Iulianna van der Lek is an academic researcher, teaching assistant and trainer at the KU Leuven (Belgium). She is part of the team for the SCATE Project and investigates several aspects of translation technology and its usage in the translator’s workflow.
What kind of work do you do in the academic and in the professional field?
I am working as a research and teaching assistant for KU Leuven, Faculty of Arts – Campus Antwerp. My research focuses on translation technology tools and terminology management. I am a certified memoQ, SDL and Memsource trainer, teaching beginner level workshops to postgraduate students, freelance translators, and project managers.
What are the common areas between the two fields? How do they overlap (if they do overlap)?
Research and teaching can, of course, overlap a great deal, especially when one focuses on related topics – translation tools and terminology management in my case. For example, I will be using some of the results of my field research related to SCATE (Smart Computer Aided Translation Environment) to improve parts of the curriculum of our Postgraduate Programme in Specialised Translation. Sometimes I also get new ideas for research from my teaching classes.
You research how translators work in practice. Can you draw a general overview for the readers?
The observations and interviews at translators and terminologists’ workplaces confirmed our assumptions that they need simple, user-friendly, yet powerful tools to help them accomplish their projects. It was also clear that they appreciate it if the tool can be easily adapted to the translators’ preferred way of working and not the other way around. Although traditional translation environment tools are still preferred by the majority, there are lots of usability issues that disrupt translators’ workflows and cause frustration. Therefore, translators should get involved as much as possible in the development of the future technologies.
MT is still used with caution not only because of confidentiality concerns, but also because it may have an impact on translators’ cognitive processes and lead the translation in the wrong direction. The Web is a great resource for terminology research and knowledge acquisition, but there were only a few translators among our participants who showed efficient web search and information retrieval strategies.
How should translators change their way of working? Is it actually changing?
Yes, it is changing, but slowly. There is still a lot of work that is being done manually, while there are some great technologies out there that can make some of these tasks less time-consuming. With the help of automatic term extraction tools, for instance, you can quickly create a glossary; corpus compilation and query tools, such as BootCat, AntConc and SketchEngine, can ease the process of acquiring domain-specific knowledge from the Web; automatic quality assurance tools can quickly detect missing tags, terminology consistencies and so on. We have noticed a general lack of awareness in some areas. Continuing education and professional development courses can help in this respect.
Which major changes (if any) in translators’ education did you see in the last 10 years or so?
I probably do not have a good overview of what happened in the last 10 years because I only joined academia in 2014. According to some recent studies, very little has changed though. A recent study led by Prof Anthony Pym showed that there are still complaints about the European Masters in Translation Programmes, namely that they do not meet the necessary training standards because they do not provide enough language-specific courses or vocational training. In addition, some programmes introduce translation technologies very late in the translator’s training, i.e. only at MA or Postgraduate level. Nevertheless, in the last three years, I have seen more initiatives between academia, the industry, and translators’ associations in developing high-quality training programmes, summer schools, conferences, etc. It is clear that there are plenty of opportunities for training, networking and keeping up with the trends.
Which subjects should we focus on when training translators?
Besides pure translation and language-specific courses, it is essential that future translators have a good overview and basic understanding of the whole product life-cycle before starting to work in the industry. They should understand how content is created (e.g. technical communication course) and what skills (e.g. transcreation), processes (e.g. web and software localisation, workflow management), and technologies (e.g. CAT, MT, term extraction, speech recognition) are needed to help localise and translate that content into the target language of another market. Apart from courses, it is also important that students receive proper guidance when selecting their modules.