Cognitive Processes Of Translation English Language Essay

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Translation is a linguistic activity available only to people with two or more languages. Untrained bilinguals or second language learners are found to invoke natural translation at least with low proficiency populations when experiencing two languages at the same time (Harris, 1977; Harris & Sherwood, 1978; Malakoff, 1992). The process of translation includes complicated sub-processes, such as language comprehension, language production, memory, attention, and visual/auditory perception. However, the translation process itself has gained little attention from researchers in psycholinguistics.

De Groot (1997) suggested that the complicated factors involved in translation may be one of the reasons for the scarce attention. Conversely, she emphasized that translation is an important skill that bilinguals or second language learners experience in their minds due to the fact that they are bilinguals. Investigation of language processing using a translation paradigm can provide us with a better understanding bilinguals' comprehension process.

Although translation on its own has not been extensively explored compared to other topics, two distinctive theories of translation processes were developed in the 1970s (Seleskovitch, 1976; Gerver, 1976), and several experimental studies have tested these theories in recent years. There have also been a considerable number of studies that investigate the representation of two languages in the bilingual mind using a word translation paradigm (Kroll & Stuart, 1994; Kroll & Tokowicz, 2001, French & Jacquet, 2004).

2.5.4. Description of process model levels

Level l: Tools

This level of the model covers the common tools used in written communication and translation. In the translation business today, the common tools center around computers, software programs, and modems. However, a translator's basic tools such as dictionaries, style manuals, encyclopedias, and people are most important.

Level 2: Words

This level focuses on individual words and meanings, as well as how to choose words-in-context. The most elementary form of translation is a word-for-word exchange. However, word-for-word translation can be the most agonizing for the translator and creates text that is difficult to read. A good translator recognizes the importance of word choice to convey both meaning-in-context and the author's intended nuance. A translator must have a vast vocabulary and knowledge of how words are used in context. There are words that cannot be translated literally because of specific cultural references. For example, one test report described the material as having the consistency of omochi, a semi-solid, chewy cake made of rice paste. The closest word used in English would be poi, a Hawaiian food, or perhaps under-processed taffy.

Level 3: Syntax

At this level, words are strung together to form meaningful sentences. Translation requires a strong foundation in the grammatical structures of two languages. Japanese and English sentence structures are fundamentally different, with Japanese being a subject-object-verb language. Japanese sentence structures reflect the Japanese way of thinking. Japanese revere intuitiveness in communication; and, therefore, communicate in a circular web of words and sentences. English, by comparison, is very direct and linear, point and sub-point. Japanese text places strings of qualifying phrases in front of the main point. At the syntax-level, translators must use their knowledge of the different grammatical structures to break down and rearrange the Japanese sentence to rebuild it in English. A problematic point is the Japanese post-position, or connecting word. These words indicate a specific syntactical function ofthe preceding word in the sentence. Japanese post-positions have multiple translations into English and are translated as prepositional words and phrases. For example, the Japanese post-position 110 functions to indicate a "belonging to" connection between two words -- and can be translated as: to, for, of, 's, or any possessive pronoun.

Level 4: Organization

This level focuses on the logical connections between sentences and paragraphs that assist readers in their understanding of the meaning. As with individual sentences, Japanese paragraphs place qualifying sentences before the sentence containing the main point. This structure is most apparent in technical reports where test results are found at the bottom of the last page. This requires the translator to rearrange the entire text into standard English format, not only at paragraph level but at document level as well. Both this level and the next, comprehension, require the translator to have a strong background in written communication styles of both languages.

Level 5: Comprehension

At this level, the organizational skills described above are applied at document level. The translator must compare content and meaning of the original with content and meaning in the translation. At this level, a good translator would have a solid understanding of both what the author intended to communicate and to whom, enabling the translator to rewrite the text in English. Errors that occur at this level result in a document that makes little sense to the reader.

