Task-Based Translator Training, Quality Assessment, and the WWW
by Suzanne M. Zeng and Jung Ying Lu-Chen
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Paper presented at the Fourth Language International Conference, Shanghai, China
In this paper, we present a top-down approach to the teaching of translation and propose a model for task-based translation training pedagogy using various task based quality assessment forms during the different stages of the translation process. The pedagogical framework proposed here was piloted in the 1998 Fall semester in an English-Chinese translation course at the University of Hawaii. The Web was an integral part of the course, preparing students for the growing market of web-based translation. Although we worked with Chinese and English, the model we propose here can be applied to different language combinations in the training of translators.
This paper begins with a brief introduction to task-based language teaching and performance-based testing. We will then explain our top-down approach to translator training, as well as the criteria used for the task-based quality assessment. General principles of curriculum design and examples of individual lesson plans will also be presented. The conclusion will include student feedback to this type of translation pedagogy.
The traditional approach to the teaching of translation, especially the teaching of English-Chinese translation, segments the curriculum into discrete translation techniques for practice one at a time, such as amplification, conversion, repetition, negation, division, adverbial clauses etc. This so-called "bottom-up" approach moves from teaching smaller linguistic units to larger ones. The learners task is to combine these broken down skills to form his own translation process. Focus is spent on specific linguistic problems, giving less attention to the overall picture of the translation process. Learners may be able to grasp individual translation techniques, but producing a satisfactory target rendition of a larger source text becomes a challenge.
Recent developments in foreign language learning and assessment have proposed alternative ways of language teaching and testing, which we believe shed light to the teaching and evaluation of translation. Task-based language teaching (TBLT) employs real-world or pedagogical tasks as the unit of analysis in syllabus design (Long & Crookes 1992, 1993). In the TBLT approach the teaching process is a simulation of real-world experiences. It is argued that students learn the best through social interactions which allow students to work toward a common goal, by sharing information and solving the same problems (Pica, Kanagy, and Falodun 1993). Therefore, the TBLT approach employs many cooperative tasks where students work together. The results of this kind of teaching has been clearly positive in motivating student learning. In Performance-based assessment (PBA), the examinees perform tasks, which should be as authentic as possible, and the performance is rated by qualified judges based on a set of assessment criteria (Norris & Brown, in press).
How does this apply to the teaching of translation? Based on the theories and practice of TBLT and PBA , we will present a top-down approach to the teaching of translation. This approach starts with the overall evaluation of a target text, moving from larger units to smaller units. The model proposed here is a task-based translation training pedagogical framework, as mentioned above, piloted in the 1998 Fall semester in an English-Chinese translation course at the University of Hawaii. Students had to take a pre-test, in which their sample writing was evaluated according to criteria for writing assessment, developed by several people in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literature (EALL) and Center for Interpretation and Translation Studies (CITS) at the University of Hawaii. This served to filter out students whose lacked the language ability that translation needs. The class consisted of 18 students, with 3 Caucasians, 1 Japanese, and 14 Chinese-- 5 raised in America, 3 raised in Hong Kong, and 6 from China. The class met 3 times a week for 50 minutes each, for a total 16 weeks.
2. A Framework for Task-based Translator Training
A translation task analysis was done prior to the design of the syllabus to carefully delineate the common tasks translators need to perform in completing a translation (see Appendix 1). Both textual tasks and technical tasks were listed. Textual tasks are tasks related to comprehension, meaning, structure, and vocabulary of the source or target text. Technical tasks refer to the tasks needed in accomplishing the textual tasks, including research skills, computer skills, assessment skills and other related skills.
The translation task analysis provided us a blueprint for designing our task-based translator training curriculum. The framework proposed here is divided into 4 stages (see Appendix 2).
2.1 Stage One (Quality Assessment)
Stage one consists of a series of target text evaluation tasks. The focus is on learning the concept of quality assessment (QA) in translation. An authentic unsatisfactory target text, together with the Writing Assessment (WA) criteria, were given to students for evaluation purposes. Students divided into groups and asked to give a grade to the sample text based on the WA scale, which focuses on grammaticality, use of expressions, smoothness, consistency and naturalness. Problems and possible solutions were also discussed. Through such an exercise, students begin to understand the importance of QA and what is included in QA.
The source text of the sample target text was then given to students for comparison purposes. Focus this time was on comprehension, fidelity, and accuracy. Students were divided into groups for this comparison exercise. The Translation Assessment (TA) criteria-- developed by CITS--was given to students to use in this evaluation. Students were asked to rate the target text based on the TA scale. The criteria includes fidelity, language appropriateness, structure, vocabulary, and mechanics.
2.2 Stage Two (Translation Process)
Stage two focuses on the translation process (see Appendix 2). During this stage, translation assignments are given in order to familiarize students with the necessary (but often deleted) steps that should be followed in order to obtain a high quality translation (Larson 1984). The goal is to have students internalize these steps when doing professional translation. An important part of this stage is the group discussion on problematic items and their possible solutions. A Problems and Solutions (PAS) form is given to students to use at this stage. After writing their first drafts, students will again divide into groups for further discussion.
