Interpreting and Transfer, Translation

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Peter J. Freeth and Rafael Treviño | Beyond the Translator’s Invisibility

Peter J. Freeth and Rafael Treviño

“We hope this book gets readers thinking about the various (and perhaps contradictory) visibilities of translation in their own lives.”

The question whether to disclose a text as a translation and thereby give visibility to the translator has dominated discussions on translation throughout history. Beyond the Translator’s Invisibility demonstrates the value of understanding the visibilities of translators and translation in the plural and adds much-needed nuance to one of translation studies’ most pervasive, polarizing, and imprecise concepts. A Q&A with editors Peter J. Freeth and Rafael Treviño. 

Briefly and concisely explain in plain language what the book is about.

Often, translators and translation are hidden from view or made invisible, and this invisibility has come to be seen as a negative position that translators should fight against. Our book seeks to challenge this assumption by exploring the complex situations that can cause this invisibility or visibility and by providing clearer understandings of the impact that both can have on how translation and translators are perceived in contemporary society.

What or who inspired you to choose this topic?

We met in the summer of 2019 at a research summer school in Belgium and translator invisibility was one of the common themes that ran through many of the discussions we had during this time. Given that it’s a frequent topic of academic and public debate, whilst much of the thinking on translator invisibility remains focused on ideas from the 1990s, we thought it was about time there was some new work in this area—and who better to do it than two ambitious PhD researchers?

Do you have any reading suggestions to share (books, blogs, journals, …) for anyone who wants to know more about the subject?

The famous book on this topic is The Translator’s Invisibility, by an American scholar called Lawrence Venuti. It’s been a very divisive book but is one of the most famous in translation studies, so it is definitely worth a look, even if you disagree with his points or conclusions! But there are also some really interesting blogs documenting times when the visibility of translation and translators has really come to the forefront of public debate. For instance, Haidee Kotze’s article on the controversy surrounding the Dutch translation of Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb (here) and Caroline Summers’ overview of the British Museum’s failure to credit or even get copyright permission from translator Yilin Wang (here).

How did the writing process for this book go? Did you experience anything surprising, amusing or strange?

One of the fun challenges when working on this book was that one of the contributions has been translated from German to English and it was really interesting doing a translation for a book on translator visibility. As I (Peter) was working on the translation, there were a few points where I really felt like I wanted to explain or justify my translation a little, or even just add a little additional information for the reader. But in this kind of academic publication, translators are usually fairly invisible—you typically prioritize preserving the expert author’s voice and argument. So, I spoke to the author Klaus about it and he was very open to letting me include some interventions and translator’s notes in my translation. He even suggested a couple of additional points that I could include as translator notes. It was interesting seeing some of the issues discussed throughout the book play out in front of us and we hope that the resulting translation is both an interesting piece of work on the topic and an example of how we can make the collaborative nature of translation more visible in our publications.

What would you like readers to remember about your book?

We’d like readers to come away from the book knowing that the issues and topics discussed throughout are too complicated to just be broken down into the binary of visible–invisible. Instead, we hope the chapters in the volume show the value of thinking about visibilities in the plural and get readers thinking about the various (and perhaps contradictory) visibilities of translation in their own lives.

Do you have any plans yet for another publication? What will it be about?

My (Peter’s) PhD dissertation was also on the topic of translator visibility and I have plans to publish work from that in the future. Rafael is right at the end of his PhD journey, so has largely been focused on finishing that project, but there may be other some publications in the future.

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Marie Bourguignon, Bieke Nouws, and Heleen van Gerwen | Translation Policies in Legal and Institutional Settings

Marie Bourguignon, Bieke Nouws, and Heleen van Gerwen

 

“This book gives a sense of how much attitudes to translation can vary over time and space and what impact legal and institutional translation have on the relationship between citizens and governments.”

Using case studies of past and present translation policies in different parts of the world, Translation Policies in Legal and Institutional Settings effectively illustrates how a multidisciplinary perspective furthers our understanding of translation policies and unveils their intrinsic connection to issues such as multilingualism, linguistic justice, minority rights, and citizenship. In this Q&A, editors Marie Bourguignon, Bieke Nouws, and Heleen van Gerwen discuss the story behind the project and offer recommendations for those interested in the topic.

Briefly and concisely explain in plain language what the book is about.
The book is a collection of original contributions on policies (management, practices and/or beliefs) with regard to legal and institutional translation in varying historical and geographical contexts.

What or who inspired you to choose this topic?
This book is the outcome of an international conference held at KU Leuven in September 2018, organised by us, the three editors (then PhD students) and our supervisors. The conference was an exponent of our joint interdisciplinary research project on translation policies in 19th-century Belgium, and an occasion for comparison with similar research, on a topic that is slowly making its way into mainstream Translation Studies. Over the course of three days, we had many interesting presentations and stimulating discussions, that we felt should absolutely be added to the general literature and discussion on legal and institutional translation policies.

Do you have any reading suggestions to share (books, blogs, journals, …) for anyone who wants to know more about the subject?
Our recommendations include the articles and books by KU Leuven professors Lieven D’hulst and Reine Meylaerts and the work of the Transius Centre in Geneva. In our book, several young scholars offer a glimpse into the intellectually and/or empirically highly original work they have been doing in recent years. We recommend following their work, as well as that of all the other, already established and highly esteemed, authors, who share in this book their new findings and insights that have matured over many years.

