Core Issues and Topics of Competence and Expertise in Translation and Interpreting Studies
Core Issues and Topics of Competence and Expertise in Translation and Interpreting Studies
Tiselius, E., & Hild, A. (2017). Expertise and Competence in Translation and Interpreting. The Handbook of Translation and Cognition, 423-444.
Intro & Definitions
The study of expertise in translation and interpreting can be seen as a natural development from the study of competence
Competence is defined by the authors cited above as a set of different capacities and skills necessary for completing a translation or interpreting task. These capacities or skills can be identified through, for instance, job task analysis (Melby & Koby, 2013) or empirical studies of the translation or interpreting skills (Göpferich, 2013; Liu, 2009; PACTE, 2011a, 2011b).
Expertise, on the other hand, is the mastery of outstanding skills by an expert, a mastery that is only achieved after many years of goal‐focused work and deliberate practice (Ericsson, Charness, Feltovich, & Hoffman, 2007). Expertise can be further broken down into adaptive expertise and routine expertise; see below (Sonnentag, Niessen, & Volmer, 2007).
Whether inclusive or exclusive, whether skill or process, the field of translation and interpreting studies has yet to agree on common definitions of competence and expertise, let alone define the characteristics of expert performance as compared to competence.
Concepts of Expertise & Competence
E & C as similar concepts
The PACTE research group also seems to conflate translation competence and expert knowledge, defining the latter as the “underlying system of declarative and predominantly procedural knowledge required to translate PACTE, 2003, p. 58; cf. Hurtado Albir, 2010
cognitive‐psychological studies have gradually come to see translation competence and expertise as largely synonymous Muñoz Martín (2014)
E & C as different concepts
expertise and competence are two different concepts and should be investigated as such (cf. Alves & Gonçalves, 2007; Englund Dimitrova,
2005). Tiselius & Hild (2017).
posits that “unless we assume that all translators graduating from translator training are able to exhibit Ericsson’s ‘consistently
superior performance’…, then translation competence and translation expertise cannot be synonymous” (Shreve 2002: 54).
Competence in a field is a prerequisite for expertise, which in turn is the supreme expression of such competence Tiselius & Hild (2017).
However, research has not yet shown whether expertise is just a higher level of competence, or whether additional skills are needed in order to develop from a competent performer to an expert performer in a given field. Tiselius & Hild (2017).
Models of research
Inclusive models of competence aim to cover different sub-skills or concepts of competence (PACTE, 2011a, p. 318), (Schäffner & Adab, 2000, p. X, Göpferich (2009, Russo (2011)
Exclusive models of competence aim to tease out the unique (cognitive) ability to translate or interpret (Pym, 2003, p. 489, Malmkjaer (2009).
Cognitive or process
focus on the investigation of the different processing characteristics necessary for expertise
Ericsson and Smith (1991, Muñoz Martín (2014, Shreve (2002, Gile,
1985; Moser, 1978; Setton, 2012)
Research into the cognitive processes of translation and interpreting indicates that there are specific competences that develop for interpreting and translation, and that some of those competences develop with experience
Sociological studies view expertise as an emergent property of communities of practice. This approach concerns itself with the “contextual conditions for the development of expertise and its functions in modern societies” (Evetts, Mieg, & Felt, 2006, p. 105).
The sociological approach emphasizes the role of the professions as a form of institutionalization of expertise (Abbott,1988; Mieg, 2006).
there are very few studies dealing with expertise from a sociological perspective in TS, in particular with a focus on the context in which the expert develops, with Duflou (2016) being the only exception we know of.
Englund Dimitrova (2005) found that professional, experienced translators were able “to take into account more varied and more
specified task requirements in their process at an early stage” (p. 147). She also concluded that explicitation seems to be part of an automatized process for experienced professionals.
Experienced interpreters also have a greater ability to monitor their output (Ivanova, 1999; Tiselius, 2013; Vik‐Tuovinen, 2006).
Ivanova (1999) and Tiselius (2013) have found, experienced interpreters are less likely to run into processing problems than their inexperienced counterparts, and when they do they have a wider variety of problem‐solving strategies to choose from.
Ericsson and Smith (1991) and borrowed from cognitive psychology: (1)regular outstanding performances in their field of expertise; (2) access to expert knowledge when needed; (3) long experience in the field of expertise; (4) engagement in deliberate practice; (5) clear objectives; and (6) openness to feedback.
Muñoz Martín puts forward are five dimensions as a “minimal situated concept of general translation expertise”: (1) knowledge (declarative and conscious knowledge); (2) adaptive psycho‐physiological traits (acquired skills crucial for improving performance); (3) problem‐solving skills; (4) regulatory skills (meta‐cognitive skills used when translating); and (5) the self‐concept (self‐awareness, situational awareness, self‐efficacy).
