Designing an Authentic Translation Environment for Future Translators:

Integrating a Collaborative and Ergonomic Perspective into Translator Training

By Cécile Frérot, Elisabeth Lavault-Olléon and Lionel Karagouch (Université Grenoble Alpes, France)


Project-based learning in translator training has highly developed over the past few years and integrating authentic or near-authentic tasks has been greatly encouraged to train future translators for the translation industry. Meanwhile, studies on the realities of the translator’s workplace have shown that ergonomic factors have an impact at physical, organizational and cognitive levels on how translators work and ergonomics has emerged as a new paradigm in applied translation studies. Within that perspective, our concern for preparing future translators for the requirements of the translation market and equip them with competences that embrace personal, interpersonal and technological skills has led us to design an authentic translation environment that seeks to develop a collaborative and ergonomic approach to translator training. We show how this pedagogic scenario was first set up in order to benefit second-year master’s students in specialized translation at the University of Grenoble Alpes and was further upgraded with a view to raising their ergonomic and collaborative awareness before they enter the professional translation market.

Keywords: translator training, project-based learning, collaborative learning, ergonomics, translator competence

©inTRAlinea & Cécile Frérot, Elisabeth Lavault-Olléon and Lionel Karagouch (2019).
"Designing an Authentic Translation Environment for Future Translators: Integrating a Collaborative and Ergonomic Perspective into Translator Training"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Translator Training
Edited by: Paulina Pietrzak
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1. Ergonomics and (future) professional translators

1.1. Ergonomics and the translator’s workplace

The increasing use of translation technologies at large (including online resources, CAT tools and other software, glossaries as well as translators’ networks) has had a tremendous impact on the translator’s workplace converting it into a ‘highly technologized workplace’ (Ehrensberger-Dow, Hunziker Heeb, 2016). Over the past ten years, the interest in investigating professional translation as a situated activity involving people interacting with texts, with other people and with translation tools has been increasing (Ehrensberger-Dow 2014; Krüger 2016; Kuznik, Verd 2010; Kuznik 2016; Monzó Nebot 2006; Risku 2014). Within this perspective, cognitive approaches consider professional translation as a situated activity where the social, physical and technical environment plays a major role in the translation process:

Translation is done not only by the brain, but also by complex systems which include people, their specific social and physical environments and all their cultural artefacts. (Risku 2002:529)

Translation has largely become ‘a form of human-computer interaction’ (O’Brien 2012:101), in other words ‘a complex bilingual cognitive activity that takes place within a dynamic system involving multiple agents and human-computer interactions in a wide variety of settings’ (Ehrensberger-Dow, O’Brien 2015:100). In addition, professional translators rely heavily on language technology, which has added to the complexity of this dynamic system (Ehrensberger-Dow 2017).

From that perspective, ‘ergonomics gives a reference framework which makes it possible to analyze the material, physical, cognitive and organizational aspects of the translation profession and their evolution’ (Lavault-Olléon 2011). The IEA (International Ergonomics Association) defines ergonomics as:

(…) the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance[1] (IEA online).

According to the IEA, ergonomics encompasses three dimensions - physical, cognitive and organizational – which can all be investigated from a translation perspective. Based on the information provided by this association ‘physical ergonomics is concerned with human anatomical, anthropometric, physiological and biomechanical characteristics as they relate to physical activity’ (IEA online). It relates to workplace equipment, layout, repetitive movements, safety and health (Ehrensberger-Dow 2017). The IEA further explains that:

cognitive ergonomics is concerned with mental processes, such as perception, memory, reasoning, and motor response, as they affect interactions among humans and other elements of a system (IEA online).

The IEA stresses that it covers ‘mental workload, decision-making,[2] skilled performance, human-computer interaction, human reliability, work stress and training as these may relate to human-system design’. Finally, organizational ergonomics is concerned ‘with the optimization of sociotechnical systems, including their organizational structures, policies, and processes’ and the IEA provides topics of interest such as work design, design of working times, teamwork, cooperative work, new work paradigms, virtual organizations, and quality management. As a consequence, the related research on the ergonomic perspective of translation focuses on ‘how a different discipline, ergonomics, can provide insights into the physical, cognitive and organizational factors that impinge on translation’ (Ehrensberger-Dow 2017).

