Contextuality in Translation and Interpreting

Selected Papers from the Łódź-ZHAW Duo Colloquium on Translation and Meaning 2020–2021

by Michał Kornacki (Volume editor) Gary Massey (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 310 Pages
Series: Lodz Studies in Language, Volume 70


The papers compiled in the present volume reflect the key theme of the most recent Duo Colloquium sessions – contextuality. The psychological notion of context has been central to translation research for decades, and it has evolved along with the development of translational thought, translation types and tools. The theme of contextuality can be understood at any level, from the geopolitical to the textual, and embraced by both academic and professional considerations of translational and interpreting phenomena. It is centred on context, contexts and/or decontextualisation in translation and interpreting theory and practice from a variety of disciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary perspectives. Discussing the above-mentioned notions is the subject of the present volume.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Translation, Meaning and the Duo Colloquium: Contextuality in Translation and Interpreting (Gary Massey, Łukasz Bogucki and Michał Kornacki)
  • Translating Terms: Towards a Practical Guide for Students of Translation (Marcel Thelen)
  • Raising Legal Translator Trainees’ Awareness of Context through Post-Editing: Reflections of a Practitioner Delivering a Contract Translation Module at Postgraduate Level (EN/PL, PL/EN) (Anna Setkowicz-Ryszka)
  • Speech-Enabled Post-Editing Machine Translation (PEMT) in the Context of Translator Training (Claudia Wiesinger, Justus Brockmann, Alina Secară and Dragoș Ciobanu)
  • Expect the Unexpected and Still Be Surprised: Teaching Translation through Projects during the COVID-19 Pandemic (Urszula Paradowska)
  • Teaching Trainees the Importance of Research beyond Word Level: Reflections on How Extra-Linguistic Context Determines Translator’s Research (Anna Setkowicz-Ryszka)
  • Translation Quality Assessment Contextualised (Marcel Thelen)
  • Mistranslations in the Context of Cognitive Retention of Force Dynamics in Translation (Katarzyna Wiśniewska)
  • Contextual Meaning in Neural Machine Translation (Ralph Krüger)
  • The “Blind Localisation” of Video Games: A Decontextualised Translation (Dominik Kudła)
  • Translation under Review: Placing the Increased Visibility of Translation in British Reviews into Its Wider Societal Context (Martyn Gray)
  • Pseudo-Retranslation: A Novel Perspective on Translational Intertextuality (Mehmet Yildiz)
  • Non-Textual Aspects of a Literary Translator’s Work in the Nineteenth Century (Karolina Siwek)
  • Simultaneous Interpreting in Evangelical Churches in Poland as an Example of a Non-Professional Practice (Judyta Mężyk)
  • Series Index

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Gary Massey, Łukasz Bogucki, Michał Kornacki

Translation, Meaning and the Duo Colloquium: Contextuality in Translation and Interpreting

The Duo Colloquium: Past and present

The first iteration of the Łódź-ZHAW Duo Colloquium on Translation and Meaning took place in 2020 and 2021. As the successor to the internationally acclaimed event organised in Maastricht and Łódź every five years between 1990 and 2015, it adopted the same format as that of its predecessors. This involved two separate but linked sessions taking place consecutively in two locations: at the University of Łódź in Poland, and at ZHAW’s Institute of Translation and Interpreting in Winterthur, Switzerland. Originally conceived as in-person conferences, the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic meant that both sessions had to be postponed and to move online: the Polish conference being staged from Łódź between the 3rd and 5th December 2020, and the Swiss session from Winterthur between the 2nd and 4th September 2021. We would like to thank the organising committees at both locations for the first-class job they did in planning and managing both conferences. We would also like to express our gratitude to the presenters of the many excellent papers delivered at the two sessions, the majority of which could not be accommodated in the present volume.

