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Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users."
Date: Sun, 13 Apr 2003 07:43:40 +0000 From: Mekki Elbadri Subject: Crossing Barriers and Bridging Cultures: The Challenges of Multilingual Translation for the European Union
Tosi, Arturo, ed. (2002) Crossing Barriers and Bridging Cultures: The Challenges of Multilingual Translation for the European Union. Multilingual Matters Ltd.
Mekki Elbadri, Vienna, Austria
This book is a collection of articles edited by Arturo Tosi. It consists of contributions written by people who are closely involved with the work of translation in the European Union/European Parliament. These contributions are mainly based on the proceedings of a conference held within the Translation Service of the European Parliament in November 1998. The book contains fourteen chapters of varying length and depth. It is divided into three main parts: Overviews of Languages and Cultures in Contact, the Making of a Single European Voice, and the Debate Between Insiders and Outsiders.
In his introduction to the book, Arturo Tosi puts the different contributions in context. After a description of the structure of the book and how the papers were presented in the conference itself, he reviews succinctly each contribution as it relates to the objective of the book which is "mapping out and discussing the most relevant theoretical and pragmatic issues about multilingual translation" (p. ix).
In Chapter 1, "The Translation Service in the European Parliament", Barry Wilson traces the historical development and outlines the legal and political aspects of translation in this European framework. His discussion focuses mainly on practical dimensions of multilingualism, to translators as well as to Members of the European Parliament. He touches as well the budgetary questions and the prospect of enlarging the European Union to 22 Member States and 22 languages.
In Chapter 2, John Trim starts his article, "Multilingualism and the Interpretation of Languages in Contact", by drawing a distinction between "'societal multilingualism', the existence of more than one language community in a society and 'individual plurilingualism', the ability of the individual to communicate through more than one language, which builds bridges between them" (p. 8). Then he proceeds to placing translation in a general frame of language activities. He classifies translation as an act of mediation, as opposed to production, reception and interaction. He further draws lines between translation and interpretation as distinct activities of mediation. As a vivid example of multilingualism, the author traces the development of English, its contacts with different languages and their influence on the language, with the implications of this development on the translator's work. He concludes by confirming that it is inevitable for cultures and languages to influence each other and that translators are in a privileged position to see this process in action.
Christopher Rollason discusses in Chapter 3 "The Use of Anglicism in Contemporary French". Following a short reference to the historical 'cross-contamination' between English and French, he tackles the current American influence as a major source of Anglicism in modern French. He gives examples of this phenomenon in different fields, with emphasis on computer (mainly the internet) and trade. He attributes this to different reasons ranging from terminological rigor to unconscious pro-American reflexes, and, paradoxically, ironic anti-Americanism. The author moves then to the situation in the European Parliament. France being the dominant Member State at the time of creation of the European institutions, French was dominant as a lingua franca. Its influence is still present in many terms of the European institutions language (eurolect). However, in recent texts, Anglicism has started to appear in French texts, again starting with the computer field. The author calls for more rigor in such multilingual institutions in order to preserve their 'linguistic diversity' and consequently their 'cultural diversity'.
In Chapter 4, "Translation of EU Legal Texts", Renato Correia outlines the complexities of translating legal texts within the European Union context. Translation is essential for drafting legislation in 11 official languages. However, translators in this institutional multilingual setting are faced with a complicated situation where they have to understand and take decisions in dealing with such problems as the originals' lack of clarity and 'deliberate obscurity'.
Arturo Tosi's paper, "European Affairs: The writer, the Translator and the Reader" is one of the major contributions to this work. The author introduces his paper by an overview of the evolution of translation according to different approaches. He tackles questions such as: the impact of machine translation, multidisciplinarity, language policy and translation service, the translator as mediator, language standardization and national attitudes, emphasis on good communication. Given the remarks made about the difficulty of understanding the language of the eurolect, He emphasizes the importance of clarity and innovation in translation. The author refers to Newmark (1976) to provide 'rules of thumb of good cultural translation' (p.64).
In Chapter 6, Freddie De Corte discusses "the Contribution of Freelance Translators". He maintains that freelance translators serve as a bridge between the institutions and the general public. Living in their own countries with direct contact with the living language, free lancers are expected to impart "new life into the 'eurolect'" (p.70).
