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Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Benjamins Translation Library

The Benjamins Translation Library aims to stimulate research and training in translation and
interpreting studies. The Library provides a forum for a variety of approaches (which may
sometimes be conicting) in a socio-cultural, historical, theoretical, applied and pedagogical
context. The Library includes scholarly works, reference works, post-graduate text books and
readers in the English language.

EST Subseries
The European Society for Translation Studies (EST) Subseries is a publication channel within
the Library to optimize ESTs function as a forum for the translation and interpreting
research community. It promotes new trends in research, gives more visibility to young
scholars work, publicizes new research methods, makes available documents from EST, and
reissues classical works in translation studies which do not exist in English or which are now
out of print.

General editor Associate editor Honorary editor

Yves Gambier Miriam Shlesinger Gideon Toury
University of Turku Bar-Ilan University Tel Aviv University

Advisory board
Rosemary Arrojo Werner Koller Sherry Simon
Binghamton University Bergen University Concordia University
Michael Cronin Alet Kruger Mary Snell-Hornby
Dublin City University UNISA, South Africa University of Vienna
Daniel Gile Jos Lambert Sonja Tirkkonen-Condit
Universit Lumire Lyon 2 Catholic University of Leuven University of Joensuu
Ulrich Heid John Milton Maria Tymoczko
University of Stuttgart University of Sao Paulo University of
Amparo Hurtado Albir Franz Pchhacker Massachusetts Amherst
Universitat Autnoma University of Vienna Lawrence Venuti
de Barcelona Anthony Pym Temple University
W. John Hutchins Universitat Rovira i Virgilli
University of East Anglia Rosa Rabadn
Zuzana Jettmarov University of Len
Charles University of Prague

Volume 67
Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting
Edited by Anthony Pym, Miriam Shlesinger and Zuzana Jettmarov
Sociocultural Aspects of
Translating and Interpreting

Edited by

Anthony Pym
Universitat Rovira i Virgili

Miriam Shlesinger
Bar-Ilan University

Zuzana Jettmarov
Charles University

John Benjamins Publishing Company

TM The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements

of American National Standard for Information Sciences Permanence

of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ansi z39.48-1984.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

International Conference on Translation and Interpreting (10th : 2003 : Prague,

Czech Republic)
Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting / edited by Anthony Pym,
Miriam Shlesinger and Zuzana Jettmarov.
p. cm. (Benjamins Translation Library, issn 09297316 ; v. 67)
Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
1. Translating and interpreting--Social aspects--Congresses. I. Pym,
Anthony, 1956- II. Shlesinger, Miriam, 1947- III. Jettmarova, Zuzana. IV.
Title. V. Series.

P306.97.S63I58 2003
418.02--dc22 2006040571
isbn 90 272 1675 4 (Hb; alk. paper)

2006 John Benjamins B.V.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, by print, photoprint, microlm, or
any other means, without written permission from the publisher.
John Benjamins Publishing Co. P.O. Box 36224 1020 me Amsterdam The Netherlands
John Benjamins North America P.O. Box 27519 Philadelphia pa 19118-0519 usa
Table of contents

Foreword VII

On the social and the cultural in Translation Studies 1
Anthony Pym

Agents behind translation

Trends in the translation of a minority language: The case of Dutch 27
Stella Linn
Of course Germans have a certain interest in Finland, but:
Openness to Finnish Literature in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s 41
Pekka Kujamki
Translation from the point of view of the East German censorship files 53
Gaby Thomson-Wohlgemuth

Social histories
Choosing not to translate: Zero translations in the first
Portuguese Robinson Crusoe 65
Maria Goreti Monteiro
From Robinson Crusoe to Robinson in Wallachia: The intricacies
of the reception process 73
Rodica Dimitriu

Perceived roles and values

Translating from across the channel in nineteenth-century France:
Philarte Chasles, Thackeray and Jules Janin 83
Gabriel Louis Moyal
English translation in Gujarat: Emerging consensus 93
Rita Kothari

Interaction of inner and outer contexts

Between translation and traduction: The many paradoxes of Deux Solitudes 101
Agns Whitfield
VI Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Bilingual translation/writing as intercultural communication 117

Daniel Gagnon

Power relations disclosed

The female state of the art: Women in the translation field 129
Michaela Wolf
Translation as discursive import: Changes in the transfer of proper nouns
in Latvian 143
Ieva Zauberga

Power distribution and cooperation

Translation culture in interpreted asylum hearings 151
Sonja Pllabauer
Interpreting at an immigration detention center in Las Palmas
de Gran Canaria: Communication and power 163
Guillermo R. Navarro Montesdeoca
Negotiating linguistic and cultural identities in interpreter-mediated
communication for public health services 173
Mette Rudvin

Constructing systems
Babel rebuilt: A survey of social welfare institutions and interpreting
and translation services in Flanders 191
Katrien Lannoy and Jan Van Gucht
From 10-minute wedding ceremonies to three-week spa treatment
programs: Reconstructing the system of sign language
interpreting in Styria 201
Nadja Grbi

The view from Interpreting Studies

Going social? On pathways and paradigms in Interpreting Studies 215
Franz Pchhacker

Notes on contributors 233

References 237

Index 253

The Institute of Translation Studies, Charles University, Prague, organized its 10th
International Conference on Translation and Interpreting in September 1113
2003 under the name of Translation Targets. The papers in the present volume
are a selection from those presented at the conference. The selection has been
made so as to focus on social and cultural approaches, which emerged as a key area
both in the course of the conference and in subsequent developments within
Translation Studies.
The editors have sought to underscore the importance of addressing both
written translation and interpreting in this regard. This is because some of the
most striking developments in this field have taken place with respect to what is
know as community interpreting or public-service interpreting. We thus
include papers on the role of interpreters in heath services, immigration detention
centers, and asylum hearings, for example, where contextual power relations are
often more important than the mere rendering of texts. In placing those studies
side-by-side with papers on more traditional areas, we would hope that the same
questions might be asked across the board. For instance, if power asymmetries
create ethical problems in asylum hearings, could they not also be factors in liter-
ary translation? Of course, such questions can also be asked in the reverse direc-
tion. For example, if cooperation and consensus can be found among the social
agents involved in literary translation, can those concepts not also be applied to
public-service interpreting? The answers to such questions might ultimately be
negative. Yet Translation Studies should at least allow the questions to be asked.
The selection of the papers has not been designed to privilege any particular
school or theory. We have instead looked for a very wide range of translation and
interpreting situations, with a common set of underlying problems concerning
sociocultural factors. The solutions to those problems will necessarily come later,
hopefully through work in the space that we have tried to open here.
The editing process has benefited from assistance from the Intercultural Studies
Group at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain, and particularly from
the work of the doctoral candidates Alexander Perekrestenko, Isabel Chumbo, Nata
Hajdu, Natividad Herrero Prado, Greta Holmer, Aysenaz Kos, Carlo Marzocchi,
Luis Rodolfo Morn Quiroz, Sandra Poupaud, Blanca Rissech i Roig, Tatiana Salaet,
Kayoko Takeda, Magdalena Talaban, Silvia Vilanova Subirats, Jennifer Varney and
Maj Wagner-Nawrocka, to all of whom we express our sincere gratitude.

On the social and the cultural in

translation studies

Anthony Pym
Intercultural Studies Group, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Spain

The numerous sociocultural approaches in Translation Studies are generally of

the toolbox kind, where any number of models and factors may be drawn upon.
This situation leaves many doubts with respect to what might constitute a
sociocultural explanation, how pertinent factors can be located methodologically,
what kind of causation is involved, and whether the social and the cultural might
actually be the same thing. In attempting to formalize and solve those problems,
we offer models where explanation requires methodological movement between
the social and the cultural, where pertinent factors are located in and around the
professional intercultures (or translation cultures) that define the borders of
large-scale social systems, where causation appears as relatively asymmetric
correlation, and where the sociological is partly quantitative (abstract empirical
data) and the cultural is usually qualitative (signifying practices). The general
approach is deemed suited to the study of mediators as people, rather than just
texts as objects in systems. As such, it draws on advances in Interpreting Studies
and resists subordination to any more general study of whole societies.

The Prague conference in September 2003 was ostensibly on Translation Targets.

The papers in the present volume have nevertheless been brought together under
the title of Social and Cultural Approaches. A few months later there was a Tel
Aviv workshop on Institutions, Habituses and Individuals: Social, Historical and
Political Aspects of Cultural Exchange, bringing together sociologists and transla-
tion theorists. In May 2005 there was an international conference in Graz, Austria,
on Translating and Interpreting as a Social Practice. And for quite some years, as
Franz Pchhacker observes in his article in this volume, much of the research on
interpreting has been going social (having previously gone psycho). Something
sociological is in the air. There is, one suspects, a general tendency at work, of
some breadth and depth. Here we will try to see what that tendency might be,
using the papers in this volume as a rigorously non-random sample.
2 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

A focus on mediators rather than translations

There is no shortage of social and cultural approaches to translation. One could go

back to any of Eugene Nidas excellent books, which include titles like The Sociolin-
guistics of Interlingual Communication (1996). One could cite standard references
such as Maurice Pergniers Les Fondements sociolinguistiques de la traduction
(1980). One should also note a remarkably Franco-Canadian interest in sociologi-
cal approaches to literary translation, forging a small tradition that might link
Annie Brissets Sociocritique de la traduction (1990) with Jean-Marc Gouanvics
Sociologie de la traduction (1999). Or more generally, one could claim that the
whole thrust of Descriptive Translation Studies, since the 1970s, has been to bring
wider contextual considerations into the study of translation. In that sense, social
and cultural approaches have been with us for thirty years or so, or considerably
longer (Nida published important papers in the 1940s).
The vast majority of those books and theories, however, were fundamentally
ways of studying texts. A sociology, sociolinguistics or cultural analysis was some-
times applied to the way the source text functioned in its context, and increasingly
to the way the target text worked on its side, but either way, texts were the thing.
That focus was understandable enough. Theorists of Bible translation are commit-
ted to the written Word; sociolinguists aim first to describe language use; and
much of Descriptive Translation Studies came from literary studies, where the text
remains the thing. True, the impact of critical discourse theory, particularly as in
Foucault, has invited translation theorists to view both text and context in terms of
discursive formations, effectively extending textuality into the social domain,
where texts can become very big things. And that is a point one could equally
reach from the Russian Formalists or from general semiotics. The upshot is that
we have no real shortage of social and cultural approaches to translations as texts.
Further, that general trend has kept in step with developments in well-established
disciplines like Linguistics and Literary Studies. Witness the growth not just of
Sociolinguistics but also of Text Analysis, Discourse Analysis, Pragmatics and
Cultural Studies, all in search of wider contexts.
Something quite different, however, might be expected from approaches that
focus on translators rather than translations. If we look for a sociology of transla-
tors, or more generally of mediators, what do we find? There is virtually no focus
on individual human translators in Nida, nor in most of the prescriptive sociolin-
guistic approaches. After all, a theory that sets out to help an unidentified translator
has little interest in analyzing variable social identities. Contextualized translators
are similarly rare in most of the classical references of Descriptive Translation Stud-
ies as well (Popovi, Lev, Holmes, Even-Zohar), where the focus is mostly on
translation as a series of changes (shifts) manifested in texts, or as an effect
On the social and the cultural in translation studies 3

(interference) on a cultural system. In a sense, the initial negation of prescriptiv-

ism (which is why we talk about Descriptive approaches at all) simply repeated the
exclusion of the mediator. We moved from a sociology of source texts to a sociology
of target-side effects, but little was said about any sociology of translators.
Where then might we find a focus on translators as people? There have been
important moments within and around more recent Descriptive Translation Stud-
ies. Gideon Toury (1995) went some way toward analyzing a social subjectivity
when he adopted the eminently sociological concept of norms, understood as reg-
ularities of behavior (and hence of human actions, rather than just linguistic struc-
tures). Toury has moreover shown interest in the way people become translators
(1995: 241ff), which necessarily entails questions of professional contexts. One
could also cite studies of power relations between translators and patrons (cf. Lefe-
vere 1992), questions about the social effect of certain translation norms on the
asymmetric relations between cultures (cf. Venuti 1995), or interest in the role of
social mediation as a feature of all communication and hence as a way of con-
structing the sociolinguistic identity of the translator (cf. Peeters 1999). Yet none
of those initiatives has yet formed any orthodoxy that might be called a sociology
of translators.
A somewhat complementary approach can be seen in the foundational texts of
German-language functionalist approaches. Vermeer and Holz-Mnttri, in dif-
ferent ways, have allowed the translator a very active role in the communication
process, with a specific social identity (cf. Holz-Mnttris insistence on expertise,
or Vermeers awareness of the historical position of translators and their capacity
to negotiate with clients). Those approaches were not strongly sociological in any
empirical sense, yet they were certainly interested in analyzing social relations
rather than just texts (note that Holz-Mnttri found one of her points of depar-
ture in Malinowski). Not by chance did Skopostheorie provide the initial frame for
Franz Pchhackers placing of the conference interpreter within the context of not
just a source-text speaker and a target-text listener, but also of the whole confer-
ence as a macrotext (Pchhacker 1994).
If there has been a growing focus on mediators and their social contexts, it is
perhaps more evident in the field of interpreting than that of written translation.
After all, the interpreters situation is there, immediately visible for all to see. Its
network of social relations could hardly be overlooked (and yet it was overlooked
for many decades, in favor of psychological approaches). The more profound
change is no doubt the developing interest in community interpreting or dialogue
interpreting, dealt with here in articles by Pllabauer, Grbi, Navarro Montes-
deoca, Rudvin, Lannoy and Van Gucht, and of course by Pchhacker himself. In the
courts, in hospitals, in official interviews, the social situation is not only visible but
also of overwhelming priority. There, we must be interested in who the mediator is
4 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

and how they relate to communication partners, and perhaps only then in the
sociolinguistic qualities of isolated texts.
We might thus posit that, for some scholars and more particularly in some
fields of research, the focus has shifted from texts to mediators. Many of us are no
longer stopping at the sociocultural dimensions of source and target texts. We
would like to know more about who is doing the mediating, for whom, within
what networks, and with what social effects.
How far have we gone with that second set of questions? Here we seek answers
from the texts brought together in this volume, first on the more traditional
ground of literary translation, then with respect to the relatively recent advances in
Interpreting Studies. We would generally expect many of the papers to adopt a
toolbox approach to explaining translation, incorporating insights from the
range of references we have mentioned above. Others, however, go in search of
more specific concepts, drawing on Bourdieu, on Pruns analysis of translation
cultures, or on a constructivist version of social systems. In surveying these devel-
opments, we shall find time to propose a few methodological categories of our
own, hopefully of some use to future researchers.

Observation and explanation

Most studies in this volume start from a set of observations and then look for fac-
tors that might in some way explain those observations. The things observed
mostly concern translation; the things that explain are in some way socio-cultural.
The studies work on hypotheses, often implicit, that link the two. That is, the
hypotheses seek to explain translation in socio-cultural terms.
Here we hesitate to talk about explanation in any grand definitive sense. We
would agree with Chesterman (2004) that Translation Studies has so far been much
better at observing than explaining, and that the real intellectual task awaiting us is
precisely to form some consensus about what a satisfying explanation might be. In
the meantime, the explanations we mostly find are discursive assumptions of cau-
sation of one kind or another. The hypothesis posits that a set of explanatory fac-
tors are in some way necessary for the occurrence of the thing explained, such that
changes in those factors might bring about changes in the thing observed. That is a
very problematic notion. It was effectively sidestepped by decades of studies that
claimed to be merely descriptive or systemic (in a simple system, all factors
would be weak causes of all other factors; in a polysystem, a bigger system would
automatically have a stronger causal role than the smaller systems it interacts with).
Explanation was nevertheless brought to the fore in Tourys project to formulate
laws of tendency for translation (1995), where causal roles were attributed to
On the social and the cultural in translation studies 5

apparently non-translational things like the relative prestige of cultures (translators

work differently when great prestige is attributed to the source culture). Toury,
however, has consistently avoided searches for just one causal variable that might
offer a grand explanation: There seems to be no single factor which cannot be
enhanced, mitigated, maybe even offset by the presence of another (2004: 15).
This would mean that deterministic reasoning cannot explain translation (nor
translators, presumably). Explanations would drift off into lists of heterogeneous
conditioning factors, each identified in a probabilistic way, with no one dominant
causation at work. Translation would be what happens when many very different
things occur in the same historical place, and little more.
Such pluralistic explanations are indeed what we mostly find in Translation
Studies, and Tourys observation could probably be applied to most of social life as
well. There is, however, something profoundly unsatisfying about approaches that
offer no more than complexity. There is no reason to suppose that, since every fac-
tor may play a role, all conceivable factors are potentially good explanations. In
theory, all researchers would have to consider the role of all possible factors. Toury
is correct to point to probability as a way out of this dilemma. This means that the
kinds of hypotheses we seek concern tendencies rather than mechanical cause-
and-effect. They would be of the form The more X, the more Y (e.g. The more
prestigious the source culture, the more foreignizing the translation). Probability
then means that our studies hope to predict, to some extent, what is likely to hap-
pen when something changes in the explanatory factor. We would say that, on the
basis of our previous studies, the prestige of a culture is likely to have a causal rela-
tionship with the selection of a translation strategy, and perhaps that this factor is
more likely to be a cause than other potential factors (for example, the translators
experience, sex, or pay). This probabilistic way of thinking is the bread-and-butter
of the social sciences; it should really move us into the statistical modeling of rela-
tive likelihoods. Unfortunately, to assess the probabilities we have to build up a
database of known causation, and to do that we have to look at all possible factors.
This means that we are brought back to square one, at least with respect to how to
set up a research project, or how to advise those embarking on research. If
researchers have to look at everything, they will finish up studying nothing; their
reports will tend to become farragoes of facts, and particular case studies will not
easily yield general principles. Even worse, if there are always further factors to
consider, how will researchers ever know they have found an explanation?
Here we would like to ask some simple questions about how well different fac-
tors can provide explanations. First: Is there is any a priori difference in nature
between the factors that are observed and those that explain? Second: What kinds
of factors would offer the most powerful explanations? And third: Is there any
operational difference between the social and the cultural in this regard? There is
6 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

also a fourth question, which underlies the rest and has been developed elsewhere
(Pym 2003): Do explanations just account for observed factors in a causal or
probabilistic way, or do they in some way solve research problems?
We will try to answer those questions by looking at the studies in this volume,
asking how they relate the observational and explanatory moments. Let us see.
Stella Linn observes the translation flows between Dutch and Spanish, which are
more or less hard numbers: how many texts of what kind were translated when.
Her proposed explanations then concern the roles of individual translators, pub-
lishers, government policies, gaps in the target market, intercultural events like
book fairs, and indeed the ideological modernization of Catholicism (to explain
the translations of theological texts from Dutch). Those explanatory factors would
ideally be the multiple causes of the actual translation flows. Note that, in Linns
paper and virtually throughout, there is little question of reducing those many
possible causes to just one dominant factor, or suggesting that they all fit into just
one large system. Research in this vein is now able to draw on many different the-
ories, using them to explain the partial phenomenon at hand. This sociocultural
approach is profoundly multifactorial. As expected, it opens up a methodological
toolbox rather than apply a panacea. We can all become bricoleurs, as was said in
the days of Lvi-Strauss. Eclecticism is nevertheless not always intellectually satis-
fying. As we have noted, since you cannot describe everything (at least not in one
article), and since the explanations are perhaps all caused by other explanations,
where do you stop?
Pekka Kujamki adopts a somewhat narrower mode of explanation. Observing
the literary reception of Finnish literature in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s
Kujamki seeks explanatory variables in the role of just two intermediaries,
Johannes and Rita hquist. Drawing on exchanges of letters, the analysis is able to
demonstrate the particular influence that individuals can have on the relative
openness and closedness of one literature to another. That in itself should be seen
as a sociological contribution (exchanges of letters only have an effect within the
networks of people writing to each other, across cultural borders). Of course, this
approach does not exclude the many other factors that undoubtedly contributed to
the translation flows. Research can quite legitimately focus on just one explanatory
variable, since each explanation contributes at least some knowledge. Then again,
this fascinating case study also shows how the ideological context of the times
influenced the two mediators, moving Johannes hquist to produce typically
Finnish pseudotranslations in German and Rita hquist to self-censor appar-
ently decadent elements in her translations from Finnish, as both mediators
increasingly adopted the ideological norms of the Fhrers Reich. So, to apply the
first of our promised questions, did the social context cause the individuals con-
On the social and the cultural in translation studies 7

