Don’t Mind the Gap: Using Technology to Empower English L2 Translators

Birmingham Centre for Translation

Research Seminar Series 2015-16

Don’t Mind the Gap: Using Technology to Empower English L2 Translators

Tuesday 1 March 2016, 1-2pm, Ashley Building, Room 422


Speaker: Prof. Frank Austermühl (Aston)

The lack of translators who are native speakers of English is an often-lamented feature of today’s professional translation landscape. International institutions and translation agencies alike have adjusted, some faster and less reluctantly than others, to the inevitability of having their translators work into English as a second language. In academic institutions, many of which are still adhering stubbornly to the mother-tongue principle, acceptance of these market realities has often been slow. The same goes for some professional associations.

This presentation, which will primarily aims at showing how the use of electronic tools can reduce the gap between native and non-native English translators, starts from the following assumptions: (1) The lack of qualified translators with English as a mother tongue is here to stay, and will likely grow larger in the future. (2) Clients and training institutions alike will need to accept that more and more translations into English will be done by non-native speaker of English. This phenomenon will be much more pronounced in certain languages. (3) There are differences between L1 and L2 translations, and there is a natural tendency towards better performance by native speakers. (4) This performance gap is less significant for certain types of translations, and dependent on the level of a number the translator sub-competences. (5) The use of electronic resources (dictionaries, termbases, translation memory systems, and, above all, electronic corpora) will contribute to reducing this performance gap to a point where there is no difference between L1 and L2 translations, or where there might indeed be a better performance among L2 translators due to their ability to reach a deeper understanding of the source text.

The core of the presentation will focus on illustrating how one of the resources mentioned above, i.e., the idea of the Web as Corpus (WaC) and to a lesser extent the use of the Web for Corpus (WfC) compilation, could effectively empower non-native English translators and close the gap to their native speaker colleagues.

Frank Austermühl is Professor of Modern Languages with a Chair in Translation Studies at Aston University.