Think-aloud protocols in translation research: Achievements, limits, future prospects

Silvia Bernardini
Scuola Superiore di Lingue Moderne per Interpreti e Traduttori, University of Bologna


Over the last decade, Think-aloud Protocols (TAPs) have been used extensively in process-oriented Translation Studies (TS). The serious questions regarding the experimental validity of this research methodology when applied to translation have nonetheless often remained unspoken. This paper surveys the breakthroughs as well as the limits of the growing body of literature dealing with TAPs in TS, points at the necessity to take issues of experimental, theoretical and environmental validity more seriously, and offers suggestions for improvements. The claim is that the risks involved in the adoption of a lax experimental methodology in TAP studies, often underestimated in the past, may invalidate not only the results obtained in the single projects, but, crucially, the method as a whole.

Table of contents

Interest in empirical research into the translation process has grown substantially in the last decade, driven by the idea that what goes on in translators’ heads while they are translating (versus what scholars had claimed might go on) is crucial to an understanding of translation, and is not derivable solely from an analysis of the final product, the translated text. The latter provides an incomplete and often misleading way into the translation process, hiding both successful strategies and problems.

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