Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

The course will provide students with the knowledge and intellectual tools to study and reflect on the nature of the human mind, the role of language both in structuring our knowledge and as tool to communicate, and the multimodal, interactive, fuzzy workings of communication. By the end of the semester, students should be able to offer informed opinions and cogent insights to answer questions such as How do we remember and understand? Does language have an influence on the way we think? Where is meaning? Can all bilinguals translate? What do we learn when we learn how to translate? What are the differences between translating and interpreting? What is the impact of computers on the way we think, talk, write, and communicate?

Course contents

Weekly topics

  1. Language & thought,
    • 1.a. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and Slobin's 'thinking for speaking'
    • 1.b. Thinking & metaphors
  2. Language & multimodality
  3. Meaning & comprehension
  4. Communication & professionalism
  5. Translation, interpreting & emerging tasks
  6. Context & prediction
  7. Intentions, inference & theory of mind
  8. Human-computer interaction and ergonomics
  9. Learning & entrenchment


Please note: the program and the classes comprise 10 weeks. One week will be devoted to either (a) go over particularly difficult points addressed in class; (b) extend or introduce one relevant topic at the request of the students; or (c) review the contents of the full semester to prepare the final essays.


Alonso, Elisa & Lucas Nunes Vieira. 2020. The impact of technology on the role of the translator in globalized production workflows @ E. Bielsa & D. Kapsaskis, eds. The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Globalisation. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, pp. 391–405.

Ehrensberger-Dow, Maureen. 2019. Ergonomics and the translation process @ Slovo.ru: Baltic accent 10 (1): 37–51.

Hvelplund, Kristian Tangsgaard. 2016. Cognitive efficiency in translation @ R. Muñoz, ed. Reembedding Translation Process Research. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2016, pp. 149–170.

Kappus, Martin & Maureen, Ehrensberger-Dow. 2020. The ergonomics of translation tools : understanding when less is actually more @ The Interpreter and Translator Trainer 14 (4): 386–404.

Lakoff, George & Mark Johnson. 1980. Metaphors we live by. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Moorkens, Joss. 2020. “A tiny cog in a large machine” Digital Taylorism in the translation industry @ Translation Spaces 9 (1): 12–34.

Moorkens, Joss. 2021. Translation in the neoliberal era @ E. Bielsa & D. Kapsaskis, eds. The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Globalisation. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, pp. 323–336.

Muñoz Martín, Ricardo & Ana María Rojo López. 2018. Meaning @ S.-A. Harding & O. Carbonell, eds. The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Culture. London: Roudledge, pp. 73–90.

O'Brien, Sharon. 2012. Translation as Human-Computer Interaction. @ Translation Spaces 1 : 101–122.

O’Brien, Sharon, Maureen Ehrensberger-Dow, Marcel Hasler & Megan Connolly. 2017. Irritating CAT tool features that matter to translators @ Hermes—Journal of Language and Communication in Business 56: 145–162.

Reddy, Michael J. 1979. The Conduit Metaphor: A case of frame conflict in our language about language. @ A. Ortony, ed. Metaphor and Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 284–310.

Schell, V. and Sabbagh, M. 2018. 13. Theory of mind and communication: Developmental perspectives. In: Dattner, E. and Ravid, D. ed. Handbook of Communication Disorders: Theoretical, Empirical, and Applied Linguistic Perspectives. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton, pp. 259-278. https://doi.org/10.1515/9781614514909-014

Slobin, Dan I. 1996. From “thought and language” to “thinking for speaking”. In J. Gumperz & S. Levinson (eds.), Rethinking Linguistic Relativity. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, pp. 70–96.

Vieira, Lucas Nunes. 2020. Automation anxiety and translators @ Translation Studies 13 (1): 1–21.

Teaching methods

In view of the type of activities and teaching methods adopted, the attendance of this training activity requires the prior participation of all students in Modules 1 and 2 of safety training in the workplace, in e-learning mode. See https://elearning-sicurezza.unibo.it

The course will hinge on the instructor's introductory presentations and students' debates and presentations. The students are expected to meet once a week outside class to discuss the next weeks' topic and prepare their debate interventions. In order to do so, the students will watch the relevant videos suggested below prior to meeting to discuss their contents and, after their meeting, each student will write an essay summarizing and linking the contents of the videos and their own opinions. Essays will be graded.

Once again, for clarification. This is a normal weekly cycle:

1. You watch the videos for next week, on your own if you want to.

2. You meet with a few of your classmates after Thursday's class session and discuss the videos (it may be a good idea to bring a laptop to watch some bits again)

3. You reach some common position(s)—you may disagree—and write a 500-word long essay.

4. You turn in your essay on Tuesday morning, before class.


These are the videos

1. Language & thought

        Metaphors We Live By: George Lakoff and Mark Johnson


2. Language & multimodality

More than words

Multimodal Communication – Summary

3. Meaning & comprehension

Language & meaning

Meaning & language

4. Communication & professionalism

What is communication?

The Toolmakers' paradigm

5. Translation, interpreting & emerging tasks

Jobs for language students

Communications Major

6. Context & prediction

What is context?

Semantic Networks and Spreading Activation

7. Intentions, inference & theory of mind

Inferences and conclusions

Rethinking thinking

How we read each others' minds

The theory of mind test

8. Human-computer interaction and ergonomics

The future of Human-Computer Interaction

Enter the cult of extreme productivity

The efficiency paradox

A more human approach to productivity

9. Learning & entrenchment

Learning how to learn

What if schools taught us how to learn?

After watching this, your brain will not be the same

Practice makes perfect


Besides, every week at least one group will offer a presentation to start the debate. The Socratic method will be used to challenge the students' received views and to prompt critical thinking and active participation. Presentations will be graded as well.

Assessment methods

Students who take the course and turn in their assignments on time will receive a cumulative grade for the course. In order to opt for formative assessment, every student needs to

- attend at least 70% of the course sessions
- turn in at least four (4) essays (500-word long each)
- cooperate in at least one group presentation
- turn in a final paper (min. 1200-word long)

Students who meet the above specifications will not need to take ANY exams on the first call. Students who choose a summative assessment (exam only) need to talk to me before midterm dates.

- best essay, 15%
- second best essay, 15%
- best presentation, 20%
- final essay, 50%

Please note: Each essay needs to be turned in before its topic is addressed for class debate. The final essay needs to be turned in before the end of week 10 (Friday at 12:00).


Learning assessment scale

30-30L Excellent. The candidate applies excellent logical and analytical skills, with a very high level of independent and original thinking, resourceful access to pertinent information, and an adequate, realistic integration thereof.

27-29 Above average. The candidate makes only minor errors and shows solid logical and analytical skills, very good access to pertinent information, and an adequate, realistic integration thereof.

24-26 Generally good. The candidate shows some gaps, indicating reasonable mastery of logical and analytical skills, good access to pertinent information, and a basically correct integration thereof.

21-23 Adequate. The candidate shows significant deficiencies and only minimal mastery of the required logical and analytical skills. Access to pertinent information seems limited and is linked to problem in understanding it.

18- 20 Minimum. The candidate meets only the minimum required level and shows minimal understanding and mastery of the required skills.

< 18 Failed. The candidate does not meet the required standard and shows totally inadequate understanding and mastery of the required skills.

Office hours

See the website of Ricardo Munoz Martin