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Translation assessment. Dr. Constanza Gerding Salas Based on Sonia Colina’s Translation Teaching (2003 ). Universität Leipzig -Universidad de Concepción, May 2012. Assessment today. Evaluation vs. assessment ( Colina , 2003)

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Dr constanza gerding salas based on sonia colina s translation teaching 2003

Translation assessment

Dr. Constanza Gerding Salas

Based on Sonia Colina’s Translation Teaching (2003)

Universität Leipzig -Universidad de Concepción, May 2012


Assessment today

Evaluation vs. assessment (Colina, 2003)

Evaluation refers to the quality of the translation product regardless of the method and procedures used.

Assessment uses the translation product to determine the translator’s competence.

Leipzig -Concepción, 2012


Quality assessment

Qualitative statements can be made on the basis of a comparison between TT and ST, bearing in mind the brief and the situational context (House, 1997).

A communicative approach to the evaluation of translations should consider error assessment focused on the communicative function of the word, phrase or sentence in question (Kussmaul, 1995).

Evaluators should restrict themselves to the effect the error has on the target reader (Kussmaul, 1995).

Leipzig -Concepción, 2012


Purpose of evaluation

Summative vs. formative assessment (Hatim & Mason, 1997).

Summative assessment: to establish whether a translator (student) is fit to be accepted in a translation program, move on to the next level, practice as a professional translator, etc.

Formative assessment serves as an aid to the learning process by providing continuous feedback on the development of translator competence.

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Leipzig -Concepción, 2012


Achievement vs. proficiency testing

Achievement testing (formative) determines whether the goals and requirements specified in the syllabus have been met.

Proficiency testing (summative) measures ability in relation to that required for a particular course of action, e.g. work as a professional translator (Colina, 2003).

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Testing translation

Testers should consider the following questions:

What is translation competence?

What am I looking for in assessing translation competence?

Can multiple translation sub-competences be distinguished?

A working definition of competence must be established prior to test elaboration.

Teaching and testing materials must be designed on the basis of such definition(Colina, 2003).

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Componential model

  • Separate componential scoring criteria could be used for testing multi-componential translation skills(Bachman, 1990; Cao, 1996).

  • E.g. language competence criterion, knowledge structures criterion, translation strategies criterion, etc.

  • Assessment frequently shows these weaknesses:

  • No brief

  • No relationship between test and class practice

  • Test selection based on text difficulty only

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Test format

A good test should meet at least these four criteria(Carroll, 1980):

Economy: obtaining the maximum amount of information about student’s competence with a minimum of effort on part of the test designer.

Relevance: a match between the test and the curriculum and course goals.

Acceptability: the learners’ satisfaction that the test evaluates their progress.

Comparability: similar scores across learners for different tests for the same group of learners .

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Checklist for a quality translation test

  • Does it provide a brief and/or pragmatic information?

  • Does it include format specifications?

  • Does the test have a stated purpose?

  • Has it been designed accordingly?

  • Does it specify what competences are to be tested? (Not necessarily on the test itself).

  • Is it economical, relevant, acceptable and comparable?

  • Does it state clear grading criteria?

  • Does it test what was taught and how it was taught?

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Errors in translation

Nord (2009: 236) proposes a definition of error in translation based upon the principles of translation difficulties and translation problems.

There are no standards for every translation case. In functional translation, the normative framework to assess quality is given by the translation brief.

Errors are identified by comparing the student’s TT with the profile of an ideal translatum derived from a brief and considering specific translation problems (Nord, 2009).

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Defining translation error

  • A translation error is any violation of the standards stipulated in the translation brief with respect to specific functional aspects (Nord, 2009).

  • A translated text can only be evaluated in relation to a given translation aim. Translators must know that aim.

  • A translation task must be feasible, i.e. in accordance with student’s knowledge level.

  • Time restrictions and quality standards must correspond to task’s degree of difficulty (Nord, 2009).

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Identifying errors (Nord, 2009)

  • Most translation problems are identified during pre-translation analysis, having situation, pragmatics, culturemes, and linguistic structures in mind.

  • The horizon of expectations should consider only those translation problems whose solution is to be assessed.

  • Each adequate solution is given a number of positive points. The addition of these points makes up the score that should cover the solution to all translation problems included in the horizon of expectations.

  • The student’s mark should be calculated on the basis of the percentage of adequate solutions given (Nord, 2009).

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Factors determining difficulties (errors)

  • According to Nord (2009), the degree of difficulty of a translation task is determined by:

  • Textual difficulties: complexity y specificity of ST

  • Technical difficulties: number and quality documentation sources available

  • Professional difficulties: translation brief (TT functions, readers, means, perfection degree demanded for the TT

  • Competential difficulties: students’ a) linguistic, cultural and translational level and b) general and specific knowledge

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Nord’s error categories

  • Nord (2009) proposes a broad error taxonomy based on the translation problem categories and the inadequate solution or the absence of a solution in relation to a given brief. The categories are listed in order of importance:

  • PROBLEM ERROR

    • pragmatic PTP = PTE

    • cultural CTP = CTE

    • linguistic LTP = LTE

    • extraordinary ETP = ETE

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Error weight

Theweight of an error will depend on how much it affects the intelligibility of the TT in relation to the brief and the communicative situation.

