Research skills in translation studies : what we need training in

Pym, Anthony (2013-06)

Please cite as follows:

Pym, A. 2013. Research skills in translation studies: What we need training in. Across Languages and Cultures, 14(1):1-14, doi:10.1556/Acr.14.2013.1.1.

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This paper reports on evaluative comments made over some ten years on research by students in the doctoral program in Translation and Intercultural Studies at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain. The vast majority of the comments are found to involve general shortcomings that do not particularly concern Translation Studies. This would suggest that research trainees do not really need a doctoral program in Translation Studies. Other weaknesses stem from the relatively undeveloped intellectual position of Translation Studies as a discipline, especially with regard to unstable terminology, the attribution of authority to other disciplines, and tendencies to disappear into philosophical aporias, into indiscriminate data-gathering, and into the uncritical extension of vocational values or professional best practices. Some shortcomings, however, would seem more germane to the nature of translation as an object of knowledge. This particularly concerns the problems of describing translation quality and attempts to position the researcher as being external to the intercultural processes being investigated. Translation researchers, it is argued, are necessarily interpreting language in a way similar to translators, operating on the borders between stabilizing systems. That special position, which is specific in terms of degree rather than kind, makes hermeneutic work and self-reflection basic parts of translation research, and trainees need to develop the corresponding awareness. On the other hand, to limit oneself to empirical and often positivistic methodologies from other disciplines would be to de-intellectualize the way researchers engage socially and politically with translation.

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