Word translation norms


Translation is of great interest to research in bilingual language processing, both in terms of how speakers translate between languages and what speaker- or word-related characteristics influence translation behaviour, and in the use of translation equivalents when designing stimuli for experiments, for example, to ensure that two variants of the same task in different language are matched in terms of the meanings of the words involved. The existence of translation ambiguity, where a word can have more than one correct translation, adds an additional layer of complexity onto both of these. Our study addresses these issues by collecting norms on how people typically translate common words in English and Chinese, and investigating translation behaviour in relation to variables such as language proficiency of the speaker and word frequency.

Research Questions / Hypotheses

Our primary aims are to collect a large set of norms for translations between English and Chinese words and to investigate translation responses in relation to background measures such as language proficiency and psycholinguistic variables such as word affect and word frequency.


Fifty-three participants completed the current phase of the translation study that was run this semester on the REP.


Participants were asked to provide information about their language background and their proficiency in both languages was measured using a lexical decision task (in which participants were presented with strings of characters and asked to indicate whether or not they were real words). The main translation task consisted of viewing words from either English or Chinese on-screen and providing the first translation in the other language that came to mind.


The data are yet to be analysed. The responses for each word will be processed to identify the different translations given by participants, the most common translation given, and also the percentage by which the word or translation is known.


The results from the current study will provide researchers in the field of psycholinguistics and cognitive science with a valuable set of norms that can be used to design future experiments. The findings may be published in conference presentations and journal articles.