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Review of  Translation in the Global Village

Reviewer: Jacobus A. Naude
Book Title: Translation in the Global Village
Book Author: Christina Schäffner
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Translation
Issue Number: 11.2325

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Schaeffner, C. 2000. Translation in the Global
Village. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. 72
pages. Hardback. 26 GB pounds. ISBN 1-

Jacobus A. Naude, University of the Free State
(South Africa)

The book, also available as volume 6(2) of the
journal Current Issues in Language and Society,
provides a report of a CILS seminar held at
Aston University, United Kingdom, on 9
February 1999. The main contribution is the
paper of Mary Snell-Hornby of the University of
Vienna (Communicating in the Global Village:
On Language, Translation and Cultural Identity).
Snell-Hornby's paper shows the effect of
globalisation and the advances in technology on
the production and the perception of language,
on translation and the job profile of the
translator. The section following her paper
reports the discussion held at the seminar (The
Debate). This is followed up by a series of six
responses by colleagues mainly from the UK on
aspects of the paper. The book is concluded by
some comments from Snell-Hornby on the
responses, written during autumn 1999. The
issues concerned are introduced by Christina
Schaeffner (Introduction: Globalisation,
Communication, Translation) and centered on
the two conflicting forces of globalism and
tribalism. In what follows, these two concepts
and their implications will be outlined as
presented in the book.

The premise of the paper and the discussion is
that the globalisation processes, which are seen
as supranational, i.e. boundaries are ignored and
place and time are transcended, affect all
spheres of life including areas of economy and
marketing, political and social systems,
institutions, values, and the daily activities of
individual people. The following picture of
globalisation is depicted. Nations are pressed
into one commercially homogeneous global
network; a McWorld tied together by
technology, ecology, communications and
commerce. The Internet becomes the digital
marketplace for e-commerce and many other
activities. It is estimated that in 2004, one billion
people will be part of the virtual seventh
continent. Where the radio, TV and telephone
took decades to change the world, the Internet
revolution will only need a few years to do so.
New communities of users and/or chatters on a
particular web site, or on an e-mail list, without
knowing each other personally, are formed as
well. Information and messages exist everywhere
and at any time. Communication in the global
village is de facto the privilege of those with
technological tools, marginalising millions in
lesser-developed countries as well as have-nots
in the richer countries. These still communicate
by simple word of mouth or through
conventional written texts, their view of the
world tends to be local and regional rather than

Snell-Hornby indicates three main areas that
have undergone considerable changes over the
last few years: the nature of the material the
consumer has to process, the language in which
it is presented, and the concept of text. She
views the linguistic McWorld to present its own
intellectual fast food via the Internet which is
dominated by its own McLanguage, a particular
brand of American English, reduced in stylistic
range and subject matter, and with the aid of
abbreviations, icons, acronyms and graphic
design, tailor-made for fast consumption, an
international lingua franca, colloquial in register
even when in written form, open to all kinds of
interference from other languages according to
the background and the linguistic competence of
the writers all over the world, and with no great
concern for native-speaker prescriptivism.
Similarly, in the European Union, European
English is emerging, as a kind of Eurolect or
Eurojargon to fulfil the communicative needs of
the member states, and this development occurs
despite the declared policy of democratic
multilingualism. The computer screen and the
endless possibilities of telecommunication do not
absorb or arrange the endless snippets of
information or the flood of images into a
coherent message as in an earlier stage during
which the products of the communication act
over long distances could be neatly classified
into spoken and written, into business
correspondence, telegrams, phone calls, reports,
and so forth.

Snell-Hornby shows that globalisation is
accompanied by an opposite trend, tribalisation,
which too has an effect on perception of
language, and also on translation. With the
emergence of new national identities after the fall
of the Iron Curtain, individual ethnic groups are
rediscovering their cultural heritage and with it
the significance of their own mother tongue,
particularly if they are in conflict with other
groups. Natural languages are promoted to
conform the nation's cultural identity by
expanding the use of its language. The most
striking, example is the emergence of Bosnian,
Serbian and Croatian as separate languages
from what was known as Serbo-Croat.