tributions, or did the individuals help cause the social context of the exchanges?
Any answer should involve a bit of both, of course. We expect that the allocation of
the observational and the explanatory is thus to some extent arbitrary.
Gaby Thomson-Wohlgemuth similarly draws on archival material, looking at the
censorship files by which East German officials sought to control the translation of
childrens literature from English. In this fascinating peek behind the scenes of a
wholly planned publishing industry, we find not only the actual paperwork by
which texts were assessed for censorship purposes, but also the pertinent eco-
nomic details of the literary exchanges involved. Here the observed data would
presumably be the texts as printed or sold in East Germany; the explanation would
be the intricate system of official policy, the practice of censorship, and relations
with publishers. Once again, there are many other factors that one could have
looked for or made more of the role of translators and individual bureaucrats for
example (no system can function without individuals), or the networks shared
with other Soviet bloc countries (mentioned, but not seen as determinate). Where
Kujamki stresses individual mediators, Thomson privileges the official system.
Some of the difference perhaps lies in the two very different cultural situations
analyzed. However, differences might also ensue from our methodological
assumptions of what we will find in those systems. The researchers have surely
looked for and found the explanations that they initially considered the most
probable or even comfortable. The logical large-scale application of this precept
would mean developing different sociologies for different social situations. And
how could we then form any common pool of probabilities?
Maria Goreti Monteiro observes that an eighteenth-century Portuguese transla-
tion of Robinson Crusoe omitted considerable material, notably the parts where
Robinson explains to Friday what is wrong with the Catholic religion. Explanation
is this time sought in the biography of the individual translator Henrique Leito,
who had problematic relations with the Inquisition and thus engaged in self-cen-
sorship. By omitting the most contentious passages, the translator quite probably
saved his skin. Methodology in this case finds three clearly defined levels, like con-
centric circles: the observed omissions in the translation, the biography of a self-
censoring translator, and the European struggle between Protestantism and
Catholicism. The bigger the circle, the more explanatory the factor. Who could
contest such fearful symmetry? The geometry of concentric factors has long pro-
vided a model of social causation, particularly in theories of social systems (the
bigger the system, the more it can explain). The relative size of a factor (or circle)
can also be given a rather elegant definition: it is the number of other factors with
which the factor has a causal relation. The translators omissions must cause some-
thing, but their influence in the world is much less than the Inquisition. That is not
8 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

a problem. We note, however, that in this case the circles do not really capture any
society as such, on neither the source nor target sides. We are concerned with the
translators past adventures in France, with his contact with a previous French
translation (ostensibly published in Amsterdam), and with an ideological conflict
that cut across the whole of Europe, both within and between nation states. The
concentric circles of classical sociology (of the kind that would explain a national
society) do not seem to hold in the case of translation.
Rodica Dimitriu shows us a series of further Robinson Crusoes, this time in
Romania, where the text has spawned a multitude of translations and rewritings.
Here the analyst observes the versions and seeks explanations in the apparent
social reasons motivating their appearance: the translations were educational at
first, then entertaining, subsequently a means of introducing the genre of the
adventure novel, a complex novel in itself, and an economic parable in support of
Communism. We are finally introduced to an imitative Robinsonade in which the
hero is stranded not on a desert island but in a secluded village in Wallachia (part
of Romania), confirming the rural traditions of the target culture. Each new ver-
sion seems to bring with it its own special cause, building up a complex image of
the target culture over history. But why only that particular culture, when most
European cultures were producing similar and not unrelated Robinsonades?
Because, one presumes, the researcher only looked at that culture, bringing it all
home to a methodological Wallachia. Such are the beauties of traditional explana-
tory symmetries, in this case assuming then confirming target-side causation.
Gabriel Louis Moyal considers some of the factors motivating translations from
English in early nineteenth-century France. Here the observation would be of atti-
tudes to translations, particularly their appearance in the journals of the day.
Explanation is sought in the expressed opinions of translators, writers, critics and
journalists, all engaging in intercultural debate (we find Thackeray entering the
fray as a Paris-based journalist). And floating somewhere above the complexity of
the exchanges, there is grand politics: the translations were seen as being either for
or against the regime in power. Are the circles in this case at all concentric, as in
East German censorship, Robinson Crusoe tailored down for the Portuguese
Inquisition, or another Crusoe transported to a Romanian village? The question is
not as simple in this case. No doubt the political regime, as the ultimate level of
explanation, defines the only place that could be encircled (France, as a monarchy
or republic). For sure, there were many other factors intersecting across the Chan-
nel (or should we believe the British were entirely passive?). Yet the question is
complicated most directly by the analysts ethical desire not just to explain, but also
to critique. For Moyal, translations require minimal standards of representational-
ity. Not to seek such standards means appropriating the other, in this case misrep-
On the social and the cultural in translation studies 9

resenting a foreign culture in the interests of commercial gain. In the end, for
Moyal, the ultimate explanation of reprehensible translations is commerce,
whereas the ultimate explanation of debates about translation remains politics.
This is not a simple world.
Agns Whitfield observes Hugh MacLennans literary work Two Solitudes not as
an expression of the two sides of Canadian bilingual identity, but as the object of
very different receptions by Qubcois letters. The receptions were positive fol-
lowing the English publication in 1945, then far more critical following the French
translation in 1963. The differences between the two moments would appear to be
due to changes in Qubcois society itself, which appreciated openness in the late
1940s but sought independence in the 1960s. And that explanation would proba-
bly be enough for all the sociologies of concentric circles. Whitfield, however,
insists that there are not just two sides involved. The original novel was already a
translative text, an English representation of francophone Quebec society, pub-
lished in New York and aimed as much at the American as the Canadian public. Its
French translation should thus take us back to a Qubcois original, except that it
was published in France, according to French linguistic norms, at a time when
European French as well as English were seen in Quebec as instruments of cultural
domination. Whitfields argument thus follows causal paths that do not allow us to
stop at the simplicity of new society, new reception. Indeed, part of the same
complexity is found in the nature of Canadian academic disciplines from which
the analyst speaks. Comparative Literature largely stays with the binary frame (one
literature compared with another), whereas Translation Studies is seen as being
methodologically able to reveal intercultural dimensions such as those unraveled
in this case. Causation leads to the social, and we too are in the mix.
One final study in this batch, which fits in well enough with the intercultural
import of Whitfields approach:
Daniel Gagnon writes here in the first person as an author and self-translator
working in the intercultural context of Canada/Quebec. Identifying his position
within the social context of writers who are expatriates, exiles, or authors of multi-
lingual texts, he compares his own work with that of Nancy Huston, another
Canadian self-translator working between English and French. Gagnon observes
that self-translation allows more liberties than does the translation of anothers
work. In fact, in both cases the translations into French won prizes as original
works. Self-translation would thus raise many problems with standard notions
about translation as passive representation; it might even question Moyals critical
insistence on minimal norms. The awareness of social context is nevertheless
found here in the complex subversive stances that the writer/self-translator can
potentially adopt with respect to the standardized languages of colonialism.
10 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Whereas Huston translates into the imperial French of France, as an incomplete

displacement of her critique of North-American English-language culture, Gag-
non seeks to free himself from French hegemony by writing an original English
text as a playful foreigner. In both cases we find writers working in postcolonial
spaces, from within overlaps mostly unseen in sociologies that would separate one
culture from another.
At this point, that of the individual author/translator explaining individual
practices, we have perhaps reached one of the limits of social explanation. Yet the
writers consciousness is in this case clearly expressed in social terms, as an inter-
action with a very specific context. This is by no means nave self-report data.
Perhaps it is at this point, near the limit of sociology, that our studies should learn
from what the practitioners have to say: there is more than just one society (lan-
guage, culture) at stake, and the position of the mediator is not simple.

Symmetrical and asymmetrical correlations

We break off our survey in order to reconsider the question of explanation. We

have asked if the allocation of observational and explanatory roles might ulti-
mately be arbitrary. If our researchers tend to start from texts (as the things
observed), is it simply because of tradition? Along the way, we have asked if the
explanatory factor is really the cause of the observed, and not vice versa. We have
also come across the idea of concentric circles, where the bigger circles would
somehow be the explanation of the smaller ones. And we have encountered a few
problems with that kind of explanation: Is it really a mode of causation? How sure
can we be of its directionality? Does the concentric idea apply in studies involving
more than individual societies? Let us now try to formalize those problems.
As we have noted, our basic observation-explanation relation might be of the
kind the more X, the more Y. To repeat our example, when a culture is accorded
prestige, there tend to be many foreignizing translations from it (cf. Toury 1995).
This is potentially a commutative relation, since we might equally propose that
when a culture has many literalist translations from it, it is accorded prestige
(cf. Kothari, in this volume). The prestige could be due to the translations, and
the translations could be due to the prestige. The proposition is thus relatively
symmetrical, to the point where it makes little difference which factor is observed
and which is held to be explanatory (hence the commutative nature, as in addi-
tion: 3 + 2 = 2 + 3). This is the kind of symmetrical relation that we might find in
Kujamki (the influential intermediary initiates the literary exchanges, and the
literary exchanges develop the influence of the intermediary). That kind of model
seems not to produce explanatory knowledge in any strong sense, not because its
On the social and the cultural in translation studies 11

dialectic is in any way false, but because any number of other factors could be
involved as well.
What about Monteiros basic proposition that the translators omission of reli-
gious details is due to the influence of the Inquisition (our paraphrase)? Would
we say that the self-censorship caused the Inquisition, or that the Inquisition
caused self-censorship? Both ideas might make interesting pursuits (some of us
spend our lives trying to reverse apparently obvious relations). There is some truth
in the proposition that self-censorship (in translations and elsewhere) enabled the
Inquisition to become a long-lived institution in Iberian societies, so that certain
translation practices could indeed be seen as causes of the social institution.
Indeed, it would be counter-productive for Translation Studies not to consider
such causation. If translations were always effects rather than causes, they could
not aspire to have any influence on the way of the world. They would scarcely be
worth studying. At the same time, the Inquisition certainly had more influence on
the individual translator Henrique Leito than his omission had on the Inquisi-
tion. One factor is somehow bigger or of more weight than the other; it has causal
connections with more other factors; it is more systemic. This is the kind of rela-
tionship we have been describing as concentric circles. We are now able to offer a
slightly better description. The observation-explanation tandem in this case might
still be possible in both senses, but one direction has more weight than the other.
Let us call this asymmetric correlation. Is there any causation at stake? No doubt
there is. But the factors are interrelated with such complexity that we could not
turn the hypothesis into a simple prescription for action. Or would we have per-
haps advised Henrique Leito to translate the details in order to get rid of the
Inquisition? Smart subversion has subtler techniques.
One final example. Consider the idea that feminist texts tend to be translated
by women (a passing proposition in Wolf, in this volume). The proposition would
appear to be very asymmetrical, in something more than the sense just described.
The nature of the texts would cause them to be translated by women, but the trans-
lators are certainly not women because of the nature of the texts. One factor seems
sociological and fixed (the sex of the translators); the other appears more cultural
and contextual (the nature of the texts). The sociological then causes the cultural.
Or does it?
That entirely one-way explanation is of course an illusion. Do women trans-
late feminist texts because they were born biologically female? We might more
fairly claim that, in patriarchy at least, birth as a female entails a specific set of life
experiences, and those experiences are likely to be addressed by feminist texts
(more so than by non-feminist texts), at the same time as those texts help raise
awareness of those same life experiences. Causation comes from both the social
determinant and the cultural practice. Further, the two factors, falsely isolated in
12 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

our proposition, are connected by multiple chains of other factors, all interrelated
in ways that none of us has time to describe in detail.
One-way causation is decidedly unfashionable. Marxists would claim that, in
the last instance, the determining factors are economic (well, the relations of pro-
duction in a society). Once we get down to who gets paid for what, we have
reached some kind of bedrock; no need to dig further. It is surprising, in this
respect, to see how rarely economic factors are cited in our studies (in the ones
surveyed so far, only Thomsons analysis of East German censorship gives any
weight to them, and Moyal only names them to dismiss them; they will however
return in Wolf and Kothari below). There is an almost entire absence of factors like
class and class-consciousness, which would be the social corollaries of relations of
production. This might be because we know relatively little about that side of busi-
ness (cultural discourses tend to hide their pecuniary implications). However, we
are more likely to be distrustful of one-way determinism as such, and undoubtedly
reluctant to analyze our own interests in those same terms. Our preferences are for
models and sociologies that break class relations down into smaller and more
complex terms. The weaker the causation, the greater the social complexity, and
the more we can dissolve our responsibilities into toolbox approaches.
At this point some researchers choose to talk consistently of conditioning
rather than causation. When there are multiple factors all in causal relations with
each other (for some, this would constitute a system), we cannot say that the elim-
ination of any one factor will lead to the elimination of all the rest. The presence of
one factor, in a certain quantity, will certainly alter the nature of some other factor,
but the change may be slight, even negligible. If there were no book fairs in Frank-
furt, would the translations between Dutch and Spanish be the same? Well, not
exactly. Then again, the change would probably not be enormous. Such weak
forms of causation thus condition the observed; they are at best partial forms of
explanation. Of course, if there were no correlation at all, if a change in one thing
brought about no observable change in the other, then there is no causation to
speak of. We might then talk about relations in a very general sense, of the kind
that would place things together because the observer chooses to see them
together (cf. theories of relevance as a fact of interpretation). Here, however, we
are concerned with forms of empirical intersubjectivity that require something a
little stronger.
How might we reconcile the traditional search for strong asymmetric causa-
tion (social determinism) with awareness of relatively weak multilateral causation
(conditioning)? One kind of answer might come from India:
Rita Kothari observes that attitudes toward translation into English have become
increasingly favorable in the state of Gujarat. Although translations were previ-
On the social and the cultural in translation studies 13

ously seen as an index of cultural inequality, different social agents now view them
in positive terms. Official policy sees translation into English as a way of project-
ing Gujarati culture beyond its borders; a wide range of expatriates use those
translations as a means of keeping in touch with home; educational institutions
use translation as a way of opening new subject areas in literary studies; publishers
use it as a means of tapping new markets.
The explanatory model here is one of different stakeholders reaching consen-
sus (we would prefer to say cooperation), since translation into English appar-
ently brings benefits to all. Here the world of economic interests is not only very
present, but it is viewed in a less prejudicial light: publishers seek new markets, the
government seeks investments from wealthy expatriates, academics seek new job
positions. Yet there is no one-way determinism, as if one group controlled every-
thing. Indeed, Kotharis explanatory model becomes stronger the more social
groups are brought into consideration, since social causation here is founded on
consensus between otherwise competing groups. Kothari is keen to point out that
individuals may have many other reasons for turning to translation. Further, not
all the stakeholders are located within the one society. What happens in Gujarat
with respect to translation is to some extent dependent on what happens not just
in the rest of India (positive attitudes to English seem to be found across the
board) but also among Gujarati expatriate communities and, we might add, in
changing international ideas about the nature of English literature itself, now a
postcolonial field. In this kind of explanation, based on concepts of conditioning
and consensus, there is no apparent need for concentric circles of any kind. Rather,
the circles develop and intersect as we go, looking at one social group, then
another, then another, on a basis that could only be ad hoc.
This approach presents problems of a very practical order. In the face of so
many factors, where do we start? Where do we stop? One cannot do everything, of
course. All our researchers have selected points of departure that are fairly tradi-
tional fare for Translation Studies; all of them have had to decide where to stop, if
only for the sake of finishing an article. This means, first, that the selection of
observational and explanatory factors is in each case a fact of the research design
and not of any eschatology, as if the world had to begin in one place and end in
another. It also means, second, that some priority has been given, in most cases, to
the more asymmetric correlations, where causation is apparently more directional
and salient, such that some degree of explanation may result the wider concen-
tric circles are still privileged. And it means, third, that all those explanations, no
matter how varied or limited in scope, add something to our knowledge of the way
translators act in the world. One cannot do everything, agreed, but the important
point is to discover something.
14 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Cultural or social?

We pause to consider a dilemma that has been quietly put on hold. We talk, too
readily, about sociocultural or social and cultural approaches, contexts, factors,
whatever. This is no doubt a cheap inheritance from the days when textbook
Marxists (some as would-be subversives, others with little choice) cited mantras of
historical economic, social, cultural and political conditions as explaining all
phenomena, as a kind of generalized relativism. Are there any important particu-
larities behind these adjectives? No doubt the social is also the cultural, in the
sense that both are opposed to the eternal or the ontological. But why then do
we need the two terms?
Academic tradition would suggest that social factors are the preserve of
Sociology, whereas cultural factors fall into other disciplines (Anthropology,
Ethnology, Semiotics, Communication Studies, plus the range of approaches these
days roped into Cultural Studies). Fair enough. Yet are there any social factors or
data that are not cultural as well? Or vice versa?
Two kinds of answer are possible here. First, let us consider the various factors
used in the papers we have just summarized. Some of them would seem to pass as
eminently social, at least in the sense that they can be handled by the methodolo-
gies of Sociology. These would include exchanges of letters within a social net-
work, statistics on translation flows, censorship files, or economic costs of
publication. Others would appear to be more properly cultural: translators strate-
gies, functions of literature, images of other cultures, the role of academic disci-
plines, or postcolonial discourse. Our own shortlist then has a few leftovers: the
influence of the Inquisition, and support for one political regime or another. Both
those factors are so clearly political that one hesitates to call them by another
On the basis of this small sample, we might surmise that social factors tend to
have a quantitative aspect and can be associated with relations between people.
Cultural factors, on the other hand, are more predominantly qualitative and can be
related to signifying practices (texts, discourses). Indeed, some definitions of cul-
ture would have the term cover nothing but a set of signifying practices (cf. Hall
1997). They would moreover see those practices as constituting the identities
(subjectivities) engaged in the practices (variously after Althusser). If we are ana-
lyzing the way people converse or eat, we are handling the cultural side of life.
However, if we analyze people in terms of ages, places of birth, or levels of educa-
tion or income, we are dealing with social factors, not with cultural subjectivities.
And if we are describing power relations, politics might be the measure of what we
do. Note, however, that the one piece of information can be contextualized in more
than one way. For example, the political influence of the Inquisition might be seen
On the social and the cultural in translation studies 15

as a practice imposing counter-reformist discourse (cultural fact), or as a shoring-

up of the economic interests of a hierarchical social structure (social fact), or both
at the same time. The longer we play in these waters, the muddier they become.
And when we get to something like Luhmanns view of society as nothing but
communication, the very basis on which we would distinguish the social from
the cultural has dissolved. Let us nevertheless risk a few transitory distinctions of a
purely methodological or operational nature.
We find that cultural factors (e.g. language use or translators strategies) tend
to be the ones that are observed in our studies, whereas social factors (e.g. the social
groups translators belong to) tend to be the ones used to explain the cultural fac-
tors. This schema seems to fit most of the papers just summarized, albeit not all
(Linn at least starts from hard data on translation flows). We also find, even in our
small sample, that a double movement is possible. Whitfields paper moves from
the cultural (receptions of a novel) to the social (changes in Quebecois society), as
we would expect, but then returns to the cultural (a new academic discipline offers
a way of reading not just the novel, but also the societies). Could one actually start
from observation of the social? There is no reason why not. In search of illustra-
tion, let us summarize a further example:
Michaela Wolf sets out to look at women in German-speaking countries working
for women publishers or womens book series. She surveys the opinions of transla-
tors and publishers, revealing the relative freedom that various editorial policies
allow the translators with respect to visibility and such things as the use of inclu-
sive language. Wolf finds a relatively close social network where women transla-
tors not only attain some visibility (their names are mentioned in the texts) and
feel able to be creative in their strategies, but they also tend to accept low payment
because of engagement with feminist causes.
Wolf s study merits special attention here because it aims to be almost purely
sociological, drawing its concepts from the work of the French sociologist Pierre
Bourdieu. Social factors define the object of knowledge (women, publishing insti-
tutions), just as empirical sociology provides the data-gathering procedures (ques-
tionnaires, interviews). Wolf, however, seeks to explore the factors conditioning
the production of female and feminist translation. In those terms, the explanatory
(conditioning) factors would be social, and the thing explained would certainly
appear to be a cultural practice, as in our baseline model. Bourdieus concepts nev-
ertheless enable us to extend the sociological deep within the cultural. The pro-
duction of these translations is seen not just as a signifying practice or a use of
language, but as a potential field, where the various agents form power relation-
ships and deploy their individual capitals. People moreover act within this space
in terms of their habituses, dispositions that they have acquired and internalized
16 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

over time. Cultural practices are thus cut up into social relations (field) and behav-
ioral dispositions (habitus); the cultural becomes at least sociological, if not wholly
social. Further, applying Bourdieu, the capitals people deploy can be economic
(money), social (networks of contacts), symbolic (prestige, fame) or, of course,
cultural (education, competence in signifying practices). These are the terms that
actually allow Wolf to explain why the women translators accept low pay. For
them, cultural capital has a higher priority than economic capital; the translators
work for the cause more than for the money. So the specific weight of cultural
practices actually returns here, like the suppressed, to explain the social configura-
tion of the field (and indeed to enable Wolf to question the existence of a transla-
tion field at all, a problem to which we will return). If we had to summarize Wolf s
methodology, we might say that she starts from the social (to define the field),
identifies the cultural (describing a cultural practice), does a sociological analysis
(the world according to Bourdieu), and finds her closing explanation in the trade-
offs of cultural capital. As in Whitfield, the movements are doubled, but certainly
do not cancel each other out.
Let us propose that, in the studies such as we have them, a kind of explanation
moves from the cultural to the social, and/or from the social to the cultural. Where
there is no such movement (i.e. the social simply correlates with the social, or the
cultural with the cultural), then our desire for explanation seems decidedly less
satisfied; we enter into illusions of simple description. That might partly explain
the diffuse discontent, at least in continental Europe, with Cultural Studies as a
discipline, often felt to be lacking in discovery procedures. If translators are seen as
nothing but discursive and observational figurations (the translator in the text)
and their social institutions are analyzed in the same terms (be it from Foucault or
semiotics), then the sociological has lost its explanatory position. Rather than pro-
duce explanatory knowledge, such research struggles to do more than confirm a
certain view of the world. This could be one reason for distinguishing general Cul-
tural Studies from a more empirical brand of culture research (the term currently
used at Tel Aviv University).
Then again, we should resist the obverse illusion that the real explanations
only come from a wider and better-established discipline called Sociology. There
is something of this not only in Wolf (where the main terms are to be understood
only as Bourdieu apparently understood them), but also in standard references
like Hermans (1999), where the future of systemic approaches to translation is
sought in a combination of Bourdieu and Luhmann. The very existence of double
movements suggests that the cultural cannot entirely be reduced to a set of classi-
cal sociological variables. We are no longer in a world where the hard countable
facts (the economic relations of production, for example) explain away cultural
practices. We know that the isolation and counting of the facts is itself a cultural
On the social and the cultural in translation studies 17

practice the sociology of culture takes place within a culture of sociology. In

Bourdieus terms (cf. 1980: 1936), we must still subjectivize the objective (we
must ask who is selecting and analyzing the object, and why), as well as objectivize
the subject (we must do the sociology of the people carrying out research). In Aus-
tralian terms, the boomerangs we throw at others will come back at ourselves.
There is something of this in the present volume. Agns Whitfields piece is per-
haps the clearest example, as mentioned, although Gagnon is engaged ex officio
and Kothari and Wolf do not hide their positioning. Yet there could be much
more; our empiricists could look more closely at the rationales behind action
This perspective should enable us to adopt a critical view of the more tradi-
tional sociologies we draw on, especially since there are various sociologies to
choose from. For example, we have found that Kotharis model of explanation is
based on consensus between social groups, whereas Wolf, following Bourdieu,
believes that a field should be formed by struggle between agents. As we have said,
what Wolf actually finds is a trade-off between economic and cultural capital,
between publishers and translators (the latter accept less pay in return for a higher
profile and engagement in the cause). That would be a basic form of cooperation.
It may not correspond to what Bourdieu wanted to find in a field worthy of the
name. However, it could be what we mostly find in intercultural practices, given
their shared marginality.1 Further, such cooperation could be ethically laudable,
over and above the constant struggles that the French sociologist saw in the societ-
ies around him.

