European EFFORT Project: Service Provision Competence Essential for Translators

The Erasmus+ project EFFORT

On June 23, 2023, Slator attended the “Towards a European Framework of Reference for Translation” Multiplier Event at the University of Westminster, London. The European Framework for Translation (EFFORT) project began in September 2020 and is now in the dissemination stages before concluding in August 2023.

EFFORT’s goal is to develop a framework of the key competencies required in written translation similar to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). It is hoped the framework will be employed in academia and industry in the EU and beyond to “narrow the gap between learning outcomes in translator training and requirements in professional translation.”

The Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) in Spain conducted the pilot study “Establishing Competence Levels in the Acquisition of Translation Competence in Written Translation” (NACT, based on the project’s initials in Spanish) from 2015 to 2018. 

EFFORT is a continuation of this Spanish government-funded project, which proposed three levels of translation, of which A (initial) and B (intermediate) were described in detail with sub-levels (i.e., A1, A2, B1, B2), but C remained untouched. EFFORT’s two primary aims were to refine and validate levels A and B, and to develop a proposal for C.

Broadly described, level A includes novice and non-specialized translators and those with basic translation skills; B refers to intermediate, non-specialist translators familiar with areas of professional specialization and who can translate semi-specialized texts; and level C covers translators specialized in at least one area and translators highly skilled in one or more areas.

Continued Europe-Wide Collaboration

NACT has become a Europe-wide project in the Erasmus+ program, funded by a European Union grant of EUR 253,280.00

UAB acted as coordinators, working with nine European partner universities to form a consortium: Universidad de Granada (Spain), Uniwersytet Wroclawski (Poland), Universitatea Alexandru Ioan Cuza Din Iasi (Romania), University of Westminster (UK), Université de Genève (Switzerland), Univerza V Ljubljani (Slovenia), Aarhus Universitet (Denmark), Ita-Suomen Yliopisto (Finland), and Universiteit Utrecht (Netherlands).

28 partner training institutions and four professional bodies (the International Federation of Translators (FIT Europe), the European Language Industry Association (ELIA), the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL), and Instituto Cervantes) also collaborated.

With the language variety (32 languages) and geographical scale (27 EU states, and Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and the UK), the ten partner universities helped to ensure complementarity at the linguistic and geographical levels and in the areas of specialization  (legal, economic and financial, technical, scientific, and literary) throughout the project.

Not Just a Proposal

The first part of EFFORT involved revising the second NACT proposal and validating levels A and B. Feedback was requested from 20 teaching staff at the ten partner universities and the findings were implemented as part of the formulation of the third NACT proposal.

A ‘how to’ guide for using the framework was also created which was tested internally and with associate partners before the final version was translated into all the EFFORT consortium languages plus German and Italian.

The second stage of the project — the proposal for level C — involved five transversal teams (one for each area of specialization) who conducted initial research, looked at existing studies, and consulted experts and professional translators to outline the scope and main features of each specialism. E.g., main subfields, text genres, professional contexts, relevant resources, and typical translation issues.

The level C competence definitions and level descriptors were then defined for each specialization and this too was translated into the consortium languages. The key competencies (chapter 2.3 of proposal) are split into five categories, similar to the European Masters in Translation, as follows:

  1. Language — applying source language (SL) reading comprehension skills and target language (TL) writing skills; ability to move between languages without interference.
  2. Extralinguistic — applying SL and TL cultural knowledge, world knowledge, and knowledge of specialized areas.
  3. Instrumental — using documentation resources and technology in translation processes.
  4. Service provision — managing aspects of professional translation practice.
  5. Methodological and strategic — selecting and employing an appropriate translation methodology and reasonable strategies to solve translation problems.

A project glossary contains a wealth of definitions required to understand the project and the proposal, including annexes (e.g., with examples of text genres expected at each level).

The EFFORT project has also developed a self-assessment tool; users take a survey selecting the statements that most apply to them to estimate their level of translation competence. The authors highlight this is only indicative information and is not an official certificate. It should also be noted that the tool currently includes levels A and B only; once level C has been validated, this will be added.

According to the authors, the framework and self-assessment could be useful for educators, students, professionals, employers, and accreditation bodies in the translation sphere.

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Service Provision Competence

Following a detailed presentation, the audience partook in an animated discussion where the general consensus was that a framework is much-needed and the team has made real advances for the industry, but that perhaps there is a little further to go. Of course, such work is inhibited by the scope of the project and budgetary constraints.

One of the most-applauded elements, particularly from representatives from language service providers (LSPs) and freelance translators, was the addition of “Service Provision Competence” to the key competencies. 

Some participants highlighted that the level C descriptors imply a specialized translator is better than a generalist translator since, according to current wording, you can only achieve level C1 or C2 by having a specialism. One UK university lecturer likened this to suggesting a doctor who is a general practitioner is less capable than a doctor who is specialized in pediatrics. One solution was to focus on expertise and professionalism rather than on specialization. 

When asked what the future holds, Elsa Huertas Burros responded, “the translation industry is not static” and that “this framework would need continuous review”. E.g., to respond to advances in technology such as large language models (LLMs), machine translation (MT), and AI

The authors hope to see large-scale validation of the proposal by experts, expansion into other areas such as audiovisual translation, and the establishment of learning outcomes, tasks, and assessment procedures for each competence level. They hope to attain the necessary funding to continue working on the framework and to define sub-levels C1 and C2.