In Chapter 7, Anne Tucker discusses "Translation and Computerization in the EU Parliament". She traces the different developmental stages in the use of computer aids to the service of translation. She presents the different tools that are used either for automating the translation of certain types of texts: e.g. repetitive and evaluative texts, as well as the applications that help translators concentrate on the translation activity per se and relieving them of efforts such as typing or formatting final production. The importance of applications such as translation memory software, voice recognition and workflow applications has been stressed.
In Chapter 8, Luca Tomasi discusses "Translating Transparency in the EU Commission". He takes over from Anne Tucker's contribution and touches the influence of the electronic media in the approach to translation in the EU institutions. He gives a few examples of machine translations done by different systems and points out the necessity of post-editing to such products.
The question of clarity is taken again in Chapter 9 by Christopher Cook in his article "Helping the Journalist to Translate to the Reader". He compares and contrasts the roles of translators and journalists and their views of each other. He presents the concept of the "empty chair" referring to the importance of taking in consideration the audience to whom the text is presented.
In Chapter 10, "Linguistic Interpretation or Cultural Contamination", Helen Swallow reviews the proceedings of Workshop 1 on linguistic aspects of multilingualism, with special reference to lexical contacts and borrowings across languages.
Nichole Buchin and Edward Seymour summarize in Chapter 11, "Equivalence or Divergence in Legal Translation", the proceedings of Workshop 3 which dealt with the principle that translation cannot be regarded as a straightforward, neutral process.
Workshop 3 is reviewed by Christopher Rollason in Chapter 12, "Opaque or User-Friendly Language". This workshop was concentrated on the accessibility and comprehensibitly of Parliament's documents to the general public and the role of translators in facilitating the quest for this goal.
In Chapter 13, Sylvia Ball reviews the proceedings of the "Round Table on Multilingualism: Barrier or Bridge?". In that round table, participants reacted to each other's contributions and heard the impressions of other members of the round table.
In Chapter 14, "Conclusions", Arturo Tosi emphasizes the importance rethinking the role of translators in the largest translation agency in the world and to help in spreading "a new translation culture in support of multilingualism in Europe" (p. 131).
The book contains a variety of articles pertaining to different aspects of the major theme which is translation in a political, multilingual and multicultural context. The contributions are of varying quality. Some articles are real in-depth research papers, while others are mere personal accounts or reflections of individual experience. However, the whole inputs highlight the subject matter from different, complementary angles. The book contains a wealth of information for researchers and translation students who are interested in the development, complexities and procedural aspects of translation in an institutional context such as the European Union/European Parliament. It poses, and attempts to answer, different questions related to languages in contact, the role of translators as mediators, facilitators and decision makers in a complex communicative process.
One of the major issues recurring in a number of articles is the question of dominance of certain languages over others leading to linguistic 'contamination' and 'impoverishment'. Nevertheless, most of the articles are mainly concerned with the 'big' languages, namely English, French, and to some extent Italian. Little or no reference is made of most of the current 11 languages or the future 22 languages. Since the book consists of a collection of articles presented at a conference, it is not easy extract and discuss an overall methodological approach guiding the entire work. The editor managed, yet, to group the articles and present them in a logical and smooth order of transition. This work opens further the door for more discussion of translation methods, approaches and procedures in similar multilingual settings. It might be taken as an example for studying and analysing translation activities in other institutions, at the international or regional levels, with more linguistic diversity, less cultural homogeneity and more political variations. For further discussion of the topic, see Pym (2001).
Newmark, P. (1976) The theory and Craft of Translation. Language Teaching and Linguistics: Abstracts (Jan.). Reprinted in V. Kinsella (ed.) (1978) Language Teaching and Linguistics: Surveys (pp. 79-100). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pym, A. (2001) Translation and International Institutions. Explaining the Diversity Paradox. Paper presented to the workshop "Translation and Institutions" at the conference 'Language Study in Europe at the Turn of the Millenium', Societas Linguistica Europea, Katholieka Universiteit Leuven, 28-31 August 2001. Reproduced in the site: http://www.fut.es/~apym/on-line/diversity.html.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Mekki Elbadri is a translator and researcher with interest in translation studies, terminology and discourse analysis, and is currently conducting doctoral research in Critical Discourse Analysis.