10 March 1997

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 14:45:34 +1000 (GMT+1000)
From: E.Valverde@mailbox.uq.oz.au (Estela Valverde)
Subject: TS as field

Pym says: I believe that on the intellectual level (beyond institutional constraints) translation studies should study translation/translators in terms of equivalence.

Kaussen says: If it takes place on so many levels, how can we come up with a single “theory of translation”?

I don’t think any of us is talking about a single theory of translation as there is not a single theory of linguistuics, but a corpus of theories that interrelate with each other. Translation as Kaussen says can be many things, as Jakobson has already pointed out. Here we are all interested about the “interlingual” translation and translators. I am not too sure if in Pym’s terms: “equivalence” is a very ideologically charged term. Does it exist?

Dr. Estela Valverde
E-mail: E.Valverde@mailbox.uq.oz.au (Estela Valverde)

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 15:37:14 +0800
From: chliao@farmer.cc-sun.fcu.edu.tw (Chao-Chih Liao)
Subject: Powerful translator

If we call the translator of Hitler powerful when he pretended to translate but in fact he was telling the other side what Hitler intended to do, it is a kind of cheating.

The translator should have been fired and hired by the enemy country as spy. I don’t think that this kind translator whould be rewarded a position in any case.

Laura Chao-chih Liao

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 14:26:49 +0000
From: iuts2@cc.uab.es (Doug Robinson)
Subject: Re: Authority

Pym writes:

>Should we tell translators how to translate?

Is this in response addressed to anybody in particular, or is it a general comment? I’m feeling somewhat disoriented, having had some difficulties downloading msgs from my accts in the US here in Spain, and having missed about 36 hours’ worth of transfer-l while en route.

>Since I’m interested in the ethics of translation, I frequently find myself accused of wanting to tell translators how to translate. I thus start to look like a ‘a hardheaded empirical economic theorist’ seeking to impose just one set of rules on everyone else.

Since Pym is quoting me there between those inverted commas, I assume he’s also implying that this “seeking to impose just one set of rules on everyone else” is an attempt to summarize some position or other of mine. Maybe not; maybe I’m imagining things.

In any case, I never said anything like that about Pym, and don’t think that way anyhow. The only thing I’ve said here on transfer-l that might be construed as in any way pointing toward this summary is that Pym seems to be postulating a rationalist model of subjectivity in which the subject is ruled by a single ruler, reason. Presumably reason is also transsubjective, so that if in a given context economic rationality somehow transsubjectively or transcendentally “decides” or “declares” or whatever that “one” (whoever or whatever that “one” might at any given moment be, a person or group or culture or nation) should not resort to translation, that some other form of communication is preferable (i.e., more rational), then that decision would enforce obedience in the rationalist subject as well. Because, after all, the rationalist subject is ruled by reason; what reason commands, the subject does. Reason says translate and the subject translates. Reason says learn languages and the subject learns languages.

So far it seems to me Pym and I are talking about more or less the same thing: internalized external forces command from within and to some extent, in some way, the subject obeys. Reason would be Pym’s (or generally the rationalist’s) primary or even, conceivably, exclusive invisible hand.

So that thus far I am emphatically NOT accusing Pym of trying to impose just one set of rules on everybody. If anybody is doing that, it’s reason. But reason is a force, right? It isn’t subject to the command of theorists. Theorists are engaged in the activity of trying to discern the dictates of reason, not of prescribing them.

What happens, though, if we see reason as a social force that IS partly controlled by individual humans? What if reason is an ideological fiction that wields its considerable power at least partly through persuasion? Then the theorist’s intervention is crucial. Then the theorist is in a good position to work to convince others that reason dictates thus and such. Then arguments for, say, economic rationality can work surreptitiously as arguments for doing what the theorist recommends.

Which is, of course, nothing new. It’s an ancient rhetorical device: invoke a transcendental force with which listeners are desirous of identifying in order to get them to do what you want them to do. It’s God’s will. Reason dictates. It’s in your own best interests. It’s for the public good.

Still, I really don’t believe that Pym is interested in imposing a simple or single set of rules on everyone. His imagination is much more complex and capacious than that.

>And it gets worse: In Paris I once gave a series of lectures on the ethics of translation only to have Jean-Rene Ladmiral tell me he was against the very idea of such an ethics, which could only be restrictively prescriptive.

Such an ethics? What kind of ethics? I can see the great potential for misunderstanding in connection with ethics, which since the Middle Ages has been normatively understood in narrowly prescriptive ways. Many many people believe that ethics means telling people how to act. Ethics is the study of choices, the grounds on which choices are made, the implications or consequences for character (Greek ethos) that will follow from various alternative choices, etc. Ethics is not necessarily about dictating choices.

Otoh, sometimes it’s hard, when someone is standing up in front of a group of people saying basically “here’s what I think you ought to do,” even if the specific advice is “you shouldn’t obey normative ethics so blindly, you should be more critical, etc.” to avoid the impression that what is actually, subtextually, being recommended is some sort of submission to a normative ethics. Without knowing the contents of the ethics Pym is suggesting, however, I can’t say how people would have gotten that impression in this particular case.

>First, in an obscure 1992 text I wrote, as a section heading, ‘translation theory should not lecture translators’. Why not? Because, I said at the time, the practical function of public theory [see notes on Theory and Practice] is not primarily to tell translators what they should be doing but to open authoritative academic space from which translators can be recognized as professionals. Public theorizing can transfer authority from the academy to practising translators. And this can happen no matter how inept the theory.

Fortunately or unfortunately, of course, the public form that authoritative academic space has taken has all too often been lecturing translators. In fact, that is sort of what is automatically implied by “authoritative academic space,” isn’t it? The theorist has authority. That authority is granted the theorist in (by?) academia. The theorist has the power, granted him or her by the institution, to open an authoritative space. The theory that this space will yield professional benefits to translators–increased professional recognition, say–is in fact one of the authoritative messages that the theorist needs to convey to translators. Needs, in fact, to “lecture” to or at translators. “You need to listen to me because that activity confers increased professional recognition on you.” The trickle-down theory of theory?

Isn’t this still lecturing translators? It’s no longer saying “translate sense-for-sense, not word-for-word,” or “the full stop is sacred,” or whatnot; but it’s the same activity raised to a higher level of authoritative generality.

Which is not to say that I’m trying to hurl accusations, here, or to exclude myself from the impact of my own remarks. I’m much more interested in addressing translators along the lines of “hey, what you’re doing right now is just fine,” but I’m still interested in addressing translators, in convincing translators that I have something important to say to them, which implicates me in the same authoritative relations I’ve just been discussing. My rhetoric is more buddy-buddy, more egalitarian; but the very fact that my rhetoric is often flatly rejected by the people I’m trying to sidle up to–that translators say to me “that’s not what I do at all, you’re wrong”–makes it clear that I too have a pill I’m trying to make them swallow.

>Second, public theory tends to legitimize at most a few patches of translational practice at the same time as it presents those patches as being authoritative in their own right. There is more symbiosis than it commonly believed.


>Third, theorizing practitioners are mostly able to solve their own historical problems, at least in the long run. What public theorists should do is learn actively from their practice.


