Project

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Cognitive and Physical Ergonomics of Translation

Applicant Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen
Number 143819
Funding scheme Interdisciplinary projects
Research institution Departement Angewandte Linguistik Institut für Übersetzen und Dolmetschen Zürcher Hochschule für Angew. Wissenschaften
Institution of higher education Zurich University of Applied Sciences - ZHAW
Main discipline Applied linguistics
Start/End 01.01.2013 - 30.06.2015
Approved amount 330'000.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Applied linguistics
Health

Keywords (6)

ergonomics; translation; situated cognition; workplace; usability; human-computer interaction

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Like many other knowledge workers, translators spend much of their day making decisions at computers. If information flow or concentration is impaired due to non-optimal ergonomics, the efficiency of the process and the quality of the final product can suffer. This interdisciplinary project combines perspectives from translation studies, occupational health, usability testing, and language technology to investigate ergonomic issues at the translation workplace.
Lay summary

Like many other knowledge workers, professional translators spend much of their day making decisions at a computer: reading texts in one language, searching for background information in many languages, referring to terminology databanks to ensure consistency and appropriateness of lexical choices, checking parallel texts to decide how to meet the needs of the target readership, producing a text in another language, and revising the target text to produce the final translation. If the flow of information or level of concentration is impaired due to non-optimal workplace ergonomics, then the efficiency of the process can be compromised and the quality of the final product can suffer. Despite high levels of competence, professionals may not be able to perform at the expected level or they may have to exert inordinate effort to do so, with potentially detrimental consequences to their health and job satisfaction.

In this interdisciplinary project, models of situated cognition, translation competence, and organizational constraints provide the theoretical framework to consider and evaluate the cognitive and physical ergonomic factors that can impact the situated activity of professional translation. The recursive mixed-methods design of this interdisciplinary project combines perspectives from translation studies, occupational health, usability testing, and language technology. It includes ethnographic observation of the workplace, ergonomic assessments, questionnaires, interviews, computer logging, screen recordings, video recordings, eye-tracking, usability experiments, and retrospective verbalizations. A large corpus of data collected in a longitudinal precursor study of translation competence is the source of indications of ergonomic issues. Hypotheses about these are tested and refined with on-site ergonomic assessments and recordings of three groups of professional translators whose work conditions fit various profiles as well as with experiments in a usability lab, an online survey, and in-depth interviews. The data from each project phase are analyzed for indicators of cognitive dissonance attributable to the ergonomics of the human-computer interfaces or workplace conditions and are triangulated with the findings from the other phases.

The results of the project are expected to have implications for theoretical models of extended cognition and situated activity, workplace practice, education, and further developments at the human-computer interface as well as to provide insights into how the ergonomics of workplaces can be optimized, not only for professional translators but also for other knowledge workers in similar conditions.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 17.11.2014