Cultural and social?

There is a second way of handling our quiet dilemma about social and cultural fac-
tors. Social factors tend to concern societies; cultural factors have to do with cul-
tures. This is of interest for the simple reason that societies and cultures tend not to
be co-extensive. We can find many cultures within the one society (we talk freely
about multicultural societies), just as we can find the one cultural practice in
many different societies (monotheism, vegetarianism, jus solis, or soccer, for
example). There is admittedly some sleight of hand here. Social factors might
equally apply to such things as peer groups or scientific communities, which are
much smaller than nation-state societies. The non-correspondence between the
social and the cultural is nevertheless a useful reminder of where our concepts
come from.
Nineteenth-century sociology developed for the description of European
nation states, with the idealist assumption that each had its distinctive set of cul-
18 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

tural practices (cf. Wallerstein 1997). Hard-core sociology tends to maintain that
allegiance. Governmental or intergovernmental agencies are the best places to get
good statistics (on book production for example), and so the nation state is bound
to be a unit in such analyses. The same agencies tend to be the ones that form pol-
icies, so they might be the only readers that could enable our research to influence
large-scale cultural practices in any direct way. Twentieth-century sociologies cer-
tainly paid attention to progressively smaller social groups, yet the discipline as
such has little political interest in dissociating itself from description and predic-
tion on the level of the nation state.
When we do the sociology of translation, we are necessarily challenging the
kind of sociology that would stay at the level of just one nation state, or perhaps
two. The Marxist translation theorist Otto Kade instinctively adhered to the
national frame when he attributed translation problems to the non-correspon-
dence between two historically developed societies (cit. Koller 1979: 156). For
Kade, if we study entire societies, we will be able to explain why it is hard to trans-
late between them. For most of our current researchers, however, there is little
need to survey anything like national societies, with their classically concentric
circles of social determinism. The cultural practices that concern us are mostly of
different (smaller or wider) dimensions, and their explanatory factors are rarely
concentric, simply because the practices cross boundaries. To transform Kades
terms, the relations of cultural production, in the case of translation, are never
entirely within just one historically developed society. The work of translators and
interpreters necessarily cuts across the lines between historical places like France
or Spain, even when those places are themselves reinforced by ideological reduc-
tions of a cultural nature (the assumption of common languages and cultural prac-
tices). We thus find in some of our studies that the materials themselves, the very
things we talk about, necessarily challenge the national frames of much sociology.
Another of our papers may be taken as a case in point:
Ieva Zauberga observes recent changes in the strategies used for the rendition of
foreign proper nouns in Latvian. Traditionally, Jacques Chirac would be written as
aks iraks, whereas the new tendency is to allow him his French spelling. This is
seen as a challenge to Latvian cultural orthodoxy, associated with linguistic pur-
ism and implicitly with stable national identity. The change is to be explained as a
challenge to the national level, in terms of something that is happening to Latvian
society as a whole. Causation is, naturally enough, attributed to economic global-
ization, bringing increased trade, travel and access to information. The new tran-
scription strategy is needed so that Latvians can recognize foreign terms when
they are abroad, or when they use search engines on the Internet, and so on. How-
ever, that level of explanation is itself cultural in essence: the new renditions are
On the social and the cultural in translation studies 19

needed because of new cultural practices that extend well beyond national bound-
aries. A more sociological causation is then attributed to the actions of translators
and publishers, whose agency is explicitly recognized. Change is thus brought
about because of cultural factors that no longer correspond to the nation, and by
the social groups directly involved in cross-cultural communication.
Studies like Zaubergas operate at levels at once wider than the nation state in
terms of cultural practices (e.g. globalization) and smaller than the nation state in
terms of sociological dimension (e.g. translators and publishers). This gives Trans-
lation Studies, and more generally Intercultural Studies, a critical potential that
might connect easily with similar views from postcolonial approaches and theo-
ries of globalization, where the other is seen within the self. On many counts, the
national frame no longer provides adequate explanations. Translation Studies
might usefully go with that trend, searching for the ways cross-cultural communi-
cation connects with emerging world systems. At the same time, we might direct
our attention to the actual contact situations, to the quite small social settings in
which translators and interpreters actually work. Our frames can be wider, or nar-
rower, or both (as in Zauberga).
Our more literary studies might be expected to drift toward the supra-national
level, since such things have been in the repertoire of literary theory at least since
Goethe. More decisive, however, might be the frames used in research on inter-
preting, to which we now turn.

Learning from Interpreting Studies

As much as we personally include interpreting in our own usage of the term

translation (which for us covers both spoken and written forms), there are cer-
tainly social reasons for looking at Interpreting Studies as a separate category. The
research community is quite different in the case of interpreting, with very differ-
ent relations with disciplines like neurology or psycholinguistics. Almost instinc-
tively, we associate interpreting with questions of either individual performance or
work in relatively small social settings, ranging from interviews to conferences.
That, and many similar assumptions, are clearly challenged by the paper closing
this section.
Franz Pchhacker gives a wide-ranging presentation of how the main ideas of
Interpreting Studies have developed in recent decades. Alongside several long-
standing paradigms, he finds growing awareness that interpreting involves more
than conference interpreting. This shift not only focuses attention on the diverse
social contexts in which interpreters work, but also challenges several partis pris
20 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

with respect to the defense of professional standards. Why has the new frame
developed? Pchhacker only intimates that it might have something to do with a
new generation of researchers. He might also have added that the forces of migra-
tion in a globalizing world have increased the social demands for interpreting in
the public services of receiving countries. Hence the key ideological role of what is
known as community-based interpreting (or community interpreting, or
social interpreting, among other names). The social commitment of researchers
can only develop when there are pressing social problems to resolve.
The supra-national might thus be seen as shaping the new objects of interpret-
ing research. The analytical frame does however tend to remain at the microcos-
mic level, staying close to the concerns of discourse analysis and pragmatics. As
Pchhacker notes, the linguistic paradigm has been strong since the 1970s. But
new paradigms are now at work. The following are summaries of the papers on
various specific aspects of community (or social) interpreting:
Sonja Pllabauer presents a study of interpreting at asylum hearings in Austria.
By paying close attention to basic pragmatic features such as facework and footing,
she finds that the interpreters tend to cooperate with the interviewing officers but
not with asylum seekers. The interpreters thus operate as auxiliary police offic-
ers. This discursive positioning is attributed to the asymmetrical power distribu-
tion of the hearing situation, and to the corresponding translation culture (we
will comment on the concept below), which in this case favors one-sided loyalty
and self-protection rather than absolute communicative transparency.
Nadja Grbi presents a comprehensive empirical study of sign-language interpret-
ers in the region of Styria, in Austria. The study focuses on the professionalization
of the sector in terms of academic training, qualifications and the development of
an association. The provision of academic training is found to have had consider-
able impact on the social matrix within which a profession is exercised. Grbi nev-
ertheless asks to what extent the resulting network constitutes a social system, here
in a sense where coordinated interaction between members allows them a com-
mon construction of reality (hence the concept of constructivist systems). That
question proves difficult to answer. What we do find, on the basis of empirical
sociological research, is that the norms of this system are unstable and contingent,
none the least because interpreters have credentials in a range of different social
Guillermo R. Navarro Montesdeoca deals with a neighboring field, describing
his own experience as an interpreter at an Immigrant Detention Center in Las
Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain. As in Pllabauer, we discover a strongly hierar-
chical situation where communication is marked by power relationships. Here,
On the social and the cultural in translation studies 21

however, the interpreter places himself well down in the hierarchy, no doubt
because he is not employed on a permanent basis and his professional qualifica-
tions are not recognized.
Mette Rudvin offers a plethora of ideas on how identities are built and negotiated
in interpreter-mediated encounters. Once we adopt the position that cultural/
ethnic identity is made manifest in language, the floodgates are opened to any
number of references concerning culture, language, discourse, text analysis, and
repeated confirmation of the point of departure. Health-care services are thus seen
not as a social institution in the hard empirical sense but as a cultural system, a set
of signifying practices, of which interpreting becomes a part. Rudvin detects pro-
cesses of dehumanization in these discursive formations, seeing certain types of
frame-switching as means of resisting that trend. Is the interpreter condemned to
reproduce the institutional dehumanization of patients? The answer is not as clear
as it seems to be in the empirical studies. The theories of Cultural Studies allow
ample space for resistance.
Katrien Lannoy and Jan Van Gucht present the findings of a commissioned sur-
vey of interpreting and translation services provided to social welfare institutions
in Flanders. Service providers and users were observed and quantified through
interviews and questionnaires, using classical sociological methods. We learn,
among much else, that non-professional interpreting plays a considerable role,
along with communication strategies other than interpreting. Most encounters
involve use of a common contact language, followed by the use of simplified
Dutch and gestures, and then the use of friends and relatives or untrained col-
leagues as ad hoc interpreters. Although a surprising number of users are quite
content with such non-professional services, one of the key factors is the financial
cost of services. The authors recommend that telephone interpreting services be
kept free of charge for social welfare institutions, that the administrative categories
not confuse telephone interpreting services with general community interpreting,
and that training programs assist in the professionalization of the field.
The differences between these papers are extreme and instructive. At one end,
Lannoy and Van Gucht are doing straight empirical sociology, within an overtly
national frame (as a report for a government). They bundle together what people
say and do; they provide quantitative findings so that the corresponding adminis-
trative action can be taken. We thus buy into the power of sociology to speak on
behalf of collective social agents. This is present nowhere else in our volume. At
the other end of the spectrum, Rudvin adopts what we see as a Cultural Studies
approach, which has no real need of quantitative data at all. And yet, in Lannoy
and Van Gucht the conceptual leaps from the empirical data to the recommenda-
tions remain precarious. Their conclusions do indeed concern questions of profes-
22 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

sional identity formation, questions for which they do not present appropriate
methodological tools. So much else is happening on the level of interpreting as a
social practice that one could only see Rudvins approach as not only complemen-
tary but even necessary. As we have said, the social needs the cultural, just as the
cultural can still seek explanation in the hard core of empirical sociology.
In between these extremes, each of the above papers achieves its own distribu-
tion of the social and the cultural. Pllabauer observes linguistic phenomena and
attributes them to certain assumptions concerning social agents, but she does not
have any particular interest in the sociological identity of the agents as such. We
are given no information on variables such as the interpreters mode of employ-
ment, qualifications, distribution of financial resources or ethnic provenance, all
of which could be key factors in the case of Grbi or Navarro Montesdeoca. In Pl-
labauer, observation and causation thus remain on virtually the same level. We
find something happening in the discourse (interpreters side with the interview-
ing officers) but we do not know why this happens. The mode of analysis is never-
theless not without interest, basically because it draws on the concept of
translation culture (on which, comments very soon).
In all these papers, implicitly or explicitly, there is a search for a conceptual
frame located somewhere between the whole of society and the linguistic situa-
tion, between traditional sociology and close-range cultural analysis. This is where
we try to extract a general conclusion from the above contributions.

New dimensions for cultural sociologies?

We have formulated the principle of asymmetric causation for a very simple rea-
son. If translations and translators were wholly explained by sociocultural factors,
then they themselves would logically be unable to cause any changes in the world.
Our object of study would be without influence, without effect, without power.
Indeed, we would soon be back to the days when translations were seen as power-
less because they were written off as mere reproductions of sources. In allowing for
asymmetric causation, we insist that translation is more productive than repro-
ductive. Translational phenomena are partly the causes of other phenomena, even
though their agency often seems lesser than the wider factors.
One of the problems with this principle is that translation, as the thing to be
explained, is often approached not just as a passive object but also as a factor that is
inherently smaller than the explanatory variables. Translational things have rela-
tively reduced dimensions; social relations are larger; societies and cultures are
larger still (i.e. they enter into more causal relationships). Many of our researchers
instinctively focus on quite particular observations: a translation, a mediator, a
On the social and the cultural in translation studies 23

text and its translations, a period, a country, one culture receiving another, and so
on. This need not be so, of course. We might also observe translational phenom-
ena as spanning centuries and continents, as constituting a major driving force in
cultural history. If translation can thus be made a much larger factor, assumptions
of one-way causation would be much harder to maintain. A pro-active view of
translation becomes all the more possible.
Research on those wider levels is difficult to set up with any degree of rigor. Yet
it is not impossible. A step in that direction is the study of translators instead of
individual translations, since the human agent necessarily brings together several
social and cultural fields. A second step would be to see the object translation not
just as a set of texts or actions, but of principles that underlie texts and actions over
considerable stretches of history and geography. The focus on norms was a major
advance in this direction. Our papers in this volume show that further attempts
have been made to see translation as a wider, richer object of knowledge.
Pllabauer, as we were saying, does not seek to reduce everything to sociology.
Instead, she tries to describe a certain translation culture (rendering the German
Translationskultur). That term, developed by Erich Prun (1997), is defined as the
variable set of norms, conventions and expectations which frame the behavior of
all interactants in the field of translation (Pllabauer, referring to Prun 2000: 59;
cf. also Pchhacker 2001 and comments in this volume). The concept is of definite
interest. It is more dynamic than the similar term translation culture (rendering
bersetzungskultur) used by the Gttingen group (see Frank 1989) to describe the
cultural norms governing translations within a target system, on the model of
Esskultur, which would describe the way a certain society eats. Pruns notion of a
translation culture is of something that is constantly evolving, and in which both
translator training and Translation Studies should be actively engaged. There is
some doubt as to the exact location of Pruns translation culture, since another
definitional frame locates it as a historically developed subsystem of a culture
(Prun 1997: 107), without saying precisely what that larger culture is supposed
to be. However, read in terms of its internal elements, the concept of a translation
culture need not be extended to a national frame; it could remain the preserve of
only those agents involved in the translation process; it might thus be of rather
reduced dimensions, potentially straddling national boundaries. That is indeed
where we would like to position it.
With this minimal specification, the concept of a translation culture opens an
interesting space. It could be made to occupy similar dimensions (in time and
space) to Bourdieus notion of habitus, if and when we can ask critical questions as
to how and to what extent individuals might internalize a translation culture. The
notion of a translation culture might also be made to speak to Wolf s search for a
space that is not a full-fledged sociological field in Bourdieus sense, if indeed we
24 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

could make it explain how the principles evolve interactively, or how they relate to
what happens beyond the translation culture. The concept might even be brought
close to Grbis preference for a constructivist social system that is decidedly weaker
than what is ideally required in sociology (a translation culture apparently does not
have mechanisms for self-reproduction, boundary maintenance, or the prolonged
stabilization of norms). At all these points, our researchers have felt uncomfortable
with translation as a small thing. They have made it a larger thing by trying to
extract its underlying principles, as indeed would a sociologist when studying a
group or society. Yet, nota bene, our researchers seem not to have made translation
a sociological object in itself. They have intuitively had recourse to a terminology of
what would appear to be cultural factors (a translation culture, indeed).
For us, translation culture could be a rough synonym for a translation
regime, understood as a set of implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules and
decision-making procedures around which actors expectations converge (Pym
1998, modifying Krasner 1983: 2). We borrowed the idea from negotiation theory,
from a cultural practice that necessarily takes place on the frontiers of the major
social systems. Others appear to be going the same way, on the basis of quite differ-
ent models and data. We would see all these initiatives as leading toward the con-
ceptual terrain of what we have termed professional intercultures (Pym 2000,
2004), formed and deployed by the people engaged in cross-cultural communica-
tion. This is not the place to go into the theory of intercultures. Let us simply insist
on the word culture that forms part of our terms (interculture, translation cul-
ture). For as much as the study of intercultures has been associated with quite
sociological questions like membership, provenance and power relations, we have
wanted it to remain closely attached to sets of qualitative factors as well (the stuff
of regimes). We are not talking simply about the social groups or communities
that straddle borders; we are not setting out to do straight quantitative sociology.
Perhaps like Prun, along with most of the authors in this volume, we have hesi-
tated to reduce the cultural to the social.
What kind of sociology, if any, might best help us explain translational phe-
nomena? In lieu of conclusion, the following is a wish-list concocted from what we
have found in this volume, and what we would like to find in future research:
Our sociology should be able to focus on mediators, not just on the social
aspects of source texts and target texts.
It should resist the simple binarisms that oppose one society (language,
culture) to another, with the mediator on one side or the other. It should
be able to perceive overlaps and complex positions.
It should embrace both cultural factors (usually qualitative) and sociolog-
ical factors (mostly partly quantitative).
On the social and the cultural in translation studies 25

It should be able to explain as well as describe.

It should seek explanation by moving between the cultural and the socio-
logical, without according absolute explanatory status to either side.
It should be able to relate factors in terms of asymmetrical or relatively
symmetrical correlations, through hypotheses that model causation or
multifactorial conditioning.
It should not pay undue allegiance to heroes imported from Sociology (or
from any other discipline for that matter).
It should be able to work from a plurality of concepts (translation cul-
tures, social systems, regimes, intercultures) appropriate to the social
spaces in which intermediaries work.
Beyond that, the field is still very open to creative research. Much remains to be
done before we can hope to offer any general explanations of cross-cultural com-
munication. The challenge, however, remains constant. The most problematic
relations of todays world are between cultures. To model those problems is our
first step toward solving them.


* Our thanks to Michaela Wolf, Sandra Poupaud and Graciela Caldern for their helpful
comments on this paper.
1. Both Wolf (herein) and Simeoni (1998) raise serious questions about whether translation
can constitute a field in Bourdieus sense. According to the evidence they present, the activity
of translators would be too unstructured, too subservient to other fields, and too ill-equipped to
ensure its own reproduction and boundary maintenance. Translation would then somehow be
unworthy of proper sociological status. Much depends, however, on the kind of evidence one
looks at. The growth and hierarchization of translator-training institutions, for example, might
be seen as the development of a field. Further, within smaller societies the role of translation
would seem proportionally greater, to the extent that many of the attributes of a field are in fact
fulfilled (as argued by Czech students at our doctoral seminar in Prague in September 2004).
The conclusion that translation is not a field might not only turn out to answer a subservient
question (why should a sociologist provide the yardstick anyway?) but could also be a result of
looking at major rather than minor cultures.
Trends in the translation of a
minority language

The case of Dutch

Stella Linn
University of Groningen, The Netherlands

The historical branch of Descriptive Translation Studies has difficulty accounting

for the numerous factors that intervene in translation flows. The analysis of
translations from Dutch into Spanish in the second half of the twentieth century is
no exception. Social and ideological contexts may account for the international
interest in genres such as Dutch theological works in the 1960s and later in
childrens literature from the Netherlands. However, there have been surprisingly
few Spanish translations from Dutch, despite institutional campaigns such as those
at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1993 and the Spanish national book fair Liber in 1995.
This paper surveys two main conditioning factors: the role of publishing companies
in the selection process, and the work of a Spanish translator, Francisco Carrasquer,
who has done much to promote Dutch literature in Spanish and has translated
many works himself. The translation of Dutch works in Spain can thus be seen as a
complex web in which social, commercial and personal factors are intertwined.


