Project description

Establishing Competence Levels in the Acquisition of Translation Competence in Written Translation

Funded by Spain's Ministry of the Economy and Competitiveness, 2015-2018 (reference: FFI2013-42522-P)

Principal investigator: Amparo Hurtado Albir

Research team (in alphabetical order): Anabel Galán-Mañas, Anna Kuznik, Christian Olalla-Soler, Patricia Rodríguez-Inés, Lupe Romero

Predoctoral fellow: Laura Asquerino Egoscozábal


The objective of the "Establishing Competence Levels in the Acquisition of Translation Competence in Written Translation" project (NACT, based on its initials in Spanish) is to describe performance levels in translation as a first step towards developing a common European framework of reference, comparable to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), for use in translator training and professional translation. To that end, we established the following goals:

  1. To describe the specific competences involved in the acquisition of translation competence.
  2. To describe performance levels in translation.

A description of performance levels in translation would provide a common framework for educational and professional contexts. Such a framework would make it easier to compare different grading systems and would serve as a guide for creating translation study programmes; issuing official certificates; recognizing and validating academic qualifications; establishing professional and academic profiles; designing assessment procedures (preparing exams, designing formative and diagnostic assessment); producing textbooks and teaching materials; and establishing professional quality control guidelines.

Such a common framework already exists for language teaching – the CEFR – but not for translation training. It is essential in the case of translation, given the importance of translation training against a backdrop of globalization and a multilingual Europe, migration flows, and increasing professional and academic mobility. The European Higher Education Area's requirements for academic standardization are another factor in its importance.

The NACT project entails transferring knowledge to society and builds on the results of PACTE's previous experimental research on translation competence and translation competence acquisition.

As the project is a first step towards establishing performance levels in translation and has a duration of just four years, it does not encompass describing translators' different specialized professional profiles (legal translation, economic and financial translation, technical translation, scientific translation, literary translation, etc.), which is a task for a future research project. The aim is to describe novice translators' levels and the generalist professional translator profile.

Rather than specifying learning outcomes or suggesting criteria for each stage of education or area of professional practice, the project looks to propose performance levels that could be used according to each educational or professional context's needs. Its description of competence levels is independent of language combinations and directionality (direct/inverse translation), and also of the number of hours involved, as this is a curricular consideration.

Our research for the project essentially involves the use of qualitative methods, as well as descriptive quantitative methods, and representatives of the academic and professional translation arenas have participated in it. It is organized into three stages:

- Stage one (2015-2017): production of a first level descriptor proposal. A total of 23 translator training centres from 15 European countries (Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) contributed to this stage of the project by providing us with information on their curriculums and acting as a panel of experts to evaluate our proposed level descriptors. We compiled and analysed 18 European translator training centres' undergraduate and master's degree curriculums, as well as proposals from the academic and professional arenas concerning the competences translators require.

- Stage two (2017-2018): evaluation of proposed descriptors. We used a questionnaire to obtain expert judgement on our proposed descriptors from representatives of the academic and professional translation arenas from 16 European countries. In all, 65 translation lecturers, 23 professional translators and 11 associations of professional translators participated in the evaluation.

- Stage three (2018): analysis of the data obtained through the expert judgement process and revision of level descriptor proposal (in progress). We have completed a quantitative analysis of the data obtained and are currently studying the qualitative data.



In March 2017, as a result of the project’s first stage, we produced Establishing competence levels in translation. Proposal 1, a bilingual (Spanish and English) document containing our first proposed level descriptors. We presented it to and discussed it with representatives of the centres and institutions participating in the project at a meeting in the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona’s Faculty of Translation and Interpreting on 16 March 2017, and subsequently established an online forum so that the attendees could continue discussing it. The ideas raised prompted us to make some changes to the proposal. The resulting revision, Establishing competence levels in translation. Proposal 1 (revised) (PACTE, 19/6/2017), is the document on which we sought expert judgement.



PACTE. 2018. “Competence levels in translation: working towards a European framework”. The Interpreter and Translator Trainer 12 (2): 11-131. Published paper | Post-print version

PACTE. 2019. “Establecimiento de niveles de competencias en traducción. Primeros resultados del proyecto NACT”. Onomázein 43: 1-25.


NACT project publications | Collaborating institutions | Collaborating researchers
| Evaluation questionnaire | Quantitative evaluation results | Evaluators | Presentations on NACT at conferences

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