Translation competence: Explaining development and stagnation from a dynamic systems perspective

Susanne Göpferich
Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany

Abstract

This article introduces Dynamic Systems Theory (DST) as a framework for the investigation of translation competence development. After a presentation of the basic concepts and assumptions underlying this theory, results from the longitudinal study TransComp will be discussed against the background of DST. TransComp is a three-year product- and process-oriented longitudinal study of the development of translation competence in 12 students of translation, whose translation products and processes were compared with those of 10 professional translators. The article outlines both the difficulties involved in the application of DST to the investigation of translation competence development and the added value that it promises for our understanding of developmental processes in translators, including the ways they can be fostered in translation training.

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Table of contents

The investigation of translation competence development is a field of research that is still in its infancy. Only about a decade ago, Schäffner and Adab (2000, viii) deplored that there had not yet been “a specific research focus within Translation Studies on how translation competence can be defined and developed”. The situation has changed since then. Both individual researchers and research groups have launched projects investigating the development of translation competence (see the overview in Englund-Dimitrova 2005, 14–15; and Göpferich 2008, 168–178). Longitudinal studies in the strictest sense of the term, i.e., of the same individuals at regular intervals during their training and later professional careers, are rare. [ p. 62 ]Only such longitudinal studies, however, can provide us with insights into the development of translation competence in its continuity.

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