Although translation flows between languages provide fascinating information

about how languages and cultures influence one another, relatively little is known
about the subject. The main reason for this is the difficulty of obtaining accurate
information about book output (especially for translations) and print runs. The
record systems for new titles and reprints are often inadequate or decentralized, dif-
ferent countries use different criteria, and publishers are often reluctant to release
information on print runs and sales figures unless, of course, bestsellers are involved.
Since World War Two, there has been a reasonably reliable (though not infalli-
ble) system for recording translations from and into Dutch.1 The figures show that
the Netherlands traditionally imports far more translations than it exports. In recent
28 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

years the number of works translated into Dutch has been almost six times those
translated from Dutch. Since the early 1990s, translated titles have accounted for a
quarter of the total book output in the Netherlands.
Translation flows can be understood in terms of the core-periphery model
applied by sociologists to the production of cultural goods (see Heilbron 1995,
1999).2 According to this model, centrality (or core position) is determined not so
much by a languages number of native speakers as by the number of people for
whom that language is a second language and the extent to which the language is
translated. In other words, the more centrally it is located in the global translation
system, the more translations a language generates. According to this criterion, Chi-
nese is a peripheral language: UNESCO figures reveal it to be the source language
for less than 1 percent of all translations worldwide. Large, economically powerful
countries that belong to a central language group, such as the United States and
Great Britain, tend to export their economic and cultural products, whereas coun-
tries that represent a relatively small language group are much more heavily depen-
dent on foreign imports. Dutch fits within the latter category. With approximately
21 million native speakers in the Netherlands and Belgium, it is a minor, rather
peripheral language in global translation terms. About two-thirds of all titles trans-
lated into Dutch in recent years have been from English, followed by German and
French, and then, at some distance, by other source languages, mainly Scandinavian
and southern European. The dominant position of English in the translation market
is not unique to the Netherlands; it is a worldwide phenomenon (see also Venuti
1995a: 12). This has not always been the case, however. French played a key interna-
tional role from the Middle Ages until about 1800. In the nineteenth century, Ger-
man works were translated in Europe on a large scale, particularly in the field of
science (Heilbron 1995: 2167).
Socio-economic considerations, however, do not adequately explain the tradi-
tionally strong foreign influence on Dutch. Another factor may be the enduring
modesty of Dutch cultural self-awareness, especially where language is involved.
The Netherlands has never had the equivalent of a Goethe Institut, British Council
or Alliance Franaise to promote its language. However, this is beginning to change.
Recent years have seen initiatives launched with government subsidies in the
cultural and linguistic field: a series of academic studies on the international
influence of the Netherlands (Dutch culture in a European context), the estab-
lishment under the auspices of the Dutch Language Union of a virtual docu-
mentation center for the study of Dutch-language literature in translation (http://, and the creation of the Support Network for Training of
Literary Translators to boost professionalism among translators working into and
from Dutch. In addition, the Foundation for the Production and Translation of
Dutch Literature, established half a century ago, threw its weight behind the 1993
Trends in the translation of a minority language 29

Frankfurt Book Fair, which had Dutch and Flemish literature as its central theme,
and various other events with a Dutch-language focus.
What has been the effect of all these measures? Have they succeeded in pro-
moting Dutch-language works abroad? Which genres or authors are successful in
translation, which are not, and what influences are at work? An attempt will be
made to answer these questions here. For reasons of space, we will concentrate on
the translation of Dutch-language (i.e. Dutch and Flemish) works in Spain in the
second half of the twentieth century.

Translations from Dutch into Spanish 19502000

To locate the translations, we began from the major bibliographies of translated

Dutch-language works,3 looking at new titles primarily and reprints only inciden-
tally. We have chosen 1950 as the starting point because almost nothing seems to
have been translated from Dutch into Spanish prior to then. An examination of
the sample years (at five-yearly intervals) then shows which works appeared in
Spanish translation. When we saw that the second half of the 1960s was generating
interesting data, an additional year was selected: 1968, the year that captured inter-
national attention. The Frankfurt Book Fair year (1993) was also included in the
sample. Table 1 shows what was translated per category in each sample year, while
Figure 1 presents the same data in the form of a histogram.

Table 1. Number and type of Spanish translations from Dutch 19502000

(First editions, recorded every five years, with 1968 and 1993 as additional sample years. The
categories included are religion, philosophy, social sciences, literature, childrens books, art,
hobby and miscellaneous.)
Yr/Cat. Religion Philo. Social sc. Lit. Child. Art Hobby Misc. Total
1950 2 2
1955 2 2 4
1960 3 2 1 6
1965 5 3 1 1 2 1 13
1968 17 6 4 5 3 1 2 38
1970 12 2 1 6 1 1 23
1975 3 1 3 6 6 2 21
1980 2 1 5 4 3 3 18
1985 4 1 5 1 2 1 14
1990 1 3 10 1 2 17
1993 1 1 1 5 5 1 1 1 16
1995 1 1 9 8 3 22
2000 8 7 1 16
30 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Figure 1. Number and type of Spanish translations from Dutch 19502000

As can be seen, almost nothing was translated prior to 1960. In 1950 and 1955, a
total of only six translations appeared, including the first Spanish edition of the
most translated Dutch book of all time the Diary of Anne Frank. The volume of
translations began to increase in the 1960s, reaching a peak in 1968. From 1970
onwards, the number of new translations stagnated at barely 20 per year. Because
of the annual increase in national book output, the share of translations in this
total has declined. For example, 20,000 titles (translated and non-translated) were
produced in Spain in 1968, against 2 times as many 25 years later (50,000 in
1993). Therefore, an absolute figure of 40 translations from Dutch in 1968 would
be the equivalent of 100 in 1993.
Two key translation trends will now be examined more closely from a social
and ideological perspective.

The rise of theological works

When the 1960s were reviewed, the data for 1968 were quite striking. The bibliog-
raphies record a total of 38 titles translated into Spanish for the first time in that
year.4 The categories of social sciences and philosophy (five titles each) are well
represented, particularly those dealing with ethical issues, but theological works
win hands down with 17 translations. The theologian Schillebeeckx has five titles
translated into Spanish in that year. The reprints also include a number of reli-
gious works.
How can the popularity of theological books from the Netherlands (this does
not apply to Belgium) be explained from the 1960s to the end of the 1970s? Here
the international social and religious context must be considered. This phenome-
non did not arise in a vacuum; instead, it was linked to the changing social role of
the Roman Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council, held from 1962 to 1965
at the instigation of the progressive Pope John XXIII, radically modernized the
Trends in the translation of a minority language 31

Catholic Church. Decisions were taken, for example, to celebrate the liturgy in the
vernacular rather than in Latin, to strengthen the position of lay members of the
church, and to tighten links with other churches. The Netherlands was at the fore-
front of this modernization and it played a pioneering role for other countries,
especially those in the south of Europe. Developments among Catholics in the
Netherlands following the Second Vatican Council were also watched closely by
the Vatican itself. Works on ethics and psychology were very popular too and were
translated into Italian and other languages the moment they were published. Just
considering 1968 for a moment, the theme of renewal in religious practice was
equally predominant in French, German and English translations from Dutch.
Some of the titles announced the changes: De kerk in een nieuwe wereld, Het graf
van God, Vernieuwd geweten (The church in a new world, Gods grave, A new con-
science, etc.). The critical theologian Schillebeeckx, advisor to the Dutch bishops
during the Second Vatican Council, did particularly well. Het ambts-celibaat in de
branding, for instance, appeared in four foreign languages in a single year (Span-
ish, Italian, English and German). In 1968 his LEsglesia i lhome segons el Vatic II
was the only book translated from Dutch into Catalan, Spains second language in
number of speakers. This is largely the result of cross-pollination, as attested to by
the high percentage of religious works translated into Dutch in the 1960s. These
were primarily translations from German, and to a lesser extent from English and
French, with almost nothing translated from Spanish (van Voorst 1997: 3335).
International interest in Dutch Catholicism started to wane after 1968. In line
with the trend elsewhere in Europe, the market for religious works in Spain col-
lapsed altogether at the end of the 1970s. An obvious explanation is that advancing
secularization in Europe had rendered Dutch theological leadership redundant. It
was time for a new, less serious genre.

The popularity of childrens literature

From about 1970, as Spanish interest in theological works declined, another (albeit
less prominent) category began to emerge: Dutch childrens books. The only books
translated in 1970 and 1975 were those by the author and illustrator Dick Bruna,
featuring Miffy and other animals and containing almost no text. They account for
all twelve titles appearing in those sample years. The range was more diverse after
1980. By 1985, four different authors were translated and five others reprinted.
The most popular Dutch writers in Spain were Paul Biegel, Annie M.G. Schmidt
and Jan Terlouw. Their popularity is highlighted by the fact that they have also
been translated into Catalan, Galician and Basque Spains principal regional lan-
guages (Duez & Linn 1995: 5152).
32 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

The fact that Dutch childrens books caught on in Spain was no isolated phe-
nomenon: they were also doing well in other European countries, especially Ger-
many. Their popularity probably followed in the wake of the groundbreaking
Scandinavian childrens books that were all the rage in Europe from the 1960s.5
The biennial Hans Christian Andersen Award (the most prestigious international
childrens literature prize) was awarded eleven times between 1958 and 1978: six
awards went to Scandinavian authors. The first was Astrid Lindgren, creator of the
unconventional Pippi Lngstrump (Pippi Longstocking in English). At the time of
her death in 2002, her books had sold a hundred million copies in eighty lan-
guages. Other childrens authors, like the English A. A. Milne (creator of Winnie
the Pooh), Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton were also translated on a large scale.
One explanation for this success could be that translated books for young peo-
ple filled a temporary void in the target culture. In terms of polysystem theory, this
would probably be an example of a literature (or rather a literary subsection) in a
weak or peripheral position, resulting in the national polysystem importing a liter-
ary type that it lacks (Even-Zohar 1978/2000: 194). A German publisher, praising
post-1980 Dutch childrens and youth literature, described it as innovative, exper-
imental, courageous and (unlike German childrens books) not pushing an obvi-
ous pedagogical and moralistic viewpoint (cited in Maas 1994: 19). This change
in the traditional attitude toward education would appear to explain the success of
Dutch childrens books in Spain. In the early 1990s, Thea Beckmans Cruzada en
jeans was one of the best-selling titles on the list of the Spanish publisher Ediciones
SM. Mara Jess Gil, of Ediciones SM, claimed that almost all Dutch youth novels,
especially the historical ones, were bestsellers (Maas 1994: 22). But she predicted
that this would not be the case for long: In the past, eighty percent of books came
from abroad, now [in 1994] the ratio is fifty-fifty. Countries like the Netherlands,
with a long tradition of childrens literature, have made their mark here. I am con-
vinced that books like Beckmans have motivated and inspired our writers. (ibid.,
our translation, here and throughout). Do Spanish readers no longer need Dutch
and other foreign role models now that their own writers have learned how to do it
themselves? It would appear so. According to a recent Ministerio de Cultura
report, Spanish authors at present account for a substantial share of childrens and
young adult literature collections, especially if we compare the situation with a few
years ago, when many collections were made up entirely of translations (Ministe-
rio de Cultura 2004: 1). In recent years, just under half of the childrens literature in
Spain has been translated; the other half is homegrown. There is now a more or
less equal balance between translated childrens books and translated adult litera-
ture from the Netherlands.
The popularity of certain genres in translation is of course not only the result
of a spontaneous social process. Since considerable economic interests are
Trends in the translation of a minority language 33

involved, various institutions try to influence this process by using a wide range of
marketing strategies. Two of these will be discussed at this point: public institu-
tions and publishing houses.

The activities of public institutions

In order to promote Dutch literature abroad, government-funded institutions take

many kinds of initiatives. Information is continuously provided in the form of bul-
letins containing passages translated from Dutch, as well as one-off promotional
campaigns. For example, in 1993 and 1995 the Foundation for the Production and
Translation of Dutch Literature (NLPVF) spent a great deal of time and money on
the promotion of Dutch literature in Germany (the Frankfurt Book Fair) and
Spain (the Liber 95 fair). The Frankfurt Book Fair has a strong international influ-
ence and was very successful in Germany that year (van Uffelen 1994); in contrast,
Liber, the biggest book fair in Spain, is primarily of national importance. In the
preparatory phases of big events like these, international publishers, reviewers and
journalists are bombarded with translated fragments, interviews, and information
about potentially saleable authors (Fontijne 1994: 83). During the fair itself,
authors are presented and interviewed and the contacts with publishers, critics
and the press are intensified. What effect did these two events have in Spain?
If we limit ourselves to the number of titles translated, we find that between 1993,
the year of the Frankfurt Book Fair, and 1995, the year of Liber, a total of 50 titles
translated from Dutch were published in Spain (16, 12 and 22 respectively). We can
compare this with 1968. In that year alone, 38 new Dutch-Spanish translations6 came
onto the market. As we have seen, the total production of titles in Spain increased by
a factor of 2 over the same period. This means that proportionately almost six times
as much was translated in 1968 as in 1993.
How does this compare with translations into Spanish from other languages?
In 1993, the year of the Frankfurt Book Fair, translations from English accounted
for 5,855 titles, nearly 12 percent of the total book output in Spain. On a more
comparable level, Swedish, a European minority language with considerably fewer
native speakers than Dutch (9 as opposed to 21 million), was represented by 29
translations into Spanish, more than 0.05 percent of the national book output.
This means that Swedish was included in the El Pas top ten languages translated
into Spanish, while Dutch was not.
Another comparison, this time limited to the same pair of languages, may be
made between Dutch-Spanish and Spanish-Dutch translations. The latter have
occupied an important and solid place in the Netherlands for decades (Steen-
meijer 1995: 53). However, most of the authors concerned are from Latin America,
34 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

such as Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garca Mrquez. In 1993, 62 titles were trans-
lated from Spanish into Dutch. About two thirds of this output were first editions
and one third reprints (Titelproduktie 1993). With the exception of two titles, all of
these were literary works (prose, poetry and childrens and young peoples litera-
ture). The new Spanish-Dutch translations alone accounted for 0.25 percent of the
total Dutch book output that year (16,510 titles). While this is not an impressive
figure, it is more than eight times the figure for Dutch-Spanish translations.
After the reasonably successful Liber year with 22 translations, the market for
translations from Dutch declined to an average of no more than 15 titles per
annum between 1996 and 2000. We might thus conclude that one-off promotional
campaigns of this nature have no lasting effect. No funds were made available for a
follow-up to these events in Spain. However, Spanish publishers do have a high
regard for the activities of the Foundation for the Production and Translation of
Dutch Literature, which maintains contacts with publishers abroad and provides
them with information and funding (Oostenbrink 1995). Without this support,
possibly no translations at all would appear from Dutch.

Publishers policies

The reasons why translations of Dutch works play such a marginal role in Spain
are probably the same as those usually cited for the translation of minor languages
into major languages: because the translation costs are too high, because the pro-
duction costs are too heavy, because it is not possible to sell a translated novel in
more than two thousand copies and because the authors name is impossible to
pronounce (cited in Marks 1993: 75, referring to Sweden). What motivation do
Spanish publishers have for venturing to take on translations from Dutch (mainly
of fiction), in spite of their low level of success?
To try to answer this, in 1995 we presented a questionnaire to five Spanish
publishing houses that had had Dutch works translated in the preceding ten years:
Emec, Pennsula, Edhasa, Anagrama and Tusquets (Oostenbrink 1995). In addi-
tion to the literary quality, which must of course be high, the following mainly
commercial criteria were given:7
1. Is funding available? In the Netherlands this is provided by the Founda-
tion for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature (NLPVF), in
Flanders by the Ministry of Culture for the Flemish Community. Both
bodies promote the translation of Dutch-language literature abroad by
financing up to 70 percent of the translation costs. All five publishers had
made use of funding provided by the NLPVF between 1985 and 1995.
Trends in the translation of a minority language 35

2. A foreign book has a considerably greater chance of success on the Span-

ish market if it has already been translated into other European languages
and has been successful. This mechanism is in line with the core-periph-
ery model: peripheral languages tend to conform to what happens in cen-
tral-language areas. The same factor also plays a role in Dutch publishers
decisions about having Spanish-language authors translated (Steenmeijer
1989). Closer inquiry confirmed that the publishers used this informa-
tion in their publicity. For instance, the dust jacket of the Spanish edition
of The Laws by Connie Palmen tells the reader, A bestseller in the
authors own country, and already translated into French, English and
3. The work must add something new and must not be too specifically
focused on the Netherlands. For instance, Sigrid Kraus of Emec said of
Margriet de Moors novel Gris, blanco, azul (First Grey, Then White, Then
Blue): Dutch literature distinguishes itself by being fairly cosmopolitan.
[...] You can understand Gris, blanco, azul even if you have never been to
the Netherlands.
4. Publishers appreciate authors who have an interesting personality and are
capable of promoting themselves in Spain, for example by giving inter-
views. Eighteen Dutch and Flemish writers were brought to Barcelona in
October 1995 for the Liber 95 event, to present themselves to the press
and strengthen ties with publishers and critics. This exercise was not for
nothing. The translator Francisco Carrasquer gave this as the explanation
for the fame in Spain of Cees Nooteboom, the most translated literary
author in the Netherlands. Concerning the success of two translations of
his works, he says: Nooteboom was in Spain at the time and talked to
publishers and experts from literary circles, and that is the important
thing, that the writer is active (Linn 1995: 19).
5. In addition to interviews and book presentations, reviews in the media
naturally play an important role in publicity. Although no systematic
research has been conducted, Spanish reviewers seem to concentrate on
two categories of writers: on the one hand, names already established in
Spain to a certain extent, such as Hella Haasse, Cees Nooteboom and
Hugo Claus, and on the other, relatively young and attractive writers such
as Margriet de Moor and Connie Palmen, who are sure to be represented
by appealing photographs on the covers of magazines and in newspapers.
6. Spanish publishers claim that any Dutch awards a book may have
received are of little importance: recognition in one culture does not
36 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

automatically mean recognition in another. However, in practice it does

influence them. Consequently, instead of taking an exclusively target-ori-
ented approach such as early polysystem theory, it would seem advisable
when examining a translation to take into account the status of the source
text in its original culture. For example, the cover used for Margriet de
Moors novel Gris, blanco, azul emphatically mentions that the writer had
won the 1992 AKO prize, el ms importante de Holanda (the most
important in the Netherlands). Obviously, an international prize scores
even higher. In virtually every piece about Claus and Mulisch there is a
reference to their potential candidature for the Nobel Prize.
7. One last factor is that it is convenient if a book fits into a particular series
a publisher is already publishing, for example Edhasas Narrativas
histricas, in which Hella Haasses historical novels were included, or
Pennsulas essay series Ideas, into which Nootebooms La desaparicin
del muro (Berlin Notes) was incorporated.
Nearly all of the above points are combined in the case of Cees Nooteboom. He has
received literary recognition, as shown by good reviews and a number of national
and international literary prizes; he had already been translated into many lan-
guages before being translated into Spanish; he is famous for his cosmopolitan per-
spective; and he is actively involved in promotional activities in Spain, where he
lives for part of the year. Another factor contributing to his public recognition is
that congenial Spanish characters are portrayed in several of his books. In addition
to all this, the NLPVF provided the publishers with funding for nearly all his books.
Although publishers say that they like to judge a book in its original language,
this is rarely possible in the case of exotic or minority languages. Their only
option is to rely on the judgment of outsiders (literary agents, readers or transla-
tors). In a knowledge vacuum of this kind, enterprising individual translators with
good contacts in both the source and the target cultures can sometimes do some-
thing extra for a language of which they are particularly fond. The following sec-
tion will examine the role of one such translator, who has seen to it that Dutch has
become better known in Spain.