>So why should I now get stuck into ethics? And why should I risk presenting an apparently simply principle (cooperation) as a solution to all problems?

>The simple reason is that I do so as a recherche, as a search for orientation on both the practical and theoretical levels. As a translator, I feel a lack of ethical orientation; I am unsatisfied with the tautologies and occasional mercenarism of Hundlungstheorie and Skopostheorie; I need to think

Would Hundlungstheorie be action training for dogs? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

>through and justify my activity to myself. If I should then write up and present a progress report to others, I do it as no more than that, in the hope that it will be discussed, that the process might enable the recherche to proceed further.

No more? No attempt to convince, to persuade, to bend other people’s actions? This disclaimer seems somewhat disingenuous. In the hope ONLY that it will be discussed, no hope at all that it will be accepted, believed, and put into practice–and that it will transform the profession for the better? At the very least I’d think the public theorist would need to have some rhetorical justification for getting people to listen (who cares what someone else is thinking unless it has some potential impact on our own lives?); and beyond that, the public theorist probably has a much stronger motivation than that for addressing people, namely, creating that authoritative academic space where people listen, people take one seriously, people think complexly and critically about one’s ideas, people contemplate putting those ideas into practice, etc.

Maybe I’m missing something here. But this passage in Pym’s remarks seems somewhat at odds with the stuff above about the authoritative academic space.

>As a public theorist, I feel that need even more acutely. I wasn’t born in translation studies; I came to the discipline from Comparative Literature and Sociology; and in the 20 odd years it’s taken me to get here I’ve only really had one question to answer: How should cultures interrelate? A question of ethics, thanks to the modal ‘should’. A hell of a lot of research is needed before any answer to that question can be ventured. What worries me now, though, is that the question is no longer even being asked in translation studies.

This is a strange question to me: how SHOULD cultures interrelate? It seems like the kind of question that a god might ask: how should I shape human cultures so that their interrelations might be as satisfactory (according to some as-yet-unspecified ideal). Or that an emperor might ask: how should I intervene in the interrelations among the cultures under my control so as best to serve the empire’s interests? ((Hence of course the importance of translation and interpretation to all empires.) Bureaucratizing that divine/imperial frame somewhat, we can imagine a Minister of Culture asking that question as well, though in a national context (since Ministers of Culture tend to be appointed by nations) any intervention in the interrelations between or among cultures is bound to be rather unilateral: how should I intervene in OUR SIDE of this or that cultural interrelation so as to improve things for me, for us (my counry), or for us (both interacting/cooperating cultures), or for us (all humanity), etc.

But what earthly business does the translation theorist have trying to impose ideal shapes or directions on cultural interrelations? This seems just slightly megalomaniac to me.

>As I start to get some kind of answers to the big questions, I am very interested in circulating those propositions to whomever wants to listen. But I’m not particularly interested in telling translators how to translate. Unless they ask me what I think, in which case I tell them.

But again, isn’t this new set of “big” questions itself “telling translators how to translate” writ large? Telling cultures how to interrelate. Seeking to regulate clients’ and translators’ normative conceptions of economic rationality. Not telling translators how to translate (except when they ask), but still telling people how to live.

>Part of the problem is the descriptive/prescriptive divide, which should have been overcome long ago (there is no such thing as pure description; we’re involved in change processes that concern both practice and theory; the more one is self- critically aware of that involvement, the better).

I agree completely with this. We’re all involved in rhetorical persuasion, and it is an extremely narrow and unself-aware theorist that refuses to recognize this–by believing or arguing, for example, that what my friends and I do is “descriptive,” as opposed to that prescriptive nonsense that our opponents are engaged in.

Once we admit and affirm the rhetorical nature of our public addresses, then, the next important step is to explore the ethics of our rhetoric. What are we trying to do to whom, and how, and with what consequences for them and ourselves? How will we be transformed ethically (in terms of our character, our ethos) if people start agreeing with us, putting our recommendations into practice? Can we live with the consequences of our own rhetoric? Can we live with all of them? To what extent is our address to others mostly wrapped up with the egotism of reputation, recognition, fame? To what extent is it wrapped up in power, power-over, the ability to get others to do our bidding, regardless of what that bidding might be?

>Another part of the problem is that my ethics proposes what looks like a very simple principle: cooperation. Are you all now so sophisticated that you’re frightening by simplicity?

Who is this cute little slur directed to, I wonder? It sounds like gratuitous insult to me. Especially since Pym immediately, just below, goes on to argue that the simplicity he’s calling for isn’t really all that simple:

>Yet the principle of cooperation is not at all simple. Despite my pedagogical presentation, the principle can incorporate countless social determinants; it can give us a way to think through numerous claims to priority; it might even come close to what Lukacs termed the ‘ethical beauty’ able to posit both abstract subjectivity and the multiplicity of lived social experience. And yet, despite all that, when I argue the case seriously (well, in Pour une ethique du traducteur), I have few qualms about describing cooperation as an operational fiction, of interest only to the extent that it might help solve practical problems ensuing from the intercultural status of the translator’s profession (the latter, I might add, is a working hypothesis, not an operational fiction).

I agree with all this; my only hesitation, which I think I lodged in my response to Pym’s response, is that his conception of cooperation is simplistic (i.e. TOO simple from my point of view, which I rhetorically, by way of persuading you to my position, associate with “reality”) in its positing of rationalist subjects who are governed by that autocrat reason. Can Pym’s model of cooperation account for the fact that most people do not act rationally most of the time, and that even when they arguably do act rationally it is difficult to show that the “reason” that apparently governed their actions bears a strong resemblance to the views of the scholar currently engaged in the process of construing their behavior as rational? I agree that reason is a powerful force in human behavior; I like cooperation as much as Pym does. I just don’t find the reduction of cooperation to rational group behavior particularly helpful in understanding how it works.


Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 14:52:01 +0000
From: iuts2@cc.uab.es (Doug Robinson)
Subject: Re: Thacherism?

Pym writes, in a msg that I find full of incisive and intelligent remarks (my dilemma: do I go through and publicly admire every point I think wonderful and thus risk boring everyone with repetitiveness, or do I give the impression that I mostly disagree with Pym and only respond in order to criticize?):

>Am I flirting with neo-liberalism? Yes, of course. It’s one of the consequences of my deep mistrust of intellectuals who seem to know everything and who seek to intervene with almost divine self-assurance.

And yet you give the impression of wanting to do precisely that which you distrust in others. How SHOULD cultures interrelate–a question that fairly reeks of intervention with almost divine self-assurance.

And here I thought I was the liberal, accused of being “passive” because I wasn’t interested in large-scale intervention in (government or other regulation of) the translation marketplace.

>But the labels don’t worry me. I’m really more interested in trying to solve problems. And the problem here, for me, is to know when one should translate and when one should seek some alternative form of cross-cultural communication. I’ll look closely at any alternative solutions you care to propose.

