Research on, for and with translators

Author: Graham H. Turner

There are many topics one may be well advised to avoid in polite company – and here we are in polite company, so don’t ask me to name them. You know.

But in this age of social media free-for-all, if people are discussing their lives in the blogosphere, is that material openly available to be treated as data by researchers?

A recent paper (http://www.vakki.net/publications/2013/VAKKI2013_Dam.pdf) by Professor Helle Vrønning Dam, from the Department of Business Communication at Aarhus University in Denmark, has stirred up a degree of controversy among professional translators.

Professor Dam’s (http://pure.au.dk/portal/en/persons/id(a0254d63-e724-4476-bd70-5b7642cf0e53).html) work (2013) describes an ongoing project analysing translators’ self-presentation in their weblogs. Some 21 freelance practitioners are said to “use their weblogs to enhance their own and their profession’s status and, ultimately, seek empowerment”.

The paper is characterised by the author as an illustration of ‘the translator approach’, “a new research perspective in translation studies that posits translators, rather than for example translations or translating, as the primary and explicit focus of research”.

I’d be the last to knock any researcher who wants to keep real human beings squarely in focus. There are more than enough analysts out there who appear content to reduce the soul to a desiccated set of metrics (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/fashion/the-united-states-of-metrics.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0).

But if this is ‘new’ to translation studies, it really shouldn’t be. And there are models available that would help enormously to overcome the disconnect between researcher and researched that seems to have caused friction (https://www.facebook.com/groups/extraordinarytranslators/) among some readers of Dam’s study.

Back in the days when I still had hair on my head (no, I did, really), one the books that made the strongest impression on me was Cameron, D., E. Frazer, P. Harvey, M.B.H. Rampton, and K. Richardson. 1992. Researching language: issues of power and method. New York: Routledge. (Astonishingly, it’s not available from the publisher, it appears, but can be bought from as little as £0.01 from certain online outlets.)

As a young academic, I was captivated by the clarity and social solidarity of the authors’ approach. Long before ‘public engagement’, ‘knowledge exchange’ and the need for ‘impact’ became familiar to most academics, Professor Deborah Cameron (http://www.english.ox.ac.uk/about-faculty/faculty-members/language-and-linguistics/cameron-professor-deborah) and colleagues set out three simple ‘programmatic precepts’:

  • “People are not objects and should not be treated as objects.
  • Subjects have their own agendas and research should try to address them.
  • If knowledge is worth having, it is worth sharing.”

Elegant and brilliant. I am convinced that, taken in a serious and considered manner, these principles really work. They have for me for over 20 years. The beauty of them in the human sciences is that, at a stroke, they enhance both aspects of the equation – our humanity and our science.

Have they been applied in our field? Well over a decade ago, I led on a paper called ‘Issues of Power and Method in Interpreting Research’ (see http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9781900650441/ for details) which wears its debt to Cameron et al quite explicitly. The work of Heriot-Watt’s Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies in Scotland (www.ctiss.hw.ac.uk) has underscored this approach in many ways. ‘Empowering’ methods are highlighted in our Summer Schools (http://www.sml.hw.ac.uk/departments/languages-intercultural-studies/edinburgh-interpreting-research-summer-school.htm) and publications (eg https://benjamins.com/#catalog/books/btl.99.11hes/details).

So empowerment of practitioners by practitioners, as Dam discusses, is one significant step. But it is also eminently possible for researchers and practitioners to combine forces for mutual benefit. And the ultimate target is, of course, a ‘cycle of empowerment’ (as described here https://benjamins.com/#catalog/books/btl.70.21tur/details) which advances the interests of both groups, plus – most importantly of all – the service users in whose interests interpreters, translators and researchers are all ultimately operating.

Inventions for Freelancers part 2

Author: Jonathan Downie

Part 2: Interpreters

Last week, we offered a list of 4 inventions that every translator needs. This week, it is the time of interpreters to benefit from the march of technology. True, some of these would be more useful to the friends and families of interpreters than the interpreters themselves but nevertheless, all of them would bring a positive benefit to the world.

1)    Auto-mute

Hang around an interpreter for a while and you will realise that there is a reason they are paid to talk – they are very good at it! This is all well and good but their constant need to show that the can talk and listen at the same time can mean that they wear down those nearest to them. With auto-mute, this problem would be alleviated. All friends or family members would need to do is select the level of conversation they require ranging from “fewer words than a translator at a party” to “louder than a hyper-active toddler”. Anything over the level selected would be automatically screened out and/or stored for later.

2)    Joke Predictor

Ever struggled to interpret a speaker’s poor attempt at humour? Joke predictor would make this easier by spotting this horrible situation in advance and offering you a list of equally unfunny versions in your target language of choice. For a small extra fee, it could be adjusted to see in advance when the speaker is going to make an awful pun and then spend the entire speech dragging every last milligram of humour out of it.

