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Review of  Translation Studies and Eye-Tracking Analysis

Reviewer: Iya Khelm Price
Book Title: Translation Studies and Eye-Tracking Analysis
Book Author: Sambor Grucza Monika Pluzyczka Justyna Zajac
Publisher: Peter Lang AG
Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics
Issue Number: 25.4902

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Review's Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


The book is a collection of ten papers that report how eye-tracking methodology is used in translation studies, specifically at the University of Warsaw. This book will be mainly of interest to linguists looking into translation processes and using eye-tracking methodology, or to software developers who are interested in creating gaze-assisted interactional software. Translators might also find it useful, so they can better understand the processes that they engage in during translation flow and what factors might influence their effectiveness.

The papers in this volume touch on the importance, different aspects, and techniques of translation research in general. They also address the advantages of using eye-tracking methodology for studying translation, and discuss some of its technical aspects. Finally, they provide results of experiments that investigate translation-related issues. The first paper is an overview of the book and serves in place of an introduction. The next five papers are theoretical in nature, while the last four report on empirical data from eye-tracking experiments. The experimental papers analyze eye-movements based on Polish, Russian, and English, as well as eye-movements related to subtitling and audio descriptions for people with disabilities (deafness or blindness). Translator workflow, translator expertise, different modes of translation and text-type related phenomena are examined. The majority of the papers were provided by researchers affiliated with the University of Warsaw and their Eye-tracking Experimental Linguistics Laboratory, but some contributions were made by researchers from other universities in Poland and Germany.

The first paper, “Eye-tracking Supported Translation Studies at the University of Warsaw (Instead of Introduction)” by Sambor Grucza, Monika Pluzyczka, and Justyna Zajac serves as a roadmap for the book and gives a brief overview of each study included.

In Sambor Grucza’s paper “Heat Maps, Gaze Plots...and What Next? The Access to Translation Competences and Translation Processes”, the author gives a general overview of translation competences and processes. The paper elaborates on translation studies and text analysis in particular as one of the ways to examine translation competence. Finally, the paper underlines the effectiveness of eye-tracking as a method that makes it possible to reconstruct the translation process and focus on the translator’s cognitive processes.

Jerzy Zmudzki’s paper “Problems, Objectives, and Challenges of the Polish Translation Studies and Theory” is an overview of the translation-related issues that exist in Poland: translation theory development in Poland, and the role of different universities, organizations, conferences, and publications. This paper is geared towards an audience who is familiar with or interested in the Polish-related translation issues.

Marta Malachowicz’s paper “Knowledge --Transference -- Translation” presents the idea that when the translation process is described, ‘knowledge’, ‘transference’ and ‘translation’ have different meanings from when they are commonly used. In short, knowledge is not something that is contained in a text, but is a property contained in the human brain. The translator has to have the knowledge represented by the original text to be able to do the proper translation or ‘transference’ of this knowledge into a different language. This is particularly important for specialist texts that require not just knowledge of terminology, but also knowledge of the field to be able to understand the text according to the intentions of the ‘sender’.

Ewa Zwierzchon-Grabowska’s paper “Could Eye-tacking Help to Reconstruct the Translation Processes?” discusses different types of translation (interlingual, sight/written, audiovisual, audio descriptions, and subtitling), and how each of these types can be examined using eye-tracking methodology. The paper talks about the intermediate receiver and sender (the translator), whose processing of the text and translation strategies were not possible to properly examine by just looking at the product of translation or the receiver’s reaction. Eye-tracking allows investigation of the key participant in the translation process and not just its product.

The article “Eye-tracking Method and Measures” by Pawel Soluch and Adam Tarnowski describes the human visual system, showing how eye-movements are connected to cognitive processes, providing technical details specific to the types of eye-movements, and showing how eye-tracking performs the measurements. This paper is an overview of eye-tracking research and brings up issues related to human eye-movements during reading in particular that need to be considered before designing a study.

Monika Pluzyczka’s paper “Eye-Tracking Supported Research into Sight Translation. Lapsological Conclusions” is the first paper of the second part of the book that includes primary research articles. This paper describes a study that compared a professional translator’s eye-movement patterns to the eye-movements of sixteen students who translated the same text. The gaze plots and heat maps are presented in the paper. Differences between the professional translator’s eye-movements and the eye-movements of less experienced translators are taken to indicate cognitive processing characteristics. Even though the comparison of a group of sixteen participants with just one person might not be the best methodological choice for making generalizations, the paper mainly seeks to show the potential of eye-tracking research to shed light on the cognitive processes involved in translation.

