RSS feed

Taibi, M. and Ozolins, U. (2016). Community Translation.

London, New York: Bloomsbury Academic, Bloomsbury Advances in Translation Series, pp. 187. ISBN: 978-1-4742-2165-8.

Community Translation, a neglected sub-field of translation studies until recently, is timely. In the current context of increasing immigration and refugee displacement, the activity known as community translation is unique in that it is intended mainly for residents of the country from which the source text originates and, also unlike other types of translation, its ultimate aim is for communities to access information thus encouraging active participation. It is therefore characterised by its social mission as it is repeatedly stated throughout the book.

The different definitions by different scholars in Chapter 1 reflect how young this sub-field is (the earliest reference quoted is from 1987). There might be overlaps between “community translation,” “public service translation” and “institutional translation” but within the translator and interpreting professions, community translation has certainly a low social status, which might explain the little attention paid to it by researchers, trainers, agencies and translators. At the time of publication, there are only two universities in the World which offer a specific programme on community translation (Alcalá in Madrid and the authors’ University of Western Sydney in Australia).

This type of translation, as the authors repeat again and again in the book, should be reader-centred: a readership comprised often by disempowered social groups such as migrants and refugees, with the corresponding translation challenges of dealing with socio-political sensitivities, readership social status, regional variations of languages, etc.

The role of the translators is also seen as deserving special consideration. Throughout the book, we find ourselves asking whether translators are supposed to act as cultural or community advisors/mediators. Are they advocates for the powerful or for the powerless? Do they act as gatekeepers, as filters or faithful renderers? What if they are motivated by social (in)justice?

Chapter 3 looks at the application of different translation theories to the context of community translation and it is obvious that an approach is required that goes beyond the source/target text: the sociological and ethical dimensions of community translation are impossible to ignore.

From a lexical point of view, the approach recommended for community translation is mainly functional (reader-oriented), which necessarily includes a great deal of explicitation, adaptation and reformulation as healthcare, social security, welfare, municipal governance, legal and education systems (to name some of the services offered at local and national level which community translation deals with) contain many lexical and conceptual gaps between communities. In community translation, the values of clarity and understanding are desired over any other.

Chapter 4 is possibly the weakest as it sits at odds with what community translation entails. Here we see examples of official documents such as birth certificates and educational certificates (frequently translated by certified translators, for the majority language) but it is hard to see how they qualify as community translation (normally carried out from the majority to the minority language).

In Chapter 5, Translating for temporary communities, the Hajj is used as a case study. It introduces a relevant point, i.e. that community translation does not necessarily need to be a written translation. Audiovisual announcements or radio content might be in fact more appropriate for certain events.

The final chapters deal with quality (translation assessment, revision and quality assurance). Although very comprehensive and informative, it raises the bar unrealistically high (which government or agency invests time and money on focus groups to discuss the revision of a translation?), but it also raises some very valid points such as the different conception of quality by academia and practitioners.

One of the book’s strengths is the many examples to illustrate the different issues raised – from Australia (where the authors are based), but also from Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Canada, US, UK, Spain and Japan; the chapter on resources (a very comprehensive literature review and recommended websites accompanied by a brief explanation) is the other.

In summary, this is a book that identifies community translation as an empowering tool for communities of minority language speakers. Despite all sorts of challenges (financial, technological, complex multilingual projects, visibility, etc.), the future of this translation sub-field is considered encouraging, helped by a favourable political will and genuine interest among researchers, practitioners and trainers.

Inma Pedregosa
University of Roehampton, London