Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Translation Testing and Evaluation: A Study on Methods and Needs

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Translation Testing and Evaluation: A Study on Methods and Needs

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Turkey has witnessed a proliferation of degree programs in translation in the last 20 years. Currently, there are over twenty higher education institutions which offer undergraduate programs in Translation and Interpreting (T & I) or Translation Studies (TS). Due to the limited number of graduates of T&I or TS doctoral programs in the country, most instructors working in these institutions come from a variety of academic backgrounds such as ELT, Linguistics, and Literature Departments, which affect the way they view, teach and assess translations.

Regardless of their backgrounds, the general tendency of translation trainers for the practice of testing falls parallel with the overall approach to testing and evaluation in Turkey. The typical translation exam involves the translation of a written text which students see for the first time. Students are allowed to use only dictionaries for resource and given limited time. Far from being real translation situations, such conditions are unfavourable, not to mention unrealistic (Dungan, 2011). Hatim and Mason (1997) point to the potential shortcoming of these tests and state that in such exams:

   [...] all the skills involved in translating are tested at once and
   errors do not necessarily show which skill is deficient. Moreover,
   test-takers are often prevented from demonstrating one of their
   skills--their 'transfer competence'--simply because the source text
   is too difficult for them to analyse and understand properly" (p.
   198).

In addition, if the text is selected according to its level of difficulty alone, then any number of problems might occur while students attempt to translate such texts under typical exam conditions in limited time. Kelly (2005) also criticizes such tests, stating that they are marked on the basis of the number of errors and that the positive aspects of students' work are not usually taken into account. Further complicating the task of evaluation is the lack of consensus in assessment.

The type of assessment that is commonly seen in the Turkish education system is summative assessment, which involves assigning grades throughout the semester for a variety of set tasks such as exams, quizzes and assignments. The students are then given a total average mark at the end of a semester to pass or fail a particular course. Traditionally, in the context of translation departments, the practice of testing involves the translation of a written text, selected on the basis of its difficulty, which students see for the first time. Although marking translations as a product tends to ignore the competencies of students during the translation process and penalizes students for their mistakes, such marking appears to be the common practice in the Turkish education system (Dungan, 2013). In other words, the activities translators engage in during production of a complete translation are not taken into consideration in the evaluation of translation, which is--or should be--an important aspect of assessment. The current study will try to delve into the translation process partly by investigating the use of different means for completing the translation task and examining the translators' views on each means.

While a typical translation exam environment involves the use of only paper dictionaries as a resource with the task to be completed within the limited time allotted, the use of electronic and online resources in the translation process needs to be integrated in the practices of testing and evaluation. Although no single approach is taken among Turkish universities in respect to the teaching of technology (Sahin, 2013), in most of those universities, at least introductory courses on technology are included in translation curricula so that students become familiar with the existing resources that they can use in their tasks. The term "technology" in this article covers online/electronic dictionaries, termbanks, termbases, translation memory systems, corpora, terminology management tools, online document management software, word processing and desktop publishing programs, social networking, search engines, machine translation systems, text-to-speech/speech-to-text tools, optical character recognition programs, and computers and its peripherals such as scanner, printer, digital camera, etc. …

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