Research on Dictionary Use by Trainee Translators
It seems self-evident that dictionary consultation constitutes an important stage in the process of translation. Dictionaries provide translators with valuable information. However, if we want our students to be efficient users of this reference material, we need to understand how they use these sources of vocabulary in their work. Taking these two statements as starting points, our paper reports on some of our research findings, in which we discuss the results of an empirical research project, conducted with translation students at University Jaume I (Castellon, Spain), in order to establish how they use different types of dictionaries. We comment on the main objectives of our research and findings regarding the types of dictionary used the frequency of use, the main reasons for consultation, etc. The conclusion is that our students do not take advantage of the different dictionaries available. In addition, the results suggest that they are not familiar with electronic dictionariesCD-ROM dictionaries and online dictionaries.
It is a generally held belief that using dictionaries efficiently can provide valuable benefits to trainee translators. However, as some authors have stated (Roberts, 1992; Mackintosh, 1998; Corpas et al., 2001), there has not been enough empirical research to establish the profile of trainee translators as dictionary users. In this paper, we outline the results we obtained from an empirical research carried out among students of Translation Studies at University Jaume I (Castellon, Spain) in order to understand the situation of our students. In the first part of this paper, we briefly discuss questions related to offline dictionaries (type of dictionary, frequency of use, reasons for looking up words, difficulties when using dictionaries, etc.). In the second part, we look at to what point our students are familiar with electronic reference tools, mainly dictionaries in CD-ROM format and online dictionaries.
2. Dictionary use and trainee translators
Dictionaries, mainly monolingual dictionaries, are one of the most important tools for the translator due to their valuable lexical information. Nevertheless, authors such as Fenner (1989) or Robers (1997) state that dictionariesand lexicography in generaloccupy a secondary position in Translation Studies:
[...] dictionary consultation is a major component of the research phase of translation. However, [...] the role of dictionaries and dictionary use in this phase and, indeed all translation phases, is underestimated and even denigrated. (Roberts, 1997)
To our knowledge, there has not been enough research on trainee translators as dictionary users. This research is absolutely essential if we take into account that translators spend a substantial amount of time and effort when consulting these sources (Varantola, 1998). Furthermore, this research is relevant if we want to know these students needs and teach them how to use dictionaries efficiently. Generally speaking, works related to studying how students perceive and use dictionaries have been focused on students or learners of second languages2 (Mackinstosh, 1998; Varantola, 1998). We can take as an example the different research projects and theoretical works carried out by Baxter (1980) Bejoint (1981), Hartmann (1983, 1999), Humblé (2001) Luppescu and Day (1993), Campoy Cubillo (2001) or Winkler (2001). As we have stated above, this research hardly exists if we turn our attention to trainee translators. However, there have been several attempts such as the one carried out at the University of Ottawa, where several researchers analysed the use of dictionaries, mainly bilingual ones, on the part of trainee translators in forward and reverse translation (Meyer, 1988, 1990; Roberts, 1990). In line with the use of dictionaries while translating, we can mention other studies such as the ones developed by Starren and Thelen (1990), Mackintosh (1998), Varantola (1998), Atkins and Varantola (1998) Livbjerg and Mees (2003). Other works employ questionnaires3 to elicit information instead of observing trainee translators throughout the translation process (Corpas et al., 2001).
According to Roberts (1992), and many scholars, we
as language users need to know how to consult and
use dictionaries effectively in order to complete
the translation process with success. Moreover, the
dictionary is often the first source of information
that professional and trainee translators will use.
Taking into account the enormous value and benefits
an appropriate dictionary use can provide to trainee
translators, it seems quite obvious that we need more
information about the relationship between dictionaries
and trainee translators. And we can access this information
through empirical researches on habits of use, needs
and different problems dictionaries can cause to our
students. In order to solve this lack of research
we describe and comment on the main results of the
study we conducted with 98 first and second-year students
at the Department of Translation Studies at University
Jaume I (Castellón, Spain).