Spurred on by academic conferences on the ergonomic perspective of translation (Translation and Ergonomics in 2010, Translators at work in 2015[3]) and dedicated workshops within translation studies conferences (European Translation Studies Congress in 2016[4], First World Congress on Translation Studies in 2017[5]), ergonomics has emerged as a new paradigm in translation studies (Lavault-Olléon 2011/2016). In applied translation studies, two major recent studies on physical ergonomics carried out in situ have shown the interest and concerns of professional translators for ergonomic issues related to their workplace (Ehrensberger-Dow et al. 2016; Meidert et al. 2016). In international organizations like the DGT (Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission), office ergonomics is given significant importance. Action is taken to make translators aware that the choice of adequate office furniture and IT peripherals impact their work and that the appropriate use of equipment and the application of ‘precautionary measures to preserve one's well-being throughout the working day and beyond’ is highly relevant for them’ (Peters-Geiben 2016). Overall, the research carried out is organized along two main lines i) the translator’s workplace, especially the role and impact of new tools and resources on translators and ii) translator training focused on designing professional competence models and incorporating ergonomic issues for future translators. While the former has been investigated to some degree (Jimenez-Crespo 2009; Désilets et al. 2009; Beale and Peter 2008; Szameitat et al. 2009), the latter had not been explored until recently.

1.2. Ergonomics and translator training

Although ergonomics has never been integrated into translation competence models, underlying components related to cognitive and organizational ergonomics do feature in some models. PACTE - one of the most comprehensive models to date - embraces psycho-physiological components defined as ‘different types of cognitive and attitudinal components and psycho-motor mechanisms’ (Hurtado Albir 2017:40). These include cognitive aspects such as attention, emotion and memory as well as attitudinal aspects such as motivation, self-confidence and a critical mind. The most recent research carried out by the PACTE group suggests that personality traits closely related to self-esteem and self-analysis play a major role in the translator’s perception of his/her work (Hurtado Albir 2017:288/296). Kelly’s model (2005), which is firmly rooted in professional aspects of translation competence, also relies on attitudinal and psycho-physiological competence (self-concept, self-confidence, initiative) as well as on interpersonal competence based on teamwork ability.

That same interpersonal dimension is at the core of the service provision competence in the EMT[6] framework (2009) defined as:

being aware of the social role of the translator (…) knowing how to plan and manage one’s time, stress (…) how to comply with instructions, deadlines, commitments (…) knowing how to work under pressure (…) and take responsibility.

Based on the recent consultation process launched by the EMT Board, the 2009 EMT framework has undergone some major changes which resulted in a new version validated by the EMT network at the general meeting in November 2017. Key issues related to collaborative and ergonomic dimensions have been introduced in the personal and interpersonal competence which includes all the generic skills that enhance graduate adaptability and employability. Skill descriptors include ‘work in a team (…) using current communication technologies’ and focus on ‘collaborative learning’; they also state that students should know how to ‘take account of and adapt the physical ergonomics of the working environment’ (for example hardware, furniture selection, working posture). This enhanced EMT framework is very likely to foster research on ergonomics for future translators with a view to raising their ergonomic awareness in line with the issue at stake in the professional market:

Le comportement ergonomique est perdu d'avance si on attend le moment de l'entrée dans le monde du travail pour l'appliquer. À ce moment-là, il y a tant d'autres éléments professionnels qui paraissent prioritaires que la préservation du bien-être et de la santé passe au second plan.[7] (Peters-Geiben 2016)

Research on ergonomics in translator training is at an early stage and leaves great room for investigating its didactic integration within master’s programmes in translation. In line with Gary Massey’s proposal (Massey 2016), we do not encourage dedicated workshops nor courses/modules on ergonomics as we want to avoid ‘compartmentalization risk’ (Kelly 2007). Instead, we advocate a ‘transversal integration in and beyond the curriculum’ (Massey 2016) that embraces various aspects of translators at work within a holistic approach to translation. While setting up a collaborative environment may play a significant role in interpersonal competence (Calvo 2015), raising student ergonomics awareness may well be achieved through authentic project-based learning.

2. Authentic environment for future translators through project-based learning

2.1. Overview on project-based learning

Student employability[8] has long been the cornerstone of translator education and over the past decade the ‘perceived divide between the competences and qualifications of graduates leaving translator education institutions and the real-world demands of the job market’ (Massey et al. 2015:27) has reduced, largely due to the increasing take-up of authentic experiential learning in collaborative classroom settings promoted by scholars like Don Kiraly (2005/2012/2016), the growing role and place of work placements to prepare master’s students for employment (the European Graduate Placement Scheme [EGPS], Astley and Torres-Hostench 2017) and the creation of simulated translation bureaus like the INSTB[9], International Network of Simulated Translation Bureaus[10] (Buysschaert, van Egdom and Fernandez Parra 2017; Loock et al. 2017) or TAS, Translation Agency Simulator, which seeks to ‘replicate the entire complexity of a translation project while integrating the complete spectrum of translation skills’ (Hofman, Kiraly 2016). Collaborative student translation projects in particular have highly developed and a growing number of institutions have undertaken project-based learning in their programmes (Mitchell-Schuitevoerder 2013; Massey et al. 2015; Hagemann 2016; Maruenda Bataller and Santaemilia Ruiz 2016; Miao 2016). Very recently the EMT network produced a document on collaborative student translation projects aimed at providing an insight into current practices among EMT members (Olohan and Ciobanu 2017). The overriding goal of such projects is to equip students with the skills they will need to meet the demands of the translation market through developing – whether explicitly or not – ‘learner empowerment’ on the basis of a social constructivist view of learning (Kiraly 2000, 2005):

