Many disciplines have studied the characteristics of expert knowledge and how it is acquired (e.g. Applied Linguistics research into communicative competence and language learning). However, Translation Studies does not yet have an empirically based description of translation competence and how it is acquired. The purpose of this article is: (a) to analyse the work done to date in relation to translation competence for written translation and how it is acquired; (b) to describe the dynamic, holistic model proposed by the PACTE group and to present the empirical-experimental research this group is carrying out. Members of the PACTE group are: A. Beeby, L. Berenguer, D. Ensinguer, O. Fox, A. Hurtado Albir, N. Martínez Melis, W. Neunzig, M. Orozco y M. Presas. © 1999, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. All rights reserved.