This statement of “the problem” sounds precisely like more divine self-assurance. The only context in which I am ever faced with the question of whether to translate is when an agency or client calls me with a job; the answer I give then depends on a number of factors, some of which have to do with economic rationalism (whether I have time, whether I think I can handle the terminology at professional competence levels, etc.), but not all (whether I feel like taking on a translation job right now–having an academic income means being able to say no if I feel like it). If I was an editor or manager in the publicity division of some large corporation that deals with customers, dealers, and/or suppliers in several countries, I might have to ask that question in another way: should I hire this out to be translated or not?

In both of those situations, though, I’m already situated in a socioeconomic context in which my decision is heavily overdetermined. As a freelancer translator I’m not in a position to reframe the economic rationality governing the hiring of translators, or more generally the translation of texts. As a corporate publicity person I would not be either; a job would need doing, and the prevailing economic realities would dictate tha and how it should be done.

The kind of god’s-eye perspective that Pym is taking, asking when translation is economically rational, is not a perspective that is pragmatically occupied (i.e., faced as a problem to be SOLVED rather than theoretically reimagined) by very many people on this earth–if in fact it is ever pragmatically occupied by ANYONE.

Which is nothing against it, of course. Theorists theorize. And in some sense theorizing is by definition an attempt to occupy a god’s-eye perspective up above the realm of specific overdetermined pragmatic solutions to real-world problems.

But it does strike me as disingenuous in the extreme to portray utopian theorizing–imagining a rational restructuring of the entire intercultural communication market–as the pragmatic problem-solving of a neoliberal who is distrustful of godlike perspectives. Gimme a break, Tony.


Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 15:16:30 +0000
From: iuts2@cc.uab.es (Doug Robinson)
Subject: Re: Subjects

Pym writes:

>How to study translational subjectivity

>Doug and I agree that it’s time human translators were shifted centre- stage in translation studies.

We agree on a lot more than that. I find this whole post excellent, a powerfully syncretic blueprint for effective translation scholarship.

>For me, this is partly in reaction to dehumanized DTS models where translators (and theorists?) become bearers of target-system functions. If nothing else, the model of intercultural space, where systems overlap and contradict each other, should allow us to formulate a far less passive subjectivity.


>I also see the study of translators as a way of opening space for intercultural studies, if only because the extensive pluriactivity of translators forces us to
>at a lot more than translation.

>So how can we find out about this subjectivity? Four possibilities:

>1. Introspection by translator-theorists. 2. Translators’ self-reporting, to be analyzed in psychological, psycholinguistic, psychoanalytical, sociological or sociolinguistic terms.
>3. The collecting of historical data on translators. 4. The development of models of translators’ social relations, notably as a way of questioning and testing ethical propositions.

I would agree wholeheartedly with all of that, and only add to 3 “and on translation theorists,” which happens to interest me more than historical data on translators. I’ve done both, and think both are extremely important. In fact, all four are.

I would also add:

5. The exploration of analogical social, economic, professional, and cognitive processes in quest of insights to be borrowed back into the study of translation. Hence the importance of approaches like Lefevere’s on “rewriting,” for example (whatever we think of the actual implementation of that approach)–looking at translators in terms of the similarity between what they do and what editors and anthologists and others do can be enormously productive. Brian Mossop was saying some similar things on this list as well. In some sense my exploration of spirit-channelers would fall into this category as well, although I’m interested both in looking at similarities between two very different professional/cognitive/etc. acts (translators as LIKE spirit-channelers in some way, hence to be included under 5) and in establishing historical continuities and connections between the two activities (translation AS spirit-channelers–Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, say–hence to be included under 3).

>Work on any of these levels should not exclude awareness of findings on others. In fact, methodological weakness results when we focus on just one approach, as if we were all translators (1); as self-reporting did not involve distortion (2); as if all historical data and all historical translators were immediately pertinent to the questions we want answered (3) or as if the coherence of abstract principles were enough to solve real problems (4).

Hear hear!

>My own work is at levels 3 and 4, at the same time, with each feeding into the other. Unfortunately this means that when I present models of ethics, it looks like I’m ignoring history, and vice versa. My subject is abstract on the one hand (though not limited to the rational egoist) and historically social on the other. Both sides are needed.

My work is at levels 1, 3, and 5, moving increasingly toward 2 and 4. And I would agree about the unfortunate effects of doing one thing and therefore seeming to be doing nothing else: one complaint about my work is that it’s all subjective, as if it were limited to level 1.

>I have a problem, though, with the use of interiority in explanations. My example here is Henri Albert, the first main translator of Nietzsche into French. When I wrote up his ‘lives’, my analysis moves through the sociopolitical setting, the functions of translations in the French journals, the significance of Albert’s origins in Alsace, how and why he learned German there, why he adopted a pseudonym and moved to Paris, how his father was integrated into the German Reichsland, where Albert’s family came from, why his brothers all dispersed, the probable relationship between his homosexuality and his misogyny; the mystery of his relationship with his mother… Now, at some point in all this, most readers have objected that we don’t need to go so far into the man’s private life… I could argue, of course, that all this information helps explain why Albert’s Nietzsche was, like the translator, particularly germanophobe and misogynist. And yet I must agree that the strictly internal factors are only important in that numerous external, social factors allowed that kind of Nietzsche to be translated, published and feted at that particular conjuncture. The internal factors are interesting, but they are not in themselves explanations.

I’m not sure what this means: “they are not in themselves explanations.” What is ever “in itself” an explanation? I suppose what Pym means is that internal factors are not ALONE ADEQUATE explanations. They need to be backed up with external factors. This is true for the simple reason that when it comes to other people we can only speculate about internal factors from external ones. Even attitudes like misogyny, or lifestyles like homosexuality, are only “internal” by association; in another person they too are external factors first, internal only speculatively.


Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 10:30:46 -0500
From: Robert Bononno <rb28@is4.nyu.edu>
Subject: Re: encoding as translation

>If, that is, we can allow that a computational metalanguage can encode even the crudest shadow of a “natural language” text, then we can call the process of attempting to render meaning in that metalanguage “translation”. What one gets thereby is the question I would like to raise here.

I’d say that’s a pretty big “if” and one that’s been the subject of considerable debate since the inception of computational models of translation and NLP in general. I’m not at all sure what that crude shadow is supposed to represent.

>It seems to me the central thing is loss-in-translation, granted that the

Well, that may be a prejudice. Sometimes translation also results in considerable gain.

>computational metalanguage leads to a particularly radical loss. This loss

This seems to be a model based on the principles of NLP and MT.

>in or failure of the translation is, I think, central to what computing text is all about. If we study this loss, we gain a powerful insight into where mechanical precision leaves off and imaginative precision begins. What does one gain, in matter of insight, from studying the loss-in-translation of rendering a poem, say, from natural language X to natural language Y?

Maybe not much. Hasn’t this been the traditional approach to translation in the past? Can’t remember who it was that said that poetry was the thing lost in translation. The metaphor is getting a bit stale, don’t you think?

Robert Bononno rb28@is4.nyu.edu CIS: 73670,1570

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 16:27:53 +0000
From: iuts2@cc.uab.es (Doug Robinson)
Subject: Re: TS as field

Pym writes:

>Sorry to disappoint Daniel Simeoni and others, but I don’t think translation studies should become an institutionalized field.