Like many other innovative initiatives, the Duo Colloquium was conceived during a conference break, 35 years ago in Berlin. Incidentally, now that online conferencing has made coffee breaks practically obsolete, one can only hope that the academic community at large will continue to come up with (and share) such spontaneous ideas. The Duo, as it is affectionately called by its participants, is the brainchild of two scholars representing the West and the East (the dichotomy was very much relevant at the time, with the iron curtain still in place). They were Professor Barbara Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk (University of Łódź, Poland) and Dr. Marcel Thelen (Maastricht School of Translation and Interpreting, subsequently Zuyd University, the Netherlands), who both participated in the said linguistics conference in Berlin in 1987. The idea bore fruit for the first time in 1990, with two events in the Netherlands and Poland, a dyad that continued in this vein every five years until 2015. At that time, Maastricht could no longer ←7 | 8→be a venue due to organisational changes; luckily, Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) agreed to seamlessly carry on the tradition of the “Western” partner and since 2020 the conference has officially been co-organised jointly in Łódź and Winterthur. Prof. Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk and Dr. Thelen chaired the respective conference sessions in Maastricht and Łódź until their retirement, when they became Honorary Chairs; both continue in that capacity until this day.

Toutes proportions gardées, the Duo Colloquium has been a mirror of the development of Translation Studies as an academic discipline. There is hardly a famous translation scholar who has not participated in the event over the three decades of its history: Peter Newmark, Eugene A. Nida, Juliane House, Christiane Nord, Gideon Toury, Jeremy Munday, Mona Baker, Anthony Pym… the list goes on. The tangible effect of the Duo Colloquium is now 12 regular volumes of proceedings and a thirteenth special volume. The present book is the fruit of the two most recent sessions, the Lodz one and the Winterthur one, both organised in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. The wide scope of the conference series, covering issues pertaining to translation and meaning, has enabled a comprehensive, interdisciplinary treatment of translation from a linguistic and semantic angle, with focal points changing over the years. The diagram below, sourced from the joint keynote given by Barbara Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk, Marcel Thelen, Gary Massey and Łukasz Bogucki (2020) at the opening of the Lodz Session in December 2020, is indicative of the topics tackled by conference participants (see Figure 1).

Figure 1:Range of topics covered by the Duo Colloquium conference series 1990–2015

←8 | 9→←9 | 10→In brief, the Duo Colloquia have witnessed discussions on all types of translation, viz. literary, specialised and audiovisual (including localisation), translator education, translation competence, translation theories and models, collaborative translation, cultural cognitive language studies, equivalence, corpus tools, translation and interpreting processes, terminology management, machine translation, computer-assisted translation and more. The substantial time lapse between the first and the latest conference in the series has meant that earlier papers have served as sources of inspiration for later ones; as a matter of fact, there are scholars for whom the respective Duo Colloquium sessions have been milestones of their entire academic careers. In general, the keynotes and session papers have explored translation as a profession in contrast with translation in academia. Traditionally, the Łódź sessions have been more theoretical and academic in nature, while the Maastricht ones have veered toward the practice of (professional) translating; this trend has continued into the 2020 and 2021 sessions in Łódź and Winterthur, respectively.

The key theme of the most recent Duo Colloquium sessions, reflected in the papers compiled in the present volume, was contextuality. The psychological notion of context has been central to translation research for decades, as evidenced also by the 1990–2015 Duo Colloquium papers. The notion has evolved along with the development of translational thought, translation types and tools. In audiovisual translation, for example, the notion of context is crucial, as – to simplify – the translation of audiovisual texts always happens in the visual context. However, in the 1990s audiovisual translation research was in its infancy, as opposed to the already solid body of knowledge available today.1 The 18 papers on audiovisual translation (AVT) presented during the Duo Colloquium sessions over the years are a good indication of the dynamic development of the (sub)discipline of audiovisual translation studies.

Dynamic fields of study and practice

That dynamism continues to this day, extending well beyond AVT to the entire discipline of Translation Studies and to the practices, both professional and educational, which it addresses. The main drivers have been the increasingly rapid changes taking place in the contexts of the broader language industry and of the workplaces of those whose services it employs. These are the result of evolving demand in the key areas where language mediation is required by ←10 | 11→buyers: accessing a market, complying with regulations, acquiring customers, enabling public access, managing processes and people, retaining customers, monitoring events and reactions, and discovery (see Slator, 2022: 15–17). To meet that demand efficiently, cost-effectively, and viably, the industry has witnessed an accelerating development of both the human and the technological resources it deploys.