3. Design of the empirical research
The main objective of this study, which was carried out during the academic year 2002-2003, was to draw the profile of a group of first and second year translation students as dictionary users. In fact, we wanted to know their needs and habits of use. The general goals were the following ones:
98 first and second year translation students took part into this research. They were enrolled in two subjects from the degree course in Translation Studies: Translation for beginners and Translation (intermediate level). The main reason for our choice of these two subjects was due to the fact that they belonged to the first and second year of the degree course, and, in that way, we would be able to know the starting point of these students in terms of dictionary skills and dictionary use instruction.
a questionnaire for trainee translators (Sánchez
Ramos, 2004). It was based on the one developed by
Hartmann (1999): "Case study: The Exeter University
survey of dictionary use". Our questionnaire
included 39 questions. We asked students about types
of dictionaries, frequency of use, difficulties of
use, instruction in dictionary use, knowledge of electronic
dictionaries, etc. We specify questionnaire content
in fig. 1. Finally, we used the statistical program
SPSS to analyse the questionnaire data.
3.3. Analysis of results
The analysis of data provided valuable information related to dictionary use by our students. In the following, we present a brief description of some of the results we obtained4.
We also asked students about the specific types of dictionaries they used (table 3). Regarding bilingual dictionaries, students selected the Oxford bilingual dictionary (62.2%) and the Collins bilingual dictionary (58.2%). Other reference tools such as Cambridge, Vox, Sopena, Langenscheit, Harrap or Longman obtained very low percentages. Concerning English monolingual dictionaries, students again showed preferences for one published by Oxford (64.3%) and Collins (29.6%). Finally, in the case of the Spanish monolingual dictionaries, there was no doubt about their favourite: the Spanish dictionary edited by the Royal Spanish Academy of Language (68.4%).
It is also interesting to note that information about usage guide occupied one of the last positions. This suggests that our students hardly take advantage of these guides, which is not a very encouraging result if we take into account that they provide some useful information (organization of information, pronunciation guide, etc.). Familiarity with usage guides could produce an immediate effect in both understanding and time reduction of the looking-up process.
The second part of the questionnaire aimed to ascertain if our students used other types of reference material, specifically electronic tools. In the following paragraphs, we will describe some of the results we obtained.
In this paper we have given an account of the study we carried out with 98 trainee translators to discover their profile as dictionary users. It was our main objective to highlight the relationship between dictionaries and trainee translators due to the fact that we are aware of the importance of using dictionaries efficiently during the translation process. On the whole, our results confirm the general and theoretical assumptions obtained by other scholars about dictionary use and trainee translators (Mackintosh, 1998; Roberts, 1990; Varantola, 1998; Corpas et al., 2001), which enhance the view that our students need more training and, therefore, instruction in dictionary use. Up to this point, we have to comment that this research is a sample of what happened with our students, that is, these results cannot be extended to all students of translation. Nevertheless, in our opinion, we believe these results can contribute to our knowledge about trainee translators as dictionary users. To summarize the results of this questionnaire, we can point out two general ideas and conclude that:
Bearing these conclusions in mind, we hope to eventually move to further research by administering similar questionnaires to a more representative sample of trainee translators in order to gain knowledge of the general profile of students of translation and reflect on the pedagogical implications of developing dictionary skills among our students.Notes
1 This article is part of a research project (Ref: BFF2003-02561) entitled "Evaluación y Desarrollo de la Competencia Léxica a través de Internet en la Titulación de Filología Inglesa". This project is financed by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology.
2 Nesi (2000) describes in detail the main research work carried out about dictionary use and learners of languages. This quantity of academic work proves that this type of research is a well-developed area of study in this field.
3 Despite the fact that we should treat the use of questionnaires to elicit information with caution (Hatherall, 1994), we believe that they are adequate tools for providing preliminary data of a concrete research.
4 The complete questionnaire can be obtained from Sánchez Ramos (2004)
Atkins, B. S. and Varantola, K. (1998). "Monitoring dictionary use". In B. T. S. Atkins (ed.). Using Dictionaries. Tübingen: Niemeyer; 83-122.
