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Doctoral defence of Juho Suokas, MA, 10.12.2022: User-centered translation benefits both translators and readers of translations

The doctoral dissertation in the field of English Language and Translation will be examined at the Philosophical faculty at Joensuu campus.

What is the topic of your doctoral research? Why is it important to study the topic?

My research is focused on translation usability and user-centered translation. Translations are always made for a specific purpose, but practical means to address this purpose and the readers of translation are often scarce. In my research, such practical means are examined by adapting the principles of usability research and user-centered design into practice for translation processes, translation evaluation, and translator training.

What are the key findings or observations of your doctoral research?

My research has suggested that practical means of addressing readers and use contexts by applying user-centered translation may benefit translators, language service providers and their clients, readers of translations, as well as other actors involved in translation processes. A focus on usability brings the readers/users of translation into the heart of translation and simultaneously makes the – often invisible – work of translators more visible outside the profession as well. User-centered translation offers many methods, which may be adapted for translators, language service providers, and translator training.

How can the results of your doctoral research be utilised in practice?

Usability research methods seem to suit translation on multiple levels: practical translation work, translator training, as well as for the processes of language service providers. A suitable method may be chosen from different alternatives; for instance, a user persona may be light enough to create even for smaller projects, whereas a more resource-heavy usability testing might better suit larger projects, especially ones that involve multimodal material. Those who require and purchase translations may also benefit from the application of usability methods, when the user needs and target audiences have been defined before the translation process. This reduces the risk of having to undergo costly alterations during later stages of the translation process.

What are the key research methods and materials used in your doctoral research?

My dissertation is the first broader research project where the model of user-centered translation and the usability methods offered by the model are applied into translation practice. The most central methods are usability testing, heuristic evaluation, and user personas. In addition to the usability research methods, the date collection and analysis stages have involved use of survey methods, fieldwork, and content analysis.

Is there something else about your doctoral dissertation you would like to share in the press release?

The work of translators may often be quite invisible, people may often think that translations are simple to produce and that machine translation has replaced much of the human work involved in professional translation. This idea of machines replacing human translators has been around since the 1950s, yet translation and other forms of communication still demand human effort, empathy, and the ability to understand context (although some more mundane work may already be externalized for machine translation). A translation is never a one-to-one replica of its source text, translations are always an interpretation of the source text that is made for a specific purpose from one language and culture to another. A good translation is one that fits its purpose – in some cases a raw machine translation (even one by a free online app) may be what suits the purpose, in other cases the text might require a lot of cultural adaptation and modifications to suit its needs in a new language and culture. Focus on the user and use situation helps to concretize what the translations are required for and thus translate with usability in mind.

Public examination 

Doctoral dissertation 
 

Further information:
Juho Suokas, juho.suokas(at)uef.fi
 

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