Attaining competence in a professional domain means acquiring the expertise and thus the authority to make professional decisions; assuming responsibility for one’s actions; and achieving autonomy to follow a path of lifelong learning. This is empowerment. (Kiraly 2000:1)

The empowerment approach to translator education revolves around authentic project-work defined as ‘the collaborative undertaking of complete translation projects for real clients’  (Kiraly 2005:1102). This approach seeks to provide students with levels of autonomy and expertise through authentic experience and consequently it enhances the exposure to professional practice that is fostered by students and teachers alike.

2.2. Project-based learning at UGA

A survey carried out among former students of the master’s programme in translation at the University of Grenoble Alpes (henceforth, UGA) (Frérot and Karagouch 2016) has shown the extent to which students wanted to be trained in real professional conditions by integrating CAT tools whenever possible. Growing efforts from both the language industry – which provides more and more university students with free or cheaper stand-alone licences – and the teaching staff – who has started to encourage the use of translation memories and other software tools in their translation classroom – have contributed to ‘bring the workplace into the curriculum’ as advocated by Kiraly (2015). Further analysis of work placement reports together with the above-mentioned survey have clearly demonstrated the need to integrate a project-based learning environment in order to reduce the divide (close the gap?) between professional translation practice and translator training. This involves mainly using CAT tools, translating full-length market-based texts under professional deadlines, using client-based language resources (namely translation memories and glossaries), dealing with stress and experiencing teamwork responsibility.

At this point it is worth mentioning that imparting practical skills required by professional translation has been at the very core of the master’s programme in translation at UGA since the early 1990s (Lavault-Olléon 1998). A junior company was set up in 1995[11] and each year it is run by second-year master’s students while first-year students are involved in authentic translation assignments (individual or pair work). This environment has highly benefited students who are better trained for the translation market but it fails to encompass some working conditions professional translators are faced with i) individual translations do not involve teamwork nor professional deadlines and ii) student’s engagement within the junior company varies significantly and teams are based on personal affinity vs coincidental professional relationships.

In many cases, the curriculum has room for improving the interpersonal competence combined with the technological competence deemed to be of paramount importance in a profession-oriented approach to translation (Huertas-Barros 2013; Robinson et al. 2017).

3. Setting up an authentic translation environment in the master’s programme in translation at UGA

3.1. Designing a pilot study

Based on these requirements, we conducted a pilot study in 2015 in the translation master’s programme at UGA. The pilot project was designed within the 2009 EMT-based framework. We focused on both the translation service provision (TSP) and the technological competences. In the TSP competence, the interpersonal dimension includes ‘knowing how to comply with instructions, deadlines, commitments, team organization (…) plan and manage one's time, stress’ and the production dimension aims at ‘knowing how to define stages and strategies for the translation of a document (…) define and evaluate translation problems and find appropriate solutions.’ As for the technological competence, it focuses on the mastery of tools and aims at ‘knowing how to integrate a range of software to assist in translation, terminology, translation memory, terminology database (…) create and manage a database and files.’

The overriding goal of this pilot study was to intertwine those competences in one project only instead of integrating them into fragmented and compartmentalized assignments. We aimed at measuring the extent to which this learning scenario could contribute to train students and raise their awareness on the interpersonal dimension of the translation profession (including stress and time management, team organization, teamwork and autonomy).

The participants included twenty second-year master’s students, all of them working from English into French. Two teachers,[12] a professional translator who teaches in the master’s programme, and two translation agencies were part of the study.[13] The study was designed collaboratively by the teachers and the professional translator. The strong relationships with translation agencies throughout work placements acted as a facilitator to provide students with two commissions for the translation project. The agencies commissioning this ungraded assignment agreed to assess the translations based on a professional grid for client satisfaction.

The translation project[14] took place in December 2015. The day before it started, students were selected at random to form two self-organized teams of ten students each and each team was in charge of its role distribution (project manager, translators, terminologist, and reviewer). Each team was required to translate a project of 9,000 words approximately in three days. One project was a highly technical document on a hydropower project for which an Excel glossary had been provided by the translation agency and the other was a legal document, namely a draft subject to contract for which a translation memory had been provided. The translation commissions were sent by the clients at 8.30 am on day 1 and were due to be delivered at 4 pm on day 3.

