RSS feed

Barbara Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk and Marcel Thelen (eds) (2007). Translation and Meaning, Part 7. Proceedings of the Maastricht Session of the 4th International Maastricht-Łódź Duo Colloquium on "Translation and Meaning", held in Maastricht 18-21 May 2005.

Maastricht: Zuyd University, Maastricht School of International Communication, Department of Translation and Interpreting, 518 pp. 55.00 €. ISBN 978-90-801039-6-2

The 7th volume of Translation and Meaning is the latest instalment of the Maastricht-Łódź series of colloquia, which began in 1990 and continues with an already scheduled conference in Łódź for 2010. The current volume is the proceedings of the Maastricht colloquium of 2005. It focuses on translation practice and practitioners, with contributions from 24 "participating countries", as the editors are keen to point out in their brief introduction. In addition to the quantity and variety of ethnolinguistic backgrounds, the volume impresses with the diversity of the topics discussed - ranging from translation of kinship terms into the Venda language of South Africa (Mundhedzi James Mafela), to translating Jane Austen's irony into Catalan (Victória Alsína), to legal translation in the bilingual environment of Hong Kong (Matthew Wing-Kwong Leung). A total of 47 papers in English, French and German are organised into twelve thematic sections, dedicated to terminology, linguistics, translator training, translation for special purposes, interpreting, and audiovisual translation, among others.

Bringing together the theoretical interests and hands-on experiences of a large number of specialists, this collection serves as a good overview of current trends in translation studies. Arguably, the single most salient preoccupation is translation and globalisation, an issue that seems to shake the foundations of the profession. While the precarious status of the translator in a rapidly changing market does not form the central theme of any particular section, it infiltrates a lot of these studies, whether directly or indirectly. In the most polemical paper of the collection, Donald Barabé announces the beginning of a "new world order in translation". He argues that societies, threatened by acculturation, must realise that "languages are what stand in the way of globalization" (425), and turn to translators – alongside "artists, inventors, designers and even entrepreneurs" - as "the only guarantees of linguistic and cultural diversity" (427). Just like Barabé, Marie-Christine Aubin's paper on localisation is driven not so much by the need to protect ethnolinguistic identity, as by an understanding of the role of the translator as mediator between the collusive forces of localisation and globalisation, and a sponsor of diversity and humanity. She argues for a "contrastive cultural stylistics", which would allow localisation to be "a less technical and more humane discipline, empowered by a strong sense of culture" ("une discipline moins technique et plus humaine, dotée d'un sens culturel fort", 379).

A number of other sub-themes emerge through the volume. Strongest among them is the training of translators and interpreters, which constitutes the most populated section in the book, with ten papers exploring different aspects of research in this direction. Current developments in terminology, lexicography and the use of corpora are represented by such scholarly contributions as Klaus-Dirk Schmitz's paper on terminology management in software localisation, and Sue Atkins's call for context-sensitive bilingual dictionaries. Finally, the recent rise of Asian translation studies is also registered, most notably by a fine paper by Rachel Lung on an early co-translation of Dickens' David Copperfield into Chinese by an oral translator and a monolingual writer.

Not surprisingly, the large number of contributions also constitutes the collection's main weakness. This is not so much because, as a rule, different papers look in different directions, occasionally giving the impression of a lack of focus – which is perhaps to be expected from this type of open colloquia. The problem rather lies in that several papers remain at a descriptive level, apparently unaware of developments in their respective fields and reluctant to interrogate their own discursive logic. Even worse, there are some embarrassing inaccuracies, such as that Homer's Iliad was originally composed in Latin (87); that Pushkin was a 18th-Century poet (89); or that the expression "function rooms" is "clearly a mistake" and should be replaced by "functional rooms", as a translation of the Spanish "salones" (326).

Such a large and diversified number of contributions clearly put a huge weight on the shoulders of the editors. Still, more attention could have been paid to issues of readability and intelligibility in all three languages. Further, it is unfortunate that a volume on translation should contain innumerable typographical errors – present even in the editors' introduction. It is also to be noted that the grouping of contributions in different thematic sections does not seem to follow solid criteria; to give but one example, the editor Marcel Thelen's thorough paper on terminology competence forms part of the "Translation Studies" section rather than that on "Terminology/Terminography".

Overall, this volume strengthens the reputation of the Translation and Meaning series as an ongoing forum for tentative research in translation. It would have benefited immensely from a more rigorous selection process and more sustained editorial attention, if only out of a sense of responsibility towards the many remarkable contributions that it hosts.

Dionysis Kapsaskis
Roehampton University