Battenburg, J. (1989). A Study of English Monolingual Learners' Dictionaries and their Users. PhD dissertation. Purdue University
Baxter, J. (1980). "The dictionary and vocabulary behavior: a single word or a handful?" TESOL Quarterly, 14, 3: 325- 336.
Bejoint, H. (1981). "The foreign student's use of monolingual English dictionaries: A study language needs and reference skills". Applied Linguistics, 2, 3: 207-221
Campoy Cubillo, M. C. (2001). "Dictionary use and dictionary needs of ESP students: An experimental approach". International Journal of Lexicography, 15, 3: 206-228.
Corpas Pastor, G.; Leiva Rojo, J. and Varela Salinas, M. J. (2001). "El papel del diccionario en la formación de traductores e intérpretes: análisis de necesidades y encuestas de uso". In M. Ayala Castro (ed.). Diccionarios y enseñanza. Alcalá de Henares: Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Alcalá; 239-273.
Fenner, A. (1989). "Techniques, presentation and specifications". In C. Picken (ed.). The Translator's Handbook. Londres: Aslib; 43-58.
Hartmann, R. R. K. (1983). "The bilingual learner's dictionary and its users". Multilingua, 2, 4: 195-201.
Hartmann, R. R. K. (ed.). (1999). Dictionaries in Language Learning: Recommendations, National Reports and Thematic Reports from the TNT Sub-project 9. http://www.fu-berlin.de/elc/TNPproducts/SP9dossier.doc. [Consulted on: 19/08/2004].
Hatherall, G. (1984). "Studying dictionary use: some findings and proposals". In R. Hartmann (ed.). LEXeter '83 Proceedings. Papers from the International Conference on Lexicography at Exeter, 9-12 September, 1983. Tübinger: Niemeyer
Humblé, P. (2001). Dictionaries and Language Learners. Frankfurt am Main: Haag und Herchen.
Livbjerg, I and Mees, I. M. (2003). "Patterns of dictionary use in non-domain-specific translation". In F. Alves (ed.). Triangulating Translation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins; 123-136.
Luppescu, S and Day, R. R. (1993). "Reading, dictionaries and vocabulary learning". Language Learning, 43, 2: 263-287.
Mackintosh, K. (1998). "An empirical study of dictionary use in L2-L1 translation". In B. T. S. Atkins (ed.). Using Dictionaries. Tübingen: Niemeyer; 123-149.
Meyer, I. (1988). "The general bilingual dictionary as a working too in theme". Meta, 43, 3: 368-376.
Meyer, I. (1990). "Interlingual meaning-text lexicography: towards a new type of dictionary for translation." In J. Steele (ed.). The Meaning-Text Theory of Language: Linguistics, Lexicography, and Practical Implications. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press; 175-270.
Nesi, H. (2000). The Use and Abuse of EFL Dictionaries. Tübingen: Verlag.
Roberts, R. P. (1992). "Translation pedagogy: strategies for improving dictionary use". TTR, 5, 1: 49-76
Roberts, R. P. (1997). "Using dictionaries efficiently". Paper presented at 38th Annual Conference of the American Translators Association, San Francisco, California. http://www.dico.uottawa.ca/articles-en.htm. [Consulted on: 19/08/2004].
Sánchez Ramos, M. M. (2004). El uso de diccionarios electrónicos y otros recursos de Internet como herramientas para la formación del traductor (inglés-español). Tesis doctoral. Universitat Jaume I (Castellón).
Varantola, K. (1998). "Translators and their use of dictionaries". In B. T. S. Atkins (ed.). Using Dictionaries. Tübingen: Niemeyer; 179-192.
Winkler, B. (2001). "Students working with an English learners' dictionary on CD-ROM". Paper presented at Information Technology and Multimedia in English Language Teaching Conference, Hong Kong, 1-2 June http://elc.polyu.edu.hk/conference/papers2001/winkler.htm. [Consulted on: 19/08/2004].
Please see some ads as well as other content from TranslationDirectory.com: