The Acquisition of Translation Competence through Textual Genre (V. Montalt Ressurrecció, P. Ezpeleta Piorno, I. García Izquierdo)

wings · 1 · 4344


  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
    • Posts: 72022
    • Gender:Female
  • Vicky Papaprodromou
The Acquisition of Translation Competence through Textual Genre

By V. Montalt Ressurrecció, P. Ezpeleta Piorno, I. García Izquierdo,
the Universitat Jaume I, Spain

Text genre can be a very useful educational aid when it comes to planning and carrying out the teaching of specialized translation.


Isabel Garcia-Izquierdo photoIn recent years the concept of translation competence has steadily gained acceptance up to the point where it has now become the most widely discussed issue in relation to translator training. Proof of this can be seen, for example, in the work carried out by Hurtado in the PACTE group (2001) or that of Kelly (2002, 2005, 2006). Translation competence is a complex, multifaceted concept that takes in a number of different aspects.

P. Ezpeleta Piorno photoMany researchers have adapted the literary studies tradition focused on text genres to both the field of linguistics and language teaching (Swales, 1990, and Bhatia, 1993, among others) and to translation (Hatim and Mason, 1990; or, for example, the work of the GENTT team, and more especially García Izquierdo, ed. 2005).

V. Montalt Ressurreccio photoIn this article we reconsider the value of the concept of text genre in translator training (and, therefore, in the make-up of translation competence), as well as in research on translation. Here, text genre is understood to be a conventionalized, and at the same time dynamic and hybrid, text form (Kress, 1985) that represents an interface between text and context, and between the source text and the target text (Montalt, 2003; GENTT, 2005).

The aim of this study is to go a step further in this line of thinking and explore the relation between genre and translation competence, on the one hand, and the communicative and textual sub-competence, on the other (Kelly, 2005). Indeed, the value of the concept of text genre in the acquisition of translation competence has already been addressed in previous works (Montalt, 2003; Montalt, Ezpeleta and García de Toro, 2005; Ezpeleta, 2005; or García Izquierdo, 2005a). Now, as we have said above, translation competence is a multifaceted concept that is made up of a number of sub-competencies and we believe it is possible to define in greater detail exactly which particular translation sub-competencies could be acquired by using text genre as a teaching aid. More specifically, the main hypothesis we will attempt to illustrate here is that this concept would be especially useful for acquiring what is known as communicative and textual subcompetence.

The acquisition of translation competence is a gradual process that is strongly influenced by the degree of complexity of the texts/genres the translator is working with. The greater the complexity of the text is, the higher the level of competence required of the translator will be. This explains why the relation between text genres and the communicative and textual sub-competence is also affected by the level of complexity and/or specialization of the texts that the translator has to deal with. Thus, following on with the line taken by the Gentt research team (, we will be focusing on the analysis of some genres from specialized fields (mainly medical/health care and technical genres) in an attempt to show that the relation between text genre and communicative and textual sub-competence, among others, can be very fruitful.


Translation competence; Communicative and textual sub-competence; Specialized translation; Text genre; Electronic corpora.

0. Introduction

The latest tendencies in Translation Studies highlight the need to diversify the way translation is analyzed by considering not only the variables that are traditionally addressed by the theoretical models (i.e. meaning, equivalence, skopos, and so forth), but also the multifaceted concepts that can help us to understand the mechanisms at play in the production of human and social interaction, of which translation is an example. One of these concepts, which is proving to be a valuable aid in the analysis, teaching and practice of translation, is the concept of text genre.

Hence, in this work our aim is to emphasize the usefulness of this concept and to take thinking on the matter a step further. Our intention is therefore to explore the relation between text genre and what is known as translation competence (TC).

More specifically, we will attempt to propose a pedagogical framework for developing translation competence based on the concept of text genre, with special attention paid to translation of areas of specialization. By so doing we hope to show how some of the sub-competencies into which translation competence can be broken down - particularly the one Kelly (2005) calls the communicative and textual sub-competence - can be acquired in an effective way by implementing this concept.

