Dr Khetam Al Sharou

Research Fellow in Translation/Interpreting Technologies and Natural Language Processing
PhD (University College London), MSc (Heriot-Watt University), BA (University of Damascus)



Research projects


Al Sharou, K. (2019) Training Translators on Open-source MT Technology: An Empirical Assessment of Learning using a Task-based Syllabus. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

This research project tests whether an intensive course based on a newly-formulated task-based (TB) syllabus can equip Master’s trainee translators with the essential skills to create their own machine translation (MT) systems. The focus is on under-resourced language pairs, and for non-European teaching settings, therefore, the syllabus was tested on two groups of Master’s level English-Arabic translation students in two Arabic-speaking countries, Oman and Jordan. These two groups who joined the training course had no previous knowledge of MT. The free and open-source statistical machine translation (SMT) software, Moses, was used as a training platform. Using a form of Action Research, the learners’ engagement was monitored by collecting data on their experience and their reactions to the pace of delivery and the content of the syllabus, whilst assessing their achievements in using the SMT software. For the data collection, a multi-method approach was adopted, including questionnaires, student learning logs, TB assessment, interviews, focus groups, tutor’s log and classroom observations. The findings have shown that the proposed TB syllabus is a suitable introduction to enable translation students, with no previous experience of working with MT and, in a short time, to create their own MT engines to translate from English into Arabic and vice versa. The findings have also demonstrated that integrating free and open-source MT into translator training programmes is a viable option and much needed. This is, especially true in Arabic-speaking countries where students have fewer chances to have practical contact with a range of translation technologies, due to lesser support but also lesser accessibility to paid language and translation technology (such as SDL Studio’s computer-aided tool platform and/or a Google Translate API in a translation memory environment). The proposed syllabus with its practical element created competent users of a freely available tool, shifting their roles from being mere evaluators/post-editors to creators of MT engines, thus expanding the learners’ capabilities in terms of translation technologies.

Keywords: Free and Open-source Software, Moses Toolkit, Statistical Machine Translation, English-Arabic Language Pair, Translator Training, Task-based Approach, Technical and Technological Skills, and Students’ self-efficacy.

Butler, C. and Al Sharou, K. (2019) ‘‘Voices of (Unemployed) Refugee Doctors in the UK: An Exploration of their Linguistic and Cultural Needs and Aspirations’’, in Declercq, C. and Federici, F. M. (eds.) Intercultural Crisis Communication translation, interpreting and languages in local crises, Bloomsbury advances in translation, Bloomsbury Academic, 173-190.

The National Health Service (NHS) across the United Kingdom (UK) has had a historical reliance on international medical graduates. These graduates need to develop the same understanding and knowledge of the health system and key concepts and approaches in the delivery of patient care in order to successfully practice medicine in the UK. The UK also has a proud (albeit recently more mixed) history as a country of refuge for individuals fleeing persecution, war and in fear of their own safety. Some of these individuals have been medically qualified doctors who need assistance to return to practice medicine in the UK. These doctors often have extensive experiences in their own countries of origin but can have linguistic and cultural challenges when seeking to work in the UK NHS (General Medical Council, 2011). This chapter discusses the outcomes of a specific project aimed at supporting refugee doctors to improve their linguistic and cultural skills and assist them in their journey to practice medicine in the UK.

Butler, C. and Al Sharou, K. (2018) ‘‘Beyond medical practice: cultural and linguistic training of refugee doctors for integration and employment in the United Kingdom’’, The European Journal of Public Health 28 (suppl_1).

Federici, F. M. and Al Sharou, K. (2018) ‘‘Moses, Time, and Crisis Translation’’, Translation and Interpreting Studies. The Journal of the American Translation and Interpreting Studies, 13(3): 486-508.

Training translators to react to sudden emergencies is a challenge. This article presents the results of a training experiment testing the speed of acquisition of the skills necessary to operate the open-source Moses statistical machine translation (SMT) system. A task-based approach was used with trainee translators who had no experience working with MT technology. The experiment is a feasibility study to ascertain whether training on Moses SMT could be considered for long-lasting crisis scenarios. The article reports its findings in four sections. The first section discusses the research context in which ‘crisis translation’ is defined; the second section illustrates the rationale of the experiment; the third section looks at the results of the training experiment; and the fourth at the trainees’ perceptions of their learning processes. The conclusion reflects on the viability of using Moses and on the next phases needed to refine the findings of this first experiment.

Keywords: crisis communication, translation technology, translator training, machine translation

Al Sharou, K. (2016) ‘‘Machine Translation & Translator Training: Exploration of Students’ Abilities and Needs’’, in Proceedings of the Translating and Computer 38 Conference, London, UK, 17-18 November 2018, [online] at: http://www.tradulex.com/varia/TC38-london2016.pdf.