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Name: Matthew Watts

PhD: Translation Studies

Thesis Title: Mobile translation applications: On the verge of a post-Babel world 2.0?


Thesis Description:

The number of mobile device users is continually growing (GSMA), but how the proliferation of mobile devices is affecting translation needs further exploration and analysis. O’Hagan (2016) identifies the relationship between technology and translation studies and theory as an area which needs greater research. As mobile translation apps are part of this technological side of translation they form part of an area which is under-researched but continues to have more and more users.

What effects are mobile translation applications having on translation as an activity and translation studies? How is this affecting users’ perceptions of translation? Is this another step in the trend of deskilling and devaluing translation into a low autonomy profession? (O’Hagan 2016; Kenny 2016) Are we on the cusp of a world where the language barrier is no more? The project will explore these questions by investigating the different types of machine translation (MT) used in the most popular of these apps, such as Google Translate and Microsoft Translator. It will then examine how users are actually engaging with these apps and their expectations through a survey and focus groups to discover whether they are enabling greater cross-cultural communication and changing our relationship with other languages and cultures. Finally, it will explore how the spread of 4G/5G mobile networks, offline translations and the increased use of mobile phones while roaming are allowing people to engage more with these apps and how translation studies is responding to this phenomenon.

My thesis expands upon my Masters dissertation which examined the relationship between translation, mobility and technology through two key tipping points - the dawn of the printing press in Europe and the Digital Age.


Supervisors and Institution(s):

Alex Mével, University of Nottingham

Yvonne Lee, University of Nottingham


  • Liu, Nancy, and Matthew Watts. 2019. ‘Mobile Translation Experience: Current State and Future Directions’, in Impacts of Mobile Use and Experience on Contemporary Society, ed. by Xiaoge Xu (Hershey: IGI Global)
  • Watts, Matthew, Carina Neil, and Sarah Speight. 2017. ‘Nottingham to Ningbo: Students as Change Agents across the Globe’, The Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership & Change, 3(2) <>


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


  • September 2nd, Keynote Speaker at the 2nd Annual Teaching and Learning Conference, University of Nottingham Ningbo China


Other Research Interests:

  • Language learning
  • Student engagement


University email address:

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