Level 6: Idioms

The preceding levels required an understanding of the meaning and use of words and the different written styles of the two languages. Level 6 requires an understanding of history, customs, current events, the arts and comedy, as well as industry-specific terminology. Rarely can idiomatic phrases be translated directly, and this poses problems for many translators. For example, what English speaker would understand the literal translation "that comment made my stomach stand up" to mean anger -- as in "raising the hair on the back of one's neck"? Another example is the literal translation "foam flies from his mouth's corners" that means "he talks a mile-a¬minute." At this level, translators must employ all their knowledge of each country and its customs, and must also depend on outside resources.

Level 7: Subject Knowledge

This is the highest level of the process model. At this level, the translator uses personal knowledge of the subject matter as well as the specific vocabulary required to accurately translate a text. If a translator does not know the subject matter, or the jargon used for a specific field of study, errors can range from short falsehoods such as "vehicle acceleration equals speed squared" to longer incomprehensible sentences such as: "There is the electrical fan, driven by a motor, and an engine which is driven by a motor, and an engine fan which is driven by being couples up through a crank pulley."

These errors are often passed over by the translator in the self-editing process because the translator lacks a basic understanding of the concepts.

2.5.5. The revised hierarchical model

A body of research has examined how two languages are represented at the word level in bilingual memory using a word translation paradigm. Previous studies with translation experiments showed that translation from L1 to L2 (forward) was slower and less accurate than translation from L2 to L1 (backward) (De Groot, Dannenburg, & Van Hell, 1994; Kroll & De Groot, 1997; Kroll & Sholl, 1992; Kroll & Stewart, 1994). Kroll and Stuart (1994) proposed the influential Revised Hierarchical Model (RHM), suggesting that bilinguals have different degrees of access to lexical memory and conceptual memory, depending on their proficiency: the more proficient the bilingual, the better the access to conceptual memory in L2. The hypothesis also states that translation direction, whether L1 to L2, or L2 to L1, plays a critical role in activating lexical and conceptual access: more specifically, lexical access is stronger translating from L2 to L1 (backward translation), and conceptual access is stronger going from L1 to L2 (forward translation). In addition, the RHM emphasizes the course of second language development, proposing that conceptual mediation through L2 words becomes easier as L2 proficiency increases. Figure 1 illustrates how the RHM explains relations between the lexicons of two languages and conceptual memory.

As previously mentioned, the RHM is originally built to explain how bilinguals represent two languages at the lexical level. Whether this model can further apply to sentence-level processing remains an open question in bilingual processing research.

2.5.6. Sentence-Level translations

Unlike the large body of research on word-level translation, only recently have experimental studies been conducted to explore the processes of sentence-leve translation from a psycholinguistic perspective. The main goals of these studies were to examine the RHM at a higher level and to offer empirical evidence for theories of translation in order to demonstrate which theory is more plausible as an explanation for the cognitive processes involved in sentence translation. Two conflicting psycholinguistic theories of translation were proposed decades ago.

Seleskovitch (1976) construed translation as a vertical process, in which people comprehend a source language (SL) first and then produce a target language (TL) in a sequential order.

Conversely, others researchers (Gerver, 1976; Danks & Griffin, 1997) advocate a horizontal perspective where translation requires direct links between SL and TL while reading the SL text.

Among the few studies to investigate translation processes, Macizo and Bajo (2004) investigated whether the RHM can be applied to the sentence-level and which of the two theories of translation can better explain the process involved in sentence translation. To investigate this phenomenon, the study compared reading for repetition and reading for translation using a self-paced word-by-word reading task. Professional translators (L1 Spanish-L2 English) performed these tasks in both directions, from Spanish to English (L1 to L2) and English to Spanish (L2 to L1), followed by global comprehension questions. Plausibility information was manipulated to test predictions of the RHM, since plausibility information can be related to meaning or world knowledge. The RHM predicted that if translations are mediated more through the conceptual level of representation in forward (L1 to L2) than backward (L2 to L1) translation, the effects of pragmatic cues would be evident in forward translation, but not in backward translation. Results showed that participants were affected by the pragmatic cues in the L1 to L2 direction, but not in the L2 to L1 direction, and that reading times were significantly slower in reading for translation than in reading for repetition. The authors interpreted their findings as support for the view that conceptual access mediates translation in the forward direction just like in word-level translation (Kroll & Stewart, 1994). In addition, they suggested that the increase of reading times in reading for translation supports the horizontal view because translators use the direct connections between the two language representations, which eventually increase reading times in reading for translation more so than in reading for repetition.