This main phase involved communication with the client, self-management of CAT tools and autonomy in the translation process (information research, terminological work, project management and teamwork) with minimal intervention from the teaching staff. Due to the unavailability of the computer laboratory during the three days, the session took place in another classroom; students worked in one of the largest classrooms available in the department of applied languages which we had attempted to reorganize into an open space environment – only to a small extent though. Students worked with their laptops and they used SDL Trados Studio 2014 as well as Google Drive and Skype as collaborative communication tools; however, they had to go to the computer laboratory on several occasions in order to use Multiterm which, at that time, didn’t run on their laptops.

Nowadays the vast majority of master’s programmes have integrated project management in their curriculum and throughout the first semester, students receive a twelve-hour course on project management[15] during which they had been trained on issues related to the role and responsibilities of Project Managers (henceforth, PMs). In the professional circle, PMs are at the very heart of any translation project as they:

coordinate, supervise all stages of translation projects (translation, editing, formatting, proofreading, etc.), monitoring workflow, setting schedules for each phase, and doing everything necessary to ensure the highest level of performance in terms of efficiency, quality and client’s satisfaction. (Maruenda Bataller and Santaemilia Ruiz 2016)

The participants in the study had been provided with a ‘roadmap’, that is a document featuring the different stages of the translation project from the reception of the translation commissions to the delivery to the client.

3.2. Collecting data

Several data-gathering instruments were designed for this pilot study, including student satisfaction, peer assessment and client satisfaction. After the project took an end, the participants were asked to complete a form featuring the various stages of the above-mentioned ‘roadmap’ and to indicate (i) what tasks they had undertaken accordingly and (ii) what difficulties they had encountered and what solutions they had found, both on a personal and group level. Student satisfaction included items rated on a four-point scale (ranging from very satisfactory to not satisfactory at all), related to their satisfaction regarding pre-project training and the added value of the project in their curriculum (see Appendix 1). As will be discussed in section 5.2, another source of informative data came from students’ additional comments. Peer assessment was divided into three categories based on the quality of the translation (translation as a product) and the translation process in terms of autonomy and deadlines as well as a personal dimension dealing with stress management, initiative, involvement and responsibility. Each team member was asked to assess his/her peers in accordance with his/her role in the project. Peer assessment was completed with numbered scales marked 1 to 4 with 4 as the most satisfactory score for each category (see Appendix 2). The assessment method also included a professional grid intended to measure client satisfaction, based on the linguistic quality of the translation (product), communication quality throughout the project, and compliance with deadlines and instructions with items rated on a four-point scale ranging from very satisfactory to not satisfactory at all (see Appendix 3). Finally, after completion of the project, five of the students took part in a concluding discussion; they discussed their experiences as participants in this pilot study and actively supplied data on the benefits related to this authentic project-based learning.

4. Reconsidering methodological aspects of the pilot study

As will be shown in section 5.1, the participants in the study felt a generally positive learning effect and the clients were satisfied with the translations. This encouraged the teaching staff to optimize this learning environment in the curriculum. Therefore, another session was run in December 2016 and several changes were made based on the pilot study.

On a very practical level, students worked in the computer laboratory as it was available during the three-day session; attempts were made to reorganize the space in order to make it more professionally friendly. As most students had considered working in teams of ten members unrealistic and quite inefficient, the class was no longer organized into two teams but into three teams of seven members each making the number of students in each team more operational, and reducing the number of words translated.[16] This, of course, urged the teaching staff to find translation commissions accordingly, which put more stress on their side as the completion of the project is wholly dependent on authentic translation projects. As for the self-organized dimension of teams, the members of one team in particular found it hard to assign the PM role as no one was keen on it. The result was that one group member was strongly encouraged by the other members to work as a PM. Consequently, the teaching staff changed his view on role distribution and integrated the PM issue in the pre-project session dedicated to project management, as PMs play a major role in a translation project. The role, tasks and responsibilities of PMs were discussed more thoroughly and the day before the project started, three participants were self-designated as PMs; members of each team were then selected at random and other roles were distributed.

The format of the concluding discussion at the end of the pilot study was slightly modified as the whole group of students participated in it (22 in total). Both teachers in charge of the project together with the professional translator led semi-structured interviews. Each was in charge of one team (three teams as above-mentioned). Based on open questions, these interviews aimed at gathering data on each participant’s expectations, on the strategies deployed to solve the difficulties encountered and the extent to which students had developed interpersonal competence related to teamwork (see Appendix 4). The peer assessment questionnaire and the client satisfaction grid were considered operational and were thus kept in their initial format contrary to the student questionnaire which underwent major changes. This was mostly due to the inappropriate length of the “roadmap” as students were asked to provide feedback on each stage of the translation process. Therefore the questionnaire was cut down and reorganized; questions on student satisfaction rate and free comments were retained and questions on technological aspects during the translation process were integrated (see Appendix 5), given the prevailing use of IT tools by professional translators and the ‘highly-technologized workplace’ (Ehrensberger-Dow and Hunziker Heeb 2016).