According to Nord (2009), cultural errors do not always impede understanding but they only “hinder” communication.

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Factors affecting grading (Kussmaul, 1995)

  • Grading is not simple

  • Should pragmatic errors weigh more heavily?

  • How far-reaching is the mistake?

  • Does it distort meaning?

  • Does it hinder/destroy communication?

  • Pym (1992: 279) proposes ‘binary’ and ‘non-binary’ errors:

  • Binary error: clearly wrong choices

  • Non-binary errors: based on the choice from potential TT variants (‘It’s correct, but…)

  • Both authors recommend the non-binary error approach

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Error category for evaluation (Kussmaul, 1995)

Cultural adequacy

Situational adequacy

Speech acts (what was said & implied, & its effect)

Meaning of words (misinterpretation of text)

Language errors: Do they impede comprehension or bring discredit on the author?

ST defects. Can meaning be inferred?

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Grading criteria

  • Colina (2003: 136) proposes a descriptive profile, i.e. a numerical score that is described according to rating criteria:

  • 5 = TT reveals careful consideration of brief and very

  • appropriate translation solutions.

  • 3 = TT reveals consideration of brief and acceptable

  • translation solutions.

  • 1 = TT reveals no consideration of brief and poor or

  • inconsistent translation solutions.

  • (Model does not provide explicit description of 2 and 4).

  • In componential rating, each skill tested is graded separately and final mark is obtained from weighted average.

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Multi-componential grading criteria

Colina (2003) proposes a 100-point grading criteria rubric based on five components:

For component descriptions, see Colina 2003: 137-138.

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Translation competence grading criteria

  • Hatim & Mason (2007) based their model on Bachman’s paradigm (1990).

  • It consists of two types of skills:

  • 1. ST & TT processing skills (40 points)

    • Intertextuality & rhetorical structure (genre, text type)

    • Texture & structure (lexical choice, syntax, cohesion)

    • Situationality (context)

  • 2. Transfer skills (60 points)

    • Effectiveness

    • Efficiency

    • Relevance

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Translation competence grading criteria: Cao’s model (1996)

  • Translation Language competence (30 pts.)

    • Organizational: grammatical/textual

    • Pragmatic

  • Knowledge structures (20 points)

    • Cultural

    • Topical

  • C. Strategic competence (50 points)

  • Criticism: this model assigns between 25% and 30% of the score per category even if competence is assessed as ‘deficient’ or ‘lacking’.

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Colina’s scale for evaluating translation competence (2003: 143-144)

ST dependence/adequacy: 25 points

TT adequacy: 25 points

Vocabulary, specialized knowledge, research (15 points)

Functional & textual aspects (25 points)

Revision process (10 points)

Description of all categories given by author.

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Useful strategies (Kussmaul, 1995: 150-152)

Find out the exact function or purpose of your translation

Classify your translation problems

Use the parallel-activity technique to remove mental blocks

Remember there is divergent thinking and flexibility

Verify if SC & TC coincide or diverge about that problem

Use parallel texts to find out about TT conventions

Do not stick to formal equivalents; be creative

Use notions, pictures and experiences in your memory

Make use of situational analysis

*Informants are the best dictionaries

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Elaborating tests for the CTC

  • Student’s checklist

  • Translation brief and text formalities

  • Text types and genres

  • Pragmatic factors in ST & TT

  • Decision-making

  • Research and documentation

  • Parallel text analysis

  • Translation

    • ST analysis and comprehension

    • Reformulation

    • Revision

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Sample Test

  • A. Instructions

  • Read the whole text before translating.

  • Type your name in full on the top right corner of a new blank document of Word.

  • Save the document at once under your name, not “Test 5”.

  • Format: margins, font type and size, spacing and page size similar to those of the original.

  • Fit the target text on one page only.

  • Time assigned for the whole task: 90 minutes (589-word text).

  • Draft translation should be finished in half the period so as to have time to revise TT.

  • When ready, close the file and send it to [email protected]

  • Do not include source text, instructions or brief in your document.

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Test text commission

  • B. Commission

  • This editorial is a complete text unit

  • Translate the whole text into Spanish

  • The target text is intended to be published in El Mercurio, Santiago, Chile, in the form of an opinion column. The text should be source-oriented.

  • C. Pragmatic information

  • Source: The Opinion Pages of The New York Times

  • Means: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/09/opinion/haitis-slow-recovery.html?scp=2&sq=editorial%20haiti&st=cse

  • Target readership: mainly Chilean adults

  • Type of readership: conservative, educated adult readers

  • Register: in accordance with readership and publication

  • Text function: informative, right-wing focus

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Other possible test items

  • Cloze passages (open or multiple-choice) to supply the missing word(s)

  • Brief writing

  • Précis writing

  • Short answer, multiple-choice or T/F questions on content discussed in class, e.g.:

    • What is an editorial? Who writes the editorial in a newspaper? (Text type and function)

    • What is the difference between ‘un editorial’ and ‘una editorial’? (SL culture; language issue)

    • Are there any differences between newspaper editorials in the USA and in Chile? (Cross-culture)

    • What are the main translation problems of editorials? (Translation competence)

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Thank you!

Leipzig -Concepción, 2012


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