EU study on Public Service Translation in Cross-Border Healthcare is out!

After 10 months of non-stop work, we are delighted to announce that an EU study on Public Service Translation in Cross Border Healthcare, led by Prof Claudia V. Angelelli is published. The Report, commissioned by the Directorate-General for Translation, responds to an increasing interest in the role of language provision and information access in cross-border healthcare.

Linguistic diversity permeates every thread of the European Union fabric. Cross-border healthcare is increasing among EU citizens and residents who seek care under Directive 2011/24/EU or Regulation (EC) N° 883/2004.

In a multilingual and intercultural society like the EU, patients and providers may not share a language. If patients cannot access healthcare services in a language they fully understand, equal access to safe and high-quality healthcare is not guaranteed. Through the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods, this exploratory study examines language policies as well as responses provided (or lack thereof) to linguistically diverse patients in areas of Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. The cost of language provision as well as good practices are also studied.

Results show that a variety of responses, ranging from professional translation and interpreting support to informal and unprofessional ad-hoc solutions, are used to address the language needs of patients. In the absence of formal language guidance in EU legislation, in most observed cases appropriate language services are not provided for patients who do not speak the language of the Member State in which they seek healthcare. This study has implications for policy makers, healthcare providers, educators, translators and interpreters serving the needs of linguistically and culturally diverse patients.

The full document of the study is available here

Les publics multilingues

by Katerina Strani

This post was originally published in the CREM research blog Publics en Question. For a similar (but not identical) English version, please visit this page.

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Il a longtemps été prouvé que notre langage a un impact sur la façon dont nous pensons et, finalement, la façon dont nous soutenons nos arguments (Whorf, 1956). Notre langage façonne notre pensée et notre vision du monde. C’est par la langue que nous devenons des êtres politiques. Le philosophe Ludwig Wittgenstein a dit que les « limites de ma langue sont les limites de mon monde ». Dai Vaughan a adapté cette citation célèbre en déclarant que« les limites de ma langue sont les limites de ton monde ».

Qu’est-ce que cela signifie quand nous parlons des langues différentes dans les sphères publiques?

L’argumentation constitue la pierre angulaire de la sphère publique, mais, malgré l’importance du multilinguisme sur la construction sociale des sphères publiques contemporaines, ceci reste relativement sous-exploré. Les sphères publiques ne sont pas statiques, mais dynamiques et en pleine évolution. La citoyenneté post-nationale (comme la citoyenneté de l’UE), les sphères publiques sous-nationales (assemblées, collectivités locales, etc.), les langues minoritaires dans l’administration publique, les publics diasporiques en raison de l’augmentation des migrations ont abouti à la communication publique multilingue augmentée. Si on ajoute à cela les nouveaux médias et des « tiers-espaces » de communication (Bhabha, 1994), on voit que la communication multilingue a modifié la composition de la sphère publique non seulement en termes de structure mais aussi en termes de nature communicative. Les interprètes sont de plus en plus utilisés pour parvenir à la compréhension et favoriser le débat dans un environnement multilingue (voir les sphères publiques de l’UE). La reconnaissance des différences culturelles et la thématisation de l’«altérité» font désormais partie du débat multilingue (Doerr, 2012). Les logiciels de traduction deviennent également populaires dans les forums multilingues en ligne, bien que parfois avec des résultats mitigés.

Cependant, malgré la réalité multilingue évidente, il reste quand même une idéologie monolingualiste (Doerr, 2012 ; Pym, 2013) et une hypothèse erronée de l’homogénéité linguistique des sphères publiques. Et cela est encore plus alarmant quand on sait que le multilinguisme dans la sphère publique n’est pas quelque chose de nouveau. Rappelons-nous de l’Empire des Habsbourg, de l’Empire Ottoman, ou bien de la France du 19e siècle ; et aujourd’hui, des pays comme la Belgique, la Suisse, le Canada, l’Afrique du Sud ou l’Inde sont officiellement bilingues or multilingues.