To allow students to work on legal documents in accordance with their specialized translation classes during the first term, the emphasis was put on legal translation. One of the translation agencies that had participated in the pilot study agreed to take our requirement into account and we turned to an NGO specializing in child rights[17] that we regularly cooperate with for work placements. Actually, completing a translation project for an NGO or a non-profit organization in educational settings is deemed to be a very appropriate scenario in that it gets round the controversial issue of ethics and unfair competition by students taking on translations that would otherwise be completed by professionals in the freelance market. Hagemann (2016) reports a successful multilingual project for the blogging community Global Voices[18] and EMT members indicate a great variety of projects completed for NGOs and non-profit organizations (Olohan and Ciobanu 2017). 

5.  Results from 2015 and 2016 sessions

5.1. Student satisfaction and client satisfaction

This section reports on two sets of data covering the two translation projects that were led in the course of 2015 and 2016 and described in section 3.1 and section 4 respectively. Student satisfaction[19] provides quantitative results on regarding the project per se as part of the curriculum and the pre-project training as part of the course on project management. The project carried out in 2016 shows that 94 per cent of students rated the project as very satisfactory in the curriculum, 72 per cent rated the pre-project training as very satisfactory and 22 per cent as satisfactory only. Students’ free comments reveal that this is mainly due to a lack of training on how to create collaborative translation memories, and provide the teaching staff with insightful data for potential improvement. Comparative data between 2015 and 2016 shows a rise in student satisfaction regarding the project per se in the curriculum (67 per cent vs 94 per cent respectively) and the pre-project training a somewhat less sharp rise (57 per cent vs 67 per cent). While these figures should be treated with caution, they might be partly due to the teaching staff gaining experience in devising such a project (see section 4 on a revision of methodological issues).

The assessment instruments deployed in our learning scenario include a client assessment grid provided by the professional translator involved in the study. Overall, the clients stated that they had been very satisfied with the translations. Translations were delivered within the deadline, complying with the format required. The assessment grids were sent to the students and this professional perspective is likely to play an important role in our translator education approach as ‘students’ self-confidence will improve if they can see progress in their work on the basis of what are demonstrably professional criteria.’ (Kiraly 2005: 2012).

5.2. Peer assessment and students’ comments

Peer assessment shows that a vast majority of items were rated as very satisfactory (77 per cent) or quite satisfactory (16 per cent). These results are in line with those obtained in 2015 (83 per cent and 16 per cent respectively) and may be (partly) due to student self-protection as already noted by Massey et al. who suggest that students have ‘a tendency to ‘play safe when judging peers’ (2015:40). Those results may also arise from a lack of training on peer assessment among master’s students, given that students who have not been trained on peer interactions may be ‘destructive and tactless or overgenerous and uncritical’ (Rollinson 2005:26).

Very informative data came from students’ free comments combined with interviews at the end of the translation project, as they put forward ergonomics-related items in the workplace such as the ones which have been investigated by the most recent studies among professional translators (Ehrensberger-Dow et al. 2016; Meidert et al. 2016). A case in point is organizational ergonomics with students using communication tools (Google Drive, Skype) they are very familiar with. Students discovered their use and the related constraints in a profession-oriented context (one student taking on the role of reviewer mentioned the difficulties she had to concentrate on her work while following conversations on Skype and being solicited by her co-workers). Organizational ergonomics also encompasses disruptions due to human interactions (one student wrote she had to work at home in a quiet environment in order to be more efficient) and noise, considered by students as highly detrimental to their work (one student related that errors went unnoticed in the translation memory probably due to surrounding noise). In addition, students discovered how teamwork and human interactions could benefit their work as the discussions highly contributed to problem-solving within a given team but also between the three teams involved.

In organizational ergonomics, the use of computerized linguistic resources plays a major role - whether or not they are supplied by the client. In our authentic project-based learning, students are faced with authentic, real linguistic data provided by clients. Whenever students use translation memories or glossaries, those resources are likely to bear some errors and inconsistencies related to meaning and terminology, for example. As a consequence, students learn how to take joint initiatives and make use of their overall skills in order to build their own linguistic resources (one student reported that the Excel glossary provided by the client could hardly be used as such due to too many inconsistencies so they had lost a lot of time cleaning it and had finally decided to create their own glossary using Google Drive). This authentic situated learning provides students with some insight into professional issues and gives them a foretaste of situations likely to happen in a professional context.