This has been most clearly demonstrated by the qualitative leaps forward made by neural machine translation (NMT). Since 2016, research on the NMT performance has produced some very positive results. Studies already published in that year show NMT to have outperformed, or at least to have been equal to, phrase-based statistical machine translation (SMT), even when tested within specific domains, demonstrating clear improvements even in MT-challenging language pairs involving Chinese (e.g. Junczys-Dowmunt et al., 2016; Wu et al., 2016). For example, Wu et al.’s (2016: 1) human side-by-side evaluation of isolated simple sentences study suggested that Google’s NMT machine reduces translation errors by an average of 60 % over Google’s own phrase-based system on out-of-domain data, prompting claims by the research team that NMT was “bridging the gap between human and machine translation” quality (Wu et al., 2016: 1). Two years later, Hassan et al. (2018) asserted that Microsoft had achieved “human parity” in Chinese-English machine translation of news reports. Schmitt (2019: 209–210) sees the more recent emergence of zero-shot translation (Johnson et al., 2017) as even more significant, enabling MT to translate between arbitrary languages, including language pairs for which the system has not been trained. The closing of the quality gap between human translation and MT has prompted an increasing belief in some quarters that human language mediators will be supplanted by MT systems.

Despite the early hype and fears, however, the predictions – largely by those outside the language industry – of the disruptive effects of easily available AI technologies, and the perceived threat to language mediators working in and for the industry, have not materialised. Far from it – the latest Slator Language Industry Market Report (Slator, 2022: 5–6) puts the size of the global language services and technology industry in 2021 at USD 26.6 billion, a growth in market size of 11.75 % compared to the previous year. Its base scenario for project future growth stands at 6.0 % year-on-year, meaning that total market size could reach USD 30.12 billion by the end of 2026. The optimistic scenario estimates 7.5 % year-on-year growth, to USD 38.22bn by the end of 2026. Other analyses are similarly rosy. For example, Nimdzi (Hickey, 2022), whose estimates include a number of ancillary services excluded by Slator, states that “the language services market is better set up than ever before to meet the increasingly complex demands ←11 | 12→of buyers” and that “2021 was a phenomenal year,” with Nimdzi’s own estimate of the industry’s value rising to USD 60.5 billion, a 10 % increase compared to 2020. It forecasts growth to USD 64.7 billion in 2022 and, given a predicted compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7 %, expects the industry to be valued at USD 84.9 billion by 2026.

By whatever measure we apply, the language industry is thus in very good health, and it continues to depend on the expert language mediators that provide its services. MT systems are making language professionals more productive than ever, but the “human-in-the-loop will always remain the most important link in the chain” (Way, 2020: 326). The role of language mediators is simply evolving, as it has always done, through technology (van der Meer, 2020: 308). Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the re-profiling of translators currently underway at the Directorate General for Translation of the European Parliament (DG-TRAD) and presented in the keynote held by the European Parliament’s Alison Graves and Mads Nyegaard Outzen (2021) at the Winterthur session of the Duo Colloquium. Re-branded as intercultural and language professionals, the translators are expected to translate, adapt, transcreate, mediate, subtitle, revise, post-edit, facilitate plain-language communication and assist in drafting documents, among other duties. As such, the new profile aligns well with those who, against the background of increasing MT quality, have been predicting a shift in demand for human language mediation at the higher end of the market towards the added value of adaptivity, creativity, risk management and ethical awareness (e.g. Massey & Ehrensberger-Dow, 2017), on the one hand, and towards domain expertise (e.g. Schmitt, 2019; Slator, 2022), on the other. A pre-requisite is, of course, consistent top quality and full mastery of the competences – translational/mediatory, technological, personal, interpersonal, and service – set out in models and profiles such as the European Master’s in Translation (EMT) competence framework (EMT Board, 2017). It is only the untrained language mediators who deliver poor quality work that language technologies will be forced out of the market (Schmitt, 2019: 206–208).

