Translation under Pressure and the Web: A Parallel Corpus-Study of Obama's Inaugural Speech in the Online Media

By Jimenez-Crespo, Miguel Angel | Translation & Interpreting, January 2012 | Go to article overview

Translation under Pressure and the Web: A Parallel Corpus-Study of Obama's Inaugural Speech in the Online Media


Jimenez-Crespo, Miguel Angel, Translation & Interpreting


Time pressure has been recognised as one of the most prevalent situational factors in professional translation (Bayer-Hohenwarter, 2009; Charron 2005; Bowker 2004). During recent years, time pressure has been gradually increasing with the introduction of translation technology tools and the ever- increasing immediacy of Internet mediated communications. The impact of this digital revolution has not been overlooked by translation researchers, with several publications discussing this issue mostly from the perspective of translation memory use (Barlow & Bowker, 2008). Nevertheless, despite a relatively small number of process-oriented studies on the time pressure (Jensen, 1999; De Rooze, 2003; Sharmin, et al. 2008), there are no studies that focus on the features of actual published translated texts that are produced under pressure, as opposed to translations produced under controlled experimental conditions. Therefore, one of the goals of this paper is to attempt to shed some light onto the effects of time pressure on the published language of translation (Frawley, 1984; Olohan, 2004). This dynamic object of research has been widely studied since the emergence of corpus-based translation studies, and it will inevitably undergo changes as an increasing number of texts are translated with quick-turnaround deadlines for Internet distribution.

Methodologically, this study is based on a parallel corpus of translations of Obama's inaugural speech in the Spanish language media collected in the twelve hours following its delivery. Given the rhetorical and creative nature of this 2401-word speech, it is assumed that the translations collected constitute a unique representation of the effect of the Internet not only on the quality of the translated texts, but also on strategies and mechanisms used in the professional world to deliver translations under strict time deadlines. In this sense, this study is at the crossroads between previous research on how time-induced stress impacts the cognitive process and how the translation profession is being impacted by both the immediacy that the Internet affords and the expectations of the target audience. The potential uncontrolled variables in this setting are many--professional status of translators, use of machine translation post editing, use of spell checkers, types of intermediary versions, etc. Nevertheless, this corpus-based methodology can add to this body of knowledge on time pressure through the additional layer of translation understood as a professional activity subject to time and money constraints. In order to create a continuum between previous experimental studies and the approach taken, the results will be contrasted with those in the doctoral dissertation by De Rooze (2003), more specifically, with the data obtained in experiments with professional translators (1). This comparison will also allow the investigation of whether the effects of time pressure as a specific constraints in professional practices appears in published texts.

Time pressure in Translation Research

The interest in research into the effects of time pressure in translation can be traced back to the introduction of the cognitive paradigm in Translation Studies (Shreve & Diamond, 1997; Alvstad et al. 2011). This type of research intended to shed some light on the cognitive processes during translation tasks that were not visible through direct observation, thus the introduction of the concept black box (Shreve & Diamond, 1997). Most studies following this paradigm have as a goal to introduce in Translation Studies the rigorousness and objectivity brought by empirical methodologies, mostly borrowed and adapted from the fields of psychology, psycholinguistics and cognitive psychology (Halverson, 2009). As a result, the very few studies on time pressure rely on controlled experimental methods (Hansen & Honig, 2000; Jensen, 2000; De Rooze, 2003; Sharmin, et al. 2008). …

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