The role of individual translators as cultural intermediaries

If we take a look at the translators working from Dutch into Spanish, there is one
particularly conspicuous name: Francisco Carrasquer, who introduced Spain to
Dutch-language literature and in particular poetry.8 This Spaniard, born in 1915,
came to the Netherlands in the early 1950s as a refugee from the Franco regime. A
Trends in the translation of a minority language 37

brother-in-law of his, Felip Lorda i Alaiz, was already there. Both of them soon
learnt the language and proved to be talented translators who were recognized as
such. In the 1950s they were both awarded the highest translation prize in the
Dutch-language area, the Martinus Nijhoff Prize. Both Carrasquer and Lorda
remained in the Netherlands until the 1980s, working, among other things, as uni-
versity lecturers, and translating dozens of publications, ranging from theological
works to tourist brochures. At a time when it was not unusual to translate from
exotic Dutch via another language,9 they were among the first to translate directly
from this language.
As well as doing commercial translations on commission, Carrasquer also
tackled Dutch literature and in particular poetry, while Lorda translated novels
and several plays. Carrasquers love of poetry was initially inspired by the experi-
mental work of the Generation of the Fifties, which created a furor in the Nether-
lands in its early days. Of the thirteen volumes of poetry that have been published
in Spanish to date (including those outside the sample years), Carrasquer worked
on ten, as a compiler or translator or both. As a result of his translating activities,
more than 1250 poems have been published in Spanish in book form (Linn 1998:
186). In one anthology alone, the 800-page Antologa de la poesa neerlandesa
moderna (1971), the Spanish public has been provided with a wide-ranging selec-
tion of Dutch and Flemish poetry: almost five hundred poems, mainly from the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In addition, Carrasquer has published several
hundred translated poems in many volumes of Spanish periodicals. Spanish has
received not only the classic poets from the Middle Ages onward, but also recent
poetry by the youngest generation of poets (including a relatively high number of
women). Admittedly this poetry in translation, as is usually the case in the genre,
has reached only a limited number of readers; none of the volumes have been
For decades Francisco Carrasquer was active as more than a translator. He also
approached publishers, generated publicity (for example by writing articles,
reviews and books10) and located funding to get his translations published. He is a
typical example of a translator who functions not only as an intermediary between
two languages and cultures, but also as an initiator and advocate of translations.
Individual translators often play such roles in the dissemination of works in
minority languages. For example, Judit Gera introduced Dutch-language literature
in Hungary, and Philippe Noble did much to make it known in French. Although
the results of Carrasquers efforts may be modest in commercial terms, without
him many Spanish readers would have no knowledge of the very existence of
Dutch-language poetry.
38 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting


We have seen how extra-linguistic factors, especially the sociocultural and ideo-
logical contexts, may account for fluctuations in the reception of works from a
minority language, in this case Dutch, into a more centrally located language,
Spanish. The popularity of theological works in the 1960s can to a large extent be
explained by changes in the international religious context, in particular the mod-
ernization of the Catholic Church. The subsequent success of childrens literature
from the Netherlands had social as well as economic reasons, since it filled a gap in
the market. Another factor in the selection and reception of Dutch-language
works in Spain has been commercial promotion by both government-funded
institutions and publishers. In this case, however, initiatives taken by the Dutch
Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature appear to have
had virtually no influence on the publication of translations in Spain. On the other
hand, an inquiry into the motives Spanish publishers mention when considering
the translation of a Dutch book shows a strong influence of commercial factors,
such as translations being subsidized by the Dutch government, proven success
abroad, international prizes, and the authors promotional ability. As a last factor,
individual initiatives taken by translators may play a role, which in this particular
case has led to the translation and publication of a relatively extensive selection of
Dutch poetry.
As this case study has shown, interaction occurs between the macro-level of
the social context (for which genres and themes is there a demand in the target
culture?), the intermediate level of the publishers and other agents in the literary
field (what do they regard as interesting and profitable?), and the micro-level of
the translation (how do the target texts reflect social norms?). To elaborate upon
this last point, it would be worthwhile to examine not only the selection of source
texts more closely, but also the translation strategies applied.


1. For example, the National Library of the Netherlands, which records translations from
Dutch, does not require publishers to send them a copy of all translations. In countries like Bel-
gium, where this is mandatory, the records are more reliable.
2. A good alternative would be to use (a recent version of) Even-Zohars polysystem theory,
which was developed in the 1970s and elaborated by Toury, Lefevere and other influential
translation scholars. In fact, Heilbrons model bears considerable resemblance to Even-Zohars,
but since it lacks the latters Formalist traces (such as the supposed competitiveness between
primary and secondary forms of literature), it may be considered a more neutral approach.
Trends in the translation of a minority language 39

Heilbron bases his model on an earlier version of Abram de Swaan's Words of the World. The
Global Language System (2001), Cambridge: Polity Press.
3. For sources and criteria, see Linn 1998: 1645. Two criteria have been corrected: only book
titles have been included, in keeping with other bibliographies, and titles edited in the Nether-
lands (mostly meant for local tourism) have been excluded. The commentary is based on the
now updated version of the bibliography, for which I wish to express my thanks to Nanneke
4. Ten of these were published by the Argentinean publisher Carlos Lohl. I have included
these subversive publications in the survey until 1975 because, although they could not be
published directly under the Franco regime, there are indications that they ended up in Spain
via this roundabout route (Cendn Pazos 1972: 15053).
5. In the core-periphery model, a well-recognized and widely translated sub-genre like this in
a national literature that is rather peripheral as a whole, is called a niche (Heilbron 1995: 242).
6. For the comparison to be entirely accurate, the twelve translations that appeared in Latin
America should really have been subtracted. However, because these translations were probably
indirectly destined for the Spanish market, they have been included.
7. It is interesting to note that most of these criteria, albeit in a different order, appear in a
similar inquiry conducted among French publishers (Tessemaker and Westerbeek 2001: 28).
8. Accounting for 11 percent of the translations made in the first five sample years (7 out of
63), Carrasquer turns out to be the most prolific translator of those early years.
9. Of the 38 translations that appeared in 1968, ten (i.e. more than a quarter) were translated
via another language: five from French, four from German and one from English.
10. A selection of these was published in E.R. Carmona de Harmsen et al. (ed.), 1980. Fran-
cisco Carrasquer. Antologa de sus artculos 19631980, Universidad de Leiden. In 1995 a guide
of his appeared promoting Dutch-language literature: Holanda al espaol, Madrid, Libertarias/
Of course Germans have a certain interest in
Finland, but. Openness to Finnish literature
in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s

Pekka Kujamki
School of Translation Studies in Savonlinna, University of Joensuu, Finland

Johannes and Rita hquist were among the most important mediators between
Finland and Germany in the first half of the twentieth century. Johannes hquists
unpublished writings, particularly his correspondence with German publishing
houses, are especially indicative of the ideological, aesthetic and economic criteria
informing literary exchanges between the two countries. Those exchanges can be
analyzed in terms of the concepts of openness and closedness. The fact that hquist
was frequently asked for advice on works to be translated would suggest that
Germany was open to Finnish literature, especially in view of the ideological
turning toward Nordic cultures. However, that same ideological context involved
marked closedness with respect to certain themes and details that either appeared
to threaten the good image of the Nordic or were already present to the point
of saturation within German literature itself. Passages from the correspondence
help sketch out the norms by which publishers readers and other gatekeepers
defined the German readerships interest in Finnish literature, and how those
norms also affected the way some works were translated by the hquists.


The literatures of young smaller cultures, like that of Finland, do not always find it
easy to enter the literary markets of older, larger literatures like that of the German
language. The larger culture may be so productive and rich in literary tradition
that it can meet all its demands internally; it thus has no need to open itself to
other literatures. And the smaller literature is often too young and too unknown to
make a name for itself in the target culture and thus carve out a niche in that mar-
ket. On the other hand, there would seem to be relatively few problems for literary
movements in the other direction, given that literatures that are young and small
thrive on the stimuli they gain from works from larger cultures, either in trans-
lation or in the original (cf. Graeber 1992: 83; Lefevere 1992: 88; Varpio 1994:16;
Kujamki 1998: 67; Venuti 1998; Paloposki 2000: 22).
42 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

The history of literature and translation nevertheless shows that even large
closed literary systems occasionally sense the need for new stimuli or new literary
options. This need is often motivated by extra-literary factors, particularly the
political or historical events that influence a countrys culture and cultural policy.
When in such cases the target culture opens itself to the literature of a certain
nation but is quite unfamiliar with that literature, it requires mediators, gatekeep-
ers, able to introduce it to the source culture.
An example of this can be found in the way Johannes and Rita hquist medi-
ated between Germany and Finland. Here we shall focus on the 1920s and 1930s,
the decades in which German publishers at least showed moderate interest in
Finnish literature. Those publishers were clearly dependent on literary mediators,
given that Finnish literature was at that time relatively unknown. Indeed, the first
German-language literary history of Finland, by Hans Grellmann, was not pub-
lished until 1932.

The correspondence of Johannes and Rita hquist

The materials from which we will be shaping our account are the unpublished
archives of Johannes Wilhelm hquist (18611949), held in the library of the Uni-
versity of Helsinki. Of particular interest is the correspondence that he maintained
with German publishers from the 1920s to the 1940s in his diverse capacities as
press attach of the Finnish legation in Berlin (19181927), German teacher at the
University of Helsinki (18951919), poet and translator. hquist actually worked
multilaterally, not only informing his German and Finnish partners about Scandi-
navian literature in general, but also giving Swedish-language publishers tips
about German works. Our focus here will nevertheless be on his mediation bet-
ween Finland and Germany. The hquist papers also include many letters to and
from hquists wife Rita (ne Winter, 18841968), who was herself one of the most
productive translators of Finnish literature into German.
The archive is considerable, filling 79 packed files. The documents include
handwritten and typed manuscripts of hquists literary works, projects for books
on politics, geography, history and culture; manuscripts of his reviews and studies
on literature, (world) politics and culture; press clippings; lectures; translations of
Finnish poems, novels and scientific texts; biographical notes; diaries; and several
thousand letters from the couples correspondence with more than 130 German
publishers (see Appendix). This gives an image of the hquists substantial cul-
tural and political engagement (on which, see Menger 1994). At the same time, the
breadth and depth of the material also explains why the full extent of their work as
intermediaries has not yet been brought to light. This means that we are still
Openness to Finnish literature in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s 43

unable to gauge exactly how representative might be the examples we will be draw-
ing on below. Nevertheless, a fleeting overview of the letters affirms that in the
1920s and 1930s the hquists formed an important relay point for literary
exchanges between Finland and Germany. With Johannes hquists help, German
publishing houses sought not only ways in which German literature could enter
Finland but also Finnish and Scandinavian authors that might be of interest for the
German market. This can be seen, for example, in letters from the Munich pub-
lishing house Langen & Mller:
To my great pleasure I see from your letter that you are thinking of introduc-
ing Emil Strauss to the Finnish reading public. Perhaps when you are here we
can discuss ways and means of presenting more good German books to Finland,
either in German or in translation. (Gustav Pezold, of Langen & Mller, to
Johannes hquist, October 10 1934, our translation, here and throughout;
our emphasis)

Many thanks for your news of Denmark. Unfortunately Johannes V. Jensens

novel is out of the question for us, since as far as we know he is under firm
contract to Fischer Verlag in Berlin. On the other hand, I would be very grate-
ful if you could read something by the young Dane Aage Dons, or at least the
new novel Soldaterbrnden, and tell us what you think. We would certainly be
interested in this novel if it is exceptionally good. Otherwise, we are hand-
somely stocked up on books from Nordic languages for the next two years.
(Holm, of Langen & Mller, to Johannes hquist, January 18 1937, our
As these letters show, a good part of Johannes hquists mediation consisted in
giving expert opinions on new or contemporary works, either at the request of
publishers readers or at his own initiative. Often his comments appeared later as
reviews in the German or Finnish newspapers or journals, for which hquist
wrote reports on European, Russian and American literature in general.
The correspondence between the hquists and German publishers can thus
be seen as a discourse on cultural exchange between Finland and Germany. The
letters offer indications of the prevailing ideological, aesthetic and economic con-
ditions of the exchange (the norms, as it were). In our analysis, the concepts of
openness and closedness stand at the ends of a continuum. On the one hand,
we can see the target cultures openness toward Finnish literature in the manner in
which hquist was asked about contemporary Finnish works that could be trans-
lated. However, this openness was accompanied by a distinct closedness with
respect to themes that did not correspond to German ideological and aesthetic
44 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

The door is open

In 191718 this cultural openness responded to political events in Finland, nota-

bly Finlands declaration of independence and the Finnish civil war, in which Ger-
man soldiers were involved. Thus began a period in which German publishers and
readers were increasingly interested in Finnish literature. Talk of Finnish-Ger-
man affinity and the Finnish friendship for Germany would last into the 1920s
(see Kujamki 1998: 109, 134, 153; 2001). In the early 1920s this special relation-
ship was mainly promoted by the Finns themselves, through the writing of books
on Finnish geography and culture and the financing of foreign translations of
Finnish novels (Kunze 1950: 33; Hein 1984: 69). German publishers were, in con-
trast, prudent and careful, and their openness was constrained by economic con-
ditions. In the end, Finnish literature was probably printed in Germany more than
it was read there, and this was ultimately to be attributed to Finnish literature
being relatively unknown outside Finland.
An example of this can be found in the Dresden publisher Heinrich Minden
Verlag, whose experiences with Aleksis Kivis Finnish classics Seitsemn veljest
(The Seven Brothers, Die sieben Brder, 1870) and Nummisuutarit (Heath Cob-
blers, Die Heideschuster, 1864) are well documented in the hquist letters. From
the beginning of the 1920s Heinrich Mindens personal mission was to have Finn-
ish literature better known, and in a short period he published several significant
works. Financial success was most expected from the works of Aleksis Kivi. How-
ever, using only his own resources, without assistance from Finland, Minden was
unable to generate enough publicity. He found it hellishly hard to open up a
place in the market (Minden to hquist, June 15 1927). In a letter to hquist dated
February 11 1927, he expressed his deception in the following words:
There is no question that The Seven Brothers towers above the rest. This
might, however, be seen as a special case. The initial print run (I do not have
the exact numbers with me at the moment) was about 3,000 copies, perhaps a
little less than more. From that we have to subtract countless free copies for
reviews and publicity. For later printings, divided into three runs of 1,000
copies each, there are similar publicity expenses, high production costs and
royalties. You can just imagine all the advertisements I had to place in news-
papers and journals, the countless flyers I had to send out so that booksellers
and the public would know or at least hear about who Aleksis Kivi was. Years
of professional experience told me that all my money, time and trouble would
not really be worth the effort in the end. But I told myself that this prelimi-
nary edition would soon be sold out. Then I would print a huge edition, and a
slow, modest but constant harvest would begin. Now, in two months time, it
Openness to Finnish literature in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s 45

will be six years since that first edition. I have still not covered my costs. And
as you have perspicaciously discovered, I have simply not been able to put out
any further expensive publicity.
Mindens position here was probably quite close to that of Gustav Manz, who in
1929 greeted the new edition of Seven Brothers thus:
Is it not a little depressing for an observer of our current intellectual life,
indeed depressing for the courageous publisher himself, when despite all the
respects paid in the press and reviews, years have had to pass until Seven
Brothers could come out in a new edition, now growing from 4 to just 7 thou-
sand [copies]? (Manz 1929:160)
This example shows that publishing and reception processes in the target culture,
despite all the good intentions and preparation, need not correspond to the classi-
cal status accorded to a work in its source culture. And this can happen even when
the target culture is at least superficially open to ideas and works from the source

Novels of excitement for the German Volk

Further analysis of the correspondence gives the impression that German publish-
ers felt that Finnish literature tended to be long-winded, too detailed and too paro-
chial, at the expense of action and excitement. On those grounds, they could
refuse to publish such books in Germany. They nevertheless sought to publish
Finnish books in which action and excitement could be found. Many sought
Finnish texts that, in contradistinction to current German literature, would be
read with pleasure by common readers and in which human-to-human lan-
guage would not constantly be drowned out by intellect:
In view of public taste and current publishing practices, I must unfortunately
give priority only to novels that have exceptional action and excitement. This
is all the more so given that newspaper editors have long had an over-supply
of novelistic material, so that we can only possibly accept those novels that
meet the demands of serialized publication. (Alfred Bechthold to Rita
hquist, February 16 1928; in the Maila Mikkola [Talvio] archive, Finnish
National Archives, Helsinki, folder 42)

It seems to us that the first items [in the publishers Nordic series] must be
such that they can be read with pleasure not just by those with literary train-
ing but also by common readers [einfachere Leser]. The first works must
46 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

above all be novels, since we know that short stories will not sell well. Second,
they should not be written in a style that creates difficulties for the common
reader. (Dr. Langfelder, of the publishers Herrmann Schaffstein, to Rita
hquist, January 14 1929)

What we really need today is human-to-human language, the language of the

heart. This is constantly being drowned out by intellect. Often it seems that
current German writers see this as their special mission. But they immedi-
ately speak above the heads of the public. It is not by chance that, to judge by
what public librarians tell me, most works of the new German high litera-
ture are not being read. (Eisenreich, of the publishers Herrmann Schaffstein,
to Rita hquist, October 29 1930)
The function of Finnish literature would thus be to provide the German market
with works that could be bought and read by the common reader. Specifically
Finnish texts were sought out, although it is almost impossible to say what exact
degree of Finnishness the publishers believed the German readership could ulti-
mately take. Here, for instance, is a comment on the possible success of Kalle Kar-
hunkoskis novel Kristallitorni (Tower of Crystal, Der kristallene Turm):
It will be difficult for German readers (even if we admit a cultivated reading
public) to get through this extraordinarily rich book, which must appear in
two volumes. Of course Germans have a certain interest in Finland and Finn-
ish history, but I am afraid the very detailed descriptions of the Finnish
national movement and the Socialist currents of some 20 years ago will on
the whole not sufficiently interest the German reading public. (Publishers
Kurt Wolff Verlag, of Munich, to Johannes hquist, July 19 1927; our empha-
Johannes hquist nevertheless put considerable energy into promoting Kristalli-
torni. In 1926 and 1927 he proposed the novel to at least 20 German publishers,
often in the following terms:
In a separate package I am sending you the manuscript of a novel on which a
Finnish poet is currently working: Der kristallene Turm by Kalle Karhun-
koski. The poet is presently in the North, but the German text will be made
available to you as the original advances. I am sending you what has been
done so far, so that you can decide on the project. To help you with the deci-
sion I also enclose a sketch of the novels development and conclusion, based
on the poets indications. (Johannes hquist to the agency H. Haessel of
Leipzig, July 6 1926; our emphasis)
Openness to Finnish literature in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s 47

These words would suggest that hquist was particularly close to the Finnish
poet, since he was obviously able to send incomplete work for assessment. In real-
ity, the poet was a pseudonym that hquist used in order to introduce his own
work to German readers. This is thus a case of pseudotranslation, a non-translated
text that is made to look like a translation. Methodologically, pseudotranslations
can be analyzed in order to reconstruct and present the cultural functions consid-
ered typical of actual translations (cf. Toury 1995: 45). True, hquist confessed
often enough (albeit not in the same letter) that the novel is not a translation but
was written in German, since the author masters German as a mother tongue. It is
nevertheless not by pure coincidence that he tried to have his novel accepted
under a Finnish pseudonym. After all, Germany had a certain interest in specifi-
cally Finnish literature. The publisher Carl Reissner Verlag, which finally brought
the novel out, probably counted on this interest. Although the title page only indi-
cates that it is a novel from Finland (ein Roman aus Finnland), as hquist had
requested, the publisher indicated in the publicity that this was the first great
novel about Finland (Der erste groe Finnland-Roman).
Interestingly, hquist tried the same trick in the 1930s with his new novel Das
Medaillon, promoted under the pseudonym J. Holmgren, apparently without

Literature for the new Germany

In the 1930s the Finnish-German affinity took on a strongly racial political tone,
giving new motivation to the German openness to Finnish literature. The catch-
words were the ideological turning to the North, to Nordic thought (Nordischer
Gedanke, cf. Lutzhft 1971) and cultural (including literary) exchange (for case
studies of the relation between this context and literary exchange, see Hein 1984,
Kelletat 1981, Kujamki 1998). This became all the stronger following 1933, when
the Nordische Gesellschaft (Nordic Society) in Lbeck was incorporated into the
National Socialist German Workers Party, otherwise known as the Nazi Party (see
Hiedanniemi 1980). The previously neutral organization now took on the task of,
in the words of its head Ernst Timm, improving the conditions for an objective
understanding of the new Germany in the North (Timm 1935: 3). The Nordische
Gesellschaft became an important meeting place where German publishers could
make contacts, and the hquists were drawn into it as informants. The society had
very clear ideas about what was acceptable for the German market. Heinrich Jes-
sen, head of its cultural section, wrote to Rita hquist asking for information
about Finnish books:
48 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

We are frequently asked if we could actually recommend such works. For this
reason, it would of course be propitious if we could always be informed about
details that, from our perspective, are difficult to overlook. Since I assume
that this is also in your interest and that you too are following the develop-
ment of Finnish literature, you should already be familiar with the task. I
hope you will be able to agree to my request and have such information reach
us. We would essentially like to promote only works that are truly in line with
our view of the world, works that give a good image of the Nordic character,
states and peoples. (Heinrich Jessen of the Nordische Gesellschaft, to Rita
hquist, April 6 1936; our emphasis)
The Nordische Gesellschaft was particularly looking for race-specific works by
Nordic or Scandinavian artists, as well as works that foregrounded the authentic
character of the Nordic peoples. The goal was to pressure the unnatural and
degenerate works of German Modernism out of the market and to move young
German authors toward a new artistic model (Lutzhft 1971: 221).
Johannes and Rita hquist also worked directly for publishers. Rita hquist
corresponded with several German publishers at the same time, giving reports and
assessments of individual works, as well as suggestions about what should be
translated from Finnish. This can be gathered from the following lines to Heinrich
I have also been in correspondence with Langen & Mller in Munich in
recent weeks and I have sought to keep them fully informed about other
works by Maila Talvio that I deem suitable. (The extent of the interest in
Finnish literature can be seen from the number of large German companies
that have asked me for suggestions about what to translate.) [] If the Nor-
dische Gesellschaft intends to introduce Koskenniemis lyrical creativity to
Germany, my husband would be pleased to oblige, if and when his participa-
tion should be sought. (Rita hquist to Heinrich Jessen of the Nordische
Gesellschaft, January 21 1936)

