Crowdsourcing MOOC Translation in Contemporary China: A Descriptive Approach


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Awarding Institution
Award date10 Sep 2018


Both the domains of crowdsourcing translation and MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) translation have brought huge changes to translation and education, industries, but they remain underexplored by researchers. What is crowdsourcing translation? How far has crowdsourcing MOOC translation come in China? And where is it likely to go in the future? This thesis explores crowdsourcing MOOC translation activities in China using descriptive translation studies methodologies, especially translation norms, to depict the current state of these activities on both the macro-social and the micro-textual levels. By knowing where we are, we can know where we should go.

Primarily, four sets of norms in MOOC translation are investigated: preliminary norms, expectancy norms, professional norms, and operational norms. In each set of norms, the highlight is the changes taking place in the “norming process”: how the new norms in crowdsourcing MOOC translation have negotiated with the existing translation discourse in China and come into shape.

Preliminary norms govern the output of translation, and in this research, the focus is on why crowdsourcing translators “choose” certain MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) to be translated, and “neglect” the others. Expectancy norms affect people’s concept of translation, and this thesis explores how the “translation ideal” has changed in the digital age. Professional norms govern the translation process, and thereby the conducts of translation in a digital environment are investigated. Finally, the operational norms in crowdsourcing MOOC translation are examined, so as to reveal the translation strategies that the crowdsourcers have adapted for better readability of the target texts (TTs).

To better contextualize the study of these four sets of norms, this thesis delves into both the fundaments of the crowdsourcing translation model and the translation practices. On the one hand, the ideals of crowdsourcing, crowdsourcing translation, and MOOC translation are proposed to blueprint the full capacity of crowdsourcing translation. On the other hand, the limitations of crowdsourcing translation are depicted with evidence. Examples are provided to illustrate how crowdsourcing MOOC translation in China has inherited the running patterns of its fansubbing predecessors, how the crowdsourcing translators are contributing both to the translation of MOOC and making up new rules for translation, and how they are, at the same time, confined by their non-professional backgrounds. Speculations on the dysfunction of the current crowdsourcing translation model are made, provided with suggestions for improvement. Therefore, this research goes beyond mere descriptive studies and offers prescriptive insights for crowdsourcing translation practices in the future.

This thesis contributes to the existing translation theory in two dimensions: the definition of crowdsourcing translators as being “neo-professionals”, and the argument on new expectations of translation in the digital age. Firstly, in contrast to the classical definition of professional translators by Chesterman (1997), crowdsourcing translators are less professional as regards translation competence, working time, and income. Nevertheless, the lack of traditional professionals in the field of MOOC translation raises crowdsourcers above the identity of amateurs. Thereby a definition of “neo-professionals” is created for specifying the mixed identity of the crowdsourcing translators. Secondly, MOOC is a new type of audiovisual text emerged in the digital age, and the accompanying genre-vacancy is calling for new norm-setting authorities. A joint effort by crowdsourcing translators, professional translators, and translation scholars is needed to establish comprehensive rules and instructions for MOOC translation.

To conclude, this thesis explores the many facets of crowdsourcing MOOC translation in China: how this translation phenomenon has emerged, how its participants identify themselves, how it functions, and how far it has gone. Under the theoretical framework of descriptive translation studies and translation norms, the truths of crowdsourcing MOOC translation are gradually unveiled, and possible future directions are pointed out.