Sunnari and Hild (2010) introduces the notion of professionals who could be characterized as routine experts or experienced nonexperts, because their work was clearly based on practiced routines and fixed solutions, which often resulted in less than ideal rendering. This suggests that these experienced professionals had stagnated at a certain level and then seemingly abandoned the continuing effort to reach a higher standard, which is considered a hallmark of genuine expertise.
experienced interpreters are better at switching attention between different processes (Liu, 2009).
Scardamalia and Bereiter (1991) list a number of findings that show that “[e]xpert writers are generally found to work harder at the same assigned tasks than non‐experts, engaging in more planning and problem solving, and in general more agonizing about the task” (p. 172).
In brief, the empirical evidence strongly suggests that professionalism and expertise are not co‐extensive, whereas the former could be considered a necessary condition for the attainment of expertise.
Deliberate practice is the goal‐focused, highly conscious type of practice that expert performers in any field do in order to improve their main skill and thus their performance (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Römer, 1993).
Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch‐Römer (1993) cite deliberate practice as one of the three categories that any given activity may be categorized as (with work and play being the other two).
Shreve (2006) proposes a theoretical framework for studying expertise in translation where deliberate practice is one of the cornerstones.
Tiselius (2013) has studied deliberate practice in interpreting studies using in‐depth interviews and found that although interpreters engaged in many performance‐enhancing activities and exercised their skill in many different contexts, they did not label such activity as practice, and the conscious goal of the activity was not improving the main skill (i.e., interpreting).
Despite its importance to expertise, such deliberate practice has not been widely studied in translation or interpreting studies.
Primary Research Methods
TAPs (House,1988; Kussmaul & Tirkkonen‐Condit, 1995; Pavlović, 2009, integrated problem and decision reporting (Gile, 2004), interviews (Shih, 2006) or journals (Moser‐Mercer, 2000), Krings (2001), Jakobsen (2003), Sun (2011), Künzli (2010), Muñoz Martín (2010), Retrospective and traditional interviews, in‐depth or semi‐structured interviews Albl‐Mikasa (2014), Duflou (2016), and Tiselius (2014,Hansen (2013).
eye movement methodology, keylogging data, TAPs, and video and screen recordings (Englund Dimitrova, 2005; Jakobsen, 1999, 2003)
working memory studies (Darò & Fabbró, 1994; Padilla,
Bajo, Cañas, & Padilla, (1995), Köpke and Nespoulous (2006) and Köpke and Signorelli (2012), Moser‐Mercer (2008, 2010), Duflou (2016), Ivanova (1999), and Tiselius (2013)
monitoring the patterns of electrical activity in the brain such as electroencephalography EEG (Gran and Fabbró, 1987), Kurz (1995, Lachaud
(2011; and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) Krick, Behrent, Reith,and Franceschini (2005, Hervais‐Adelman, Moser‐Mercer, and Golestani (2011); and fNRI (functional near infrared optical brain imaging)
Implications for Practice
Findings in cognitive psychology show that advanced competence or expertise is not only achieved through work‐life experience, but will have to be actively strived for in, for instance, communities of practice (Wenger, 1998), continued professional development (i.e., taking classes aimed at strengthening different skills or learning new), and deliberate practice (Ericsson, Charness, Feltovich, & Hoffman, 2007).
competence and expertise are two separate concepts in TS and studying them requires a mixed methodological design in order to cover all their various aspects.
One approach to understanding how professional and expert translators/interpreters are able to perform their tasks involves CTA—cognitive task analysis (Hoffman & Militello, 2009). This is part of the larger family of verbal report methods and involves eliciting knowledge including tacit knowledge) about the participants’ responses in typical situations. The skilled individual is asked to describe such a situation, and list all the options, along with their anticipated consequences.
Although relative expertise is highly informative when it comes to understanding the interpreting and translation practice, we also call for the study of absolute interpreting and translation expertise. Absolute expertise is the type of study where the highest ranked performer’s activity is investigated (Chi, 2006).
Another aspect from the participants’ perspective is that many studies on expert performance in TS suffer from a lack of ecological validity, as it is often hard to create comparable variables in a pure translation or interpreting environment. Yet Hodges, Starkes, and MacMahon (2006) point out that “the more expert you are as a performer, the more important ecological validity of the task becomes in assessing your own performance” (p. 482).
Although hard competence in translation and interpreting, such as language knowledge, general knowledge, writing skills, and attention switching, are well covered, soft competences are still under‐researched and might well be the next area of interest. At the moment, available research has drawn attention to the question of creativity in translation (Bayer‐Hohenwarter, 2012), the role of stable personality traits (Bontempo, Napier, Hayes, & Brashear, 2014), self‐regulation (Hild, 2014), and emotion regulation in
both translation (Lehr, 2014) and interpreting (Hild, 2014).
An area where expertise and competence may intersect is the area of stagnation and development, where Göpferich (2013) offers an interesting explanatory model using dynamic systems theory (Thelen & Smith, 1994; Van Gelder, 1989), another path yet to be explored. This is also the case with situated cognition, that is, the idea that any knowledge is situated in activity that is bound, among other things, to social and physical context (see Risku & Windhanger, 2013).
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