Studying Human Translation Behavior with User-activity Data

Michael Carl, Arnt Lykke Jakobsen, Kristian T.H. Jensen



The paper introduces a new research strategy for the investigation of human translation behavior. While conventional cognitive research methods make use of think aloud protocols (TAP), we introduce and investigate User-Activity Data (UAD). UAD consists of the translator’s recorded keystroke and eye-movement behavior, which makes it possible to replay a translation session and to register the subjects’ comments on their own behavior during a retrospective interview. UAD has the advantage of being objective and reproducable, and, in contrast to TAP, does not interfere with the translation process. The paper gives the background of this technique and an example on a English-to-Danish translation. Our goal is to elaborate and investigate cognitively grounded basic translation concepts which are materialized and traceable in the UAD and which, in a later stage, will provide the basis for appropriate and targeted help for the translator at a given moment.


  1. Ericsson, K.-A. & Simon, H.: Protocol Analysis: Verbal Reports as Data. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. (1984) (2nd revised edition 1993).
  2. Hommel, B., Msseler, J., Aschersleben, G., & Prinz, W.: The theory of event coding (TEC): A framework for perception and action planning. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24, 849-878.
  3. Jakobsen, A. L. : Effects of think aloud on translation speed, revision, and segmentation. In Triangulating Translation. Perspectives in Process Oriented Research (ed.) Fabio Alves. Amsterdam: Benjamins (2003), 69-95.
  4. Jakobsen, A. L. : Investigating expert translators processing knowledge. In Dam, Helle V., Jan Engberg, Heidrun Gerzymisch-Arbogast, eds. (2005) Knowledge Systems and Translation (Text, Translation, and Computational Processing 7), Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter, (2005) 173-189.
  5. Jakobsen, A. L. and K. T. H. Jensen: Coordination of comprehension and text production in written and oral translation tasks. AMLaP 2007.
  6. Carl, M. & Jakobsen, A. L. and Spakov, O. : Towards an Annotation Tool for Eye Tracking Data, forthcoming (2008)
  7. Gerloff, P.: Second Language Learners Reports on the Interpretive Process: Talk-aloud Protocols of Translation . In House, Juliane and Shoshana Blum-Kulka (eds.) Interlingual and Intercultural Communication. Discourse and Cognition in Translation and Second Language Acquisition Studies. Tbingen: Gunter Narr, (1986), 243-262.
  8. Hatim, B. & Mason, I. : The Translator as Communicator. London & New York: Routledge. (1997)
  9. Just, M.A. & Carpenter, P.A.(1980): A theory of reading from eye movements to comprehension. Psychol. Rev. 87, (1980) 329-354
  10. Krings, H. : Was in den Kpfen von bersetzern vorgeht. Tbingen: Gunter Narr (1986).
  11. Krings, H., translated and edited by Koby, G.S.: Repairing texts: empirical investigations of machine translation post-editing processes. Kent State UP, (2001), Ohio, USA
  12. Liversedge S.P & Findlay J.M. Saccadic eye movements and cognition. TICS 4 (1), (2000), 6-14
  13. Lrscher, W.: Translation Performance, Translation Process and Translation Strategies. A Psycholinguistic Investigation. Tbingen: Gunter Narr (1991).
  14. Pickering, M.J. & Traxler, M.J. (1998) Plausibility and recovery from Garden paths: an eye tracking study. J. Exp. Psychol. 24, 940-961
  15. Radach, R., Kennedy, A. & Rayner, K. Eye movements and information processing during reading. Hove, (2004) East Sussex: Psychology Press.
  16. Rayner K. (1975) The perceptual span and peripheral cues in reading. Cognit. Psychol. 7, 65-81
  17. Rayner K. & McConkie G.W. (1976) What guides a reader's eye movements? Vis. Res. 16, 829-837
  18. Rayner, K., Pollatsek, A. 1989. The Psychology of Reading. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall. (1989)
  19. Reiss, K. & Vermeer, H. J. : Grundlegung einer allgemeinen Translationstheorie. Tbingen: Niemeyer, (1984).
  20. Schack, T. : The cognitive architecture of complex movement. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology; Special Issue Part II: The construction of action - new Perspectives in Movement Science, 2 (4), (2004) 403-438.
  21. Schilperoord, J.: It's about Time. Temporal Aspects of Cognitive Processes in Text Production. Amsterdam: Rodopi, (1996).

Paper Citation

in Harvard Style

Carl M., Lykke Jakobsen A. and T.H. Jensen K. (2008). Studying Human Translation Behavior with User-activity Data . In Proceedings of the 5th International Workshop on Natural Language Processing and Cognitive Science - Volume 1: NLPCS, (ICEIS 2008) ISBN 978-989-8111-45-6, pages 114-123. DOI: 10.5220/0001744601140123

in Bibtex Style

author={Michael Carl and Arnt Lykke Jakobsen and Kristian T.H. Jensen},
title={Studying Human Translation Behavior with User-activity Data},
booktitle={Proceedings of the 5th International Workshop on Natural Language Processing and Cognitive Science - Volume 1: NLPCS, (ICEIS 2008)},

in EndNote Style

JO - Proceedings of the 5th International Workshop on Natural Language Processing and Cognitive Science - Volume 1: NLPCS, (ICEIS 2008)
TI - Studying Human Translation Behavior with User-activity Data
SN - 978-989-8111-45-6
AU - Carl M.
AU - Lykke Jakobsen A.
AU - T.H. Jensen K.
PY - 2008
SP - 114
EP - 123
DO - 10.5220/0001744601140123