>1. TS does not have sufficient conceptual tools to respond to the major questions it faces (e.g. to answer the question ‘when should one translate’ we have to go outside translation studies);

I’d reply to that in two mutually exclusive ways, hence I guess paradoxically:

(1) translation may not NOW have sufficient conceptual tools, but every attempt we make to consolidate it methodologically as an independent field contributes new conceptual tools toward that end, and

(2) no field EVER has sufficient conceptual tools to respond to the major questions it faces.

Which I guess amounts in the end to historical and methodological perspectivism: English, the field I was trained in, has a lot more conceptual tools than translation studies, but a century ago English was roughly where translation studies is today, which suggests that a hundred years from now translation studies may well be where English is today; and even English and other better-established fields are constantly struggling to reinvent themselves conceptually so as better to respond to the major questions they face.

Part of this is that “the major questions faced by a field” are themselves largely a byproduct of the conceptual tools it brings to the asking or posing of those questions. A field that only has a hammer will only tend to see nails, and will imagine its primary or sole task to be driving those nails into wood. (Screws will tend to be dismissed as not really relevant to OUR field.) Most of the questions being addressed in this colloquium were nonquestions ten or twenty years ago. But then many of the “major questions facing” English studies were nonquestions ten or twenty years ago too, to the point where most departments of English in the US are split down the middle between the Old Farts and the Young Turks–and the dividing line is not really age (though it often seems that way, hence the labels) but conceptual paradigms. People trained before a certain year or range of years (say, 1970/80) tend to see the field as involving totally different “major questions” than those trained after that; but one person in my department who was trained way before that watershed has grown with the field (or, as the other older faculty members would put it, mindlessly followed the latest fads) and so sees much as the younger cadre does.

In other words, the questions aren’t just OUT THERE waiting for someone to come along and face them. We ask the questions, in and through the attempt to answer or “face” them. The conceptual tools we have are somehow complexly but also proportionately related to the questions we face. The more questions, the more answers; the more answers, the more tools. But also, of course, there never seem to be quite enough tools. Which is probably precisely the way we want it. What would be the fun in having enough tools to do the job just right? There would be no room for innovation.

>2. The associated academic politics are debilitating and sometimes intellectually insulting;

Good thing the same isn’t true of other fields …

Academic politics associated with ANY field are in many ways debilitating and sometimes intellectually insulting. In other ways they are also enabling. Which side of the equation you stress or highlight may be partly a matter of personal tastes or personality, or it may have something to do with the success you’ve had in manipulating those politics to your own or your friends’ ends.

>3. Independence would weaken our capacity to contribute to some kind of collective awareness among the groups of information managers who increasingly hold effective social power;

Why? This doesn’t follow at all. Does the independence of economic theory, say, weaken economists’ ability to contribute to a collective awareness among politicians, bankers, investors, etc.? This point is a red herring.

>4. Research funding these days – at least in my part of the world – is not dependent on having an established academic discipline. It is enough to address socially significant problems.

Not in my part of the world. Peter Krawutschke, president of the ATA, has been tracking funding applications for research marked clearly as grounded in translation studies for several years now, and now only have they all failed, but referees have given him to understand that they were not funded because no such field exists. Granting organizations do not feel it necessary to send TS grant applications to TS scholars (because hey, there aren’t any, right? no field, no scholars), so they get sent to people in English or linguistics or comp lit or whatever, and rejected. TS grant applications don’t make sense. They address no REAL questions or problems.

This is precisely why an independent, well-established, and prestigious field is needed (if you want to get grant money).

Maybe because of my experience in the US, I’m skeptical about Pym’s claims about Spain as well. On the one hand, might he not be overstating the case? Could it be that funding for TS projects not specifically perceived as such (just because they address significant social problems) is in fact much lower in Spain than Pym is suggesting? And on the other hand, could it be that recognition of TS is just generally more widespread in Spain than in the US (which is certainly the case), so that it SEEMS as if the perceived existence of the field has less of a bearing on the issue than it actually does? The government in Madrid, after all, officially recognizes TS as a field of study, and has created whole faculdades or colleges of translation and interpretation in state universities. There are DEANS of translation studies in Spain (I’m sitting in the office of one right now). Hard to argue that official recognition of TS as an established field in Spain isn’t way ahead of the situation in the US; and that, therefore, if it’s easier to get grants for TS projects in Spain, that is somehow ideally isolated from the fact of the field’s perceived existence and power.

>Now for what you’ll really hate: I believe that on the intellectual level (beyond institutional constraints) translation studies should study translation/translators in terms of equivalence. That is, I don’t care about the institutions but I do care about focusing on a well-defined object of study. See INHERENT NATURE.

I’m tempted to follow Pym’s dualizing here: the institutional construction of a field over there, all politics, committee meetings, economics, bodies in motion propelled by money and reputation; the thematic construction of a field over here, all subject matter, well-defined objects of study.

But I can’t do it. Who defines those objects of study? Individual scholars? Partly, but only indirectly. Groups of scholars do, in conjunction with curriculum committees and editorial boards. “On the intellectual level (beyond institutional constraints)” is a canard. Sociologically or sociographically it’s a piece of incredible naivete from a sociologically minded scholar who is rarely naive. Strategic naivete? I don’t know. Certainly defining TS as about equivalence seems like a good strategic move: it’s been conceived that way for hundreds, maybe thousands of years; if we’re going to go on doing something that is GENERALLY PERCEIVED as TS it is useful to portray what we do in terms of equivalence studies, even if we end up radicalizing the notion of equivalence almost beyond recognition, as Pym himself does wonderfully in Translation and Text Transfer (in terms of economic theory, the constantly shifting equivalences between commodities and their exchange-values) and in Epistemological Problems in Translation and its Teaching (in terms of internal and external knowledge, equivalence as a useful fiction for bringing semiosis to an artificial halt [internal] and for selling the end product to clients who don’t understand the process and don’t want to hear about the “creativity” or “indeterminacy” of translation [external]). In other words, nominally accept the institutional definition of your field’s “object of study” as you’ve inherited it from past generations and continue to defend it even as you transform it and thus the field from within.

I think it’s pretty ironic that Pym’s work in the field is very “collectivist” (to slap a reductive label on a complex phenomenon), addressed to large-scape problems and solutions requiring of individuals the ability to step outside their own personal situations and see things in terms of larger social and economic and professional wholes, cooperation at the national and international levels–but his public stances are often intensely individualistic, aimed at defending lone wolves, or his role as a lone wolf. My situation is pretty much the opposite: my work tends to be individualistic and my public stances collectivist. So what, right? We’re all disaggregated bundles of contradictory impulses. Nobody said we had to be self-consistent. And in fact I wasn’t saying it to lay blame; just noticing an intriguing irony.

I also doubt the sincerity of someone saying “I don’t care about the institutions” who just fought successfully (congratulations, Tony) to be appointed to a permanent fulltime teaching position in one, who has written and published articles about the institutional sites of TS, and who by participating in this colloquium is lending his tacit support to both its institutional sponsor (the UAB’s faculty of translation and interpretation, which is getting lots of free advertising on the colloquium website) and the institutional consolidation of TS as an independent field. I too work very hard to problematize and criticize the institutional contexts in which I do my own writing; but I think it a bit hypocritical to claim not to care (or even, perhaps, to recognize) that those institutional contexts in so many ways make that writing possible.


Sean Golden, Dean, Facultat de Traduccio Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
08193 Bellaterra, BARCELONA, Spain
Tel: 34 3 5811374 FAX: 34 3 5811037
e-mail: sgolden@cc.uab.es

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 16:55:22 +0000
From: iuts2@cc.uab.es (Doug Robinson)
Subject: Re: TS as field

Karl writes:

>Re: institutionalizing translation studies, I don’t see much of a chance for that either. Before we get too carried away about translation as a field of “scientific”
>research, we should be clear about what translation is and what it isn’t.

This is a nice irony: before we establish TS as a field, we need to do one of the main things involved in establishing any field: define our objects of study.

>have to be clear about it that translation is a process that takes place (or at least can take place) on any level of human endeavor. In the act of translation the translator draws on his accumulated life experience, and the level of that experience, and the translator’s skill in utilizing this experience, will determine and influence his/her success as a translator. Do we look at translation as a neurolinguistic, psycholinguistic, sociolinguistic, or socioanthropological phenomenon, or do we take all of these aspects into consideration when we try to analyze what translation is? If it takes place on so many levels, how can we come up with a single “theory of translation”?

Who here has called for a single theory of translation? These two lists, of all the different levels of human endeavor on which translation takes placeand of concomitant disciplinary approaches to it, sound very much like what many of us are now doing, and certainly like what mot of the contributors to this discussion have been insisting on: methodological multiplicity.

>How in the world can we generalize?

How in the world can we not? To generalize is human.

Whether and to what extent those generalizations ever “capture” the human realities they represent is another question (or maybe two). But as Pym pointed out, scholarship is by definition reductive. That’s how scholars attempt to bring some sort of artificial order to a complex phenomenal reality: by reducing, simplifying, building ideal models, etc.

>The most that we could hope for are comparative studies and rules for specific language pairs.

Hoo boy. This is the most some people could hope for in the late 50s, when Vinay and Darbelnet attempted to write just such a comparative study for French and English. The assumption that it’s all we can hope for today suggests that its holder has not read much recent translation theory–not even what has been written here on transfer-l, which should be enough to dispel such outdated notions.

>I can’t imagine a “what if?” scenario that would be able to cover all languages at once.

I can’t either. Nor can I imagine why anyone would want to try.

The inability to explain everything at once is no argument against any scholarly endeavor. Is there a discipline on earth that has been able to explain everything within its purview?


Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 17:12:21 +0000
From: iuts2@cc.uab.es (Doug Robinson)
Subject: Re: Powerful translator

Laura writes:

>If we call the translator of Hitler powerful when he pretended to translate but in fact he was telling the other side what Hitler intended to do, it is a kind of cheating.

Uh, that never happened. It was a hypothetical situation.

But okay: cheating? In a way, yes, of course. Otoh translators have often been encouraged to translate what the source author/speaker is REALLY saying, not just the words. If what Hitler is REALLY saying is “I want to take over all of Europe,” is it cheating to make that explicit?

I’m fudging, of course. But I think it’s a pretty interesting argumentative move (one that has been made many times before) to claim first that translators are powerless and then, when an example is provided of their power, or potential for wielding power, that that isn’t translation, it’s “cheating.” Sure: define translation narrowly enough and you CAN make translators seem powerless. But whose ideological purposes are you serving in pursuing that end?

>The translator should have been fired and hired by the enemy country as spy. I don’t think that this kind translator whould be rewarded a position in any case.

Bad translator. Hold out your wrist, translator, so I can slap it.

Excuse me, but this seems like precisely the kind of fearful repressive mentality that has held translation scholarship back for centuries. Lock into a narrow conception of translation and fiercely repress any rebellious or whimsical or other centrifugal impulses that might encourage you to wander past those artificial boundaries. Never mind transgressive translation; be sure and never let anyone even ask transgressive QUESTIONS about translation. Because they’re disturbing. They make people uncomfortable. Better to head all such inquiries off at the pass.

My point was that translators do have power in the sense that their ethical choices have significant consequences for society, culture, politics, economics, etc. Judging from Laura’s response, that line of argumentation, at least for some people, is taboo. Why? Who made it that way, and to what ends? Who benefits from making sure translators go on thinking of themselves as powerless–indeed, as having only a single ethical choice open to them, to render the source text precisely as the source author want them to?

Put that way, the question isn’t hard to answer. The hard thing is overcoming the taboos far enough to be able to ASK the question.


Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 11:19:30 -0500
From: Robert Bononno <rb28@is4.nyu.edu>
Subject: Re: Authority

>>First, in an obscure 1992 text I wrote, as a section heading, ‘translation theory should not lecture translators’. Why not? Because, I said at the time, the practical function of public theory [see notes on Theory and Practice] is not primarily to tell translators what they should be doing but to open authoritative academic space from which translators can be recognized as professionals. Public theorizing can transfer authority from the academy to practising translators. And this can happen no matter how inept the theory.

Is there, has there been, any evidence of such a thing happening? Translators and theorists basically inhabit different professional spaces. This is not to say that theorist don’t translate or that translate sometimes don’t theorize, simply that by and large the community of practicing commercial translators has little do with the academic world. Unfortunately, there has even been a kind of disdain for academic research into translation from that community.

>Which is not to say that I’m trying to hurl accusations, here, or to exclude myself from the impact of my own remarks. I’m much more interested in addressing translators along the lines of “hey, what you’re doing right now is just fine,” but I’m still interested in addressing translators, in convincing translators that I have something important to say to them, which implicates me in the same authoritative relations I’ve just been discussing. My rhetoric is more buddy-buddy, more egalitarian; but the very fact that my rhetoric is often flatly rejected by the people I’m trying to sidle up to–that translators say to me “that’s not what I do at all, you’re wrong”–makes it clear that I too have a pill I’m trying to make them swallow.

I think that by and large “practicing translators” don’t see the relevance of theory to their work. Their greatest concerns focus on the details of texts (terminology, obscure meanings) and general business matters, like finding work. Aside from that they are interested in public perception of the translation community, as Doug knows from his involvement with the ATA.

Robert Bononno rb28@is4.nyu.edu CIS: 73670,1570

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 11:10:24 +0200
From: ap@astor.urv.es (Anthony Pym)
Subject: What is an interculture?

So what is an interculture?

For the moment, for me, it is a conceptual space in which I can ask to what extent translators do not belong entirely to the cultures between which they operate.

It thus takes the form of a series of working hypotheses (some of which actually work, or have been put to work in my historical studies as well as my ethical schemata).

The importance of opening that space, as simply and as bluntly as possible, is that I don’t find any corresponding space in Descriptive Translation Studies, nor in Canadian sociocritical approaches. I thus have to question the hypothesis that the translator is no more than a bearer of functions within the target systems, or that they are no more than the ‘porte-parole’ of the receiving society.

There’s a footnote somewhere in Toury’s DTS and Beyond (1995) where he at least considers my working hypothesis then dismisses it as ‘unthinkable’, since anything that looks like an interculture must become a culture. There is apparently no way of conceptualizing something that is neither one side nor the other. If I keep drawing those simple circles, it’s to insist that we try to find a way to do exactly that.

In my work on ethics, I describe intercultures in terms of professionalism, working particularly from the Sperthius and Boulius episode in Herodotus, where we find the existence of a clan of professional message-bearers protected by transcultural conventions (yes, ‘Don’t kill messengers’). I argue that S and B become professional messager-bearers through their voyage into a foreign culture, that of the Persians, and that the Jacobian and Hegelian interpretations of the episode can only resolve the ethical problems by overlooking the fact of the voyage (i.e. by insisting that the messagers belong to only one culture). The voyage may also be the learning of languages, the gaining of translational competence, becoming an immigrant, in short, movement between established cultures. The discourses of ‘belonging’ necessarily overlook the dynamic of the voyage, the bane of people moving. They also overlook the very temporary nature of the translator’s becoming intercultural: intercultures may be there for just a few years, or for a generation or two, yet they may be no less real because of that (cf. the ‘ad hoc’ nature of translation itself).

In my historical studies I am thus interested not just in the physical reality of border regions but also in the movements through which such regions
interact with established cultures. Twelfth-century Toledo was a frontier town, with an incredible cultural mix, but most of the translators travelled to Toledo from other parts of Europe, then left when the knowledge held in Arabic had been transferred (or when Greek texts became available in Italy-Sicily). Henri Albert was from Alsace, but he had to travel to Paris to work as a translator. Intercultures, I suspect, can not claim the permanence of soil.

Sean wants to go further, envisaging translators in a ‘no man’s land’. Perhaps. But I find it hard to imagine social space beyond cultures. What translators do, professionally, may not belong entirely to one side or the other, yet it is certainly inscribed within larger cultural units, within the many overlapping circles that should of course be added to my simple drawing. The translating intercultures of Europe changed radically with the rise of the vernaculars; the notion of equivalence was dependent on the widespread idea of equality between languages; the new terms for describing translation popped up within a century in virtually all European languages. This was not quite a no man’s land: these interconnected translating intercultures were within the space of European culture.

Now, the real problem with my diagram is that those two (or more) circles represent a massive concession to the solidity and centricity of the source and target cultures. I believe we can find intercultures almost everywhere within those circles as well, and that the circles themselves should historically proceed from anterior intercultures. In fact, I don’t want those circles to exist; I don’t want cultural identity to be granted that apparent stability and durability. Yet I must recognize that there is something there, something that opposes my desire to generalize the ‘inter’, something that is certainly an illusion yet, it its effective social power, not entirely illusory (to paraphrase Bourdieu).

In a better diagram I mark the places of translating intercultures as the border points between cultures. How do we know when we have reached the end of a culture (in terms of spatial or temporal voyages)? When we have to translate. And those points, the points of translation, are surrounded by the space of all the alternative strategies, and are usually themselves interconnected by the voyages of translators and the exchange of information and ideas about translation (yes, I have maps…).

Intercultures, if they exist, are not dealt with in traditional historiographies, which usually trace the development of individual cultures. One of the main reasons for doing translation history is thus to ask if there is an intercultural history that has been covered over. To test that hypothesis, though, you have to forget about all those chapter divisions between ‘translation in Spain’, ‘translation in Germany’, etc. You have to adopt at least the initial hypothesis of intercultural space, then look for historical evidence that may support or refute that hypothesis.

(Habitus? Look, I like Bourdieu a lot; I like the way he works, the way he writes, especially that very pragmatic part of him that is Bearnais – well, my wife is Bearnaise -, but I have doubts about the term ‘habitus’. I can understand the work it’s doing, especially in Le sens pratique, but I very much miss a clear definition of it. I suspect it surfaced at about the time Chomskyan competence was filtering into France beyond linguistic circles; I suspect it posits a rough kind of competence as something that must exist in order for Bourdieu’s sociology to have an adequate object, in much the same way that Labovian sociolinguistics had to posit sociolinguistic competence and the existence of speech communities. But it may still involve the projection of a coherence that isn’t really there; it may still be a cover-all term for those things that the sociologist wants to believe about social groups but can’t describe in terms of explicit variables. Let’s leave it at that.)

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 11:33:29 +0200
From: ap@astor.urv.es (Anthony Pym)
Subject: DTS + Subject?

DTS: Can Toury’s DTS bear a subject?

Here I’m talking about Gideon Toury’s *Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond* (Benjamins, 1995).

I have a lot of respect for Gideon, far more than I tend to show when I write.

No, I don’t seen any necessary ‘implosion’ that would follow the introduction of a human subject into his schemata.

First point: There is already a rather complex subject there. Toury’s translator is someone who carries out certain functions of the target culture and whose linguistic activities are potentially subject to universal probabilistic laws (which is the ‘beyond’ part). This translator both belongs to a particular culture and operates in a way that is potentially common to all translators, no matter what their culture. This is like the old CompLit idea that the more national you are, the more universal (Vive l’Europe des patries!).

Now, if you introduce a subjectivity that is active, intercultural, full of deep drives and deep fears, creative both individually and collectively, and yet responsible in terms that go beyond single cultures, what does that change? We would have to challenge the assumption of target belonging; we would have to complicate the polystems quite a lot, we would have to introduce the dynamic of physical and cultural displacement. But a lot would still remain: we can still compare texts and discover something from them; we can apply the very basic idea of translation norms (although a sociology of variation wouldn’t go astray); we can still devise explicit definitions of translation as our field of study; we can still learn a lot about the role translation plays in the development of national literatures; and the proposed laws (especially the first one) remain of interest.

No implosion. Just a lot of work to be done.

Date: Wed, 21 Mar 1990 12:36:01 +0200
From: djr@bradley.bradley.edu
Subject: Re: more on the passive translator

(From Doug Robinson–working on a machine in the Facultat de Traduccio i d’Interpretacio at UAB, with Pegasus, which is not nearly as flexible as Eudora at revising user info.)

Brian writes:

>I want to ask a question about all those metaphors that have been used to portray the translator as a passive slave of someone — either the source author or the institution that commissioned the translation. Do any translators actually believe such a thing about themselves? In other words, would any translator, in his or her own mind, answer the question that defines the object of translation theory — what am I doing when I translate? — by saying: I am just a transparent mirror, a humble servant toiling in the vineyard of my author, etc etc?

>Surely when translators use these metaphors themselves (for example in prefaces), it is largely if not entirely a matter of self-presentation — sometimes self-preservation. I am merely the humble slave of my author, the translator murmurs, in order to evade responsiblity for the content of the work being translated.

Some do. I don’t know whether it’s just a matter of starting to believe their own propaganda or what, but I’ve been amazed to find out just how many translators do believe this about themselves. (And I found this out by arguing very much as Brian does that nobody believes it, it’s sheer PR. Translators come up to me after talks, or argue back at me on lantra and translat, telling me I’m wrong, they DO believe it about themselves.)

>One group of people who commission my translations — people in the Canadian Dept. of Immigration — regularly request what they call a verbatim translation. A bizarre concept, the meaning of which they have never been able to clarify. Several years ago, I stopped asking what they meant. When the instruction is given orally, I simply make humble servant noises; when it comes in writing on the translation order form, I ignore it. That is, I know perfectly well that if the translation is going to serve its purpose in processing immigration or refugee claims, I am going to have to be more than a passive reflector of the wording of the often rather garbled source text (often it’s a transcript of an oral translation into French of what the claimant said in Turkish or whatever, and my task is to turn the transcript into English).

I would guess that most translators do the same whenever faced with this kind of ignorance about the processes involved.

I still haven’t been able to download all my msgs, my network connection isn’t working too well here, so I don’t know whether Pym has answered Brian yet–but his distinction between internal knowledge (how translators see their work, talk about what they do among themselves, etc.) and external knowledge (how translators portray their work to clients and other nontranslators) is basically what Brian is talking about here. An important distinction.

>So if we want to identify the degree to which translators are under the control of the source text or commissioner, and the degree to which they create, we first need to distinguish self-presentation to the outside world from translators’ knowledge about what actually happens when they translate. I see some sort of research project here, interviewing translators at length with a view to bringing out this often hidden self-knowledge.

>My own theoretical work aims to answer the what-am-I-doing-when-I-translate question in terms of the language act I am performing when I translate, which can then be distinguished from other language acts. The language act I use for this purpose is reported speech (I’m telling someone what someone else said).

Is this really the case? Somehow I have my doubts. This is another matter on which Pym has worked in persuasive ways, in Translation and Text Transfer, so I’ll let him discuss these speech acts in his own terms rather than summarizing his arguments. But in speech act theory (at least in classic Austinian terms) it seems to me that the basic translational speech act isn’t reported speech so much as a parasitic utterance, like actors speaking lines in a play. Austin would say that the actors don’t really MEAN what they’re saying; they’re merely reciting lines someone else wrote. But they aren’t merely REPORTING someone else’s speech. Derrida’s decontruction of this notion in “Signature Event Context” in terms of the “iterability” of all utterances is crucial for translation as well, I think.

>This has turned out (at least so I think) to be more than a statement of the obvious. Exploring the nature of direct reported speech in particular (that is, quotation) — a subject on which much has been written by linguists, literary theorists and others — is interesting precisely because it sheds light on the conscious and unconscious contributions of the reporting agent. One virtue of this approach is that it does not merely affirm that the translator makes a contribution; it enables one to think about the precise nature of that contribution. I’m just finishing writing another article on this subject, in which I distinguish translating from a variety of related acts, including ghostwriting, speaking from a script, mental language conversion by people writing or speaking in their second language, re-expressing ideas, and intralingual rewording (unlike some, I don’t agree that paraphrasing in a language is a kind of translation).

I guess it can be useful to draw the line somewhere. At least heuristically. “For the purposes of this study I will arbitrary draw it, uh, right HERE.” Otoh, it can also be useful to blur those distinctions, redraw the lines, make the circle of translation much wider than it was before. You are, after all, also interested in exploring the cognitive similarities among a great many speech acts; in one sense what you are doing is heuristically blurring the distinction between translation and nontranslation in order to trace some patterns that would not have been visible had you not crossed or rubbed out those boundary lines.

>Finally, on the subject of translation and intercultural communication: Communication has two quite different senses: (1) conveying messages across language boundaries (2) promoting intercommunity understanding. My view is that translation accomplishes (1) but not (2). Indeed, as some of Anthony Pym’s writings suggest, translation can actively discourage (2), which can probably only be achieved (insofar as its a language matter) by learning other people’s languages.

Translation does not promote intercommunity understanding? That’s a pretty broad generalization. Just offhand I can think of dozens of ways in which translation promotes intercommunity understanding–which makes me think that you’re defining the promotion of intercommunity understanding in some narrow but unspecified way. Given two language communities that coexist in close geographical proximity but for whatever historical reasons do not want to learn each other’s languages, surely translation is the best channel we have for promoting intercultural understanding?

Okay, sorry, I should have read on further:

>In a Canadian context, I see my work as a federal translator as achieving (1). I’ve had letters from Quebec scientists thanking me for my translations of their writings because my presence means they can write in their own language and yet still be assured of a broader North American audience.

Which does seem like promoting intercommunity understanding to me …

>But I don’t see how translation has in any way contributed to
rresolving the 200-year old conflict between French and English-speaking Canadians; it hasn’t promoted communication in the sense of understanding, and I don’t see how it could.

What does this mean? Are you defining “understanding” in some sort of absolute mystical sense, total understanding, understanding from within, experientially based understanding? Translation hasn’t solved the conflict, certainly; but does failure to solve the problem “translate” as failure to contribute IN ANY WAY to conflict resolution? This strikes me, sorry,
as a kind of dangerous mystification of intercultural communication. If translation can’t give you the experience itself, if it doesn’t overcome the experiential boundaries between individuals or between cultures, it doesn’t
promote intercommunity understanding. Maybe I’m misunderstanding something VERY seriously here (even without the intervention of translation!), but this seems like a rather dubious form of perfectionism to me.

>That doesn’t bother me though; I’m quite happy to be contributing to (1). Goal (2) will be achieved, if at all, through political action, not through translation.

Especially if we have to choose between them. Either-or. No both-and. And especially if we have to conceive translation as excluded from political action. To translate is NOT to act in the political realm. By the same token, to speak or to write is not to act in the political realm, surely? To teach is not to act in the political realm. To incite people to political action is not to act in the political realm. What is political action, then, if we have to exclude all these speech acts? (Or are you just excluding the intercultural/interlinguistic ones? And if so, on what grounds?)

Surely Russian and Chinese and Korean and Spanish (etc.) translations of Marx have played a significant political role in the spread of communism in this century? Or would you want to exclude them too? Maybe we need to think of this as a two-stage process: FIRST you read the translation of Marx, which is not a political action; THEN you go out and incite the workers to revolution (which is, surely, a political action, even though it involves words? or do we have to say FIRST you use words, in or out of translation, THEN you engage in political action, which I suppose would include things like throwing bombs and shooting guns and exclude words?)

This is pretty absurd, isn’t it? Maybe, again, I’m misunderstanding something. If so, please explain!


Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 10:39:03 +0000 (GMT)
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: encoding as translation

And now for something entirely different, as Monte Python used to say.

Some time ago, attempting to puzzle out a mental model suitable to the encoding of texts for computer processing, I stumbled into translation studies and, I think, found what I needed.

If, that is, we can allow that a computational metalanguage can encode even the crudest shadow of a “natural language” text, then we can call the process of attempting to render meaning in that metalanguage “translation”. What one gets thereby is the question I would like to raise here.

It seems to me the central thing is loss-in-translation, granted that the computational metalanguage leads to a particularly radical loss. This loss in or failure of the translation is, I think, central to what computing text is all about. If we study this loss, we gain a powerful insight into where mechanical precision leaves off and imaginative precision begins. What does one gain, in matter of insight, from studying the loss-in-translation of rendering a poem, say, from natural language X to natural language Y?