In the most recent studies on organizational ergonomics among professional translators (Ehrensberger-Dow et al. 2016; Meidert et al. 2016), time and stress management as well as deadlines are at the forefront in the translator’s workplace; our authentic project-based learning raises student awareness of professional deadlines. As emphasized by one student, this role-playing enables students to experiment with their own skills related to time management at work and gives them the opportunity to reflect on their ability to cope with stress. Physical ergonomics among professional translators is also echoed in our authentic project-based learning, as an open space environment contributes to raise student awareness of physical interactions at work; in addition, students experiment with some ergonomics-related issues raised during their course on project management (one student explained that she thought of ergonomics when she realized how uncomfortable her posture was and when her eyes hurt).

With regards to authentic project-based learning, students praised teamwork as a key driver of accountability; one student reported that ‘the work done by a given member does have an impact on others’ work: one feels responsible for the project as a whole which results in higher performance and motivation’ while another said ‘the project depends on my work and vice-versa which is very enriching as it highly contributes to my training.’ This is very much related to autonomy as a result of the minimal intervention from the teaching staff, which students considered an incentive towards responsibility. As students worked towards a professional rather than educational goal, the authentic dimension of the project encouraged them to think collectively rather than in terms of graded individual assessment. Overall, students considered this learning scenario a reflective instrument regarding their individual competence acquisition as suggested by the following comment: ‘I feel reassured and confident as I realize how well-trained I am to become a professional translator (…) I was not so aware of my weaknesses before the project started so now I know where to act in order to perform better at work.’

6. Implementing a collaborative and ergonomics environment (2017)

6.1. Collaborative environment

Since those aspects of the workplace are related to ergonomics, we have been concentrating on further raising ergonomics awareness among students by bringing the workplace into the curriculum in line with the IEA which states that ‘a good way to understand ergonomics is to learn from ergonomics in practice.’[20] From an educational perspective, both translation events in 2015 and 2016 gave much impetus to develop our professional approach to translator training and at the end of 2016 the teaching staff was granted a two-year project[21] in order to develop a collaborative and ergonomics environment in the master’s programme in translation at UGA. The project presented hereafter will be referred as PROTRAD. It is a two-year project running from 2017 to 2019.

In simulated translation bureaus/skill labs, ‘teams of students work on authentic tasks for real or fictitious clients under (mock-) realistic circumstances’ and ‘all the required skills are honed (incl. soft skills as teamwork, time management, learner autonomy’ (Loock et al. 2017). This learning by doing scenario set up within the INSTB differs from our learning environment in that second-year master’s students at UGA translate for real clients only and most importantly, an ergonomics approach has been developed with a view to upskilling students in ergonomics applied to translation practice. We investigated how to offer second-year students the possibility to be trained outside the conventional classroom or the computer laboratory and thus to complete the three-day translation projects in a profession-oriented and collaborative environment that raises their awareness on physical and organizational ergonomics. Interestingly, students had clearly stated in their free comments how relevant it would be to carry out such a project in a working environment that is organized and suited for teamwork; they had also suggested that specific space should be dedicated to discussion in order to avoid disrupting co-workers - and avoid being disrupted themselves as well. During the course of July-September 2017, we explored potential spaces on the UGA campus on a number of ergonomics-related aspects such as furniture (ergonomic chairs), space (separate room for discussion and teamwork) and sound insulation boards. One space in particular drew our attention in that it offered many of the aspects we wished to incorporate in PROTRAD. This collaborative environment is composed of learning labs designed by students enrolled in the master’s programme on innovative management[22] as part of an overall project - Promising[23]- which started in 2012 and seeks to develop innovative pedagogy and creativity in the area of human and social sciences. The collaborative environment aims at enhancing various forms of alternative and active pedagogy geared towards interactivity and creativity. During the three-day translation project that took place in December 2017, students discovered two learning labs[24]. While completing the translation projects, students experienced a collaborative environment that had a significant impact on their motivation and their perceptions of teamwork as revealed by the fruitful interviews at the end of the project[25].

6.2. Ergonomics in practice

Another major added value of PROTRAD has been to collaborate with ergonomists involved in a master’s programme on psychology at work and ergonomics.[26] A professional ergonomist[27] – who teaches ergonomics in the master’s programme as well – and a lecturer[28] in ergonomics observed students at work during the three-day project, more specifically at the outset of the project and during the second day. Data was collected on both physical and organizational ergonomics. It will be integrated into a written report for teaching staff and shared with students verbally.