Another study by Macizo and Bajo (2006) also provided evidence that reading times were significantly slower in reading for translation than in reading for repetition. They manipulated lexical ambiguity using homograph (i.e., present) and memory load using different numbers of words between an ambiguous word (target word) and a disambiguating word. Results revealed that an interaction between lexical ambiguity and memory load was reliable when subjects were asked to read for translation but not for repetition. They took these findings as being in favor of the horizontal approach of translation because people use working memory resources to "activate and switch between the two languages" when instructed to translate (Macizo & Bajo, 2006, p.15).

Similarly, Hazidaki and Pothos (2008) explored questions as to whether the assumption of RHM that has been held for single word translation also applies to higher-level translation. Both Greek-English and French-English bilingual groups participated in text translation from L1 to L2 and L2 to L1 and in a word recognition task. Two groups of bilinguals were recruited to reduce any nuisance effects drawn from structural differences: Greek is a pro-drop SVO language with flexible word order, unlike French, which is more similar to English in terms of word order. A word recognition task was used to see whether semantic access is mediated depending on translation direction; participants were asked to recognize the actual words from the original text.

Results revealed that more accurate translations and fewer errors were observed in the L2 to L1 direction than in the reverse direction, consistent with predictions of the RHM. The data from the word recognition task, however, did not support the model's prediction, which expected more semantic errors in L1 to L2 translation. Even in a longer text, the semantic effect was not found in either direction from a word recognition task. They provided several possible accounts for the absence of semantic mediation. One important account among them was that highly proficient bilinguals might access both lexical and conceptual links in either direction, so there is not much difference in the results. In fact, there are studies (De Groot & Poot, 1997; La Heij, Hooglander, Kerling, & Van Der Velden, 1994) that showed that semantic mediation is involved in both translation directions; hence the more proficient bilinguals have more flexibility with using both lexical and conceptual links regardless of translation direction. Another explanation was that the translation asymmetry observed in earlier studies (e.g., De Groot et al., 1994; Kroll & Stuart, 1994) might occur only in single-word translation in the absence of context (Van Hell & De Groot, 2008).

To summarize, most existing studies have dealt with a word-translation paradigm to examine how words are represented in bilinguals (De Groot et al., 1994; Kroll & Stuart, 1994).

These studies suggest that translation direction plays a crucial role in lexical and conceptual access in two languages and that high proficiency helps to increase ease of access to concepts through L2 words. The findings from the studies on a higher-level translation appear to provide implications that even a sentence-level translation involves similar processes as a word translation.

But a sentence translation seems to involve concept mediations with greater flexibility than in a word translation between two languages regardless of translation directions. Another important implication from these studies is that cognitive processes required in a translation may differ from those in comprehension. Recall that task demand can modulate the depth of processing even in native processing (Christianson & Luke, 2011; Swets et al., 2008).

The observation that reading for translation takes up additional task demand in L2 speakers motivates the use of a translation paradigm in investigating L2 processing mechanisms in this dissertation. Little or no research in L2 processing has employed a translation task to explore L2 learner's comprehension in spite of the potentially helpful implications. This dissertation thus uses a translation task as a method to examine how L2 speakers deal with the linguistic input and to make comparison of how L2 speakers adjust reading processes depending on the reading task at hand. The next chapter presents Experiment 1 and 2, examining how Korean learners of English process different types of information in L2 through a translation paradigm.

