The adoption of computer-aided translation tools by freelance translators in the UK
2011-01-21T10:27:45Z (GMT) by
The demand for translation services by the business community has increased significantly over the past decade or so, fuelled by socio-economic changes, such as industry globalisation, and closer collaboration between European countries. Technological developments, such as the advent of the Internet, the rise of electronic business, and the increase in the use of electronic documents have also contributed to the demand for translation. At the same time, translators are required to produce high-quality translations in ever-shorter time periods. Running in parallel with the increasing demand for translation services, various organisational developments have had, and are indeed continuing to have, a considerable impact on the UK translation services sector. Among the range of information and communication technologies (ICT) available to translators today, Computer-aided translation (CAT) tools, have been designed to increase translators' productivity and efficiency, thus helping them to meet the demand for their services. This study investigates the uptake of CAT tools by freelance translators based in the UK and their perceptions of these tools. In order to achieve this, a research model was developed drawing on previous research undertaken about ICT adoption in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The study was undertaken in two phases. In the first phase, a mail survey was conducted of a sample of freelance translators to determine levels of uptake of CAT tools, to explore the characteristics of the adopters of these tools, and the perceptions of the tools among freelancers. In the second phase, an online survey of adopters and nonadopters of CAT tools was undertaken in order to facilitate the investigation of what drives the adoption of these tools, as well as the impact of CAT tool adoption. The findings of the mail survey (to which 391 usable responses were received) revealed a rather low level of uptake of CAT tools (28%), and showed that almost half of the translators in the sample were not familiar with these tools. Further quantitative analysis revealed a positive relationship between the adoption of CAT tools and the adoption of other specialistpurpose software used by translators to support the activities in their workflow. A number of characteristics of CAT tool adopters were identified. These included the fact that adopters tended to be young translators, holding a university degree in translation studies. Most of those using the tools undertook technical translation. In addition, although translators' perceptions of CAT tools were generally positive, attitudes towards ICT in general were more positive and clearer in terms of specifying the benefits and problems arising from their use. In the second phase of the study, a sample of 19 adopters of CAT tools was employed to explore the determinants of the adoption of these tools. This phase showed that the main motivators for CAT tool adoption were the perceived advantages of the tools, such as increasing productivity, enhancing effectiveness as translators, or making the translation job easier. Also a sample of 34 CAT tool non-adopters was used to identify the factors deterring translators from adopting these tools. It was found that the main inhibitor of CAT tool adoption was the perceived difficulty of learning to use these tools. This phase also captured the translators' perceptions of the impact of CAT tools on their work. It was found that overall, the impacts of adopting CAT tools were largely positive, and included an increase in the quality of the translations undertaken and increased productivity. This research contributes to the existing body of literature about CAT tools by providing a model and instruments for investigating CAT tool adoption in the context of freelance translation businesses. The study benefits various key stakeholders in the translation sector, notably existing freelancers, newly-qualified translators, translator trainers, professional bodies for translators, and the developers and distributors of CAT tools by providing evidence regarding CAT tool uptake, characteristics of adopters, adoption determinants and impacts of adoption.