This collaboration and the resulting discussions and reflections have contributed highly to give an impetus to the ergonomic dimension of our approach to translator training. From a teacher perspective, we have learned in situ about the conceptualization of ergonomics applied to a given workplace and this has greatly encouraged us to go further in that direction. From a student perspective, raising student awareness on ergonomics in practice through a situated application is in line with the ‘transversal integration [of ergonomics] in and beyond the curriculum’ praised by Massey (2016) and closely related to ‘authentic experiential learning’ (Kiraly 2016). As already mentioned, the professional ergonomist involved in the project is due to deliver a report which will provide the teaching staff with new insights into the ergonomic perspective on translation and will serve as didactic material for introducing ergonomics-related issues in the curriculum. In this respect, the deployment of two collaborative tools in PROTRAD, namely Slack and SDL Studio GroupShare, is likely to have brought along some major insight from an organizational ergonomic perspective. Slack is a cloud collaborative environment whose take-up in the industry at large is increasing and which is being adopted by a growing number of EMT members. Interestingly, while the teaching staff was unfamiliar with Slack, a few students participating in PROTRAD had already discovered the tool and were eager to share their knowledge with the rest of the class and the teaching staff. The collaborative dimension was enhanced with the use of SDL Studio GroupShare, ‘a project management software that streamlines workloads and reduces manual tasks.’[29] Integrating GroupShare in the project was highly supported by former student comments advocating the use of technology for collaborative work in project management as well as by the requirements of the translation industry to be up to date with the latest technological developments.

7. Perspectives and Future Work

7.1. Deployment to first-year master’s students

PROTRAD encompasses a collaborative and ergonomics approach to translation and translator training for both first-year and second-year master’s students. With a view to involving first-year students in PROTRAD, we set up a project-based learning scenario due to take place in April 2018. Our concern was to reinforce the professional dimension in the curriculum before students start their internship during the summer. In order to gradually increase student awareness of the translation profession during the two-year programme, students will carry out a translation project which (i) will be simulated (texts will be provided by teachers themselves playing the role of clients), (ii) will last one day and most importantly, (iii) will take place in a new collaborative room that is actually being designed in the department of applied languages at UGA. Issues related to office furniture and IT equipment are currently being discussed bearing in mind our concern for ergonomics at the translator’s workplace.

This deployment to first-year students will be extended to other languages offered in the master’s programme - Spanish and Russian, to start with. As a result, teachers from other languages will become more and more involved in our educational approach to translation which is competence-based and revolves around collaborative learning and ergonomics within an holistic perspective.

7.2. Conclusion: developing ergonomics

Our collaboration with experts in ergonomics is at an early stage, but opens up promising prospects for the future. Alongside the written report by the professional ergonomist, the future feedback to both students and teaching staff - due to be given in the collaborative environment itself - is very likely to provide us with new insights into ergonomics applied to translator training. This material which will presumably be very informative will help us enhance the curriculum and go further into how to integrate ergonomics in the curriculum for future translators. The data collected through the various instruments (student satisfaction, peer assessment, student interviews and client satisfaction) will in all likelihood foster reflection on authentic project-based learning from collaborative and ergonomic perspective.

As emphasized by the professional ergonomist, the service of an expert should be planned well in advance so as to set up a whole project that embraces the different stages from accurate diagnosis to problem solving, bearing in mind that each project has its own specifications and requirements. While our collaboration with the professional ergonomist was somehow constrained due to both time and budget, it can be regarded as a ‘kick-off’ for the introduction of ergonomics for future translators in our master’s programme in translation. The group of students who will participate in the next session (December 2018) will undoubtedly benefit from the previous session especially since the teachers and experts in ergonomics involved in the project will be more aware of each other’s framework and working methods. A six-hour seminar by the lecturer in ergonomics will give students an introduction to ergonomics applied to translation practice before the three-day session starts in December 2018. In addition, the joint prospect of having second year master’s students specialized in ergonomics analyze the working environment of other second year master’s students specialized in translation opens up a promising perspective in terms of innovative pedagogy and research into ergonomics applied to translator training.


The data presented in this article was collected by the authors during a joint collaboration in 2015-17. The article focuses on the data collected in 2015 and 2016 and the analysis and drafting of the text was mainly carried out by Cécile Frérot. The data collected in 2017 will be analysed and discussed in a future publication.

Appendix 1 – Student satisfaction

Appendix 2 – Peer assessment

Appendix 3 – Professional grid

Appendix 4 – Semi-structured interviews

Appendix 5 – Technological competence


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[1] (accessed 20 December 2017).

[2] Applied to translation, it refers to the process of translating when a translator has to choose between different translation options.

[3] Both conferences were organized by the research group on specialized translation at UGA (ILCEA4-GREMUTS, (accessed 20 December 2017).

[4] The 8th EST Congress was held at Aarhus University in September 2016 and it included a panel on Ergonomics of translation: methodological, practical and educational implications. (accessed 4 June 2018).

