Shreve, Gregory. 2002. “Knowing Translation: Cognitive and Experiential Aspects of Translation Expertise from the Perspective of Expertise Studies.” Alessandra Riccardi, ed. Translation Studies: Perspectives on an Emerging Discipline. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 150–171.
Translation expert and translation expertise are often critically unexamined concepts by most translation scholars and teachers
'Expertise Studies' is a rapidly developing area in cognitive psychology.
Experts and expertise
The existing literature on expertise supports the estimation that it takes ten years or ten thousand hours of practice to become an expert.
The long period of deliberate practice that it takes to make an expert appears to directly precipitate specific cognitive changes that enable expert performance of domain-specific tasks.
The term expertise refers to the entire set of cognitive resources and abilities that allows consistently reproducible expert performance.
Some of the cognitive developments:
measurable changes in pattern learning and memory, problem recognition and representation, the organization and composition of knowledge structures and the ability to develop strong methods for problem resolution.
(Ericsson 1996: 23-4 ).
The level of expertise achieved, and therefore of the degree of cognitive change, is claimed to be a monotonic function of the period of practice (Ericsson, Krampe and Te sch-Roemer l 993). 5
Expert performance is the visible, measurable manifestation of expertise.
Superior performance in translation cannot be determined by just counting matches won, home runs hit, or measuring the time it takes to run a thousand metres.
There is no way to answer Pym's questions about translation expertise without, as he suggests, developing an empirical approach to it based on the objective assessment of performance.
Making the concept of translation expertise operational would require a performance model for translation (i.e. Houses's 1997)
Performance models for translation expertise studies will have to:
reflect the specialization and reflect the unique skills and cognitive resources demanded by the tasks representative of a variety of translation sub-domains.
and translation expertise
The interest in translation expertise is an extension of the research in translation competence.
Professional education is one means to garner the broad knowledge base that underlies expert performance in translation, although it is not the only way, and it is certainly not enough.
Translation graduates may exhibit varying levels of translation competence but not translation expertise.
The primary requisite,for the development of translation expertise, as supported by expertise studies in cognitive psychology, is deliberate practice in the domain after graduation.
Translation expertise is a cognitive state at the far end of a continuum that begins with some sort of 'domain-specific' blank slate and ends with some sort of describable set of resources and
abilities that, on the whole, appears to be characteristic of those who exhibit consistently superior translation performance in that same domain.
Domain and deliberate practice
In the context of translation expertise what does deliberate practice in the domain mean? It is clear from expertise studies and from the informal observation of long-time translators that long-term domain-specific experience is the key factor in the development of expertise.
Only through the aggregation of a specific range of experiences covering the relevant sub-competences within the domain can expertise develop. This aggregation of experience is what cognitive psychologists call episodic memory.
From episodic memory, patterns of experience are extracted, analysed and organized, creating knowledge structures that the expert can then use to enable superior performance.
Translation expertise is not a homogeneous, easily describable set of uniform cognitive resources achieved by all translation experts. It is purely a reflection of the history of deliberately sought experience in specifiable translation domains, what Shreve ( 1997) has referred to as a translator's acquisition history.
Variation in the acquisition history will produce differential development of cognitive resources in the different identifiable sub-competences of translation.
Deliberate practice can be defined as engagement in regular activities
that are specially designed to improve performance.
The distinction between deliberate practice and work experience is an important one...not all kinds of experience lead to expert performance.
Deliberate practice occurs only when
(a) there is a well-defined task,
(b) the task is of appropriate difficulty for the individual,
(c) there is informative feedback, and
(d) there are opportunities for repetition and for the correction of errors.
These four conditions according to Ericsson, can rarely be duplicated at work or at play ( 1996: 21 ).
From novice to expert
In translation studies the term 'novice' (Kaiser-Cooke 1994; Kiraly 1995; Shreve 1997) has been used, as well as 'non-professional', 'translator trainee' and 'student translator'.
the differences between novices and experts or experienced non-experts and experts is not simply a matter of the quantity of cognitive resources, or how much one knows, but... a matter of what kinds of things one knows and how those things are cognitively arranged, represented,and stored in or retrieved from long-term memory.
A translation expert, in other words, knows translation and all of its sub-competences better and at deeper levels than anyone else.