The new profile at the European Parliament is indicative of the growing diversification of tasks in the many and various working contexts of the language industry as a whole. Bond (2018) lists 600 different job titles for the industry in 2018, a figure which had increased to 700 by 2020 (Slator, 2020: 11–17). One convincing explanation lies in how the industry is progressively expanding upstream (i.e. towards multilingual content creation) and downstream (e.g. towards compliance, access and accessibility, content, data and quality management, production, publication, distribution, and consultancy work) of core translation and localisation services.

←12 | 13→But even at the core, distinct new profiles and practices have established themselves for activities that once fell within the scope of translation. Post-editing of MT output (PEMT) is perhaps the most prominent example, with Slator (2022: 82) able to claim that “broadly speaking, the PEMT workflow is now firmly embedded across the industry as the default workflow.” However, this presents its own challenge and opportunity to industry players and language mediators alike: “Access to high-quality MT is no longer a differentiator between LSPs [language service providers]. A competitive edge in the market, then, comes from how effectively LSPs can complete the last mile – the gap between MT output and enterprise / end-user-grade translation quality. A key aspect of this dynamic is that – as the size of the gap [between human and MT output] shrinks – the sophistication required to close the gap increases” (Slator, 2022: 82). Obviously, therefore, a premium accrues to identifying the specific value-adding human expertise needed for PEMT, and to finding ways of developing and implementing it effectively. Listed only seven years ago separately as a value-added service in the international translation quality standard ISO 17100 (2015: 18), PEMT has since been fully and explicitly integrated into the EMT competence framework (EMT Board, 2017), has received its own dedicated international standard complete with competence profile (ISO 18587, 2017: 6–8), and has been the subject of competence modelling in its own right (e.g. Nitzke et al., 2019: 247–252; Nitzke & Hansen-Schirra, 2021: 69–79).

Unsurprisingly, PEMT receives the attention of two contributions to the present volume, both of which adopt an educational perspective. Indeed, the training and education of language mediators is by far the strongest theme in this volume, addressed by half the number of chapters it contains. Upskilling and reskilling graduates to act as human experts in the multiple loops of the current and future language industry (Massey & Ehrensberger-Dow, 2021) will remain the crucial task of language-mediation educators in the years to come. The educators, their students and, increasingly, working language professionals themselves are faced with choices about specialising in specific domains and profiles, at the risk of longer-term obsolescence, and/or focusing on the adaptive expertise (Shreve, 2020) that will be needed to fill the diversifying roles that are proliferating within the industry.

As the language industry thrives, expands, and evolves, so, too, does the discipline of Translation Studies as it explores the multi-faceted concepts, activities processes and products of language mediation inside the industry and, in terms of investigating non-professional translation and interpreting, outside it as well. The fundamental dynamism of both the pursuit of language mediation and the study of it is amply illustrated in the current volume.

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Contributions to this volume

In keeping with previous conferences, the Łódź part of the latest Duo Colloquium dealt principally with theoretical aspects of contextuality in translation and interpreting. Like the Maastricht sessions beforehand, the ZHAW session had a more applied orientation. The theme of contextuality can be understood at any level, from the geopolitical to the textual, and embraced both academic and professional considerations of translational and interpreting phenomena. It centred on context, contexts and/or decontextualisation in translation and interpreting theory and practice from a variety of disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary perspectives.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (November)
translator training translation quality assessment cognition sociolinguistics technology literature and religion
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2022. 310 pp., 43 fig. b/w, 19 tables.

Biographical notes

Michał Kornacki (Volume editor) Gary Massey (Volume editor)

Michał Kornacki is Assistant Professor at the Department of Translation Studies and Language Pedagogy, University of Łódź, Poland. His research includes translation, application of information technology translator training and human-computer interaction. Gary Massey is Professor of Translation Studies at the School of Applied Linguistics at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences. His research and publications cover translation processes, translator education and industry profiles.


Title: Contextuality in Translation and Interpreting