Reconceptualizing breaks in translation: Breaking down or breaking through?

Erik Angelone, Álvaro Marín García


Various observable on-screen translator behaviors, such as extended pauses in activity, mouse hovering, cycling through tabs/windows, and different kinds of scrolling, all common occurrences during task completion, have been regarded as potential problem indicators (cf. Angelone, 2018). Their presence is often attributed to a breakdown in declarative and/or procedural knowledge at a concrete problem nexus (Angelone and Shreve, 2011). Inspired by recent translation process research on aspects of cognitive ergonomics, pause-related cognitive rhythms (Muñoz and Cardona, 2018), and Kussmaul’s notion of parallel activity in the translation process (1995), we re-examine such phenomena through a different lens. We propose these phenomena may represent the loci of volitional, potentially strategic breaks rather than problem indicators per se. That is, the breaks observed are not necessarily linked to specific problems, but rather to subjects’ cognitive resource management. Our findings suggest that apparently random behaviors, seemingly unrelated to the task, generally have a positive impact on performance from both process and product perspectives. We refer to these breaks as instances of cognitive suspension, and, based on our findings, propose that translators engage in them as a refresh mechanism when performance has either waned or runs the risk of doing so. We start by examining cognitive suspension in terms of types and scope. This is followed by an empirical analysis of its direct impact on translation performance, as established by number of errors, number of generated characters, and number of typos within established windows (areas of interest) that precede and follow its occurrence.



Translation process research; cognitive suspension; parallel activity; cognitive translation studies

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