Le multilinguisme continue à constituer une partie intégrante de la sphère publique contemporaine, dans laquelle l’argumentation politique peut défier les barrières linguistiques. Comme Thomas Risse et Marianne Van de Steeg (2003) l’ont fait valoir, il n’est « pas besoin de parler la même langue pour communiquer d’une manière significative » ; comme Nicole Doerr (2012) l’a démontré dans ses recherches sur le Forum social européen, malgré le pluralisme linguistique et les compétences linguistiques asymétriques des participants, les débats multilingues sont plus inclusifs que les monolingues. D’un bout à l’autre, la communication devient peu à peu détachée du fonds linguistique.

Bien sûr, cela a des implications pratiques ainsi que normatives. La compréhension semble de plus en plus inaccessible. Une autre langue ajoute un niveau supplémentaire à la contingence (et au risque de mécompréhension ). En outre, les différences de pouvoir dans les sphères publiques multilingues peuvent non seulement être enracinées dans le statut, l’éducation ou l’accès, mais aussi dans la langue choisie pour la communication ou enfin dans la façon dont la langue dominante est parlée (Doerr, 2012 ; Fraser 2007). Le manque d’une langue commune dans l’UE, par exemple, n’empêche pas l’hégémonie linguistique; et toute lingua franca ne sera probablement parlée que par les élites où les éduqués (Fraser, 2007).

Mais il faut considérer ceci : quand nous parlons une langue différente, nous devenons essentiellement des personnes différentes. Quand nous pensons dans une langue différente, nous pensons d’une manière différente. Les langues représentent les cultures, les systèmes de croyance, les mondes vécus. Si nous passons à une autre langue, nous passons à une vision du monde différente. Forcer les gens à parler la même langue, en particulier dans le débat politique, revient à les forcer à penser différemment et à avoir des arguments différents. Certaines personnes considèrent cette obligation comme une forme d’oppression.

Pourquoi dire que l’anglais en Grande-Bretagne, le français en France, etc., est la seule langue admise de débat critique rationnel ? Il est arrogant de penser qu’une langue dominante est la langue de la raison et la seule pourvoyeuse de la vérité. Voilà pourquoi nous devons adopter le multilinguisme, nous devons le favoriser et l’encourager, surtout en politique, où il est le plus vital. Il encourage le pluralisme dans la pensée et l’expression, ce qui est au cœur de la démocratie.

Références

Bhabha H., 1994, The Location of Culture, London, New York, Routledge.Doerr N., 2012, « Translating democracy : how activists in the European Social Forum practice multilingual deliberation », European Political Science Review, 4 (3), pp. 361-384.

Fraser N., 2007, « Transnationalizing the Public Sphere : On the Legitimacy and Efficacy of Public Opinion in a Post-Westphalian World », European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies, doi : 10.1177/0263276407080090.

Pym A., 2013, « Translation as an instrument for multilingual democracy », Critical Multilingualism Studies, 1(2), pp. 78-95.

Risse T., Van de Steeg M., 2003, « An emerging European public sphere ? Empirical evidence and theoretical clarifications » : Conference on the Europeanisation of Public Spheres, Political Mobilisation, Public Communication and the European Union, Science Center Berlin, 20-21 juin.

Whorf B.L., 1956, « The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language », pp. 134-59, in : Carroll, J. B. et al. (dir.), Language, Thought and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf, Cambridge, MIT Press.

Future directions for Scotland’s culture

by Cristina Clopot

Last Sunday was a day of passionate discussions at the Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh. What’s next for Scotland’s culture? This was the central question posed by a group of cultural activists in an event organized under the umbrella of the festival TradFest. The event, coordinated by cultural activist Mairi McFadyen, with the help of Roanne Dods, was structured based on the world café model. A massive task of discussing the current situation and future possibilities was set at the start of the day.