Dr. Willard McCarty
Senior Lecturer, Centre for Computing in the Humanities King’s College London
London WC2R 2LS
+44 (0)171 873 2784 voice; 873 5081 fax

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 18:43:08 +0000
From: sgolden@cc.uab.es (Sean Golden))
Subject: Is translation studies a ‘field’?

>cohered yet into a solid cluster of activities. Where are the departments, faculties, even Chairs of translation studies? Certainly a limited number

In Spain we have some fifteen Faculties of Tranlation & Interpreting. We are the oldest. (During the 1997-98 academic year we will be celebrating our 25th anniversary; we’re a young Faculty by European standrads–Leipzig or Germersheim in Germany are much older for instance.) There is a “Conferencia de Centros y Departamentos de Traduccion e Interpretacion del Esatdo Español” which includes both Faculties /Centres) and Departments. In Spain professors are assigned to Departments, which are responsible for teaching (i.e., assigning teachers to teach given subjects) and research. Faculties are responsible for teaching designing and administering the curricula of degree courses. The Ministry of Education recognises “areas de conocimiento cientifico” for the pruose of hiring teachers and funding research. “Traduccion e interpretacion” is one of these officially recognised “areas de conocimiento”. At firstthe “area” was called “Linguistica aplicada a la traduccion e interpretacion”, but now it is called simply “Traduccion e interpretacion”. Our Faculty has more than a thousand students and almost a hundred professors teach here (two-thirds of them full-time). There are “Catedraticos” (US=Full rofessors) in translations studies. We have resrach projects in a variety of fields related to the “field”. We also offer postgraduate degree courses in specilaised translation and conference intrerpreting, onthe one hand, and a doctorate in translation theory, on the other. In my experience there are many countries, outside of the former imperial countries, that do have Faculties, Departments and Chairs of Translation.

>There is tremendously interesting work being accomplished in TS and I am glad to see that we agree on this, but it should be known that that work

There is also a lot of interesting work being done in languages other than English, French or German (e.g., theoretical work being dne here in Catalan or in Spanish–not just about tranmslation in Catalan in Spanish, but also translation theory and translation pedagogy, but written in Catalan and/or in Spanish), that is not well known in a field that is still dominated by the formerly imperial languages.

Just a matter of what you put under a name, then. I should have been more explicit.

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 18:48:55 +0000
From: sgolden@cc.uab.es (Sean Golden))
Subject: Live “chat” session

>A live chat session would not be so difficult to organise and would be VERY exciting. Can Sean consult with the rest of the group and with his computer wizzards there and see whether we can have a go at it? You do not seem to be somebody who is overwhelmed by innovation!

I agree that a live “chat” session would add an element of interactive discussion in real time (as would videoconferencing), but I have two problems: 1) I have no wizzards to help me (and we systematically erase “chat” programmes from our computer lab computers because students abuse them); 2) we have a global timetable (I like to think of it in terms of Olympic Time–which avoids nationalisms–at 15:00 Barcelona’92 time, it’s 24:00 Sydney’00 time, and 8:00 Atlanta’96 time or 22:00 Seoul’88 time or 6:00 Los Angeles’84 time, etc.–without mentioning Rio de Janeiro or Capetown–when could we do it?

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 19:17:04 +0000
From: sgolden@cc.uab.es (Sean Golden))
Subject: Self-interest

>The trick is that one
>has to *think* as well, beyond the more immediate relationships: you really have to try to say why the world will be a better place when there are more literary translations into Irish, or whatever.

I think that a lot of thought has gone into the question of translating into and out of Irish (and Catalan, for that matter). And I say into and out of, not just into. Asking whether or not translating into (or out of) Irish will make the world a better place is begging a very large question: which world? Does it hurt “the world” if we defend translating into or out of Irish (or Catalan, for that matter)? Surely it will not be a “worse” place because we defend translation as an integral part of language policy, when that language forms an integral part of a culturual identity. On the contrary, any policy that would contribute to the disappearance of a cultural identity does not make the world a better place. The ecology of culture (ecosociology??, ecoanthropology?) should demonstrate by now that the disappearance of a culture is like the disappearance of a species. Concrete example–if we start a project to preserve, in a multilingual database, the medical terminology used in the peul language by a native expert in traditional tribal medicine, because that practitioner might be the last survivor who has that information, we may, even in terms of self-interest, and making the world a better place, be saving from oblivion some medical information that could help everyone (this is a real case). Igoring the situation of “minority” cultures (which means taking a stand on what are “majority” cultutres) does not make the world a better place, either. The balance or synergy or symbiosis between internationalism and localism is in no way resolved and this is not irrelevant to the question of intercultural transfer and translation. On the home site Web page for the colloquium I refer to “translation practice”, to “translation theory” and to “the teaching of translation”, rather than to “translation studies”, because I am not comfortable with that term as the only denomination for the field (as in all other matters, it is not immune from ideology either).

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 19:18:15 +0200
From: ap@astor.urv.es (Anthony Pym)
Subject: Re: TS as field

>Doug writes:

>>I’m tempted to follow Pym’s dualizing here: the institutional construction of a field over there, all politics, committee meetings, economics, bodies in motion propelled by money and reputation; the thematic construction of a field over here, all subject matter, well-defined objects of study.

>The dualism isn’t just mine: The insititutional diversity/ fragmentation is very much a reality (Monique and I have a data base to prove it), so much so that the really surprising thing is that there is so much tacit agreement about the object of translation studies, and on a very international level.

>My real question is whether the current combination of institutional fragmentation and (relative) intellectual focusing is really so bad. The combination could be one of the very great strengths of an interdiscipline. Especially in the age of the internet, where our academic space is exactly where you and I are reading these messages.

>Perhaps our considerations should take in a little more than US funding policy?

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 19:33:58 +0000
From: sgolden@cc.uab.es (Sean Golden))
Subject: Re: TS as field

>Maybe because of my experience in the US, I’m skeptical about Pym’s claims about Spain as well. On the one hand, might he not be overstating the case?

Just for the sake of information (speaking in my official capacity, as it were), I feel I should say that I have received funding for specifically translation related reserach projects and I know of several more people working in the field who have also received funcing for specifically translation related research projects.

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 19:56:10 +0200
From: ap@astor.urv.es (Anthony Pym)
Subject: Just for fun


L’important était donc de se bien comprendre, chose malaisée entre maures et chrétiens, avec, chez les uns comme chez les autres, tout ce mélange des parlers les plus divers ; si jamais vous receviez une insulte indéchiffrable, comment faire ? Vous n’aviez plus qu’à la garder, au risque d’en être déshonoré jusqu’à la fin de vos jours. Aussi, à cette phase du combat, participaient les interprètes, troupe rapide, légère, juchée sur de drôles de petits bidets, qui trottait de-ci, de-là, cueillant au vol chaque injure, et la traduisant sur-le-champ dans la langue du destinataire.
– Khar as-Sus !
– Chiure de mouche !
– Mushrik ! Sozo ! Mozo ! Esclavao ! Canaille ! Hijo de puta ! Zabalkan ! Etrons !
Ces interprètes, d’un côté comme de l’autre, on était convenu, par un accord tacite, qu’il ne fallait pas les tuer.

Italo Calvino, Le Chevalier inexistant
Trad. Maurice Javion