How did the writing process for this book go? Did you experience anything surprising, amusing or strange?
It has been quite a process, starting in fall 2018 and ending in fall 2021. Looking back on these three years, a lot has happened: PhD defences, starting new jobs outside academia, a global pandemic … It has not always been easy to juggle our other responsibilities with this book, but we are more than satisfied with the result, which reflects the excellent oral exchanges we had during those three conference days in Leuven, both from an academic and a personal point of view. We are therefore grateful to our supervisors and the authors. It is truly the crown on our joint PhD journey!

What would you like readers to remember about your book?
So many topics that are fundamental to a society are discussed in this book: human rights, citizenship, nationalism, racism, migration, identity… We think there is something in it for everyone, with or without a background in Translation Studies or any of the other named disciplines mentioned that are explicitly involved, so much to take away. This book certainly gives a sense of how much attitudes to translation can vary over time and space and what impact legal and institutional translation have on the relationship between citizens and governments.

Your book is published open access thanks to the support of the KU Leuven Fund for Fair Open Access. How did the open access publication process go? What makes open access so attractive for you/your book? Have you thus far noticed that your book reaches a wider audience?
We were delighted to learn that we could acquire funding to publish our book in open access: we have always shared the view that our research output should be as accessible as possible. Our book has only been recently published, but we hope that many readers have already found their way to it!

Do you have any plans yet for another publication? What will it be about? Would you consider publishing the book open access?
No plans yet, but if possible, we would definitely publish open access again.

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Olha Lehka-Paul | Personality Matters

Olha Lehka-Paul

 

“There is a global need nowadays to attract people’s attention to translators and their contribution, and to finally admit that without translators our world would be completely different.”

In her book Personality Matters Olha Lehka-Paul explores the psychological and cognitive characteristics of a translator. The individual translator stands central – making her book a topical contribution to translation studies as it continues to evolve in taking account of the people behind the ubiquity of translation in the modern globalized world. “It is high time to acknowledge and value the hard work of translators”, states Olha Lehka-Paul.

Briefly and concisely explain in plain language what the book is about.
Simply put, the book is about translators. Translators as people who perform a highly complex multi-level task in their brains, juggling two (or more) languages, cultures, norms, expectations, standards, etc. while at the same time bearing in mind the end user. And in modern days, translators should also be IT specialists so as to be able to quickly fix some technical glitches in case of emergency, and research analysts so as to efficiently look for and evaluate relevant information related to a given translation task. So let’s count – translators are linguists, specialists in cultural affairs, diplomats (in a way), supervisors, revisers, IT experts and research analysts. And to this we need to add a specialisation in a given field, which translators (especially those working with popular languages such as English or German) are more and more often required to have. Impressive, right? So in my book I’m trying to find out what kind of people translators are (personality-wise) and which personality characteristics may potentially attract them to the profession. And most importantly, I’m interested in whether and how the translators’ personality influences the translation process and product. In other words, I’m investigating the role of translators’ personality characteristics in three major areas: 1) relationship between personality and professional choice, 2) translation process, 3) translation product.

What or who inspired you to choose this topic?
Again, the answer is simple – translators. I’ve been surrounded by translators for the most part of my life – first by my teachers when I was a translation student, and then by my colleagues when I started to work as a translator myself. Long time ago I noticed that all translators are somewhat similar in terms of their personality (to understand what I mean, please read my book), and so are translation students. At one point I understood that I would like to explore the issue further, so I put forward the topic for a PhD project. I am so grateful to the Faculty of English at Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland, for accepting my proposal, and even more so, to my research supervisor, Professor Bogusława Whyatt, for her support and guidance!

There is one more important thing here. I think that the inspiration I got from translators (and still getting) then turned into my life mission. I like doing things I believe in and things which I feel are important not only for me, but also for the society at large. And I strongly believe that the topic of translator’s personality is highly relevant and important nowadays. Translators and their work are very often neglected – when people read books they rarely notice whether it was translated or not, when people listen to different interviews/international events, they rarely think that there is most probably a team of translators/interpreters working hard to deliver the information on time and accurately. Moreover, Umberto Eco once said that “The language of Europe is translation”, but it seems that nobody really cares about translators. So I think there is a global need nowadays to attract people’s attention to translators and their contribution, and to finally admit that without translators our world would be completely different.

Do you have any reading suggestions to share (books, blogs, journals, …) for anyone who wants to know more about the subject?
When it comes to the topic of translator’s personality, I would highly recommend reading the articles and books written by dr Séverine Hubscher-Davidson. As regards translation as a human skill and a professional choice, please refer to the book by Bogusława Whyatt (2012) Translation as a human skill. From predisposition to expertise.

How did the writing process for this book go? Did you experience anything surprising, amusing or strange?
I should admit that I like writing and I’ve always considered it a very engaging and interesting activity. I remember when I was a teenager I wanted to write a book “that people will read” (these are my exact words from school years), so I always knew that one day I would write something. Writing this book was hard at times, especially the final chapter that contains a lot of statistics. There was also quite some time pressure related to the PhD Programme, but overall I enjoyed writing it.

What would you like readers to remember about your book?
My message is simple: Translators are important and special, and it’s high time to acknowledge and value their hard work.

Do you have any plans yet for another publication? What will it be about?
As a researcher, I’ve got a lot of ideas and plans for future research endeavors. I’m writing articles, and I think a new feeling of an important issue in Translation Studies is growing in me. Who knows, maybe one day it will also materialise in the form of a book.