First, a round of cultural actors from different domains shared their views on the current situation culture taking into account, among others, the recent political elections and last year’s referendum. Their aim was to provoke and raise some general ideas. The first panel included David Grieg (playwright), Adura Onashile  (actress), Kieran Hurley (writer), Scott Hames (academic), Gerda Stevenson (actress, writer), Aonghas MacNeacail (poet) and Donald Smith (director – Storytelling Centre).  Each of them delivered serious, funny, personal and general comments on their craft and the general landscape of culture in Scotland. The themes discussed included:

  • a personal list published here which mentions amongst others the use of plural when discussing culture (David Grieg);
  • HIFA festival in Zimbabwe as an example of an event embracing diversity (Adura Onashile);
  • That art can be ‘a hammer with which to shape’ reality (Kieran Hurley);
  • the interplay between politics and culture – the outlines of the current situation when culture is arrière-garde rather than avant-garde of politics (Scott Hames);
  • the beauty and richness of expression of Scots language (Gerda Stevenson)
  • speakers of heritage languages such as Scots and Gaelic and prejudices against their use (Aonghas MacNeacail)
  • culture’s effects such as encouraging human connections, the link between culture and heritage, and a need for inclusion in international debates around heritage (Donald Smith).

For further details on each ‘provocation’ please see #ForCulture on Twitter.

I had the pleasure of participating in a group where interesting and active discussions took place. We discussed about the link between culture and heritage and how this link can be seen both in a positive light (based on the emphasis that Scotland places on heritage and and its potential to assist cultural project through association) as well as a negative one (heritage perceived only as bricks and stones). The power of culture and arts to educate was also debated, as well as the need for further inclusion (as art can be perceived, at times, as elitist). A further point, later on resumed by other groups also, was that culture needs to be sensitive to diversity and multiculturalism.

The second round of provocations came after this and new ideas about potential ideas for development emerged:

  • Karine Polwart (songwriter) called for embracing difficult heritage also and the need to have conversations beyond the group of like-minded people;
  • Mara Menzies (storyteller) mentioned the need for a new narrative of Scotland, one that presents the stories of women also;
  • Tam Dean Burn (actor) discussed about politics and women and made the audience sing along with him Freedom Come All Ye;
  • Peter Arnott (playwright) discussed about the link between culture and identity and how identities are sometimes discussed in relation to the ‘Other’ (often by negation);
  • Janie Nicoll (visual artist) presented her experience at the Venice Biennale and raised the problem of artists’ wages;
  • Christopher Silver (journalist) reminded us about the power of narratives and their transformative effects;
  • Janice Galloway (writer) talked about the need for people to understand the value of culture and reminded us that artistic products cannot be prescribed through business plans.

Inspired by these inspiring ‘provocations’ we re-joined our groups to discuss ways of moving forward. The discussions in my group concentrated on 5 key terms:

  • untapped – as there is an immense potential not used, we are at a moment of opportunity
  • outward – the need to embrace diversity but also look outside to the world
  • broadcasting – a need for better coverage of culture on major broadcasting media
  • lifelong – linked with education – as a commitment for development of the individual throughout life
  • action/conversation – the need to involve in the discussion not only creators of art, but also different stakeholders such as policy makers, etc.

Other groups mentioned ideas such as understanding culture as a process and not a product, the possibility of a tax-deductible legislation for arts, creation of a manual of activism, the need to make public servants and educator aware of culture’s value. David Francis encouraged people in the audience to act as ‘bards’ of culture. Avenues for further development of this effort to reconfigure the current cultural landscape were also discussed building on the conclusions of the day. Further plans included possibilities to form a community as well as organising other meetings.

For further details about the event visit the project’s website and Twitter.

The Language of Reason

by Katerina Strani

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A café. Once a dedicated space where people gathered to discuss culture and politics. A space of arguing, debating, learning. A space where public opinion was formed and authority was challenged, contested, or at least influenced. A public sphere: a communicative space where people gathered to talk about public matters – politics.
Their aim – to form public opinion and to influence government.

Today, public spheres have evolved into more complex, more sophisticated spaces but also equally more diffuse and more informal. Think of online platforms such as blogs, twitter, facebook. A public sphere does not have to be a physical space waiting to be used, as these online platforms have proved. Instead, public spheres are spaces of communication that emerge with communication and die out when communication stops, when there is nothing left to debate.