With respect to what the publishers actually expected, we find the correspondence
generally adopting the norms propagated by the representatives of the Nordische
Gesellschaft. That is, the ideological context implied a marked closedness with
respect to themes and details that endangered the good image of the Nordic char-
acter or that were otherwise already in oversupply within German literature itself.
These positions complicated the possible publication of a work like Frans Emil Sil-
lanps Miehen tie (The Way of a Man, Eines Mannes Weg, 1932):
On the other hand I must tell you openly that I have the greatest doubts about
the third chapter. Considering its present form in German, I predict not only
Openness to Finnish literature in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s 49

the books failure in Germany but also severe repercussions on further sales
of Silja [Sillanps 1931 novel Nuorena nukkunut, The Maid Silja / Fallen
Asleep While Young] Granted, the chapter with the hero Paavos dissolute
experiences in the city is indispensable for the composition of the work and
the development of the relationship between Alma and Paavo. However, not
only does it protrude from the framework of the whole, but it contains large seg-
ments that are intolerable, at least for the German reader. I do not know to
what extent Finland might find something new in such descriptions of certain
sides of city life. Within German literature, we already have more than enough
of them. (Anton Kippenberg, of Insel Verlag, Leipzig, to Rita hquist, July 21
1933; our emphasis)
The supposed shortcomings of Finnish literature are mentioned more or less
explicitly in the letters of the 1930s. The strongest criticisms were leveled at scenes
depicting drunkenness or sexual promiscuity, indeed any image that questioned
good Nordic virtues and the special relation that Nordics are supposed to have
with nature. Interestingly, as a translator Rita hquist was willing to comply with
her publishers wishes in order not to jeopardize the chances of her translation
coming out:
I must confess I felt somewhat relieved when you too objected to the third
chapter. I was only able to translate that chapter at the cost of great inner
effort and by toning down much of the vulgar language. (Rita hquist to
Anton Kippenberg of Insel Verlag, July 30 1933)
In response to Kippenbergs complaints, the translator herself suggests some dele-
tions and modifications, and then she gives him a free hand:
I have made small changes and have indicated with square parentheses in red
ink all the passages that I think can be deleted. The passages you have marked
in green are I believe entirely dispensable. Only in a few of them have I under-
lined something that perhaps should stay. You would no doubt like further
changes and deletions. Hopefully the text can then be printed in the final form
that you will have defined. (Rita hquist to Anton Kippenberg, August 2
The results of this arrangement can be seen in the published translation, which
appeared in 1933. Pekka Tarkka (1981: 102) comments:
The translation has quite a few deletions in the chapter where the hero visits
the city. This indicates the translators tendency to eliminate the blunt Natu-
ralistic explicitness. The reader no longer encounters Sillanpss unbridled
farmer Paavo, but something like Jeremias Gotthelf s brave lad Uli.
50 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

As Rita hquists letter indicates, the deletions are in all probability not due to the
translator alone. Whatever the case, the originals aesthetics counted for almost
nothing in the resulting approach to translation. Of little importance that the
author in this case just happened to be the future Nobel Prize winner Frans Emil
The correspondence thus indicates not only why this happened, but also how
Rita hquist came to know and deal with the ideologically shaped expectations of
the German target culture. She was able to warn publishers readers in advance
about the apparent shortcomings of Finnish texts, and she was quite prepared to
propose some ostensible improvements.

By way of conclusion

Our citations from the correspondence of Johannes and Rita hquist indicate the
interest German publishers had in Finnish literature. The basic motivation was a
political and increasingly racial turning towards the North. The initial openness to
Finnish literature gave way to decided closure with respect to texts, themes and
details that were not suited to the norms of the target-culture ideological context.
In a word, there was a certain interest in Finnish literature, but what the Finnish
authors were finally allowed to say was in the last analysis determined on the Ger-
man side.
Further analysis would have to ascertain the exact ideological and aesthetic
norms at stake. One should also address their relative strength and effects on the
literary transfer process. It is nevertheless clear that, at least in the 1930s, the
hquists had attained a position from which they could to some extent control the
translation flow, for example by seeking further translators for work they were
unable to take on. The fact that they kept most of the translating for themselves is
made clear in the following remarks made by Rita hquist to the Finnish writer
Maila Talvio:
Westermann has taken on Kihlasormus. I am so happy about it! Ylintu will
soon be published, under the same conditions as Die Glocke, as soon as the
paper is approved.
My husbands book Kolmas valtakunta (The Fhrers Reich) will soon also be
out in a new edition. The same for his Lwenbanner. I am translating Tunturi
uhkaa by E. N. Manninen. Then I have to start a new translation of Seitsemn
veljest, which is a major artistic challenge and gives me much pleasure. And
then the third volume of Haarlas Kurki Saga is waiting to be translated, not to
mention the many smaller literary tasks to be done for Finland. I only wish I
were able to work for 20 hours a day. (Rita hquist to Maila Talvio, July 24
Openness to Finnish literature in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s 51

1941; in the Maila Mikkola [Talvio] archive, Finnish National Archives, Hel-
sinki, folder 42)
Johannes hquists book on the Fhrers Reich, mentioned in the above list, was an
enthusiastic description of the new Germany. Through it we can see the hquists
commitment to the new spirit of German culture. The German version of the
book came out a few years later.
Translated from German by Anthony Pym


Letters from ( ) and to () Johannes hquist held in the archives of the Helsinki
University Library

Adolf Schustermann-Verlag F.U. Herbig Verlagsbuchhandlung

Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft Ferdinand Hirt & Sohn
Albert Bonnier V. Fr. Wilh. Grunow
Albert Langen & Georg Mller Francksche Verlagsh. W. Keller & Co.
Amalthea V. Frankfurter Societtsdruckerei
Axel Juncker V. Franz Schneider V.
Bernhard Sporn V. Gefion V.
Bruno Cassirer Verlagsbuchhandlung Georg Bondi V.
C.H.Becksche Verlag Georg Mller V.
Carl Curtius Verlagsbuchhandlung Georg Westermann
Carl Duncker V. Georg Wigand Verlagsbuchhandlung
Carl Henschel V. Grethlein & Co.
Carl Reissner V. Grad-Kitew V.
Delphin-Verlag Gustav Fischer Verlagsbuchhandlung
Deutsche Buch-Gemeinschaft H. Haessel V.
Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt Hans Bondy V.
Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft fr Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt
Politik und Geschichte Heinrich Minden V.
Deutscher Schriftenverlag Herbert Reichner V.
Drei Masken V. Hermann Schaffstein V.
E. Laubsche Verlagsbuchhandlung Hesse & Becker V.
Elite Verlagsgesellschaft Hoffmann und Campe V.
Ensslin & Leiblings V. Holle & Co. V.
Ernst Hofmann & Co. Horen-V.
Ernst Oldenburg V. Industrieverlag Spaeth & Linde
Ernst Wasmuth Architekturv. Insel-Verlag
Esche V. Jakob Hegner V.
Eugen Diederichs V. J. Engelhorns Nachf. V
F.A. Brockhaus J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchh.
F.Bruckmann J.C.B. Mohr
52 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

J.G. Cottasche Buchhandlung Schwarzhupter-V.

J.M.Spaeth V. Slowo Verlagsgesellschaft
Joseph Singer V. Spiegel-V.
Karl Hoeger Korresponzendv. Ullstein V.
Koehler & Amelang Union Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft
Kurt Vowinckel V. V.D.I Verlag
Kurt Wolff V. V. Anton Pustet
Leuchtfeuer-V. V. Broschek & Co.
Literarische Welt V. V. Bruckmann
Ludwig Rhrscheid V. V. Der Bund
Malik-V. V. B. Kagan
Meyer & Jessen V. V.Erwin Runge
Moritz Diesterweg V. Felix Lehmann
Mosaik V. V. Franz Schneider
Neuer Deutscher V. V. Friedrich Brandstetter
Nibelungen V. V. Georg Thieme
Niels Kampmann V. V. Josef Ksel
Oesterheld & Co. V. V. Literatur und Politik
Olga Diakow & Co. V. Neue Generation
Ostdeutsche Verlagsanstalt V. Nordland
Otto Elsner V. Oskar Whrle
Paul List V. V. Otto Beyer
Paul Neff V. V. Th. Knaur Nachf.
Paul Zsolnay V. Verlagsanstalt Alexander Koch
Philipp Reclam jun. Verlagsbuchhandlung J.J. Weber
Presse-Verlag Verlagsbuchh. Julius Springer
Promotheus V. V. Schnheit
Propylen V. Volk und Reich V.
Quelle & Meyer Walter de Gruyter & Co.
Rotapfel-V. Weisse Ritter V.
Rowohlt-V. Welt am Montag V.
Rtten & Loening Wolkenwanderer-V.
S. Fischer V. Zentralverlag Franz Eher Nachf.
S. Gerstmanns V. (NSDAP)
Schriftleitung von Velhagen & Klasing

Letters from ( ) and to () Rita hquist

Albert Langen V. Hermann Schaffstein V.

Anton Puster V. Meidingers Jugendschriften V.
C.H.Becksche Verlagsbuchh. Propylaen V.
Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt Rupert-V.
Ernst Reinhard Verlagsbuchh. Schmidt & Spring Verlagsbuchh.
Ferdinand Hirt & Sohn V. Ernst Wasmuth
Franz Schneider V. V. Georg Westermann
Translation from the point of view of
the East German censorship files

Gaby Thomson-Wohlgemuth
University of Surrey, Guildford, United Kingdom

East German censorship files provide striking evidence of the ideology of a state
whose main goal was to keep control over everyone and everything, including the
production of literature. This paper discloses some of the processes that occurred
behind the scenes of the publishing industry, particularly with respect to the
selection and translation of childrens and youth literature from English. Special
attention is paid to the relationship between the entries on the front of each
censorship file and their social significance for the publication of a translated
book. Further analysis concerns the contents stored in a typical censorship file,
focusing on their social, cultural and political relevance. This information allows
one to infer the role and responsibilities of the publishing houses, particularly the
ways publishers dealt with the constraints imposed on them by the state.*

When the abolition of censorship for Czechoslovakia was demanded during the
Spring of Prague in 1968, the head of the East German State, Walter Ulbricht, gave
a press conference in Karlovy Vary. He reportedly stated he was surprised there
was still censorship in the Czech brother state because in the German Demo-
cratic Republic, he said, they no longer had such a thing (Jger 1991: 13). This,
however, was not the full truth. East Germany did censor the media and book
industry, and it has been said that its sophistication achieved through a mixture
of socialist doctrine and Prussian bureaucracy made the Soviets look like liber-
als (Darnton 1990: 9, my translation, here and throughout).
Publishing in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) had quite a different
character compared to what one normally associates with the publication process
of a book. Whereas in non-socialist countries the individual publishing house
decides what is or is not published, in the GDR, the state controlled every publish-
ing decision. Literature had to be planned, and book production was guided and
monitored at every stage. There is evidence for this in the documents that publish-
ers had to submit when applying for the print permit for a book. From these doc-
uments, now called censorship files, it is possible to trace the history of a book:
from the early stages of its planning, translation (in the case of a foreign book),
54 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

editing, to its final production (for example the number of copies, the type of
paper, and the date of printing).
In order to give a well-rounded picture, translation analysis should address
these and other factors such as the economy, publishing policies, cultural environ-
ment, and ideology of a state. The objective of this article is thus to shed light on
the social context of translation and publication in the GDR, illustrating the anal-
ysis with details taken from a sample censorship file (DR1/2257).
In the first part of the article I will look at the relationship between the entries
on this sheet and their social significance for the publication process of a trans-
lated book. The second part concerns the contents stored in a typical censorship
file (in fact the application for a print permit), i.e. statements of the external evalu-
ator(s) about the translation and the book in general, evaluations of the foreword
or afterword, and the publishers own statement to the censorship authority.

Application form cover sheet

The application form was an A3 sheet folded in half. Figure 1 illustrates what the
front page of this sheet looked like. Points 1 to 5 specify the main information
about the book: (1) the publishing house, (2) the author, (3) the title, (4) the source
language (4) and (5) the translator.
Matters of censorship become more apparent in Box 6, which indicates the
date when the manuscript reached the censorship authority. Box 7 was reserved
for the censors signature and the date (in the case of approval for a print permit).
Thus, the difference between Box 6 and Box 7 indicates the inspection period
within the censorship authority. As a rule, the longer the period between these two
dates, the more likely it is that difficulties occurred in the inspection process.
Fields 8 and 9 describe the production plan and the object number of the
book. Like everything else, publishing was subordinate to the planned and central-
ized economy. This meant that publishers had to draw up short-term and long-
term plans for their production. These plans represented a form of ideological
control over developments in publishing, since every action by the publisher had
to be recorded in detail. Production plans were generally drawn up annually and
submitted for the following years production to allow for the burdensome bureau-
cracy of an autocratic state.
Translation from the point of view of the East German censorship files 55

Figure 1. Application for a print permit

56 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Within this plan every book was given an object number. For example Erskine
Caldwells book Molly Cottontail (Molly Baumwollschwnzchen) was attributed
the object number 43 within the plan for 1968. Once a book had the censors
approval, its object number and the production year were integrated in the print
permit number and entered in the print number field (10). The print permit num-
ber consisted of three parts, the last of which specified the production year, the
middle the object number of the book, and the first the identification number of
the publisher. The manuscript would then be passed on to the printer who was
required to incorporate the number into the bibliographical details in the front
section of the book. Printers were only allowed to print books that had been given
a print-permit number by the censorship authority.
Let us now look at item 11. Frequently with translated books, publishers
needed to obtain copyright authorization. This happened when rights lay with a
foreign publisher and the East German publisher had to acquire those rights. In
this case, the amount and the currency were entered in this line (for example in
order to produce Molly Cottontail the publisher needed 2,300 Swiss francs).
Together with a registration number, this information was passed on to the central
East German Copyright Office (Bro fr Urheberrechte). This authority checked
the contractual information and controlled the publishers foreign currency bud-
get. Only if the Copyright Office approved a deal would it then arrange for a
money transfer.
This additional monitoring procedure could mean a further delay in the pro-
duction of a foreign book. The GDR was constantly short of foreign currency,
since its own currency was not convertible outside the Eastern Bloc countries.
Books were thus often refused a permit not so much on ideological grounds but
for financial reasons, as the state hesitated to spend foreign currency on a foreign
book. Of course, financial reasons could also be used as a pretext for ideological
shortcomings of a book.
In order to bring in foreign currency, East German publishers were under
pressure to sell as many books or rights as possible to foreign publishers. Outgoing
transactions (like that in Figure 1) were seen in a less favorable light because this
was seen as draining foreign currency from more important areas of the economy.
Translated books were regarded as a luxury, particularly in the earlier years. At
that time, the prevalent attitude in the GDR was that the indigenous literature ful-
filled educational purposes (namely to shape a socialist consciousness) better than
foreign literature because it was specifically tailored to the needs of the home mar-
ket. It was argued that the topics of home-grown books were designed to promote
the development of a socialist consciousness and that translated literature had lit-
tle to add to this process. As a result, the censorship files show external assess-
Translation from the point of view of the East German censorship files 57

ments quite often asking whether it was really worth spending foreign currency on
a translated book.
Publishers had to plan carefully the budgets allocated to them annually by the
state, as any unused money was lost. They had to negotiate not only with foreign
business partners, but also with the GDR authorities to make the best use of their
allocations. In several instances the arguments were based purely on business rea-
sons. For instance, for Chris Connors picture book Ratkings Daughter (Des Rat-
tenknigs Tochter, 1972) the publisher wrote (DR1/2265):
Economic reasons have led to the decision to produce this title. The publisher
Oliver & Boyd is a good business partner and, since 1966, good cooperation
has linked us. This publisher has published the following of our titles [...].
They would be interested in producing further titles from us, but would also
like to see one of their titles published by us for a change.
The economic argument is often supported by an additional remark emphasizing
that the bourgeois worldview is not going to have a negative influence on East Ger-
man children. For instance, for the childrens book Plupp and the Lemmings (Plupp
und die Lemminge, 1968, DR1/2257), the publisher wrote:
The Swedish publisher, who has a good reputation in his country, would like
to take one of our titles. We care for this business relation and we already
have an agreement for two picture books. Moreover, the publisher plans to
take on at least two picture books per year [...]. They would now like us to
publish a small print-run of their title [...]. After all these considerations, we
would like to produce this title [...]. There are no ideological objections. The
story is harmless and trivial.

As a consequence of this economic dilemma, many older classical titles found

their way onto the market because the authors rights had expired and in several
cases so had the translators rights, making these books cheaper to produce. Other
cost-cutting measures included keeping the number of printed copies low, which
had the additional advantage of saving paper for indigenous GDR books, consid-
ered to be of more value.
Line 12 shows the number of books for export. A high figure here was very
much desired by the state, as it indicated the foreign revenue expected. Frequently
books were translated and published not so much to satisfy the needs of the home
market but to make a foreign co-production (Mitdruckauflage). This meant that
part of the print run would be sold to the co-producer for hard cash to the benefit
the East German economy. Since co-production was profitable for the economy,
entire print runs were frequently for export into the west. However, even if all of
these books were to leave the country, they also required a print permit. The crite-
58 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

ria were nevertheless handled more generously and refusals were rare. For Molly
Cottontail there is no entry in this field 12, as it was destined for the national book
market only.
Item 13 indicates the number of the print run. Translations from the west
mostly had only one print run, as further runs were deemed too expensive and
unnecessary. Classical titles could have as many as 15 print runs or even more.
They were an exception for two reasons. First, they were viewed as classical heri-
tage and world literature and therefore played an important role in educating
the masses. The most important standard works of the German and foreign cul-
tural heritage thus had to be available on the market at any time (Barck 1998: 167).
Second, there was the financial factor again, as there were no royalties to be paid
on them.
The last item, marked 14, shows the number of copies published. Like the
finances for publishing, the supply of raw materials was carefully planned. Paper
was scarce and had therefore to be distributed according to priority and urgency of
publications. Here so-called proportions played a significant role. These were
the ratios between literature from the capitalist west and literature stemming from
the GDR, the USSR and the other socialist countries. Another key parameter
regarding the right proportion of book production was the distinction between
literature for which license fees had to be paid (i.e. contemporary literature) and
other literature (i.e. cultural heritage). The censoring authority in the Ministry of
Culture was responsible for watching political developments, aligning them with
the plans of the individual publishers, and calculating the corresponding propor-
tion for a particular production period.
In this scenario, translations from the West tended to be less eligible to be
sponsored and mostly a smaller print run was permitted for them. Given that
average print runs for indigenous GDR literature were 25,000 to 30,000 copies,
Molly Cottontails 15,000 copies (item 14) represent a significant proportion. This
might be attributed to the fact that it was a picture book and each copy comprised
only 32 pages (item 15). Further, the author Caldwell was seen as a critic of capital-
ist ideology and some of his works had previously been published in the GDR.

