Non-Professional Translators in Online Communities of Practice: Translators’ Identities and Knowledge Exchange

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Online collaborative translation undertaken by digital media users has been contributing to the production and circulation of knowledge, irrespective of whether they have formal training in translation. These user-translators and their practices have been referred to as ‘non-professionals’ and ‘non-professional translation/interpreting’, respectively (e.g. Pérez-González and Susam-Saraeva 2012). But are user-translators really ‘non-professional’ translators?

In this presentation, I argue that the line between ‘professional’ and ‘non-professional’ translations is difficult to draw in the digital space where user-generated content is becoming increasingly influential. My research on the process of collaborative translation in Yeeyan (an online community of practice in China) suggests that user-translators’ identities and their translation competence are intricately tied up with the exchange of knowledge in various forms – including those that has been canonized through ‘professional translation’. In this study, I conceptualize Yeeyan as an online community of practice (Dubé, Bourhis and Jacob 2006) whose members share a concern or passion, engage in collaborative practices, and negotiate meaning. The analysis of seemingly mundane yet critical exchanges between participants reveals how multiple translators position each other and what knowledge is shared and created through their collaboration. In an online translation community like Yeeyan, formed by users with different occupational and disciplinary backgrounds and varying levels of participatory experience, members are not particularly concerned with the professional status of their fellow translators. Instead, they prioritise the delivery of a professionally executed translation – based on the knowledge that users contribute to and exchange during the translation process.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2021
Event5th International Conference on Non-Professional Interpreting and Translation: Bridging diverse worlds - Expanding Roles and Contexts of Non-Professional Interpreters and Translators - University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 3 Jun 20214 Jun 2021 (Conference website) (Book of Abstract)


Conference5th International Conference on Non-Professional Interpreting and Translation
Internet address

User-Defined Keywords

  • Online translation
  • Communities of practice
  • Non-professional translation
  • Translator identities
  • Collaborative translation
  • Knowledge exchange


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