Translator autonomy in the age of behavioural data

Lucas Nunes Vieira, Valentina Ragni, Elisa Alonso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
151 Downloads (Pure)


Translation behaviour is increasingly tracked to benchmark productivity, to calculate pay or to automate project management decisions. Although in many cases these practices are commonplace, their effects are surprisingly under-researched. This article investigates the consequences of activity tracking in commercial translation. It reports on a series of focus-group interviews involving sixteen translators who used productivity tools to independently monitor their work for a period of sixteen weeks. Our analysis revealed several ways in which the act of tracking activity can itself influence translators’ working practices. We examine translators’ conceptualisations of productivity and discuss the findings as a matter of translator autonomy. The article calls for further awareness of individual and collective consequences of monitoring translation behaviour. Although in some contexts translators found activity tracking to be useful, we argue that client-controlled tracking and translator autonomy are in most cases incompatible.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-149
Number of pages24
JournalTranslation, Cognition & Behavior
Issue number1
Early online date19 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council in the United Kingdom [Grant number: ES/S014446/1]. Project partners and collaborators: Institute of Translation and Interpreting and its Western Regional Group, SDL (RWS), Tatutrad.

Publisher Copyright:
© John Benjamins Publishing Company


  • translator autonomy
  • translation productivity
  • behavioural data
  • activity tracking
  • translation technology
  • CAT tools


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