Between these two extremes Snell-Hornby sets
the sociological notion of cultural identity, which
indicates a community's awareness of and pride
in its own unmistakable features (an individual's
sense of belonging to that community, whether
by birth, language or common territory), but
implies that it is still able to communicate with
and exist in harmony with other communities in
the world surrounding. It is not bound by either
the uniformity of globalism or the destructive
aggression of tribalism. She based her view of
the concept of cultural identity on that of the
German sociologist and philosopher Georg
Simmel and the sociologist and psychologist
Dieter Claessens. She criticized Venuti's use of
the concept as based on the notion of a
subject's self-image as well as the way he/she is
viewed from an outsider's viewpoint (Venuti
1994). For the second aspect Snell-Hornby
would prefer to speak of constructed clich�
images or stereotypes. (As indicated by Mona
Baker and Said Faiq, Venuti has been influenced
by Cultural Studies, and particularly by people
like Edward Said, Michel Foucault, Jacques
Derrida and others.) Stereotypes and
misinterpretations often permeate the images,
that people in the target culture receive of the
source culture, and translations can contribute to
this effect, as has been pointed out by Venuti

Effect on language
Snell-Hornby viewed the effect of the recent
developments on the world language English
from three different perspectives. Firstly, there is
the free-floating lingua franca that has largely lost
track of its original cultural identity, its idioms, its
hidden connotations and its grammatical
subtleties, and has become a reduced
standardised form of language for supra-cultural
communication. Secondly, there are the many
individual varieties, by and large mutually
intelligible, but yet each an expression of a
specific cultural identity (Indian English, British
English, etc.). Finally, there are the literary
hybrid forms as demonstrated in postcolonial
literature, forging a new language 'in between',
adapted to its new surroundings (cf. Bassnett &
Trivedi 1999).

Gunilla Anderman, in her response paper, points
out that among translators an awareness must be
heightened that the variety of English required to
convey information about a nation's literary
heritage or its cultural identity must be of an
infinitely more subtle variety.

Effect on translation
Translation has been made obsolete because to
a great extent communication is carried out in the
lingua franca English, and formal business
correspondence has to some extent been
replaced by e-mail, fax or mobile phone. Some
communication relies simply on basic mutual
intelligibility and no translation is needed. There
is a greater role for machine translations (rough
versions of insider information for internal use)
because of the necessity for speedy processing,
the tolerance of less than impeccable language
forms and the levelling of culture-specific
differences. Multimedia communication creates
new text types and in the area of intercultural
communication not only language mediation is
required, but heightened cultural expertise.

Schaeffner indicates on the one hand that
translation can play a role in presenting to a
target culture an image of a source culture,
thereby achieving mutual understanding in the
sense of a growing awareness of differences. On
the other hand, cultures may also use translations
to represent and define, or redefine themselves,
i.e. delimit themselves from other cultures.

Effect on the job profile of the modern translator
Snell-Hornby sketches the translator as an
expert for intercultural communication in an
internationalised world, which is at the same time
characterised by an abundance of individual
cultural communities. These are illustrated by
comparing four authentic translation assignments:
from an international organisation (International
English in the source text), from an electric
appliances firm with branches all over Europe
(culture-specific aspects in an instruction
manual), from an airline publicity leaflet (culture-
specific aspects in an advertising leaflet), and
from a recent best-selling novel (literary hybrid
text). Contrary to Newmark, Snell-Hornby
views the translator's responsibilities to go well
beyond what was traditionally considered as
translation proper, i.e. a linguistically accurate
text conversion. Schaeffner describes the
constantly changing job profile of the translator
to include among other things text production
(frequently multisemiotic or multimedial) for a
clearly defined user and purpose; making non-
translators, i.e. those who commission and
consume the final product aware of what
translation actually entails; do terminological
work; give advice and do public relations. In
addition translators are expected to master the
new technologies. The prediction that translators
will become extinct in the near future is not
shared by translation scholars. It is, however,
true that translations need to be done more
quickly, much more efficiently , and have to be
of a high quality. There are still many translation
assignments that require the production of a
target text where appropriateness for the
specified purpose may involve rearrangements of
information, deletions, additions, etc. (cf. Nord
1997). This implies that human translators must
have much more than linguistic competence
alone which includes qualities such as subject-
specific competence, cultural competence, text-
typological competence, technical writing
competence and research competence.

