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A young researcher focuses on the use of technology in translation courses

Mafoya Doussoumon, Communications Intern
Language Technologies Research Centre


On February 25, 2014, the Language Technologies Research Centre (LTRC) announced new directions for the organization, which include adopting digital technology and developing business intelligence technology. This shift in direction will allow the LTRC to bring more innovation experts together. As part of this repositioning process, the LTRC has created its Promotional Program for Junior Researchers (Programme de valorisation des chercheurs émergents) in language and business intelligence technologies. The program targets researchers who are either beginning or currently doing a master’s degree or doctorate in a related field, in language studies, or in technologies that could be used in these fields.

Jessica Cyr is a master’s student in Translation Studies at the University of Ottawa. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in translation and writing from the Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO). She is interested not only in professional translation and translation pedagogy but also in bridging the gap between training and the workplace. She wants to focus specifically on how language technologies are used in practical translation courses. We met with her to discuss her research.

Here is the transcript of our interview with Jessica Cyr.

Describe your path as a student in translation and language technologies.

In 2009, I started the bachelor’s program in translation and writing at UQO in Gatineau. Over the next three years, I acquired a range of translation knowledge and skills, including some in computer tools for language professionals. Since my classes were often held in a computer lab, I quickly learned about language technologies. Also, because the LTRC was close to the university, my classmates and I had the chance to test LinguisTech’s virtual office. This innovation in the language field, which provides users with access to an entire range of tools, piqued my curiosity and prompted me to think about how the community views language technologies. I first wrote about the topic in a blog on LinguisTech’s website in the summer of 2011, when the virtual office was being developed. I received my bachelor’s degree in 2012 and then enrolled in the master’s program in translation at the University of Ottawa to pursue my research in translation pedagogy. Given the limitations inherent in a master’s project and my interest in language technologies research, I decided to make that field of research the focus of my thesis.

Why are you interested in translation pedagogy?

My experience as a translation student has raised questions in my mind about how the subject is taught, with reference, for example, to professors’ and course instructors’ roles, university curricula and teaching methods. Also, because I hope to teach translation at university, I would like to contribute to research in translation pedagogy.

Why are you interested specifically in what is happening with language technologies in practical translation courses in Canada?

In Canada, as you know, translation is practised in a very distinct context, primarily because of the Official Languages Act. In keeping with a linguistic policy like ours, all documentation must usually be produced in both English and French. As a result, there is no shortage of work for translators, and they often need help, in particular from language technologies. On the basis of my experience and general observations, although today these technologies are a must for the translator’s toolbox, students in university programs are not taught how to use these tools in practical translation courses. Instead, they are taught about language technologies in courses that involve no practical translation. Then, when the students enter the workforce as new translators, in the midst of a number of other challenges, they face a significant technical challenge that definitely affects their work and professional development. In order to suggest ways of integrating these tools more effectively into practical translation courses, I first want to understand their role in these courses.

What hypotheses are you exploring in terms of how language technologies impact practical translation courses?

In my research, I don’t advance any particular hypothesis. This is an exploratory study. I simply want to examine teaching practices and learning practices related to language technologies in practical translation courses in order to understand their role in these courses. This will also make it possible to identify best practices in language technologies.

What do you think the future holds for language technologies in practical translation courses in Canada and in the professional world?

I believe language technologies, particularly translation memories, are here to stay and that their use in the workplace will only increase. Of course, they will undoubtedly evolve, I hope, with feedback from users, i.e., translators. In order to use these technologies proactively in the workplace, translators must first master them as students so that they are not intimidated by the tools available to them.

LTRC: Obviously, this prediction could change in light of your research and the analysis of your findings. A second interview at that time could be quite interesting!

Why did you decide to join the LTRC’s Programme de valorisation des chercheurs émergents? What are the advantages, and what do you hope to gain from it?

Since my ambition is to “change the world” of translation pedagogy, or rather bring the world of translation into the age of technology, I would like to take advantage of the visibility the program can bring to my research and also make my findings available to all, along with the suggestions I provide in my thesis, which will be published in 2015.