Also, nowadays people are constantly bombarded with information and opinions, they have become more knowledgeable, but also more passionate about certain economic and political issues. Political debates are not a privilege of the elite anymore. Again, think of online platforms such as blogs, twitter, facebook. Think of public squares such as Tahrir square during the Arab spring, Syntagma square during the Greek financial crisis, or Taksim square during the demonstrations in Turkey in 2013. Anyone can join the debate, anyone can make themselves heard, anyone can influence public opinion – right???

Well, not really.

In order to participate in online public spheres, for instance, you need to have access to a computer and an internet connection. With this prerequisite, we’ve already narrowed down participation by about half (and having access to technology doesn’t mean you can use it)… But that has always been the case. In ancient public spheres, for example, such as the Forum in Rome or the Agora in Athens, only a tiny proportion of citizens actually participated in the debate. Only free-born male landowners and citizens of Rome or Athens, so no women, no foreigners, no slaves. Fast-forward to the 18th – 19th centuries and the situation hasn’t really changed. An eminent German philosopher with the name Jürgen Habermas writes that the public spheres of that time, such as coffeehouses and salons were composed of male citizens who had property in their name. These people communicated – allegedly – through the public use of reason.

So there has always been some form of gatekeeping – be it gender, financial status, nationality. Today most of these barriers are not relevant anymore, but there is one that still persists : language. It’s funny, language, be it spoken or signed, is at the heart of communication and yet multilingualism seems to be largely ignored in communication studies. An increasingly globalised world means that public spheres are becoming more multilingual, more multicultural. It means that people can participate in public life by speaking a language different from their ‘native’ one, or if that’s not possible, use the medium of translation or interpreting. If you ask me, this has always been the case but it has been largely bracketed, to use Nancy Fraser‘s term.

So what do we see today? A rise in the use of “minority languages” in citizen debates, such as Polish, Urdu or BSL in Britain, for example. With the exception of BSL, these are sometimes called migrant languages, to distinguish them from so-called heritage languages that are also gaining popularity once again, such as Gaelic in Scotland, Breze in Brittany, Cornish in Cornwall etc. I use the terms minority, migrant and heritage languages with caution, as these eventually overlap and their definitions are a bit fuzzy. The point is, multilingualism in political debate is a hard fact and it is here to stay.

The practical issue here, of course, is that historically, common languages (linguae francae) were used for convenience, so there was always a dominant language used in everyday discussions and in national parliaments. But think of national parliaments in Switzerland, Belgium, Canada. In the EU Parliament, interpreters are used and any cases of miscommunication are similar to ones that occur in monolingual environments anyway.

A lingua franca is not always the most practical solution. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. Because if we think of the gatekeeping issue, if we impose a lingua franca we are immediately excluding those citizens and taxpayers who choose to speak their own migrant, minority or heritage language, whatever you want to call it. And there are enough exclusions already, don’t you think?

When we speak a different language, we essentially become different people. When we think in a different language, we think in a different way. Languages represent cultures, belief systems, lifeworlds. If we switch to a different language, we switch to a different worldview. Forcing people to speak the same language especially in political debate is to force them to think differently and to have different arguments. Some people consider it as a form of oppression.

Who is to say that English in Britain, French in France etc. is the only accepted language of critical-rational debate? It is arrogant to think that one dominant language is the language of reason and the sole purveyor of truth. This is why we need to embrace multilingualism, we need to foster and encourage it, especially in politics, where it is most vital. It encourages pluralism in thought and expression, which is at the heart of democracy.

Does culture make any money?

by Ullrich Kockel

“Sculpture, poetry, theatre – tell me,” says Didzis Meḷḳis, “does culture make any money?”

We are sitting in an office in the Latvian Academy of Culture: the International Editor of Dienas bizness, the business section of Latvia’s leading daily broadsheet, and I, Professor of Culture and Economy at Heriot-Watt, having just delivered a keynote at the Academy’s Cultural Crossroads conference as part of Riga’s year as European City of Culture.

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“It depends,” I say, “what you mean by ‘culture’.”

If we think of it merely in terms of the cultural industries that since the mid-1980s have been seen as having replaced the money-spinning manufacturing industries of an earlier age, then it depends indeed on which part of the cultural industries we are looking at: some are lucrative cash cows, others are more like bottomless pits.