3)    Silent Air-Con

Sweaty booth or loud deep freeze, which do you prefer? Silent Air-Con would make uncomfortable booths a thing of the past by actually keeping the temperature at a reasonable level. Say goodbye to unsightly sweat marks for ever!

4)     Rambler Swatter

No, this wouldn’t hit people who wander through the countryside. Instead, it would detect people whose talks are going to go on for ages without a point or worse, people who say they want to ask a question and proceed to start gibbering from a thick wad of tightly written notes without a question mark in sight. The answer: a swift whack.

It’s one invention that all interpreters, from the courtroom to the board room will love to use. Warning: using this invention may curtail your career.

5)    Accu-Brief

Are you tired of being told a meeting “won’t be technical” only to be confronted with a bunch of white-coated scientists discussing the finer points of bacteriology? What about suddenly realising that it wasn’t a good idea to wear a suit to that mud analysis job? With Accu-Brief, you can wave all of that goodbye. Now, you can be sure that the briefs you get for each job will tell you all the things you need to know and none of the things you don’t. Plus, for the first time, you will receive agendas that won’t change at the last minute!

Once again, over to you.

Not just about Languages

Author: Katerina Strani

The Intercultural Research Centre (IRC), established within LINCS, proves that we are not just about Languages. Led by Prof. Máiréad Nic Craith, the IRC makes original contributions to the study of interculturality with particular reference to dimensions of living culture in European societies. “Culture” is defined broadly in anthropological terms.

Among the numerous activities of the Centre, IRC members also participate in the International Doctoral Training Workshop “Transformations in European Societies” – a joint project of cultural studies and social anthropology departments at the universities of Basel, Heriot-Watt, Graz, Copenhagen, Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Murcia and Tel Aviv.

The first working meeting was hosted by Heriot-Watt and took place in Edinburgh in October-November 2013. A 1-minute summary of the workshop can be found here.

The second working meeting took place on 20-22 March 2014 in Basel, Switzerland. PhD students from participating universities presented their work in progress on topics such as constructing national identity, multi-sited biographies, cultural protest and urban mythography. There were also workshops on fieldwork and how to write a conference panel proposal.

The workshop on Fieldwork was of particular interest to those not entirely familiar with ethnographic methods. During this workshop, Professors and PhD students worked together in teams, analysing field notes and discussing relevant theories before presenting findings to the entire group. We got the chance to see how anthropologists actually work with field notes, as well as the theoretical frameworks that may underpin seemingly unimportant field notes and remarks.

The workshop on How to Write a Conference Panel Proposal used panel proposals from workshop participants as examples and included “live” editing with the participation of the entire group.

A walking tour of Basel through the eyes of urban anthropologists as well as a tour of the new Ethnographic Museum of Cultures also contributed to the understanding of anthropology as a multi-faceted discipline.

The next meeting is in Tel Aviv in September 2014. For more information on the International Doctoral Programme, please visit:

http://irc.hw.ac.uk/research/phd/international-doctoral-programme.html

 

Inventions For Freelancers pt. 1

Part 1: Translators

With CAT tools, terminology software and corpus-building, one could think that translators had all the productivity enhancements they needed. One would be wrong! In this post, we will sketch out some of the inventions that are most needed in the sector. We take no responsibility for the outcome of anyone actually manufacturing any of these!

1)    Dayjamas

Almost every translator has had the embarrassment of answering the door to the postman while still dressed in flannel or a cotton onesie. Dayjamas would be the solution to this. Made to look exactly like day clothes, Dayjamas would give people the impression that we aren’t the kind of people who shower only once the job is off to the PM. All we would have to do know is explain to the neighbours why there was still light coming from the living room at 3am last night.

2)    Desktop Tanning Lamp

While it is absolutely not true that translators melt in contact with sunlight, long hours in front of the computer can impart that pasty look. With desktop tanning lamps, fitted snugly on top of your monitor, you could get achieve a perfect tan while chipping away at that 10,000 word job on egg packing machinery. All we would need then would be one that can tan the rest of the body through clothes.

3)    Online coffee

One of the rare reasons to leave a computer during a job is to fill up our three gallon coffee or tea mugs. This loses precious time that could easily be used in terminology work or shouting at your crashing CAT software. Online coffee would sort this out. Simply submit your favourite drink onto a website and configure your delivery as you wish. Even better, buy a cup with an integral sensor so that coffee miraculously appears at your door just as you are downing the last drop. Sure, all that might cause us to get the caffeine shakes but the extra work would be so worth it!

4)    360 degree networking headset

Going to networking events is wonderful. It does, however, mean going through the tedious process of picking clothes, ironing them, hunting down business cards and using public transport. With the 360 degree networking headset, we could go to events without leaving our rooms. Better yet, they would allow us to create avatars that look any way we wish. As far as anyone else knows, there is no reason why we don’t all look like like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie. Why shatter the illusion?

So, what do you think of these? What do you think we need to invent?