In the classroom, students and facilitator need to talk as equals, encouraging comments from both parts, diverge to points of personal interest and pause between ideas. This type of atmosphere is aimed at piquing students’ interest for further learning.

Thus, much like ‘meaning-making’ is an interaction between text and reader in the Transactional Theory, the authority of one-way communication is replaced by a dialogic conception of knowledge in classroom dynamics. This classroom ‘meaning-making’ finds echo in constructivist practice (Kiraly 2000). How can the acquisition process of reading and critical thinking skills be optimized for translator training curricula? This will be discussed in the next section.

4.4 Proposed Reading Tasks

Reading comprehension is the result of text and reader interaction. It is optimized when the reader is able to self-reflect on the quality of both their interpretation and the process that led to it. One of the first steps in the translation process is source-text reading. Reading for translation is a special kind of reading because it implies further tasks once reading comprehension is achieved. Indeed, the reading comprehension part of reading for translation corresponds to understanding the text as it was meant for its original audience. In addition to comprehension, the translator must reformulate the text for an audience that does not speak the original language. What’s more, translation involves various text types and translator characteristics. Based on these observations, teaching reading for translation during translator training could be beneficial to guide students in efficiently honing their professional skills. Indeed, students would not only optimize their reading process, meaning focusing on the relevant aspects of a text in a shorter amount of time, they would also learn about the translation process, which has been shown to ultimately enhance the product. We argue that critical thinking skills allow for such understanding and awareness. Therefore, integrating reading tasks to hone critical thinking skills in translator training would be doubly beneficial for students.

To bridge the gap in explicit honing of reading strategies in translator training and develop critical thinking skills, deemed necessary to connect translation theory and practice, a set of tasks for a language-specific translation practice seminar is proposed. The content of each task is outlined and designed based on collaborative learning tasks models. This implies that tasks are created with intentional learning goals to attain at the end of the class and all students are engaged in the learning process (Barkley, Cross and Major 2005). In recent years, collaborative learning has come as an efficient alternative to the traditional transmissionist classroom setting. It focuses on the active involvement of students and the belief that each student experience can contribute to the learning experience of the class: the professor is not the sole source of knowledge students can passively learn from anymore. In addition, collaborative learning tasks can make use of real-world scenarios, which has proven to be highly motivating for students as they can find relevant ways to connect abstract principles and theory to direct, pragmatic applications (ibid.). Thus, developing general reading and critical thinking skills using real-life settings in the translation classroom fosters hands-on experience, allowing students, as future professional translators, to start forging their expertise. Professors, as facilitators, need to set aside their own (preferred) interpretations and point students towards the different ways a work or a text can be interpreted, and include the students’ own take into the discussion to enrich it.

The tasks presented in Table 2 include both local reading strategies (reading additional information, pausing, re-reading, backtracking) and global reading strategies (using support strategies and tools to enhance comprehension, adjusting speed, asking questions, summarizing, generating representations [Rouet 2006: 22-3]). Outcomes numbered one to six (number in parenthesis) are based on Palincsar and Brown’s instruction of comprehension skills (1984: 120). All six original outcomes proposed by the authors were kept because they form a whole and are a robust description of the steps in the reading comprehension process. Outcomes seven to twelve are based on Colina’s reading comprehension activities from her empirical approach to translation pedagogy (2003b: 49). Colina is the only scholar to the author’s knowledge who has proposed explicit teaching of reading skills for student translators, therefore these outcomes appeared to be relevant to serve as foundation for the tasks proposed in Table 2. Outcomes two and three were common to both. The thirteenth outcome is based on Washbourne’s transactional view of text processing, advocating creative reading (2012: 44). This outcome was used because it is the only one that focuses on the most complex cognitive skill on Bloom’s taxonomy: creativity. The learning outcomes are phrased according to Bloom’s revised taxonomy (2001)[5] and were supplemented in Table 2 by their corresponding knowledge and cognitive dimensions (in italics and parenthesis, and in this order). On the cognitive process dimension, the top three levels, ‘analyze’, ‘evaluate’, and ‘create’, correspond to higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) whereas ‘remember’, ‘understand’ and ‘apply’ correspond to lower-order ones (LOTS). While the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy are fundamental in reading for translation, notably in terms of activating prior knowledge, learning objectives should always eventually aim for the top three levels on the cognitive dimension of the taxonomy to be efficient.

