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Beeby, A. (2000). Choosing an empirical-experimental model for investigating translation competence: The PACTE model.


There are many variables involved when selecting a research model in translation studies. These variables include the kind of problem observed and its relevance to the discipline as a whole. The PACTE* Group adopted Neunzig's (1999) approach to design an empirical-experimental model for investigating translation competence:

First stages in this process lead to the decision to conduct an empirical study or not, while
subsequent steps determine whether or not experimental research should be carried out. Later steps enable decisions relating to research design and data collection.

The chapter discusses 5 stages for developing a research model:

1. Identifying the object of investigation

The PACTE group decided that the object of investigation was to be translation competence. This should, in turn, enable them to examine the acquisition of translation competence for the purpose of designing teaching methods and materials to develop and evaluate translation competence.

2. Defining the object of study, theoretical framework, and presuppositions

Translation competence was defined as the underlying system of knowledge and skills needed to be able to translate. The researchers reviewed many models of translation competence and concluded that their model of translation competence includes a strategic component and a psycho-physiological component. They also proposed six sub-competencies: communicative, extra-linguistic, professional-instrumental, transfer, strategic and psycho-physiological as shown below.

3. Relevance and choice of empirical methods 
The researchers opted for an empirical research in order to validate their suppositions about translation competence and isolate the sub-competencies through systematic observation and data collection.

4. Formulation of working hypotheses either open or closed

PACTE decided to follow a deductive approach formulating closed hypotheses ( one on translation competence, and the other on the acquisition of translation competence. These hypotheses can be verified or nullified by the results of empirical-experimental observation.

5. Choosing a research method

PACTE wanted to design an empirical-experimental research model to confirm or adjust their hypotheses and allow them to proceed deductively. The model had to combine quantitative and qualitative data that has a real and practical application for human translators and integrates both theory and practice.

 Experimental Research


The PACTE Group research designed an experiment to measure (1) translation competence, and (2) acquisition of translation competence. For the first group, subjects were divided into groups; experimental group, (professional translators) and control group (bilinguals, non-practicing translators). For the second group, two experimental groups were used; one comprising translation students and the other of professional translators.

A commercial software programme (PROXY) used for remote control of computer users logged onto a server where all the translator's activities - Internet search, CDs encyclopedia or dictionary searches, pauses, corrections, etc. - can be logged in real time and the translator's screen can be observed on another computer in another room.


The design included two questionnaires and one interview: (i) an initial questionnaire to elicit information about professional experience, direct/inverse experience, training, ideas about translation and translation competence. (ii) A final questionnaire to gain more information about the translator, the problems in the text, the strategies used, and their own evaluation of their translation. (iii) Retrospective interview with the translators following the PROXY recording.

Subjects were asked to translate two short texts, one of which is translated directly (i.e. into the Ll and the other inversely (i.e. into L2), and the whole process is recorded on PROXY.

This paper is a required reading for the Ph.D. in Translation Studies candidacy exam (Comps) at the Institute for Applied Linguistics at Kent State University. This Xmind map (you can view and download by clicking the Xmind icon) provides a summary of the main concepts presented in this paper: 

Beeby, A. (2000). Choosing an empirical-experimental model for investigating translation competence: The PACTE model. Intercultural Faultlines. Research Models in Translation Studies I. Textual and Cognitive Aspects, Manchester: St Jerome, 43-55.

* PACTE is a group of eleven translation teachers and researchers, coordinated by Amparo Hurtado Albir, working with Spanish, Catalan, English, German and French. Its members are Allison Beeby, Laura Berenguer, Doris Ensinger, Olivia Fox, Nicole Martinez M


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