If we view the translation task as a complex problem-solving and decision-making activity (Darwish 1998), then what evolves over the course of the development of translation expertise could be seen as an increased capacity to recognize and represent the problems of translation and an increased ability to effectively resolve those problems.
translator first has to recognize linguistic and textual patterns in the source text, decide which of these patterns presents a translation problem, decide on a solution, and then effectively apply the solution. The problem-oriented view of translation allows us to discern several kinds of knowing about translation: knowing what, knowing what to do, and knowing how to do it.
the 'expertise' of the translator manifests itself in the way the 'problems' of linguistic decoding, encoding, message transfer, subject comprehension and information seeking are recognized, understood mentally, and resolved.
Each aspect of the translation task, from decoding through message transfer, information seeking and encoding, repeated over and over again in the course of a translation career, generates events (decoding events, encoding events, and so on) that accumulate in episodic memory.
Anderson (1982) argues that an important step in the development of expertise is the conversion of the novice's declarative knowledge to procedural knowledge via proceduralization.
Proceduralization is a process where the declarative knowledge of the domain, what is known about the task, is converted into production rules, which are conditional (if-then) statements that specify what problem resolution methods should be applied when certain patterns of events are recognized in a task.
Generating production rules for a translation task would imply learning how to recognize a particular pattern in a source text (i.e., know what it is), learning what it implies in the context of the task (i.e., a domain-relevant meaning) and finally, learning what to do (what problem-resolution method to apply).
The shift from declarative to procedural knowledge is gradual. Early on in the shift there are significant demands on attention. Task performance is effortful, accompanied by conscious and deliberate decision-making. In translation this is true because declarative knowledge is still being accumulated, not just about translation, the domain of application, but also in the subject domain(s) represented in source texts. Declarative knowledge is still being absorbed in new areas of lexis and textual form as well.
Growth of a terminology implies both an increased understanding of a domain, and the increased sophistication of its representation in memory (Segal 2000).
There is a tendency of the novice translator to view a translation as a sequence of exclusively lexical problems... i.e., on the lexical surface of the source text and not on its underlying message or communicative intent.
Most expertise studies report that experts view their task material at a more abstract level than the novice, 'chunking' the observed material in ways that are more abstract and more inclusive (larger units)...Buxton (1986: 475) has referred to this difference as 'granularity'.
The novice's tendency to attend to problem elements at a low level localizes problem solving at multiple sites. This requires greater attention and a higher cognitive load; there are simply more problem elements to be retained in memory and dealt with.
One way to reduce cognitive load and attention requirements is to reduce the number of problem elements to be handled. Some can be successfully ignored; they are recognized as not being problematic or significant at all, and others can be 'grouped' and solved at a higher level. This allows experts to attend to fewer problem elements and to address elements that are larger in scope
Tactical learning refers to learning domain-specific methods that accomplish particular goals, i.e., the sequence of actions required to solve a problem. Tactical learning is thought to be a characteristic of increasing expertise.
Strategic learning in translation would imply that expert translators take observably different approaches to the whole of the translation task from novices.
The superior performance of experts in a cognitive skill domain such as translation is the result of a number of interrelated cognitive change:
(a) the accumulation of significant episodic memory under the conditions of deliberate practice,
(b) goal-directed pattern recognition applied to domain-relevant events represented in episodic memory, where the goal is the recognition and storage of patterns that will identify task-relevant problems, i.e., patterns calling for action to be taken,
(c) attaching domain-relevant meanings to such patterns and linking new 'strong' problem resolution methods to them,
(d) continuing to learn domain-specific methods for resolving classes of problems and organizing the application of those methods in optimal ways, including problem representation or 'chunking' at higher levels of abstraction or according to different principles and, finally,
(e) organizing problem-solution methods in long-term memory for optimal access and retrieval.
The reduction in effortful processing, increase in speed of task performance and the 'automaticity' often cited as a property of expert performance in translation can be explained by these cognitive changes.
It remains for us, as translation scholars, to determine which aspects of translation performance and its multiple competences can be improved by deliberate long-term practice and which are dependent on other factors less amenable to improvement because they are dependent on innate or genetically determined human linguistic abilities.
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