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Ergonomics and translation workplaces
Ehrensberger-DowMaureen (2021), Ergonomics and translation workplaces, in van Doorslaer Luc, Gambier Yves (ed.), John Benjamins, Amsterdam, 67-72.
Translation, ergonomics and cognition
Ehrensberger-DowMaureen (2021), Translation, ergonomics and cognition, in Jakobsen Arnt Lykke, Alves Fabio (ed.), Routledge, London, 147-160.
The ergonomics of translation tools: Understanding when less is actually more
Kappus Martin, Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen (2020), The ergonomics of translation tools: Understanding when less is actually more, in The Interpreter and Translator Trainer, 14(4), 386-404.
Ergonomics of translation. Methodological, practical, and educational implications
Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen, Jääskeläinen Riitta (2019), Ergonomics of translation. Methodological, practical, and educational implications, in Brøgger Matilde Nisbeth, Dam Helle V., Zethsen Karen Korning (ed.), Routledge, Abingdon, 132-150.
An ergonomic perspective of translation
Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen (2017), An ergonomic perspective of translation, in Schwieter John W., Ferreira Aline (ed.), Wiley-Blackwell, London, 332-349.
An international survey of the ergonomics of professional translation
Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen, Hunziker Heeb Andrea, Massey Gary, Meidert Ursula, Neumann Silke, Becker Heidrun (2016), An international survey of the ergonomics of professional translation, in ILCEA Revue de l’Institut des Langues et des Cultures d’Europe et d’Amérique, 27, 1-21.
Physical ergonomics at translators’ workplaces: Findings from ergonomic workplace assessments and interviews.
Meidert Ursula, Neumann Silke, Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen, Becker Heidrun (2016), Physical ergonomics at translators’ workplaces: Findings from ergonomic workplace assessments and interviews., in ILCEA Revue de l’Institut des Langues et des Cultures d’Europe et d’Amérique, 27, 1-18.
Cognitive Processes
Angelone Erik, Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen, Massey Gary (2016), Cognitive Processes, in Angelelli Claudia (ed.), Taylor & Francis Routledge, Abingdon, 43-57.
Investigating the ergonomics of a technologized translation workplace
Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen, Hunziker Heeb Andrea (2016), Investigating the ergonomics of a technologized translation workplace, in Muñoz Martín Ricardo (ed.), John Benjamins, Amsterdam, 69-88.
Ergonomics of the translation workplace: Potential for cognitive friction
Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen, O'Brien Sharon (2015), Ergonomics of the translation workplace: Potential for cognitive friction, in Translation Spaces, 4(1), 98-118.
Interdisciplinarity in Translation and Interpreting Process Research
Maureen Ehrensberger-Dow (ed.) (2015), Interdisciplinarity in Translation and Interpreting Process Research, John Benjamins, Amsterdam.
Translation process research in the workplace
Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen, Massey Gary (2015), Translation process research in the workplace, in EST Newsletter, 46, 11-12.
Challenges of translation process research at the workplace
Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen (2014), Challenges of translation process research at the workplace, in MonTI Monographs in Translation and Interpreting, 7, 355-383.
Cognitive ergonomic issues in professional translation
Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen, Massey Gary (2014), Cognitive ergonomic issues in professional translation, in Schwieter John W. (ed.), Cambridge Scholar Publishers, Newcastle, UK, 58-86.
The Development of Professional Competence (TIS Special Issue)
Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen (ed.) (2014), The Development of Professional Competence (TIS Special Issue), John Benjamins, Amsterdam.
Translators and machines: working together
Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen, Massey Gary (2014), Translators and machines: working together, in Proceedings of XXth World Congress of the International Federation of Translators, 2014, 2014.
Describing cognitive processes in translation: acts and events (TIS Special Issue)
Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen (ed.) (2013), Describing cognitive processes in translation: acts and events (TIS Special Issue), John Benjamins, Amsterdam.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
UFMG Letra Brazil (South America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Dublin City University Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Institut des Langues et Cultures d'Europe, Amérique, Afrique, Asie et Australie (ILCEA4) France (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
CLS Communication Switzerland (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
ASSTI Association suisse des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes Switzerland (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
PACTE Spain (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Exchange of personnel