The paper “Proactive Use of Eye-Tracking in the Translational Workflow” by Silvia Hansen-Schirra and Christoph Rosener examines eye-movements of the translator during the traditional computer-assisted translational workflow and proposes that eye-tracking before, during and after translation could improve the translator’s use of software through use of ‘gaze-assisted interaction’. To make the translation flow more efficient, the software used should be sensitive to the length and types of the translator’s eye-movements and should respond to the translator.

In the paper by Agnieszka Szarkowska, Izabela Krejtz, Krzysztof Krejtz, and Andrew Duchowski “Harnessing the Potential of Eye-Tracking for Media Accessibility”, the authors present the results of four eye-tracking studies on subtitling for the deaf as well as on audio descriptions for blind and sighted people. The eye-movement examinations indicate how people watch subtitles and how they perceive audio descriptions. It is suggested that the results may be used in audiovisual translation.
The last paper, “Eye-Tracking Research of Business Email Reception” by Justyna Zajac discusses the application of eye-tracking in examining reactions of business e-mail recipients. It shows particular places in the e-mail where the recipients focus their attention the most during reading. These eye-tracking results are compared with the qualitative analysis of business e-mail discourse. This paper talks about business practices in general and how e-mails are part of the business procedures, focusing on an international company that uses English as a lingua franca.


For the most part, the papers included in this book are related to some aspect of eye-tracking methodology and its use for studying translation. One of the book’s potential shortcomings is that the majority of the papers are based on research done by one group and in the same lab; thus there is a risk of presenting the issues in an unbalanced way.

All in all, some interesting ideas concerning eye-tracking research in translation studies are put forward in this collection, in particular, the book does not only shed light into how the translator’s mind works, but also shows how the knowledge about the translator’s cognitive processes can be applied to improving the translator’s practice (for example, through computer ‘gaze-assisted interaction’ software).The book would be helpful for researchers in translation or in psycholinguistics studying cognitive processes associated with translation. It could also be useful for translators themselves as they will be able to recognize some of the processes that characterize their workflow (e.g. text creation, repetitiveness of the during-translation tasks, post-translational editing, issues with transference of knowledge into another language, etc.) and see what could make translation more effective. Also, the range of the experiments described is diverse and covers a variety of topics, such as investigating cognitive processes of experienced versus not experienced translators, analyzing how the type of text influences the readers’ strategy, how tracking eye-movements can help improve computer-assisted translational workflow, as well as how audiovisual translation is perceived. The book offers a way to use eye-tracking to give clearer insight into cognitive processes during text processing. It shows that these processes depend on the text type, as well as translator’s task, knowledge, and experience.

The choice of the papers included in the book creates an impression that the book format is to some extent determined by the collection of papers that the editors had available at the moment. The different subjects that the book deals with are not equally represented. There are six papers which discuss issues related to eye-tracking methodology and translation, and only four papers showing primary research results of eye-tracking -- one of which (the last one), even though related to eye-tracking, seems to have little to do with translation, but rather deals with text analysis, so it seems somewhat out of place.

As for structural properties of the book, it is well-organized for the most part. The first half provides all necessary information about problems, translation processes, and eye-tracking methodology before going into the second half containing experimental data. All the experimental studies are different from each other, so it seems logical to include them all; they look at translation or eye-tracking from different angles and do not repeat each other or overlap. The experimental papers include easy-to-read pictures and graphs. It could be good to include a few more studies in the second half of the book, as four papers did not seem to show the full potential of eye-tracking research for studying translation, and could have left the reader with unanswered questions. Even though most of the papers are well-sectioned, some of the papers in the book are presented either in one single piece of text lacking structural clarity, or have sections that only have numbers but no headings or use other non-traditional ways to structure a paper. Another drawback is that some papers provide detailed theoretical motivation for the type of research done, while in other papers the motivation is unclear. Furthermore, most of the experimental papers in this book use a small number of subjects; and some do not use statistical analysis to compare the quantitative results. However, this field of research is still new, and the primary goals of the book may well be to emphasize the importance of developing the field of eye-tracking in translation studies and to encourage the future researchers to use it, particularly in Poland. These goals have been achieved despite the shortcomings.
I am a PhD student in Linguistics at University of Texas at Arlington, USA. My research interests are syntax and psycholinguistics, in particular sentence processing. My dissertation research is focused on processing of relative clause constructions in Russian. In my experimental research I mainly use eye-tracking methodology.

Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9783631634486
Pages: 213
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