[5] The 1st World Congress on Translation Studies – or CMT, Congrès Mondial de Traductologie - was held at Paris West University in April 2017 and it included a workshop on Perspectives on CAT Tools and Ergonomics, (accessed 8 June 2018).

[6] European Master’s in Translation, (accessed 20 December 2017).

[7] Ergonomics behaviour is doomed to failure if it is not applied before future translators enter the professional market. At that time, many other aspects of professional life are considered of paramount importance that issues related to preserving one’s well-being and health are left in the background [my translation].

[8] Employability is defined as ‘the ability to gain initial employment, to maintain employment, and to be able to move around within the labour market’ (Bologna Process – European Higher Education Area EHEA), and is achieved by (…) improving cooperation between employers, students and higher education institutions (…)’. (Making the Most of Our Potential: Consolidating the European Higher Education Area. Bucharest Communiqué, Final Version, 2012:1). As emphasized by Thelen, ‘this definition can be operationalized as (1) the competences and skills (to be) taught in the training for students to become employable, and (2) the actual chances of graduates to find/keep and switch between employment after graduation’ (2016:175-176).

[9] (accessed 20 December 2017).

[10] INSTB is a ‘network of universities offering translation curricula where students are tasked with staffing and running their own (simulated) translation bureau’ (Buysschaert, van Egdom and Fernandez Parra 2017:79).

[11] More information can be found on the junior company Atlas at (accessed 20 December 2017).

[12] Teachers and researchers at the Laboratory ILCEA4, members of GREMUTS (Groupe de Recherche Multilingue en Traduction Spécialisée).

[13] The study was carried out with Elisabeth Lavault-Olléon and Lionel Karagouch as part of an overall project on Innovative pedagogy supported by the Service Universitaire de Pédagogie (former Stendhal University). 

[14] Referred to as session as well.

[15] The course on project management is given by a free-lance translator who teaches in the master’s programme.

[16] Each team completed a 6,500 word project.

[17] CRIN - Child Rights International Network, (accessed 20 December 2017).

[18] Organized by the German Department of Mainz University’s Faculty of Translation Studies, Linguistics and Cultural Studies (FTSK).

[19] Questions are rated on a 4-point scale to measure student satisfaction ranging from (1) no satisfied at all to (4) very satisfied.

[20] IEA, (accessed 29 November 2017).

[21] Project IDEX Education – PROTRAD (accessed 20 December 2017).

[22] Master Management de l’innovation, (accessed 20 December 2017).

[23] accessed 20 December 2017).

[24] Pictures of both labs – called La Ruche and Le Hub - are available at (accessed 20 December 2017).

[25] While no detailed analysis could be provided at the time of writing this article, both due to calendar and space constraints, the results of the 2017 session will be analyzed and discussed elsewhere.

[27] David-Ruffier Monet, head of PEPS Ergonomie, (accessed 20 December 2017). We are very grateful to him for agreeing to be the professional ergonomist in our study.

[28] We are very grateful to Aurélie Landry for her interest and participation in our project.

About the author(s)

Cécile Frérot holds a PhD in Natural Language Processing from the University of Toulouse le Mirail, an MAS in Linguistics and an MA in Translation and Language Engineering from the University of Paris Diderot and a BA in Translation and Terminology (ISIT, Paris). She is a senior lecturer in the Department of Applied Languages at Université Grenoble Alpes and a member of the research laboratory ILCEA4. She has run the MA programme in Multilingual Specialised Translation since January 2018. Her research interests include applied translation studies, corpus linguistics and terminology as well as ergonomics and translation.

Elisabeth Lavault-Olléon is Professor Emerita of Translation Studies at Université Grenoble Alpes (France) and was head of its MA programme in Multilingual Specialised Translation for over 20 years. She founded the Groupe de recherche multilingue en traduction spécialisée within the research laboratory ILCEA4. Her publications include Fonctions de la Traduction en didactique des langues (Paris: Didier Erudition, 1998) and academic research articles, many of which are available in open access. She has also edited Traduction spécialisée : pratiques, théories, formations (Peter Lang, 2007) as well as two specialised issues of the online journal ILCEA (#14 and #27) on the subject of Translation and Ergonomics.

An MA graduate in Translation Studies, Lionel Karagouch is a professional translator from English and German into French. In addition to his translation activities, he currently teaches the use of CAT tools and Project Management as Associate Professor in the MA in Multilingual Specialised Translation at Université Grenoble Alpes.

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©inTRAlinea & Cécile Frérot, Elisabeth Lavault-Olléon and Lionel Karagouch (2019).
"Designing an Authentic Translation Environment for Future Translators: Integrating a Collaborative and Ergonomic Perspective into Translator Training"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Translator Training
Edited by: Paulina Pietrzak
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