Intercultural expert communication at the information age

Description

The satisfactory completion of complex tasks like the design of multilingual, multimedia documents requires extensive cooperation between qualified experts. This paper takes a general look at cooperation in the modern translation world, examining in particular the role played by artefacts. The possibilities and limits of information technology are analysed using results from the interdisciplinary fields of Usability and Computer Supported Cooperative Work, which can be used to model the cooperative aspects of translation. The current research project makes a contribution to an emerging paradigm change in Translation Studies and Technical Communication: It extends the classic study of human-text interaction to include interaction in teams working in computer-assisted, multimedia environments. A preliminary qualitative interview study looks at former translators who had migrated to technical writing. It considers both the social and technical backgrounds to these professions as well as the way translators and technical communicators see themselves or are seen by other people. Several commonalities and differences were uncovered, including the "exotic" role of translators and technical communicators in the business world or the relevance of IT skills. The results demonstrate just how resistant the traditional image of translation can be. The study recommends extending translation teaching to integrate technical editing and localisation, thereby significantly improving career prospects for translation graduates. This was complemented by a qualitative, participatory, ethnographic field study carried out in a translation agency with a strong international partner network. For four weeks, two researchers observed activities in the agency, which proved ideal for observing not only interaction in social networks, but also the use of technical aids. The resultant descriptions of actual work processes form an ideal case study for use in translation teaching. Discussions with the actors involved give authentic insight into the complexities of the modern translation profession. Translation technology is also subjected to a critical examination. While Translation Studies has freed itself from seeing sentence or sentence components as translation units to considering a text in its actual situation, Translation Memory Systems reintroduce the outdated notion of translation as a mere substitution of text elements. Critical, professional use is needed to ensure translators benefit from the potential increases in productivity and consistency, yet avoid a reduction in quality through segmentation and loss of context. The new professional profile bears little resemblance to the traditional view of the translator as a transliterator still encountered even today. The solitary all-rounder is replaced by an expert problem-solver, capable of working in a team to address complex, intercultural situations. The case study shows the diversity of partnerships in intercultural communication networks. Yet their members communicate not only as representatives of their specific roles, but also as individuals. Managing translation and interpretation project is far more about managing people than texts and deadlines.

Details

Duration 01/01/2001 - 31/12/2004
Funding Bundesländer (inkl. deren Stiftungen und Einrichtungen)
Department

Department for Knowledge and Communication Management

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