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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts
December 5, 2016
Canadian Excellence



Languages and Literatures

Dr. Schwieter and Dr. Ferreira’s book on translation processes and linguistic competence published

Jan 2/14

Headline title: Dr. Schwieter and Dr. Ferreira’s book on translation processes and linguistic competence published

Dr. John W. Schwieter, associate professor of Spanish and linguistics and director of the Psycholinguistics and Language Acquisition Laboratory (BA415), and Dr. Aline Ferreira, post-doctoral research fellow in psychology and associate director of the Psycholinguistics and Language Acquisition Laboratory, have edited the book, “The development of translation competence: Theories and methodologies from psycholinguistics and cognitive science” (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014). Cambridge Scholars Publishing is an international press which publishes academic titles in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. The book project was an international effort featuring 25 chapter contributors from 5 countries and 28 peer reviewers from 12 countries.

The book presents cutting-edge research in translation studies from perspectives in psycholinguistics and cognitive science with the common goal of better understanding translation processes and the development of linguistic competence. It presents original theories and empirical tests that have significant implications for moving forward the field of translation studies and what researchers know about the development of linguistic competence. Some of the topics in the book include: translation expertise, cognitive ergonomic issues in translation processes, translation ambiguity, standards and metrics for translation, processing speed and production time, and translation and cognates. It also explores innovative data collection methodologies from cognitive science including brain imagining techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging adaptation (fMRIa), language switching, eye tracking, keystroke and mouse logging, and retrospection, among others.

Schwieter and Ferreira’s chapter in the book reports on a study conducted in the Psycholinguistics and Language Acquisition Laboratory among students in Laurier’s Languages Program. The study investigated the underlying cognitive processes that support backward (L3-to-L1) and forward (L1-to-L3) translation among Anglophone (L1) learners of French (L2) and Spanish (L3). The results of the study demonstrated differential mental processes depending on the direction of translation. Furthermore, these processes were susceptible to and modulated by the manipulation of the semantic relatedness of the experimental words translated (i.e., translating a list of semantically-related words such as all “fruits” is supported by different cognitive mechanisms than translating a list of words from mixed semantic categories). Their study suggested that word-level translation is a lexically-mediated procedure among less-proficient language learners (i.e., learners need to first associate the word-to-be-translated with its translation equivalent in order to access its meaning). This empirical evidence helps to explain why learners of non-native languages—especially at beginning levels—need to translate almost word-for-word from their native language in order to speak or write in their non-native language. Eventually, this becomes automatized as non-native words become more strongly mapped onto their meaning and no longer have to be processed via words in the first language. Interestingly though, Schwieter and Ferreira’s study finds that this procedure in amendable in a specific, controlled experimental setting.

To read more about research conducted in the Psycholinguistics and Language Acquisition Laboratory, please visit at:

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