Application form contents

This part turns to the discussion of the actual contents stored in the censorship
files and the question of why books were selected for translation in the first place.
Literature was to be produced which involved itself actively in the process of edu-
cating and cultivating the general public. Publishers not only had the function of a
business enterprise, but were also a pedagogical institution (Bro fr Urheberre-
Translation from the point of view of the East German censorship files 59

chte 1981: 54). They had to select those topics or authors that were deemed suit-
able to the education process. In their statement to the censor, publishers thus had
to give reasons for the selection of the book. The main requirements were the edu-
cational effect of the book, the way the reader would benefit from it, and its contri-
bution to the construction of a socialist society. This necessity derived from the
belief that every book served the all-round construction of socialism [...], it con-
tributed to the consolidation of a socialist consciousness in the citizens and it
aided in putting into practice the Party program (Baier 1963: 91).
If the authors were known to be progressive or to side with the socialist cause
(as stated above with respect to the author of Molly Cottontail) the battle for publi-
cation was nearly won. This is exemplified by the publishers statement about The
Last Inch (Der letzte Zoll, 1962), in which the author Aldridge is called a repre-
sentative of progress (DR1/3939). Another example is by the private childrens
book publisher Holz, who praises the Indian author Mulk Raj Anand as a pro-
gressive author and as a member of the World Peace Council and bearer of the
Prize of World Peace (DR1/3940). Alfred Holz did very well by incorporating the
key word progressive, but even better was his inclusion of another magic word,
peace, which could open doors to a print permit. Peace and Humanity were key
concepts in socialist ideology; every reference to them could aid in obtaining a
print permit.
If, however, the author could not be described as progressive, a books content
and its presentation to the authorities were decisive. The publisher had to promote
the book to the censor by incorporating supportive messages that highlighted cer-
tain characteristics. Hence, the publishers evaluations were keen to emphasize fac-
tors such as the inhumanity of the western systems, making reference to their high
unemployment rate, racism, class ideology, exploitation, suppression or coloniza-
tion. They had to prove that such a society was doomed to fail, very much in con-
trast to socialism. This is shown with reference to Jeff Fields A Cry of Angels (Der
Schrei der Engel, 1983, DR1/5435):
In this book the author makes the capitalist class society responsible for the
deplorable state of affairs this is one of the biggest advantages of the book
[...], the brutal and inhuman system of a society becomes obvious, a society
which bases itself on violence, deceit and exploitation.
The files depict America as the main culprit among the capitalist societies. For
example, the book shows, what can be thought of the so-called equality of races
as practiced by the US (Johnny Goes to School, Johnny geht zur Schule, 1961, DR1/
3997). However Britain was also criticized as an imperialistic world power. For
example, with respect to Rainbows of the Gutter (Schwarz fehlt im Regenbogen,
1989, DR1/3561a):
60 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

This book leaves the reader full of consternation, as it illustrates the extent of
racism in everyday life in the capital of a western European country [Lon-
don], a country that prides itself on its democratic traditions [...]. The life of
black and colored citizens in London is characterized by a bad social posi-
tion, permanent humiliation and discrimination in job and private life, even
open violence.
In rarer instances the foreign book did not show negative bourgeois behavior but
exemplified; model behavior with which the reader was to identify. Alan Mar-
shalls Whispering in the Wind (Windgeflster, 1973; DR1/2269) was praised for its
depiction of the good, simple virtues, which are not handed out on a plate but
which must be achieved, and was called
a modern fairy tale of strength, courage and persistence [...], with an ending,
truly proletarian instead of aristocratic: it is not the hero (who is not even a
knight) who is pleased to conquer the hand of the princess and also the whole
empire, but the opposite. It is the princess who is overjoyed that she can fol-
low the young man into his hut.
The role of the publishers in this selection process was highly significant. Not only
did they have to consider the general quality of a book (like any other publisher in
the world) but they also had to take into account how a particular book would be
judged higher up (Charbon 1998: 175). One such consideration was the choice
of external evaluators for each publication. This was always important, but it could
be absolutely vital for more problematic books. Evaluators were chosen for their
reputation and the likelihood that they would provide a favorable assessment. The
content of their commentaries, although important, should not be misunderstood
as literary discussions. Rather, they constituted a political move by the publisher.
The external assessors could apply tactical strategies to play down or accentuate
certain features of the text.
For example, in 1980, in order to gain a print permit for the book Doctor Dolit-
tle (DR1/2287a), which had had a complicated publishing history a decade earlier,
the application for a new edition was assisted by a statement from one of the most
distinguished critics and scholars of childrens literature in East Germany, Gnter
If a book did not carry sufficient socio-critical content and was thus likely to
experience problems with the censor, the evaluators approach was to admit this
particular shortcoming and to stress other constructive elements, presenting the
book in a more positive light. This can be seen with the book Danza (DR1/5435),
where the evaluator wrote in a concluding statement:
Translation from the point of view of the East German censorship files 61

Political ambitions are far from the authors mind; her world is that of dogs
and horses. I recommend the book with certain reservations. Danza is cer-
tainly not one of those books that are produced in the GDR, but if we want to
export, we must be prepared to make concessions, and this book, neverthe-
less, remains within the scope of what is justifiable.
Closely related to this are the forewords and afterwords. They told the reader how
to interpret certain passages or ideas; and were thus very sensitive. They also
needed to be assessed by external evaluators, either together with the book or in a
separate assessment by another evaluator. Like the assessment of the actual manu-
script, afterwords laid emphasis on the correct ideological concepts. For exam-
ple, the afterword for James Aldridges The Last Inch (Der letzte Zoll) was called a
striking and generally intelligible account of the ideological tenor of the plot
(DR1/3939). For C. L. R. Jamess The Black Jacobins (Die schwarzen Jakobiner,
1984), the evaluator praised the afterword because it fervently condemns Amer-
icas big-stick policy during the first third of the 20th Century, as well as the subse-
quent attitude of American imperialism toward the peoples of the Caribbean
(DR1/5439). If a book was regarded as ideologically dubious, a cleverly formulated
afterword could act as a pass permit.
Classical titles, forming a major part in educating the general public, did not
undergo as meticulous an inspection as did contemporary literature. Nevertheless,
the censors paid close attention to their afterwords because it was these after-
words which legitimized the book as part of the socialist heritage (Barck 1998:
32). For instance, the afterword to Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol and Other
Stories (Weihnachtsgeschichten, 1970) needed to be revised twice before the pub-
lisher was able to report as follows (DR1/2261):
We now have the afterword by Sigrid Wirzberger in its third version; [with
this version], the comments of the evaluator have been taken into consider-
ation [...]; after talks with Sigrid Wirzberger, she now has put more stress on
the literary distinctiveness of Dickens and has justified his relevance to the
Afterwords had the function of a safeguard for the publisher against the censor, in
which the publisher explained and justified the value of the book for the socialist
market. However, they also served as a safeguard for the censor against the Party
and its cultural functionaries, to whom the censors themselves were responsible.
Thus, the censors frequently demanded an afterword to a book when none had
been planned, or they required changes to an existing afterword. In either case,
this was stated on the print permit form in item 16, before the whole file was sent
back to the publisher in order for the necessary improvements to be made.
62 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

The practice of external evaluations reveals two telling facts about the GDR
book industry. First, they show the lengthy and cumbersome process of producing
a book (on average, assessments were written two years before the book went into
print, though it could be as long as four years). Second, they demonstrate the
patronized nature of the East German publishing industry. Publishers were not
considered capable of making their own decisions, but needed somebody at their
side to point out the advantages and disadvantages of their chosen book.
As to remarks appearing in the files on the actual text translation, one or two
observations could be made. The most apparent point concerns matters of reli-
gion. Be it classics or modern books, all religious elements seem to have been
incompatible with the propagated ideology. There are only rare occasions where
the publishers statements defended such passages, for example calling them unob-
trusive, easily overlooked, or claiming that they had no influence on the readers.
In comments on Anne Moodys Coming of Age in Mississippi (Erwachen in Missis-
sippi, 1971), the religious attitudes of African-Americans were characterized as a
desperate attempt to escape reality (DR1/3544a). Predominantly, however, these
passages were cut in order to comply with the educational target of atheism. Other
deletions concerned sentimental, moralizing, long-winded and kitsch descrip-
tions typical of a bourgeois culture. Texts were purified with respect to the terms
Negro, Red Indian, Jew, and their use in discriminatory contexts. Those transla-
tions adopted through a license deal were not automatically accepted as good
quality but were checked for style and mistakes similar to the original GDR trans-
lations. According to the publishers statement (DR1/2264a), the translation of The
Hobbit (1971), taken from West Germany, required a considerable amount of
work to improve it.

Progressive liberalization?

Over time, particularly in the 1980s, the files reveal another picture. Although still
having to prove the evilness of capitalism, the publishers assessments of books
became increasingly shorter and less detailed. Also, very often, the print applica-
tions were submitted without external evaluation and, interestingly, the length of
the censors inspection became shorter. This liberalization process appears sur-
prising, as there is no formal document sanctioning it. Nonetheless, the following
may provide an explanation.
The construction of socialism was ended by official declaration in the begin-
ning of the 1970s. This might have been considered a reason for literature to aban-
don its rigid educative role and to become more open and liberal (Franke 1985,
cited in Khler 1991: 2415). Also, from the 1970s the GDR had begun to open
Translation from the point of view of the East German censorship files 63

itself up in terms of foreign politics and perhaps sought to appear more liberal to
other countries. Alternatively, Darnton (1990: 6) has the following suggestion. In
an interview that he conducted, two former East German censors claimed that col-
leagues in the censorship authority increasingly joined the liberal wing of the
Unity Party, when they came to realize that East German socialism was moving
slowly but steadily closer to Soviet Stalinism. This explanation seems probable,
given that in the 1970s and more so in the 1980s, frustration was mounting about
the status quo of real socialism and reforms were increasingly demanded.
Equally in this period, more and more socio-critical books appeared with a
degree of open or hidden criticism. This would indicate that some censors had
turned a blind eye to the underlying messages.

Censorship and success

To conclude, let us consider the factors determining the success of publications in

the GDR. Positive outcomes were facilitated by the publisher creating astutely
worded remarks in their statement to the censor. For example, the publisher might
mention that there had been a previous publication by the author. This was taken
to prove that the authors texts were viewed as suitable for the socialist environ-
ment (as was the case with Molly Baumwollschwnzchen). The publisher might
also point out that the book had already been published in the USSR or another
socialist state. This greatly increased the probability of obtaining a print permit.
Publishers statements extend from mere mentions of this fact to additional sup-
porting explanations. For example, Jerome K. Jeromes Three Men in a Boat (Drei
Mann in einem Boot, DR1/3540 , 1967), has been printed also in the USSR and is
available there even in schoolbooks. Or we learn that Mayne Reids The Quadroon
(Die Quarteronin) has been made compulsory reading in the Soviet Union
(DR1/2255, 1967). An application for a print permit for Kiplings The New Jungle
Book (Das Neue Dschungelbuch) underlines the humanistic content of the book,
due to which both Jungle Books have had many print runs in the socialist coun-
tries, with the Soviet Union in first place, and enjoy great popularity there (DR1/
Translated books were rarely refused a print permit. Instead, the result was
usually a demand by the censor to revise parts of the afterword, to write a new
afterword or to reduce the number of copies to be printed. This shows that pub-
lishers were very aware of what would and would not be acceptable, and that effec-
tive publishing work was possible under extreme conditions of censorship.
64 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting


* Parts of this study have been published in Publishing and editorial policies of translated
children's books from the viewpoint of the East German censorship files, New Review of Chil-
drens Literature and Librarianship 10/1 (2004), 41 54.


Censorship files from the Bundesarchiv, Berlin

DR1/2255 DR1/2287a DR1/3997
DR1/2257 DR1/3540 DR1/5013
DR1/2261 DR1/3544a DR1/5435
DR1/2264a DR1/3561a DR1/5439
DR1/2265 DR1/3939
DR1/2269 DR1/3940
Choosing not to translate

Zero translations in the first Portuguese

Robinson Crusoe

Maria Goreti Monteiro

Escola Superior de Tecnologia e Gesto, Leiria, Portugal

Translating involves all kinds of risks, simply because decisions have to be taken
constantly, especially with a view to acceptance by readers, editors, religious
leaders and political powers. This is exemplified by the first Portuguese version of
Robinson Crusoe, where many of Defoes criticisms of Catholicism were simply
omitted, resulting in a high degree of zero translation. The biography of the
translator, Henrique Leito, suggests that these omissions were due to self-
censorship, since he had experienced previous conflict with the Portuguese

The / Life / and / Strange Surprizing / Adventures / of / Robinson Crusoe, / of York

Mariner: / Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, / all alone in an un-inhabited Island
on the / Coast of America, near the Mouth of / the Great River of Oroonoque; / Hav-
ing been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, where- / in all the Men perished but himself. /
With / An Account how he was at last as strangely deli- / verd by Pyrates
So reads the original title of a volume known nowadays as Robinson Crusoe, pub-
lished by Daniel Defoe in 1719. Rendered into practically every language (includ-
ing Latin and Esperanto) over the last 283 years, it is the second most translated
story in the world, only after the Bible. The first translations were sold in 1720, in
French, Dutch and German, but by the end of the eighteenth century the Italians,
Danes, Swedes, Portuguese and Serbo-Croatians also had the chance to learn
about Robinsons adventures in their own language, in 1730, 1744, 1745, 1785 and
1799 respectively.
The Portuguese translation was published in Lisbon in 1785, with the authori-
zation of the Real Mesa Censria, the royal censors of the time. There are no records
of any type of difficulty in obtaining the necessary permission neither for the first
66 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

printing, nor for the three reprints in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This
version actually remained the only full translation in Portuguese until 1975.
This alone might be enough to raise suspicion. Robinson Crusoe is a story
about a man who is the sole survivor to reach a desert island, where he lives alone
for many years until he is blessed with the company of Friday, his slave, compan-
ion and pupil. Robinson teaches Friday about the white mans way of living, think-
ing and even worshiping. Defoes own beliefs, those of a dissenter, were the
doctrine Robinson spent so many hours teaching Friday. Again, this seems inno-
cent enough, were it not for the fact that Robinson gave some detailed explana-
tions of what he thought was wrong with Roman Catholicism, the religion that is
so much a part of the history of Portugal.
The Roman Catholic religion was Portugals official religion from 1143, when
a legate from the Roman Pope declared Portugal a state, independent from Len
(an area that is now part of Spain). With the advent of the Inquisition in the six-
teenth century, Catholicism became the only religion allowed in the realm. One of
the reasons for the introduction of the Inquisition was to eliminate the possibility
of other religious doctrines spreading in Portugal, as was already happening in
England and other countries in Europe. As such, the Inquisition enforced the
supremacy of Roman Catholicism as the only true religion, whose practices could
never be questioned by actions or words oral or written. As was to be expected,
one of its areas of intervention was with the printers, who needed a special licence
to practice their trade and could never print anything without it first being read
and authorized by an Inquisition official. This authorization had to be printed on
the title page of every book published in the kingdom, which, in the eighteenth
century, included colonies in South America, Africa and Asia. The words Impres-
sor da Real Meza Censoria and Com licena da mesma Real Meza Censoria, indi-
cating that the law was being obeyed, are quite visible in the title page of the
Portuguese Robinson Crusoe (Figure 1).
Even with these restrictions, some Portuguese publishers believed they had
choices, albeit quite limited, when they encountered texts that might bring them a
sentence of incarceration, at the very least. One of the most dangerous practices
was to print forbidden books and then have them circulate in restricted circles in
the country. Another was to place the printed pages of banned books between
other licensed pages and send them to the colonies, where the Inquisition had
greater difficulty inspecting the entire cargo on arrival and checking up what was
being read over the whole territory. There, the separate pages would be made into
books, which would circulate in restricted circles. However, these practices were
not common.
Choosing not to translate 67

Figure 1. Title page of the Portuguese translation, 1785.

68 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

The most current practice was to print books that were permitted. When they
were translations, any questionable passages were altered or omitted by the trans-
lators, sometimes under the direction of the publishers. Confirming this is the tes-
timony of Pedro de Azevedo Tojal, a Portuguese translator who, in 1733, explained
that he would not translate some of the stanzas of an Italian poem because he
refused to change their meaning and, if correctly translated, they would be crossed
out (Sabio Pinilla and Fernndez Snchez 1998: 88, 89). Even though the transla-
tor never mentions who crosses words out, the public knew that only the Inquisi-
tion had that power.
The question is thus what the Portuguese translator of Robinson Crusoe, Hen-
rique Leito de Souza Mascarenhas, chose to do.
The title page of the Portuguese book states that it was translated from the
French. However, this information could have been false, as was often the case.
One of the reasons for misrepresenting the source could be that a French origin
might bring fewer problems than an English one, since the Portuguese church had
never accepted the religious changes in England. Nonetheless, if we compare the
translation with the original novel, it is immediately clear that Henrique Leito did
not use Defoes English as the source text. Consequently, we must accept apparent
mediation through French.
To verify this, we turn to the life of the translator, to determine which lan-
guages he was acquainted with. A short biographical note on Henrique Leito con-
firms that he studied Law at Coimbra, which would suggest that he had very good
knowledge of French. The surprise, however, comes with just half a line of infor-
mation in the four-line entry: in 1778, he was persecuted and imprisoned by the
Inquisition at the age of 25 (Silva 18581923: vol. 10, 14).
The records of Henrique Leitos trial by the Inquisition (Processo 1778) do
indeed confirm that he knew French. While serving in the military, he had not only
read Voltaire (a forbidden author) but what made it a criminal act he had also
translated, agreed with and discussed Voltaires philosophy in the presence of other
people. One of those witnesses was a priests nephew. The inevitable followed.
Henrique Leito was released three years later, in 1781, just four years before
the appearance of his Portuguese translation. He asked and obtained permission
to emigrate. The country of destination is not stated, but other sources indicate
that he met, and was friends with, at least one Portuguese poet who was exiled in
France. We thus know not only that Henrique Leito knew French and could have
used the French translation as his source text, but also that he had to be very care-
ful with his translation. In fact, his name and signature are written on a formal
abjuration where he swears, with his hand on the Bible, to walk away from any
form of heresy, and begs to be condemned again should he ever repeat his sin (Pro-
cesso 1778).
Choosing not to translate 69

It is almost impossible to establish which source text Henrique Leito used

and whether he was in Portugal when he used it. However, two French translations
of Robinson Crusoe were found in Portuguese libraries, dated 1720 and 1768, both
published in Amsterdam, and both obviously prior to the Portuguese translation
of 1785. As these two French texts are exactly alike, the latter was used for this
A comparative study of the French and the Portuguese texts confirms that the
translator used the French translation as the basis for his work, which was a com-
plete version of Defoes novel. Therefore, any deletions could not be attributed to
French mediation. They would have to be the work of the Portuguese translator
alone or, perhaps, with his publisher.
The Portuguese text is what Lambert and van Gorp (1985) call a source-ori-
ented translation, in that it follows the French extremely closely. However, signifi-
cant exceptions occur when religious issues are described.
In the story, after Friday learns enough English, Robinson starts teaching him
about his religious beliefs. During one of their conversations, Robinson explains
that there is no need for intermediaries for worshiping God, that is, humans do not
need priests to talk to God. The reason given is that there is Priestcraft among all
religions of the world, including Roman Catholicism:
By this I observd, That there is Priestcraft, even amongst the most blinded
ignorant Pagans in the World; and the Policy of making a secret Religion, in
order to preserve the Veneration of the People to the Clergy, is not only to be
found in the Roman, but perhaps among all religions of the World, even
among the most brutish and barbarous Savages. (Defoe 1983: 217).
The line it is not only to be found in the Roman is not translated at all in Portu-
guese. Henrique Leito uses what Lefevere (1992) mentions to be a very common
strategy followed by translators all over the world throughout history: silence or
zero translation, where offending text is left out altogether. The most offending
passage, translated into French as ne se trouve pas seulement chez le Clerg du
Papisme (1768: 289), would be reason enough to ban the publication if it was read
by a Portuguese Inquisitor. Hence the omission.
The second time Henrique Leito omits text is when Robinson is teaching Fri-
day about the role of the devil in mans life. Friday is not satisfied with his masters
explanations, so Robinson goes on to explain the problem in detail. This explana-
tion, about one page of the original, does not appear in the Portuguese translation.
The reason is that Robinson says that the word of God, found in the Bible, is the
only way to obtain redemption and the only means of salvation. This explanation
excludes, very clearly, the only means Catholics recognize for obtaining Gods for-
giveness the sacrament of Penance, known as confession. Not many years before,
70 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Leito had agreed with Voltaires defense of a very similar critique of Catholicism,
and he had been condemned for it. He knew he had to eliminate this passage or he
would go through a second trial and no doubt receive a heavier sentence. Moreover,
in order to continue the translation without leaving the idea of Fridays dissatisfac-
tion in the air, he altered the last sentence before the omission to mean the exact
opposite. Defoe wrote This did not satisfie Friday (1983: 218) and the French
translation followed the original, Ma solution ne satisfit pas mon Sauvage (1768:
291). However, the Portuguese version Ao que elle mostrou ficar satisfeito (with
which he appeared to be satisfied) lays the issue to rest (1785: 281).
Leito continues to translate close to his source where the text presents no
problems. Nonetheless, when Robinson mentions, a few lines further, the lost
sheep of the House of Israel and the like (1983: 220) in French les brebis gares
de la Maison dIsrael (1768: 291) , the sheep are turned into genero humano,
human beings (1785: 281). Instead of leaving the sentence out, Leito changes his
translation style to synthesize the meaning. This can only be understood as a
means of prevention. There is real fear of calling attention to the text even if it is
only by writing the word Israel, since one of the targets of the Inquisition had been
the Jewish people since the early seventeenth century.
Leito omits one other sentence in the same section. This is where Robinson
considers himself and Friday to be, at that point, just as Christian as if they had
been in England:
The Savage was now a good Christian, a much better than I; though I have
reason to hope, and bless God for it, that we were equally penitent, and com-
forted restord Penitents; we had here the Word of God to read, and no farther
off his Spirit to instruct, than if we had been in England. (1983: 220)
The Portuguese version reads: O meu escravo era j ta bom Christa como eu, e
talvez melhor; e podiamos gozar juntos da leitura da Palavra de Deos (1785: 282)
my slave was already as good a Christian as I was, and maybe better; and we could
enjoy together the reading of the word of God. The deletion of England is impor-
tant because, in the course of his adventures, Robinson is saved by a Portuguese
captain and becomes a property owner in Brazil, indicating that he would have
had to convert to Catholicism. Robinson confirms this transformation almost at
the end of the novel when he states he had thought of going back to Brazil to live
on his sugar plantation, but that he rapidly changed his mind because of his new
religious principles. He believed that to go back meant either giving up his princi-
ples or being killed by the Inquisition:
And now I began to think of leaving my Effects with this Woman, and setting
out for Lisbon, and so to the Brasils; but now another Scruple came my Way,
and that was Religion; for as I entertaind some Doubts about the Roman Reli-
Choosing not to translate 71

gion, even while I was abroad, especially in my State of Solitude; so I knew

there was no going to the Brasils for me, much less going to settle there, unless
I resolvd to embrace the Roman Catholick Religion, without any Reserve;
unless on the other hand, I resolvd to be a Sacrifice to my Principles, be a
Martyr for Religion, and die in the Inquisition; so I resolvd to stay at Home,
and if I could find Means for it, to dispose of my Plantation. (1983: 303)
The French text presents Robinsons reasons for his change of heart, meaning that
the Portuguese translator could not have misunderstood the original idea:
Jtois dj rsolu lui laisser la direction de toutes mes affaires, & partir
pour Lisbonne pour fixer ma demeure dans le Brsil, quand une dlicatesse
de conscience men vint dtourner. Javois rflchi souvent, & sur-tout pen-
dant ma vie solitaire, sur le peu de sret quil y a vivre dans la Religion
Catholique-Romaine, & je savois quil mtoit impossible de mtablit dans le
Brsil sans en faire profession, & que dy manquer, ne seroit autre chose que
mexposer souffrir le martyre entre les cruelles mains de lInquision. Cette
considration me fit changer de sentimens, & prendre le parti de rester dans
ma patrie, sur-tout si jtois assez heureux pour trouver le moyen de me
dfaire avantageusement de ma plantation. (1768:393)
The translators strategy here, once again, includes zero translation, but he also
reduces the long explanation of Robinsons another Scruple to just two words:
alguns embaraos some problems. By not explaining what the problems were,
the translator successfully avoided them.