2.3 Stage Three (Web Work)
At this stage, students learn on-line web translation. They apply the skills learned in the previous stage to web translation. Besides learning specialized terminology, students discover the problems associated with web translation, such as Chinese fonts, coding, specialized terminology, on-line teamwork, consistency, style, etc.
The software used at this stage is called WorldPoint Passport created by a company called WorldPoint (WP), which translates and handles web sites in multi-languages for large companies. Working in cooperation with WP in designing QA criteria for their translators, CITS is able to use WP Passport software to give student authentic translation tasks which will eventually be published on the web. Knowing this, students motivation increases tremendously.
A description of Passport is as follows (http://www.worldpoint.com):
WorldPoint Passport integrates high quality, rapid, in-country human translation with Web content management. WorldPoint Passport also has a powerful built-in, server-side scripting language, that eliminates the necessity for CGI scripting. WorldPoint Passport users can serve Web pages dynamically and quickly from WorldPoint's proprietary cached database architecture with unparalleled speed.
WP uses QA checklist forms for the three roles involved in a translation, namely, the Translators checklist, Editors checklist, and Proofers checklist.
2.4 Stage Four (Final Assessment)
During the final stage of the task-based translator training, students are required to do a final project, as well as take a post-test. At this stage, students should be able to integrate the skills and techniques learned throughout the course.
As can be seen, this top-down approach serves to place more focus on quality assessment. An integral part of our task-based translator training includes authentic tasks using assessment forms, team work, and the web. Assessment forms (WA and TA criteria) help students remained focused on the translation task(s) at hand. While understanding the importance of coherency, consistency, fidelity, etc., students learn to look at factors that affect the quality of the target rendition. A Problems and Solutions form help guide student discussions. They learn to identify potential problems they might have ignored, find resources to solve problems, and suggest solutions to these problems.
In working in teams, students found the decision-making process to be easier rather than harder, especially when they worked with a student whose first language differed from their own first language. Style, consistency and overall cohesion could be better assessed in teams. Furthermore, those with stronger computer skills could assist those with weaker ones.
As for doing assignments on the Web, students learned the essentials and problems of translations involving the web. Testing and evaluating the web translation software, WP Passport, gave students skills needed for the future web-translation market.
Finally, this type of training had a positive affect on students in that some discovered they were not suitable for the translation field, and others discovered they wanted to pursue this profession.
We are still field-testing the criteria mentioned in this paper, as well as
piloting an online web-based translation course and hope to publish our results at a
later date. For more information on the course used for this proposed model, see:
Those interested in our Web-based course may receive information from:
Appendix 1. Translation Task Analysis Results
|1. Comprehension of the SL text
(1) grasp main ideas
(2) background information
(3) know what needs to be researched
Searching the WWW
|2. Transfer of the SL text
(1) key words
(2) unfamiliar words
(3) difficult structures
(4) sociopragmatic or cultural items
Searching the WWW
Linguistic and cultural knowledge
Problem solving skills
|3. First draft of TL text
(1) typing up the text
(2) comparison (accuracy)
(3) checking for spelling and grammar
(4) sending through electronic channels
|Chinese system and word processing
Chinese font problems
Web course ware
|4. Testing the TL text
(1) peer assessment
(3) readability (reading aloud)
(3) comprehension (summary, Q&A)
|Marking of translations
Commenting others' work
Filling out assessment forms (criteria)
Stating types of problems
Suggestions for solutions
|5. Reworking the drafts
(1) typing and revising the text
(2) decision making (to change or not)
|Cutting and pasting
|6. Final draft
(1) advanced formatting
(2) final document editing
|Sending the file in electronic form
File type (text, word, wp, rtf, gif, jpg, etc)
File format (PC or Mac)
File attachment (Eudora, Netscape Mail, etc.)
Appendix 2. A Framework for Task-Based Translator Training
Web Work (in teams)
|1. Take the pre-test
2. Evaluate an unsatisfactory translation (TT only)
3. Rephrase the TT
4. Compare TT with ST
[Read articles and post reactions on Web]
|1. Comprehend a ST
2. Write up first draft
3. Discuss general & specific problems in small groups
4. Test TT (Larson 84)
5. Discuss in class by showing student TTs
6. Revise TT
7. Submit final TT
[Read articles and post reactions on Web]
(5 translation assignments in total)
|1. Learn Passport
2. Work with team
3. Translate online
4. Discuss with team
5. Submit TT6. Edit other's TT
7. Evaluate Passport and team work
(3 translation assignments in total)
|1. Choose the ST and TT for the final project
2. Evaluate the TT
3. Write a paper
4. Upload to Web
6. Take the post-test
|1. WA Criteria
2. ST and TT Comparison
3. TA Criteria
|1. PAS Form||1. WP-QA Translator's checklist
2. WP-QA Editor's checklist
3. WP-QA Proofer's checklist
|1. Translation Assessment Criteria|
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