The paper and responses mostly depict a view on the global village and
International English from a European Union viewpoint and leave the impression
that the global village comprises Europe only. Although Snell-Hornby accused
Terry Hale that he missed her message in his response paper, he provided, in my
opinion, a more accurate picture of the role of computer-mediated communication
and the role of English in lesser developed countries. Although people in these
countries mostly do not own their own equipment, they normally make use of the
local cyber-caf� or have access to the technological tools via governmental
and/or private institutions and companies. At least for educational purposes
this new technology enfranchises (and empowers) thousands who do not have
access to (well-stocked) libraries. And in most cases, it would not be possible
if it were not for the existence of a certain variety of English in the
user-community. The information retrieved is as linguistically rich and
stylistically varied as it would be if obtained from a conventional source such
as a library. It may be not so obvious from the European/Western viewpoint, but
the global village indeed comprises and influences living in the lesser
developed countries. However, Snell-Hornby is correct in her view that the
have-nots in the richer as well as the lesser developed countries will be
further marginalised, as well as that the richer and poorer countries will be
further polarised (because the economies of the last-mentioned cannot compete
with those the former)
- further trends of the global village. In the future the two conflicting
forces of globalism and tribalism may turn out to be in themselves
self-correcting forces.

Although Snell-Hornby claims that she is only describing what is happening with
English, namely its diversification into multiple Englishes (correctly so), any
reader of the book will detect a touch of linguistic anxiety between the lines
on two facades, namely the loss of standardised English (her critic on the
quality of a global McLanguage in The Debate and Concluding Comments) and the
threat to languages of lesser diffusion. In Europe (and elsewhere), the English
language will change considerably under the impact of globalism, although some
standardisation may take place as commonly accepted terms are developed. As
Hale indicated, languages of lesser diffusion (Dutch, Greek, Welsh) have
enhanced their status due to their participation in the project of creating a
unified Europe. This may be true of other parts of the global village, where
the use of English goes hand in hand with a growth of multilingualism. To
avoid a breakdown of communication in the
global village all the various means used in the
past will still be needed, inter alia translation,
interpreting, fostering the growth of
multilingualism and the promotion of an existing
language as a language of communication.


Bassnett, S & Trivedi, H 1999. Post-colonial
translation: theory and practice. London:
Nord, C 1997. Translating as a purposeful
activity: functionalist approaches explained.
Manchester, UK: St Jerome.
Venuti, L 1994. Translation and the formation of
cultural identities. Current Issues in Language
and Society 1, 201-17.
Venuti, L 1998. The scandals of translation:
towards an ethics of difference. London:

Dr Jacobus (Jackie) A. Naud� is senior lecturer
and teaches Translation Studies, Linguistics
(Syntax), Dead Sea Scroll Studies, Hebrew and
Aramaic Grammar. Research interests:
Contemporary translation studies and translation
of religious literature into the 11 official
languages of South Africa, the application of
modern linguistic theory (minimalist programme)
on the description and explanation of syntactic
structures in non-living languages, eg. the syntax
of independent personal pronouns in Qumran

J A. Naud�
Near Eastern Studies
University of the Free State
PO Box 339
9300 Bloemfontein
South Africa