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
TRICKLET workshop Talk given at a conference From texts to ergonomics and back 25.02.2020 Aachen, Germany Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen;
KäTu XVII Symposium for Translation and Interpreting Studies Talk given at a conference Ergonomics matters in translation and interpreting 12.04.2019 Tampere, Finland Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen;
5th Applied Linguistics and Profressional Practice (ALAPP) conference Talk given at a conference Professional translation under pressure 05.11.2015 Milan, Italy Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen;
IATIS 2015 Talk given at a conference The situated act of translation: Incorporating feedback loops into the system 09.07.2015 Belo Horizonte, Brazil Massey Gary; Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen;
4. Schweizerischer Ergotherapie-Kongress Poster Ergonomie am Übersetzerarbeitsplatz: Welchen Einfluss haben ergonomische Eigenschaften des Arbeitsplatzes auf die Übersetzungsleistung? 12.06.2015 Bern, Switzerland Neumann Silke; Becker Heidrun; Meyer Annina; Hunziker Heeb Andrea; Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen; Meidert Ursula;
Translators at Work: Ergonomic Approaches to Translation Practice and Training Talk given at a conference Physical ergonomics at translators' workplaces: Findings from ergonomic workplace assessments and interviews 05.03.2015 Grenoble, France Meyer Annina; Becker Heidrun; Neumann Silke;
Translators at Work: Ergonomic Approaches to Translation Practice and Training Talk given at a conference Cognitive ergonomics at translators' workplaces: Initial results of an international survey 05.03.2015 Grenoble, France Hunziker Heeb Andrea; Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen; Becker Heidrun; Neumann Silke;
Translation Process Research Workshop 4 Talk given at a conference Investigating the ergonomics of the technologized translation workplace 15.01.2015 Las Palmas, Spain Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen; Hunziker Heeb Andrea;
4th International Conference on Teaching Translation and Interpreting Talk given at a conference Building competence and bridges: the potential of action research in translator education 28.11.2014 Łódź, Poland Massey Gary; Jud Peter; Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen;
14th Annual Portsmouth Translation Conference Talk given at a conference Students and professional practice: structuring intra-curricular interactions 08.11.2014 Portsmouth, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen; Massey Gary;
Translata II Talk given at a conference Constraints on creativity: the case of CAT tools 30.10.2014 Innsbruck, Austria Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen; Massey Gary;
ICEAL 2014 International Conference on Eyetracking and Applied Linguistics Talk given at a conference The cognitive ergonomics of translation: indicators from eyetracking data 26.09.2014 Warsaw, Poland Massey Gary; Jud Peter; Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen;
FIT XXth World Congress of the International Federation of Translators Talk given at a conference Translators and machines: working together 04.08.2014 Berlin, Germany Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen; Massey Gary;
Second International Conference on Research into the Didactics of Translation didTRAD 2014 Talk given at a conference Post-editing modules in translator training programs: Why, What, When, Who, and How 08.07.2014 Barcelona, Spain Massey Gary; Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen;
HaCAT 2014 Human in the Loop: Workshop on Humans and Computer-Assisted Translation Talk given at a conference Translators in the loop: understanding how they work with CAT tools (invited talk) 26.04.2014 Göteborg, Sweden Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen;
XI International ABRAPT Conference Individual talk Ergonomic issues at the professional translation workplace: reducing cognitive dissonance 23.09.2013 Florianópolis, Brazil Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen;
UFMG Invited talk Individual talk Ehrensberger-Dow, M., Exploring ergonomic issues at the translation workplace 19.09.2013 Belo Horizonte, Brazil Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen;
TREC Seminar on Empirical and Experimental Research in Translation Talk given at a conference The importance of cognitive and physical ergonomics at translators’ workplaces 02.07.2013 Barcelona, Spain Meyer Annina; Hunziker Heeb Andrea;
Optimale (Optimising the human factor in translation: facing the technological challenge) Individual talk Cognitive Ergonomics of the Professional Translation Workplace: Implications for Training and Practice 06.06.2013 Rennes 2, France Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen; Massey Gary;
AAAL 2013 Applied Linguistics in a Globalizing World Individual talk Cognitive Ergonomics and the Professional Translation Workplace 16.03.2013 Dallas, TX, United States of America Massey Gary; Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen;


Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
14e séminaire de recyclage des traducteurs et traductrices-terminologues du canton de Berne Workshop 24.08.2021 Bern, Switzerland Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen;
ITI Institute of Translating and Interpreting (webinar) Workshop 19.03.2020 London, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen;
MT-Meetup Talk 03.02.2020 Zürich, Switzerland Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen;
LQA Symposium Talk 28.01.2016 Zurich, Switzerland Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen; Massey Gary;
équivalences 14 Talk 24.10.2014 Bern, Switzerland Massey Gary; Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen;
DGT Translator Forum: Living expertise: What makes professional translators experts, and how they stay that way Workshop 06.02.2014 Brussels, Belgium Massey Gary; Ehrensberger-Dow Maureen;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Talks/events/exhibitions The changing (inter)face of professional translation International 2021
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Ergonomic considerations in translation theory and practice YouTube GETRADTEC: translation and industry International 2020
Media relations: print media, online media Why language professionals should care about ergonomics ITI Onwards and Upwards? Trends in translating and interpreting 2020 International 2020
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Working from Home – Ergonomically ZHAW Blog 'Language Matters' International 2020
Print (books, brochures, leaflets) ATA Chronicle International 2017
Print (books, brochures, leaflets) Übersetzerarbeitsplatz (in: BDÜ Best Practices) International 2017
Media relations: print media, online media Ergonomie am Übersetzerarbeitsplatz DÜV Bulletin German-speaking Switzerland 2015
Talks/events/exhibitions ASTTI-Regionaltreffen German-speaking Switzerland 2013
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Cognitive and Physical Ergonomics of Translation web International 2013
Media relations: print media, online media Ergonomic issues at the professional translation workplace ITIA Bulletin International 2013
Media relations: print media, online media Gesünder arbeiten Impact German-speaking Switzerland 2013
Media relations: print media, online media Übersetzern bei der Arbeit über die Schultern geschaut ZHAW Impact German-speaking Switzerland 2013

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
173694 Cognitive Load in Interpreting and Translation (CLINT) 01.07.2018 Sinergia
124653 Capturing Translation Processes 01.04.2009 DORE project funding

Abstract

Like many other knowledge workers, professional translators spend much of their day making decisions at a computer: reading a text in one language, searching for background information in order to understand the message properly, referring to terminology databanks to ensure consistency and appropriacy of lexical choices, checking parallel texts to decide how to meet the needs of the target readership, producing a text in another language, and revising the target text to produce the final translation. If the flow of information or level of concentration is impaired due to non-optimal workplace ergonomics, then the efficiency of the process can be compromised and the quality of the final product can suffer. Telephones ringing, people talking nearby, irritating pop-up notices on-screen, crowded websites, delays in computer responsiveness, small fonts, repetitive movements, uncomfortable chairs, and complicated procedures are just a few examples of ergonomically-related factors that can contribute to cognitive (over)load and stress. Despite high levels of competence, professionals may not be able to perform at the expected level or they may have to exert inordinate effort to do so, with potentially detrimental consequences to their health and job satisfaction.In the project proposed here, models of situated cognition, translation competence, and organizational constraints provide the theoretical framework to consider and evaluate the cognitive and physical ergonomic factors that can impact the situated activity of professional translation. The recursive mixed-methods design of this interdisciplinary project combines perspectives from translation studies, occupational health, usability testing, and language technology. It includes ethnographic observation of the workplace, ergonomic assessments, questionnaires, interviews, computer logging, screen recordings, video recordings, eye-tracking, usability experiments, and retrospective verbalizations. A large corpus of data collected in a longitudinal precursor study of translation competence will serve as a source of indications of ergonomic issues to form the initial hypotheses. These will be tested and refined with on-site ergonomic assessments and recordings of three groups of professional translators whose work conditions fit various profiles as well as with experiments in a usability lab, an online survey, and in-depth interviews. The data from each project phase will be analyzed for indicators of cognitive dissonance attributable to the ergonomics of the human-computer interfaces or workplace conditions and will be triangulated with the findings from the other phases.The synthesis of the translation studies, occupational health, usability testing, and language technology perspectives in the present interdisciplinary project will contribute to the development of an evidence-based model to explain the impact of cognitive and physical ergonomic issues on the situated activity of professional translation. From this, hypotheses can be derived about how such ergonomic issues can be dealt with and their negative consequences minimized. The results of the project are expected to have implications for theoretical models of extended cognition and situated activity, workplace practice, education, and further developments at the human-computer interface as well as to provide insights into how the ergonomics of translation workplaces can be optimized. These insights, in turn, can be incorporated into undergraduate, graduate, and professional development programs in translation and occupational health as good practice models of how to support and facilitate computer-based work not only for professional translators but also for other knowledge workers in similar conditions.
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