2.6. Defining translation quality

Translation quality was divided into two major categories for assessment purposes: accuracy and clarity. The American Translators Association (ATA) applies a strict definition of accuracy in their accreditation tests. In the ATA's definition, the translator must not interpret but translate each word and grammatical function as defined in dictionaries and grammar texts. In the accreditation test, all words must be included and English editing is discouraged. The ATA's purpose is to reduce translation accuracy to the easiest level for mass testing, removing all possible arguments that may, and often do, arise because of interpretation. In my analyses, I applied a marginally more liberal view to translation accuracy; redundant words and phrases could be dropped if the meaning was not affected, and verbs that required interpretation to determine the tense were not counted as an accuracy error. However, if the interpretation of a verb tense affected the clarity of the English, it was counted as an English error.

I believe my view reflects a more real-world approach to translation because interpretation is required in almost all Japanese to English text translation.

Translation accuracy errors may create a document that is impossible to edit without reference to the original text. Therefore, priority was placed on translation accuracy; and errors in accuracy were not recounted as errors in English clarity. The criteria for both accuracy and English flowed from the process model and were divided into the following categories: word, syntax, logic, and subject knowledge.

2.6.1. Criteria for translation accuracy

Word-level criteria consisted of accurate translation of words and inclusion of all relevant text. Words necessary to the text but dropped in the translation were counted as errors.

To ensure fairness in the determination of translation accuracy at word-level, I designated a specific dictionary, Kenkyusha Japanese to English Dictionary, as the authority at the beginning of the training program. This dictionary is widely considered to be one of the best for Japanese to English translation. In the analyses, translations not found under the possible translations in the dictionary were considered errors. When the word was one of the possible translations, but out-of-context in the English text, the error was considered an English error.

Syntax-level criteria were divided into translation of grammatical functions, translation of verb tense and form, extraction of the core concept, and connections with sub-concepts. The criteria for accurate translation of grammatical functions required subjects and verbs translated as subjects and verbs, respectively. Modifying words and phrases had to be clearly attached to the word modified in the Japanese text. Assessment of translation accuracy of verb tense and form considered the different concept of time found in Japanese verbs. For example, the present tense in Japanese covers any moment from the present forward; English, on the other hand, uses future tense for actions not occurring in the immediate present. Therefore, the Japanese sentence, "The researcher will begin the test next year," could be literally translated as "the researcher is beginning the test next year." This type of translation met the translation-accuracy criteria but did not meet the criteria for English clarity. Accurate translation of core concepts and sub-concepts requires the main point of the sentence be clearly identifiable as the main point in the translation. All sub-concepts (the secondary points) had to show clear connections to the core concept.

2.6.2. Problems and issues related to consensus and coherence in TQA

There are some problems that stand in the way of consensus and coherence in TQA, in which practitioners and theorists disagree about.

a. Subject field and research interest

Many TQA models have been developed with literary, advertising and journalist translation in mind. The principles underlying them do not necessarily apply to other types of instrumental translation.

In addition, the main reason for designing a number of models has been on emphasizing cultural differences reflected in translations and in showing how high-quality translation may be "literal" or "free", which relies on the cultural and linguistic constraints involved.

(b) Deadlines

The time constraints imposed on the translator may be such, or may be claimed to be such, that application of a uniform quality standard is deemed unjustified. Furthermore, the "deadline" parameter is often the prime indicator of "quality" for many clients.

(c)Difficulty of source text

Translators, particularly those in the scientific and technical fields, often complain that assessment of their work has not been sufficiently weighted to account for the difficulty of the source text. But, how do you establish the level of difficulty of a text? Scientific and technical concepts and terms are not the only causes of difficulty.

