Directionality and lexical selection in professional translators: Evidence from verbal fluency and translation tasks

Ewa Tomczak, Bogusława Whyatt


Lexical selection is a key process in any language-based communicative event, but in translation it occurs in the semantic network activated by two languages. The question asked in this article is how the direction in which translation proceeds affects the process and outcome of lexical selection by experienced bidirectional translators. The prediction from the available empirical evidence that lexical selection when translating into the translator’s L2 (learned language) is more cognitively demanding than when working into L1 (native language) is tested in an experimental study with translators who regularly translate into their L1 (Polish) and L2 (English). The participants performed verbal fluency tasks and translated two texts (a product description text and a film review) into their L1 and L2 (four texts in total). The entire process was recorded by key-logging, eye-tracking and screen capture programs. The results confirm that lexical selection is more demanding and less successful in L1>L2 translation, thus confirming the L2 cognitive disadvantage. Equipping translation students with effective error-preventing strategies and encouraging collaboration between translators and proofreaders could optimise lexical selection in L1>L2 translation.



Directionality, verbal fluency, lexical selection, bidirectional translators, expertise, key-logging, eye-tracking, screen capture.

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