But that is not the best way of looking at culture and economy, and may even lead to entirely wrong conclusions. If culture is understood more broadly in what used to be anthropological terms (before ‘culture’ was ousted from much of anthropology in favour of ‘society’), then the utilisation of culture as a resource for development – which had been the topic of my keynote – can be realised as bringing significant benefits to society. However, many of these are not easily captured in monetary terms. There are examples where investment in cultural activities leads to a step change in local culture, understood more broadly, that raises the quality of life for all concerned.

Take Derry-Londonderry’s experience as UK City of Culture 2013, for example. It is early days yet, but all indications are that, whatever the immediate financial outcome, the city is a better place as a result of the year’s activities. Riga and Latvia, with their own ethnic tensions, take more than a passing interest in such conjunctions of culture and economy.

Understanding understanding *

“I want people to understand each other” –

That was the best I could come up with when asked to sum up my research in fewer than 10 words during last year’s Heriot-Watt Crucible. But it did prompt people to ask me questions such as how are you planning to achieve this, why do you want people to understand each other, what is the scope of your research, can you give us a bit more context etc. But nobody asked me what I meant by “understanding”.

Understanding is a hugely complex cognitive process that involves great uncertainty, yet it is fundamental in communication. It is also taken for granted or tends to be assumed too quickly.

German philosopher Jürgen Habermas believes that what is crucial in achieving understanding is intersubjectivity. This places emphasis on a distinct common social world shared by people when they speak. It requires us to overcome our biased, subjective views so that, instead of communicating our own subjectivities, we are communicating intersubjectively. And understanding is reached when people relate to something in “the one objective world” (which I don’t agree with, but that’s another story), something in the common social world that they have created through communication and something in each one’s subjective world.

This model is certainly not without its flaws, but it highlights the fact that understanding is a shared process. Even in the absence of others, when we read a book alone, for example, we try to understand by relating what we read to past shared communications. And that involves great uncertainty. In many cases, people assume they have understood each other even though they have created different images in their head that do not coincide. Understanding in this case is reduced to a “fictional coupling of expectations”, as my former PhD supervisor neatly put it.

And we haven’t talked about different languages yet.

In a recent conference in Cork organised by the University Association of Contemporary European Studies, I presented a paper on “The impact of multilingualism in public sphere communication” (abstract here). I tried to show that multilingualism is an integral part of post-national citizenship but it is frequently ignored in political communication. Because of multiculturalism and multilingualism, we have seen the profusion of new publics – subnational, diasporic publics, for example. And let’s not forget the EU public sphere, where 24 different languages are used! How do people argue when they speak a language different from their language of habitual use? How is debate transformed when interpreters are used? (Nicole Doerr from Mount Holyoke College has written extensively on this, looking at interpreted debate during the European Social Forum). How do we negotiate and establish meaning, understanding and ultimately consensus?

One of the questions I was asked was if language was actually important in communication and understanding. The argument was that, even when we speak different languages, we reach understanding one way or another (through paralinguistic communication, educated guesses (!) or through interpreters). So if understanding is achieved, it doesn’t matter what language you speak. The focus should be on the message and not on the language used to convey it.

IF understanding is achieved. That’s a big IF. Even in monolingual, unicultural environments we get “fictional coupling of expectations” instead of complete understanding. Multilingual environments add another level of complexity because when we speak a different language, we become different people (or do we?). If language is linked to culture, then when we speak a different language do we acquire different cultural traits? I joked once that I would probably be more efficient if I spoke better German.

But bold claims aside, we do change when we speak a different language. We do start to think differently. And if understanding is a shared process, this ultimately influences how we communicate our thoughts, our perceptions of meaning and ultimately the way we argue.

Multilingualism does not impede on our communication, but it adds another dimension to our understanding of meanings and perceptions that we must take into account.  Recognition and awareness is a good start.

Katerina Strani

* The title is borrowed by Heinz von Foerster’s book Understanding understanding: Essays on Cybernetics and Cognition, Springer, 2002.