Our initial hypothesis is that, in these areas of specialization, texts usually have a very standardized format. Furthermore, from the socio-communicative point of view, they are always texts that satisfy very specific communicative needs and purposes which are to a large extent set by convention. This means that genre (as a category that combines the formal, socio-communicative and cognitive aspects of communication) can be very useful and a promising candidate for use as a way to acquire competence.

1. Translation competence

Translation competence is a complex concept that has been addressed by a number of researchers in the field of Translation Studies. Yet, as stated by Ezpeleta (2005: 136):

Reflection on the matter is a relatively recent development and results from empirical studies are still scarce. Some authors talk of translation abilities or skills (Lowe, 1987; Pym, 1992; Hatim and Mason, 1997) while others refer to translation performance (Wilss, 1989). The term competence - translational competence - was first used by Toury (1980, 1995), because of its similarity to Chomsky's (1965) famous distinction between linguistic competence and performance, to explore certain aspects of translation practice. Nord (1991) employs transfer competence and Chesterman (1997) called it translational competence.

Generally speaking, translation competence is defined following the pedagogical model of competence (the abilities, skills and attitudes needed to carry out an activity successfully) and it therefore affects different aspects of the translator's training (and work). This is the view taken by authors such as Király (1995: 108), for whom certain aspects, like the need to possess specialized as well as cultural knowledge, are shared with other professions (see also Pym, 1992). There are, however, aspects that are restricted to the realm of translation and which constitute the cornerstone of the definition of the concept of translation competence. As we shall now go on to see, here we are referring to specific know-how.

Neubert (2000: 3-18) claims that the practice of translation and, hence, teaching translation require a single competence that is made up of or could be considered to integrate a set of competencies that include, for instance, competence in both the source and the target languages. According to this author, to be able to answer the question as to what translation competence consists of, first, it is necessary to take into account a series of contextual factors underlying the knowledge and skills required of translators, namely: the complexity, the heterogeneity, and the approximate nature of the expert knowledge possessed by translators, since it is impossible for them to cover the whole range of aspects or fields within the areas in which they work. What actually happens is that they acquire the capacity to get an idea of the subject matter and facilitate understanding between experts belonging to different cultures and in different languages. As a result of the approximate nature of their knowledge, translation competence is always in a non-finite state of acquisition that requires translators to continually introduce new knowledge and, hence, to possess the capacity to be creative1. In order to attain the desired results translators also have to be aware of the situationality of translation and to be capable of adapting themselves to both recurring and novel situations, as well as being capable of dealing with the changing situations arising from the very historicity of their work.

These seven factors are closely intertwined and linked to each other, and they are present in all the processes involved in translation. They can be reformulated as parameters that each translator will develop to varying degrees depending on their own competencies and requirements. The five parameters that make up translation competence are: (1) language competence; (2) textual competence; (3) subject competence; (4) cultural competence; and (5) transfer competence. The interaction among these five competencies is precisely what distinguishes translation from other areas of communication.

In Spain, the work that has most clearly focused on defining this concept is that carried out by the PACTE group (1998, 2000, 2003, 2005). This team conducts empirical-experimental research with the aim of eventually being able to define the concept of translation competence and the process of acquiring it in written translation. More specifically, they propose a model of translation competence that they consider to be the underlying system of knowledge that is required to be able to translate (2000: 100; 2001: 39; 2003: 126) and which has, they claim (2005: 610), four distinguishing features:

(1) it is expert knowledge and is not possessed by all bilinguals; (2) it is basically procedural (and not declarative) knowledge; (3) it is made up of various interrelated sub-competencies; (4) the strategic component is very important, as it is in all procedural knowledge.

In fact, the Translation Competence Model proposed by this research team (2003) is made up of 5 sub-competencies and psycho-physiological components (2005: 610-611) that overlap each other as they operate.


Full article at:

Published - December 2008

This article was originally published at Translation Journal (
« Last Edit: 16 Feb, 2009, 20:59:23 by spiros »
Ο λόγος είναι μεγάλη ανάγκη της ψυχής. (Γιώργος Ιωάννου)


Search Tools