The tasks are presented in an order that could be followed in class. The progression generally goes from lower-order thinking skills to higher-order thinking skills, without however strictly following the steps on Bloom’s taxonomy. The model in Table 2 below is therefore flexible and should be adapted to students’ needs and level before starting the class (Barkley, Cross and Major 2005: 56).


Students will be able to…

Process webs: list the main steps in the reading comprehension process and relate them to steps in the translation process using a graphic organizer.

…summarize the process of reading comprehension and show how it affects translation (7)
(factual; understand)

Group grid: give students various reading purposes they should match with reading goals categories in blank cells of a grid.

…clarify the purposes of reading (1)
(procedural; understand)

Think-Pair-Share: start thinking individually of relevant background knowledge that would help source text comprehension, discuss and compare ideas with a partner and share as a class.

…identify relevant background knowledge (2)
(metacognitive; remember)

Jigsaw reading: assign different parts of the same text to translate to different groups, making sure that each group has key information needed for global comprehension. Representatives from each group mutually question each other to retrieve missing information and report back to their group by peer-teaching the information gained and finally proceed to the translation. 

…show the essential role of context in reading comprehension (8)
(factual; understand)

Learning cell: students quiz each other with questions prepared individually about the role of terminology in the technical translation process.

… show that terminology corresponds to one step in the technical translation process (10)
(factual; understand)

Fishbowl: a group of students in the center discusses how to translate a short text containing ambiguous terminology. Another group around them observes the issues raised and the decision-making process in finding solutions (notably how meaning is inferred and whether or not dictionaries are used). The fishbowl experience is then discussed as a class for students to benefit both from the modeling and observing parts.

…differentiate the nature of meaning and meaning potential and better use dictionaries (9)
(conceptual; analyze/metacognitive; apply)

Class consensus: in a group discussion format, students must agree on the areas of interest (AOIs) in a source text on which to focus the attention during the translation process. Results can be verified with think-aloud modeling: students explain their problem-solving strategies as they translate the text.

…select the major points over the trivia on which to allocate attention (3)
(factual; analyze)

Summary translation task: students must summarize the main ideas of the text in the target language.

…summarize and translate the main ideas of the text into the target language (7)
(factual; understand)

Variable briefs: students are divided into groups and are each provided with the same text but with different translation briefs. In groups, students discuss the reading strategies to apply depending on their brief. Groups share the results of their brainstorming as a class.

…use strategies to cope with a variety of translation requests (12)
(metacognitive; apply)

Buzz groups: discuss source text consistency and how content relates to prior knowledge then share in a class discussion. 

…critically check content for consistency, compatibility with prior knowledge (4)
(factual; evaluate)

Reciprocal teaching: check individually first for text comprehension, then in pairs, take turns in explaining what was understood and why, and mutually complete the comprehension process.

…self-monitor to see if comprehension is happening (5)
(metacognitive; evaluate)

Critical debate: half of the class supports the view that reading is a decoding activity and the replacement of linguistic units. The other half argues against this traditional approach and offers alternatives.

…deconstruct one’s biases on the traditional approach of reading in foreign language learning classroom (11)
(metacognitive; analyze)

Think-Aloud pair problem solving: students solve translational problems aloud and try their reasoning on a listening peer.

…draw and test inferences (interpretations, predictions, conclusions) (6)
(procedural; create & evaluate)

Affinity grouping: students generate ideas on possible interpretations of the source text; they identify common themes and sort and organize ideas accordingly.

…infer and create possible interpretations of a text (13)
(procedural; understand & analyze/metacognitive; create)

Table 2.  Reading tasks and corresponding learning outcomes
for a language-specific translation practice seminar

5. Conclusion

The issue at the beginning of this paper was to fill a gap in teaching reading for translation. We argued that critical thinking skills are necessary to read effectively for translation, to self-reflect on one’s practice and to integrate and use theory and ethics to enhance one’s translation process. Therefore, we proposed to design reading tasks for translation, focusing on honing critical thinking skills for the purpose of reading for translation.