(d) The evaluator

Another contentious issue is the competence of the evaluator to assess a given translation. Does the person have the linguistic or subject-field knowledge required? The client, whose knowledge may be limited, inevitably evaluates the finished product too. Indeed, the client's assessment may be the only one. Further, a number of translation researchers, including Hong and other functionalists, Dyson (1994) and Kingscott (1996), have implicitly or explicitly given precedence to the reader's response or requirements, not the translators' definition of an adequate translation, as the yardstick for gauging quality.

(e) Adaptation to end user

The notion of translation quality may not be suitable for the requirements of the client/end user/reader, especially with regard to learning style, vocabulary and level of language. For example, the use of standard French might be regarded as inappropriate in a text for technicians with the Canadian Armed Forces. However, the standard-language translation can be rated satisfactory in vacuum, without taking the end user's sociolect into account.

(f) Level of target language rigour

The most challenging issue in TQA is the lack of uniformity during the assessment of language errors. Elegant style is regarded as essential by some evaluators, while not by others. Some evaluators consider typos and spelling and punctuation errors to be peccadilloes and ignore them in their overall assessment, while others will regard them as serious because they are precisely the errors that the client/end user will detect. Scientific and technical translators believe that negative assessments of their work based on language errors do not reflect the true quality requirement of their field. In summary, the personal preferences of the evaluator may depend on the objectivity of the assessment process.

There are some other questions remains unanswered today such as "Is there a standard written English?" "What are its rules and conventions?" "Who writes it?" "What is the status of other written Englishes?" If the standard is unstable, the assessment of language error is an era of trade globalization and internalization of the English language becomes a risky exercise.

(g) Seriousness of errors of transfer

The same inconsistency exists in for assessing the level of accuracy of translation. Some evaluators will overlook minor shifts in meaning if the core message is preserved in the translation, while other believe on total "fidelity". It is the issues mentioned here and in (f) that have provoked the most intense debate, even outcry, over the validity, reliability and usefulness of TQA and have engendered accusations of subjectivity on a regular basis.

(h) Quantification of quality

Microtextual analysis of samples is being utilized by translators not only because it can save time and energy but also because it paves the way for error counts as a justification for a negative assessment. Translation services and teachers of translation have expanded TQA grids with several quality levels, or grades, based on the number of errors in a short text. It is felt that quantification lends objectivity to the assessment. The problems lies with the borderline cases. However, if we suppose that such a grid does not allow for many levels of seriousness of error, it is quite possible for a translation including one more error than the maximum allowed to be as good as, if not better than, another translation that contains exactly the maximum number of errors allowed and yet be rated unsatisfactory.

(i) Levels of seriousness of error

One way to ignore the disadvantages existing in the quantification of translation is to grade errors by seriousness: critical/major, minor, weakness, etc. The problem then is to look for a consensus on what constitutes a major, as opposed to a minor error. For example, an error in translating numerals may be regarded as critical by some, particularly in financial, scientific or technical material, while others will believe that the client will recognize the slip-up and automatically correct it in the process of reading.

(j) Multiple levels of assessment

As Darbelnet (1977) has identified, translation should be assessed by considering the accuracy of individual translation units, accuracy of translation as a whole, idiomaticity, correctness of target language, literacy and other artistic allusions, cultural differences, and implicit intentions of author (p.16).

(K) TQA purpose/ function

The characteristics which are necessary foe assessing translation quality built for formative assessment in a university context may be quite different significantly from one developed for predelivery quality control by a translation supplier. According to Hatim and Mason, "Even within what has been published on the subject of evaluation, one must distinguish between the activities of assessing the quality of translations [….], translation criticism and translation quality control on the one hand and those of assessing performance on the other" (1997, p.199).

Finally, regarding the training instruction, the characteristics of a TQA scheme may vary, which depends on whether the purpose is formative assessment (to provide feedback in support of the learning process) or summative evaluation (to provide evidence of translation competence in order for a student to be awarded certification, pass a course, etc.).