Experiences of Online Volunteer Translation and Implications for Translation Education

Comas-Quinn, Anna (2020). Experiences of Online Volunteer Translation and Implications for Translation Education. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00011407


This study explores the boundary between online volunteer translation and translation education to gain insights into how pedagogy might respond to: a) changes in practice in the field of translation resulting from the increasing availability and use of digital tools and content; and b) the learning opportunities afforded to those who want to become professional translators by the growth of online, open volunteer translation initiatives. It considers the possibility of expanding the concept of practice-based learning within an authentic, situated learning model, to encompass online volunteer translation as a way of developing translation competence and being socialised into the practice of translation.

The study focuses on participants in TED Translators (TEDT) from across the world who plan to work as professional translators. Using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) of interview data and a qualitative online survey, it explores their experiences and perceptions of how their engagement with TEDT fits into their learning and career journeys.

The findings identify the characteristics of the activity that make it attractive to aspiring translators as well as the difficulties they encounter; the professional and learning benefits that participants derive from engaging in TEDT; and the different paths and trajectories that link volunteering, education and profession. It concludes that online volunteer translation can offer a motivating, meaningful and situated learning opportunity through which learners can develop their translation competence and their identity as translators; and that informal learning using open tools, resources and communities can support learners’ access to and engagement with formal education. However, educators and participants must consider the challenges of learning within an online community and develop the relevant digital and participatory skills, as well as a good awareness of local cultures and customs, to successfully engage with this opportunity.

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