If the proposed reading tasks were implemented in the translation classroom, it is hypothesized that students would waste less time on reading comprehension and make less meaning errors in their translations. In addition, by honing their critical thinking skills via the reading tasks, students would develop more awareness of the translation process by focusing on how reading for translation is different from typical reading comprehension. This focus on the process would in turn bring students to reflect on their own process and thus develop a self-concept: this contributes to producing better translations and, in time, building expertise. Last but not least, critical thinking is a transferrable skill, therefore an explicit focus on honing this skill via reading tasks in translation might be beneficial to other reading experiences the student has outside of translation, contributing to a more comprehensive development of the student’s analytical skills.

Additional research needs to be conducted on the different types of readings for translation, how they influence and/or complete each other and what impact each has on the translation process. Moreover, if the tasks were to be implemented in the classroom, it would be interesting to develop tools to measure their efficiency in enhancing translation products and developing critical thinking skills, in and beyond translation.

Reading for translation is only one aspect of the translation process but is essential for the global translation task to be successful. The study of reading for translation and its pedagogical applications, borrowing from cognitive, psycholinguistic and literary reading theories and from literacy and learning processes studies, is another example showing how Translation Studies is an interdiscipline (Snell-Hornby et al. 1994). However, we should gradually aim at ‘reciprocal interdisciplinarity’ (Göpferich 2011), where translation studies does not only borrow from but also lends to other disciplines (O’Brien 2013: 13). To become successful translators, translation students need to be trained to approach reading for translation not as a passive skill, taken for granted, but as an active and transactional process, in which they deliberately and purposefully involve themselves.


The author would like to thank Dr Richard Kelly Washbourne for his feedback and support on this article.


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[1] The question of directionality and language multiplicity is raised as some programs in translation require students to master one foreign language and translation is exclusively done from L2 into L1, and other programs require two or more foreign languages and practice courses exist both from L1 into L2 or L3 and vice versa. In this case, the example of a uni-directional course will be used. The structure of the tasks proposed below is expected to be transferrable to other language pairs.

[2] It is hypothesized that due to structural differences among languages, especially between distant languages, translation theory seminars should be language-specific. This is further corroborated by the observation that translation practice and translation theory mutually inform each other (Neubert 2000, 26; Bartrina 2005: 177; Calzada 2005: 1; Chesterman 2002: 2; Mossop 1994; Schäffner 2000: 148).

[3] It is worth noting that based on the Linguistic Threshold Hypothesis, L2 linguistic skills need to be sufficiently developed (vocabulary skills and grammatical skills can be unequally developed) for L1 reading comprehension skills to partially transfer to L2 (Bernhardt and Kamil 1995).

[4] This applies both to original texts and translations. Venuti (2008: 276) argues that different reading practices should be applied to translations, notably double reading, as ‘A translation yields information about the source-language text – its discursive structures and its themes - but no translation should ever be taught as a transparent representation of that text […].’

[5] The taxonomy is a reference to identify and formulate learning objectives or outcomes, which solicit both lower and higher order thinking skills, and abstract and concrete knowledge to optimize the learning process and retention of knowledge. The original taxonomy was designed by Bloom and Krathwohl in 1946 and was updated by Anderson and Krathwohl in 2001 (Heer 2009). Both versions are available on the Center for Excellence in Learning an Teaching of Iowa State University at

About the author(s)

Anne Neveu graduated with a Ph.D. in Translation Studies from Kent State University and has started a second Ph.D. program in Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, working in the Language Acquisition & Bilingualism laboratory. Her dissertation, “Context Effects in Reading for Translation: Early Target Language Activation” tests the time course of language activation in reading for translation, using eye-tracking and the CRITT translation process research database from the Center for Research and Innovation in Translation and Translation Technology. She has published an article titled “How Paratexts Influence the Reader’s Experience of English Translations of La Fontaine’s Fables” (2017) and is working on an article exploring how the digital humanities can support research in translation history. Her main research interests are translation process research, translation pedagogy, brain organization of the language function and its consequences on bi/multilingual language processing, especially for non-native language acquisition, proficiency development and translation.

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©inTRAlinea & Anne Neveu (2019).
"Reading for and about translation in translator training"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Translator Training
Edited by: Paulina Pietrzak
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