An Investigation of Cognitive Processes of Interpretation from Persian to English

Document Type : Research Paper


Department of English, Quchan Branch, Islamic Azad University, Quchan, Iran


This study examined the cognitive processes in interpretation through employing Think-aloud Protocols (TAPs) among Iranian translators. The participants included 10 professional and nonprofessional translators selected through Nelson Proficiency Test. TAP and retrospective interview were used as the major instruments in order to collect the data from self-reports protocols. In order to assess the translators' mind activity in the flow of interpretation, they were administered a translation test of approximately 150 words concerning a general subject. Then, the applied cognitive processes (attention, comprehension, memory processes, and problem solving) by the participants were determined and examined. Also, for identifying the significance of differences between the translators concerning the cognitive processes, a chi-square nonparametric test was run. Analyzing the translators' performance during think aloud activity of interpretation revealed that both professional and nonprofessional translators have used the same cognitive processes and the results of the chi-square test revealed there was no significant difference between them at the level of comprehension, memory processes, and problem solving. However, significant difference was observed at the attention level. The findings can help the instructors to become aware about mental abilities and are beneficial for students and translators to improve their translation ability.


Anderson, G. (1998). Fundamentals of educational research. UK: Falmer Press.
Anderson, J. R. (1995). Learning and memory: An integrated approach. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Angelone, E. (2010). Uncertainty, uncertainty management and metacognitive problem solving in the translation task. Translation and Cognition, 17-40. doi: 10.1075/ata.xv.03ang.
Angelone, E., & Sherve, G. M. (2010). Translation and cognition. New York: Benjamin.
Asch, M. (2002). Text book of cognitive psychology. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons.
Bajo, M. T., & Padilla, F. (1999). Proposal for a cognitive theory of translation and interpretation. A methodology for empirical research. The Interpreter’s Newsletter. Retrieved July 2015 from /
Barani, M., & Karimnia, A. (2014). An investigation into translation students’ English reading comprehension skills and strategies: A cross-sectional study.  Applied Linguistics, 73, 26257-26262.
Bernardini, S. (2001). Think-aloud protocols in translation research. Target International Journal of Translation Studies, 13(2), 241-263. doi: 10.1075/ target. 13. 2.03ber.
Broadbent, D. E. (1958). Perception and communication. London: Pergamon Press.
Chastain, K. (1988). Developing second-language skills theory and practice. USA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.
Christensen, P. T. (2011). Studies on the Mental Processes in Translation Memory-assisted Translation- the State of the Art. Trans-kom, 4 (2), 137-160.
Dekeyser, R. M. (2007). Practice in a second language: Perspectives from applied linguistics and cognitive psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Dillinger, M. (1989). Comprehension during interpreting: What do interpreters know that bilinguals don’t? The Interpreters' Newsletter, 3, 41-58. Retrieved in June 2015 from
Eftekhari, A. A. (2012). Investigating the use of think-aloud protocols in translation of literary texts. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 2 (5), 1039-1047. doi:10.4304/tpls.2.5.1039-1047.
Fowler, W. S., & Coe, N. (1978). Nelson English language tests. London: Butler & Tanner Ltd.
Friedenberg, J., Silverman, G. (2006). Cognitive science. London: Sage Publications, Inc.
Gambier, Y., Gile, D., & Taylor, C. (1994). Conference interpreting: Current trends in research, proceedings of the interpretational conference on interpreting- what do we know and how? Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Gile, D. (2009). Basic concepts and models for interpreter and translator training. Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Jääskeläinen, R. (1999). Tapping the process: An explorative study of the cognitive & affective factors involved in translating. Joensuu: University of Joensuu.
Jankhe, H. L. (2015). New cognitive approaches in process-oriented translation training. Meta: Translators' Journal, 50(2), 359-377. doi: 10.7202/010942ar.
Jong, D. T. (2010). Cognitive load theory, educational research, and instructional design: Some food for thought. Instr Sci, 38,105–134. doi: 10.1007/s11251-009-9110-0.
Kussmaul, P., & Tirkkonen- Condit, S. (1995). Think-aloud protocol analysis in translation studies. Traduction, Terminologie, Rédaction, 8 (1), 177-199. doi: 10.7202/037201ar.
Lorsher, W. (1991). Translation performance, translation process, and translation strategies. A psycholinguistic investigation, 5(1), 271-275. doi: 10.7202/014625ar.
Lorscher, W. (1992). Investigating the translation process. Meta, 3, 426-439.
       doi :10.7202/003517ar.
Mengelkamp, M. B. (2008). Assessment of metacognitive skills by means of instruction to think aloud and reflect when prompted. Does the verbalization method affect learning? Metacognition and Learning, 3, 39-58.  
Miremadi, S. A. (1993). Theories of translation and interpretation. Ghom: Mehr Press.
Munday, J. (2008). Introducing translation studies: Theories and applications. (2nded.). New York: Routledge.
Poyatos, F. (1997). Nonverbal communication & translation. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Risku, H. (2010). A Cognitive scientific view on technical communication and
translation. Do embodiment and situations really make a difference? Target, 22 (1), 94-111.doi: 10.1075/target.22.1.06ris.
Risku, H. (2013). Cognitive approaches to translation. The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics, doi: 10.1002/9781405198431.wbeal0145.
Seeber, K. (2011). Cognitive load in simultaneous interpreting: Existing theories-new models. Interpreting, 13 (2), 176-204. doi: 10.1075/intp.13.2.02see.
Seeber, K. (2013). Cognitive load in simultaneous interpreting: Measures and methods. Target, 25 (1), 18-32. doi: 10.1075/target.25.1.03see.
Shahivand, Z., & Pazhakh, A. (2012). The effects of test facets on the construct validity of the tests in Iranian EFL students. Higher Education of Social Science, 2 (1), 16-20.doi:10.3968/j.hess.1927024020120201.452.
Sternberg, J. R., & Sternberg, K. (2012). Cognitive psychology. USA: Wadsworth.
Sun, S. (2009). Think aloud based translation process research: Some methodological consideration. USA, Kent state: University of Kent.
Tommola, J., & Hyonà, J. (1990). Mental load in listening, speech shadowing and  simultaneous interpreting: A pupillometric study. Speeches/Conference Papers, 150. Retrieved September 2015 from
Toury, G. (1980). In search of a theory of translation. Tel Aviv University: The Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics
Toury, G. (1995). Descriptive translation studies and beyond. Amsterdam/Philadelphia:        John Benjamins
Waddington, C. (2001). Different methods of evaluating student translations: The question of validity. Meta, 46 (2), 311-325.
Yoshida, M. (2008). Think-aloud protocols and type of reading task: The issue of reactivity in L2 reading research. Selected Proceedings of the 2007 Second Language Research Forum, ed. Melissa Bowles et al., 199-209. Retrieved October 2015 from