Beeby, A. (2000). Choosing an empirical-experimental model for investigating translation competence: The PACTE model. Intercultural Faultlines. Research Models in Translation Studies I. Textual and Cognitive Aspects, Manchester: St Jerome, 43-55.
This chapter presents the different stages involved in the choice and application of an empirical-experimental research model, on the basis of the example of the PACTE research project at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona.
PACTE is a group of eleven translation teachers and researchers, co-ordinated by Amparo Hurtado Albir, working with Spanish, Catalan, English, German and French. Its members are Allison Beeby, Laura Berenguer, Doris Ensinger, Olivia Fox, Nicole Martinez M
Choosing a research model
Identifying the object of investigation:
he PACTE group decided that the object of investigation was to be translation competence so that we could then study the acquisition of translation competence for the purpose of designing teaching methods and materials to develop and evaluate translation competence.
Defining the object of study, theoretical framework, and presuppositions:
Translation competence was defined as the underlying system of knowledge and skills needed to be able to translate. The researchers reviewed many models of translation competence and concluded that their model of translation competence includes a strategic component and a psycho-physiological component. They also proposed six sub-competencies: communicative, extra-linguistic, professional-instrumental, transfer, strategic and psycho-physiological
Relevance and choice of empirical methods:
The researchers opted for an empirical research in order to validate their suppositions about translation competence and isolate the sub-competencies through systematic observation and data collection
Formulation of working hypotheses either open or closed:
PACTE decided to follow a deductive approach formulating closed hypotheses (one on translation competence, and the other on acquisition of translation competence. These hypotheses can be verified or nullified by the results of empirical-experimental observation.
Choosing a research method:
PACTE wanted to design an empirical-experimental research model to confirm or adjust their hypotheses and allow them to proceed deductively. The model had to combine quantitative and qualitative data that has a real and practical application for human translators and integrates both theory and practice.
The PACTE Group research designed an experiment to measure (1) translation competence, and (2) acquisition of translation competence. For the first group, subjects were divided into groups; experimental group, (professional translators) and control group (bilinguals, non-practicing translators). For the second group, two experimental groups were used; one comprising translation students and the other of professional translators.
A commercial software programme (PROXY) used for remote control of computer users logged onto a server where all the translator's activities - Internet search, CDs encyclopedia or dictionary searches, pauses, corrections, etc. - can be logged in real time and the translator's screen can be observed on another computer in another room.
The design included two questionnaires and one interview: (i) an initial questionnaire to elicit information about professional experience, direct/inverse experience, training, ideas about translation and translation competence. (ii) A final questionnaire to gain more information about the translator, the problems in the text, the strategies used, and their own evaluation of their translation. (iii) Retrospective interview with the translators following the PROXY recording.
Subjects were asked to translate two short texts, one of which is translated directly (i.e. into the Ll and the other inversely (i.e. into L2), and the whole process is recorded on PROXY.
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