The decisions translators have always had to make regarding the target text are
intrinsically connected to their culture and to the dominant rules of the society
into which they are working, that of the target readers.
The time is yet to come when the world can say that those rules do not include
some type of political or religious censorship. The translators of the 1700s had
many problems to conquer, as do those of today. Charles Batteux, a contemporary
of Henrique Leito, recorded his insights:
But the problem is to render things, thoughts, expressions, stylistic features,
the general tone of the work and the particular styles of the poets, orators his-
torians, and to render things as they are, without adding anything, moving
anything, or taking anything away. (cit. Lefevere ed. 1992: 116)
72 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

What Henrique Leito learned was that he, as translator, had yet another problem,
not to conquer, but to live with, if he wanted to survive: that to translate under the
pressure of censorship means, at times, resorting to silence.
From Robinson Crusoe to Robinson
in Wallachia

The intricacies of the reception process

Rodica Dimitriu
Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, Iai, Romania

The discipline of Translation Studies can contribute valuable data to the reception
history of foreign literature. This is illustrated here through the study of
translations, adaptations and imitations of Defoes Robinson Crusoe in Romanian
culture. The study first surveys the different images of the book and its hero as
presented to Romanian readers throughout more than one and a half centuries of
reception. Second, it examines the borderlines between translations proper and
adaptations. Third, it attempts to bridge the gap that separates translations and
adaptations from imitations. All these kinds of texts relate to a source to different
extents and ensure the survival of literary works abroad in different ways.


The presence of foreign works in cultural repertoires testifies to complex receptive

processes. These processes take place in different historical periods and involve
operations of acculturation, accommodation, adjustment and refraction, which
are all meant to ensure final acceptance of the foreign texts by inevitably different
target cultures. As distinct modes of reception, translations play an important role
in this process, and the discipline of Translation Studies can contribute valuable
data to the history of the reception of foreign literature.
Here we seek to highlight this contribution by examining some translations,
adaptations and imitations of Defoes Robinson Crusoe in Romanian culture.1 Our
aim is threefold. First, we focus on the different images of the book and its hero
that translators have tried to project to Romanian readers throughout over one
and a half centuries of reception. These images are in keeping with ideologies,
poetics, cultural discourses and norms to which translations conform, although
there is no strict causality between these factors. Second, even if the discipline of
74 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Translation Studies limits its investigations to translated texts, the history of the
Robinson Crusoe case proves once again that, more often than not, the border-
lines between translations proper and adaptations are in reality fuzzier and
more flexible than is commonly acknowledged. We thus seek links between these
two forms of rewriting, both of which are considered legitimate objects of investi-
gation for Translation Studies. Third, we shall attempt to bridge the gap that sepa-
rates too rigidly, in translation-based accounts of receptive processes, translations
and adaptations from imitations, as defined by Lefevere (1975). All these kinds of
texts relate to a source to different extents and ensure the survival of literary
works abroad in different ways.

Robinson Crusoe, a book for education and entertainment

In Romania, as in many other European countries, the main reason for introduc-
ing Robinson Crusoe was initially didactic. This only occurred at the beginning of
the nineteenth century, and it could well have had to do with Rousseaus strong
recommendation in Emile (1762): This is the best book which, to my thinking,
supplies the best treatise of education according to nature (cited in James 1996:
2). The Romanian translators were all familiar with Rousseaus book, and they
directly or implicitly referred to it in their prefaces. For instance, we find Rousseau
echoed by Cavalry Commander Vasile Drghici in his epistolary preface to the
first acknowledged translation of Robinson into Romanian (1835), when he tells
his patron, the Minister of Domestic Affairs, that young people will benefit greatly
from the moral message of Defoes book. In addition to Rousseau, the target cul-
ture had its own inner needs and, in Tourys words, gaps to fill in (1998: 18).
Those gaps are mentioned in Drghicis preface: the relative lack of childrens liter-
ature, coupled with a conservative education system focused almost entirely on
the study of Greek and Latin grammar.
Although referred to as the first translation of Robinson Crusoe, Drghicis text
is a translation of a German adaptation by Joachim Campe (1799), carried out for
the specific purpose of educating the young generation. Thus, the first Romanian
readers became acquainted with Defoes novel as an embedded story, the moral
implications of which are largely commented upon by a father and his son. After
1835 many rewritings, loosely referred to as translations, adaptations, imitations
or retellings, increased the books popularity in Romanian culture. Their rela-
tionship to a French or German secondary source text, at a time when the English
language was very little known, is highly variable. Further, the relationships are
frequently blurred by the authors themselves or by their publishing houses, so the
labels occasionally attached to the texts are often misleading. Some of the adapta-
From Robinson Crusoe to Robinson in Wallachia 75

tions translate only parts of their secondary sources. Others paraphrase and sum-
marize, sometimes incorporating Defoes sequel, Farther Adventures of Robinson
Crusoe. Very often what gets translated are foreign adaptations that have already
(re)adjusted a primary or secondary source text to their own culture. Even texts
regarded as translations in their own right operate (occasionally consistent)
omissions, sometimes making the Farther Adventures part of the same translated
novel. This explains why the end products are more often than not culturally and
linguistically hybrid texts, encapsulating elements of an authoritative mediating
culture, which Romanian culture, on its way to modernization, was prepared to
In practice, texts labeled as adaptations are thus often very close to what are
regarded as translations proper, and vice versa. As texts, adaptations make use to
a greater extent of what Vinay and Darbelnet (1958) call indirect translation pro-
cedures, as well as of other disruptive techniques at the textual level such as omis-
sions, additions or summaries. Nevertheless, their authors resort to interlingual
and intercultural strategies similar to those of translations. More importantly,
adaptations fulfill similar functions in the target culture. From this perspective, far
from being sharply divided, these interlingual rewritings form a continuum, con-
forming to various degrees with target-culture norms. As such, they pertain to
Translation Studies2. Like translations, adaptations are also facts in the target cul-
ture (Toury 1995: 23 & passim). By treating them pejoratively, promoters of
strictly aesthetic criteria, as has often been the case with Romanian critics, tend to
disregard their cultural function. During the nineteenth century and until the sec-
ond half of the twentieth, the threshold of tolerance (Toury 1999: 21) in Roma-
nian culture was quite permissive, allowing not only indirect translations, which
mainly used French and German sources, but also all kinds of adaptations.
Aventurile lui Robinson Crusoe (The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe) (1899)
is one of the many Romanian rewritings of the book published at the end of the
nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. The publishers note refers,
among other things, to their translation policy whereby, in order to instruct and
entertain its readers, they were prepared to offer carefully translated master-
pieces from French, German and English literature. The order is significant, high-
lighting a certain hierarchy of cultural authority for that period. The source text
for the Romanian Crusoe is not mentioned and neither is the translators name. Yet
the original must have been French, judging by the lexis and sentence structure, as
well as the fact that Robinsons parrot is called Jacquot. Although the publishing
house does not classify its product, the text comes closer to an adaptation, at least
in terms of the kind of strategies that predominate. These strategies mainly involve
condensation of the text by means of many omissions and more concise rephras-
ing, as well as the addition of a summarized form of the Farther Adventures. Still,
76 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

there are also occasional close translations from a source that was not far from the
English original. The main focus is on Robinsons life on the island and the text
mainly projects the image of a resourceful practical-minded Christian.
The first relatively influential translation of the book occurred in 1900. In his
preface, Radu Rosetti, the translator, explicitly states that his is the first complete
translation of the novel. Also acting as a literary critic, Rosetti is the first to provide
(occasionally erroneous) biographical data and a brief enumeration of Defoes
works, thus introducing the English novelist to the Romanian readership for the
first time. The intended readers are mainly children, since various versions of the
novel were already being studied in schools for practical instruction. Besides, Rob-
inson himself is a model worth imitating, as he is a man that tames nature, adores
God and relies exclusively on his work (1900: 5, my translation). Rosetti is also
the first to consider the books appeal to adult readers who, he claims, may enjoy it
for the simplicity and beauty of its style (1900: 6, my translation). In this way, he
enlarges the potential readership of the novel and explicitly introduces an aesthetic
dimension to the receptive act. Rosettis text is a close indirect translation from a
French source. It thus imports, through its literalness, the nineteenth-century sen-
timental discourse in which part of (popular) French literature was written and
which, due to the prestige of this literature, was also one of the competing literary
norms (Toury 1999: 27) in Romania. For instance, unlike the English Robinson,
who is notoriously dismissive when it comes to women3, the Romanian one (via
French mediation) refers to the sweetness of family life, to having had the misfor-
tune to lose his dearest wife and sweet companion, and so on. Illustrations full of
pathos strengthen the storys sentimentality. This version also disregards the tex-
tual conventions of Robinsons integrated journal: it uses a subdivision into chap-
ters different from the one in the original, and incorporates a detailed version of
the Farther Adventures.
Besides instructing and entertaining, the translations and adaptations of Rob-
inson Crusoe introduced the literary genre of the adventure book into Romanian
culture. This genre was meant to keep the readers attention and curiosity alert
through the unusual circumstances to which the hero is exposed. In the first
decades of the twentieth century, the main purpose of the many adaptations of the
novel was thus to highlight its sensational side. A 48-page adaptation published in
1922 reduces the novel and its sequel to an endless series of adventures that defy all
logic. Robinson and the other characters are mere puppets in an excessively
dynamic third-person narrative to which childish dialogues are added. Neverthe-
less, the adapter clearly opted for acceptability norms (Toury 1995: 57 & passim),
making Robinson speak a geographically marked Romanian full of culture-spe-
cific items. The pictures in the book support this kind of approach, portraying a
Robinson who looks more like a Romanian shepherd than an outcast on a desert
From Robinson Crusoe to Robinson in Wallachia 77

island. On the other hand, I. Leonards 1937 translation of a French adaptation by

Paul Reboux positions Romanian readers, with their own cultural background, at
the crossroads of several cultural spaces, comprising those spaces provided by the
story itself as well as by the translator. This close version is tinged with French
emotional color and spiced up with English forms of address such as gentleman or

Robinson Crusoe, a complex novel

The twentieth century and more specifically the inter-war and post-war years saw
aesthetic criteria become increasingly part of the (educated) readers expectations.
Literary critics repeatedly sought aesthetic values in literary works in general and
translations in particular. Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, the
Romanian language itself had developed considerably, and both critics and trans-
lators had finally gained confidence in its capacities to express ideas in the most
exquisite forms. The highly prescriptive translation norms suggested by the pre-
Communist critics, members of institutions of cultural prestige were more often
than not annihilated by the mercantile selection criteria used by most publishing
houses. The critics norms required that translations have the same literary value
as their originals, that translators make use of their creative powers, and that they
have spiritual affinities with their authors. Critics also expected the vocabulary
used in translations to be in keeping with the characters social, historical or geo-
graphic background (i. e. appropriate register). In terms of Tourys preliminary
norms (1995: 58 & passim), they wanted to have the effective power of decision
over translation policies. Such views were expressed in many cultural and literary
periodicals of the time.
In 1943 Petru Comarnescu, an outstanding cultural figure of the inter-war
years and the subsequent period, published a new translation of Robinson Crusoe
that seemed to meet most of its readers needs. It was hailed as a success at the time
and it has since become part of the canon, particularly in its revised editions. The
translator initially chose the longer title Viaa i nemaipomenitele aventuri ale lui
Robinson Crusoe (The Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe), spec-
ifying that he had used the original text. In his preface, Comarnescu claims to have
observed the style and other characteristics of the source text, thus complying with
adequacy norms, nevertheless feeling free to eliminate repetitions, which are
regarded as inappropriate both for the source and its translation, in accordance
with target culture acceptability (Toury 1995: 57). Another more general strat-
egy incorporates all the adjustments the translator made in order to target a young
78 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

A parallel examination of the translation and its source reveals a series of tech-
niques that Comarnescu uses in a consistent manner in order to apply these gen-
eral strategies. Two obvious ones are contraction and ensuing condensation at the
textual level. In this way, the unnecessary verbosity, redundancy and repetitions
Defoe is sometimes prone to are eliminated without any significant reduction of
the amount of information. By splitting the complex sentences, omitting the
superfluous words, replacing semi-colons by full stops and occasionally starting a
new paragraph, the translator provides a clearer text, with a more direct impact on
the category of readers he is addressing. Another obvious technique at sentence
level is that of flattening, i. e. translating Defoes frequently marked sentences by
unmarked or less marked ones. In this way the translator simplifies the occasion-
ally excessive rhetoric in the source and updates it, making it more in keeping with
contemporary young readers expectations. Some of Robinsons journal entries in
this translation consist of elliptical sentences that are not present in the source and
correspond to the target conventions of this embedded text-type. Robinsons
prayers to the Lord are not translated literally but in accordance with target-cul-
ture forms of religious address, as is Fridays idiosyncratic language. However, at
the level of register, the general style is more formal than that of the English text.
This has to do with Romanian norms when translating classics, a status that Defoe
had reached in 1943. The author-reader distance is also increased in the transla-
tion. Robinsons conversations with or references to his audience are either elimi-
nated or replaced by more impersonal constructions. The reason may be, again, to
update the text and ensure a more immediate impact on its receivers. The only
long omission from the original occurs at the end of the novel, as Robinsons
return to the island is not translated.
There are several passages in the translation that are open to speculation con-
cerning the translators ideology. The two references to the Spanish colonizers
cruelty toward the colonized tribes are omitted, together with the comparison of
Fridays skill at cutting a savages head to that of a German executioner. Then, in a
very comprehensive footnote, Comarnescu takes pains to explain that not all
American Indians were cannibals, and some of them had developed great civiliza-
tions. Moreover, their occasional cannibalism was only practiced with members of
enemy tribes. In both cases, the translator tries to negotiate between Defoes occa-
sionally racist discourse and his own ideas about Western countries and exotic civ-
ilizations, shared by the Romanian pre-Communist readership. The translators
careful control over the source text and his relative visibility is also manifest in
another footnote, which carefully warns the reader about a geographical mistake
made by Defoe. Other extratextual glosses fulfill their usual function of briefly
explaining geographical, biological and technical terms as well as converting units
of measure.
From Robinson Crusoe to Robinson in Wallachia 79

The complete 1943 translation of Robinson Crusoe is the only one that gives
Romanian readers a chance to realize the complexity of Defoes novel. It offers
them a plurality of readings: a story of survival, a religious allegory, an economic
parable, and more. Robinson himself is not only the resourceful Western man
working hard, dominating nature, colonizing, making profit, but also an increas-
ingly religious man, who has his moments of weakness, fear and despair and, for
many years, only God to address. The complexity of this Robinson image is partly
lost in subsequent Romanian adaptations and translations, which manipulate
Defoes text in order to make it suitable for the Communist canon.

The Communist Robinson

Comarnescus 1943 translation came out just before an entirely different political
regime was established in Romania and in other Eastern European countries.
From a cultural perspective, the Soviet model was artificially imposed. In the
1950s, the State owned the publishing houses, which were kept under strict control
by the government and the organs of the Communist Party. The State also
planned their translation policy and made their translation choices, drawing
almost exclusively on the Soviet canon. The reasons for making Robinson Crusoe
part of that canon are clearly specified by Cornei Ciucovski in an introductory
note to his Soviet adaptation of the novel, translated into Romanian in 1954. The
Soviet author explains the longstanding popularity of Robinson Crusoe as being
due to some of the heros qualities, for which he could well serve as an example to
young Communists: diligence, perseverance and a very strong will. These features
were essential elements of an idealized portrait of the Communist of that time,
which the regime was striving to promote through many channels, including
This text is a good illustration of the tight links between the translators full
adhesion to the mainstream ideology and the ensuing strategies that he uses. Here
the strategies include close translations for passages that suit the translators pro-
pagandistic purpose, and omissions of the ones that do not. All the passages relat-
ing to Robinsons Christian dimension are deleted (Defoes hero is turned into an
atheist), as are the fragments concerning the slave trade. Robinsons reassuring
description of Friday by analogy to the Europeans, implying racial prejudices
(yet he had all the sweetness and softness of a European in his countenance too
1994: 202) is also omitted. The hero never refers to himself as a king, lord or gov-
ernor of the island. Finally, a serious distortion of the original text occurs at the
end of the novel, when nobody wants to stay on the island and be colonized, and
the prisoners entreat Robinson to take them aboard. The broken language spoken
80 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

by Xury and Friday, a source of mild humor in Defoes text, is replaced by standard
language so as not to show any offensive attitude toward the colonized people. On
the other hand, the colonizers cruelties are highlighted, not only in the main text
but also in a translators footnote saying that the Spaniards were beastly cruel to
the populations they subdued in Southern America (1954: 179, my translation).
The radical ideology of the Soviet text is reflected faithfully by the Romanian
translators. Their total invisibility and submissiveness to the Soviet source paral-
lels the official position that the Romanian Communist regime had adopted in the
Stalinist period.
In 1961 Editura Tineretului (Youth Publishing House) put out Comarnescus
revision of his 1943 translation. This revised version testifies to the translators less
radical adoption of the new political discourse. In the preface, we find Robinson
standing for mans power to change the world and himself as well as for mans
creative powers. Robinson is a dynamic character, working very hard, carefully
planning his life, so his struggles and efforts end in success. The translator is once
again prepared to negotiate Robinsons figure, admitting that he did not treat Fri-
day or the other pagans too badly. True, he was a missionary, spreading European
civilization and Protestant religion, yet [] not so greedy and arrogant a colonizer
as some of his English compatriots. Nevertheless, being a bourgeois he took good
care to reap some benefits from his deeds (1961: 9, my translations). The transla-
tors (moderate) commitment to the new system has a bearing on certain transla-
tion strategies he chooses to change in this new edition. At the textual level,
Comarnescu omits most of the passages concerning religious meditation, still pre-
serving some in order to suggest that Robinson was a good Christian. He adds
instead all the offensive allusions to the Spanish colonizers present in the original
and also the final episode of Robinsons return to the island. At the sentence level,
he translates more literally, using longer sentences and coming closer to Defoes
style. He also updates his own lexis and makes use of more specialized vocabulary
instead of paraphrases or borrowings, which predominated in the 1943 edition.
On a formal level, the translation reflects the aesthetic concerns of a period when
translations were undertaken only by professionals and were submitted to profes-
sional norms. The essential norm was that a translation should have the same lit-
erary value as the original, where value was understood in accordance with the
norms working in the target culture.
The Romanian translators careful revision of his text continued in the follow-
ing years. The 1964 edition came out at a different publishing house, Biblioteca
pentru Toi (Everybodys Library), which shows that the book was officially
acknowledged as addressing adult readers, not just young ones. The translators
preface is a comprehensive piece of literary criticism written in the Marxist vein of
the time. We find long incursions into the history of England, Defoes life, Marxs
From Robinson Crusoe to Robinson in Wallachia 81

vs. Rousseaus interpretation of the novel (Robinson as a homo economicus rather

than the natural man), an opinion to which Comarnescu rallies. These comments
guide, explain, clarify and manipulate the readers interpretation of the novel.
Changes can still be noticed at the lexical level, as the translator constantly strives
to find a more expressive turn of phrase or a more appropriate word. The same
could be said about the fifth and last revision of the translation, published in 1971.
The ideological impact of this canonic translation is that, for more than fifty years
now, Romanians have been acquainted with a Robinson who is, above all, a hard-
working, practical-minded man, and less of a tormented soul; he is a hero who
struggles against adverse physical forces and is not excessively bothered by prob-
lems of filial duty or religion. No further translation of Robinson Crusoe has so far
been undertaken.

Robinson in Wallachia

Palpable proof of the impact of Robinson Crusoe is the relative popularity of the lit-
erary genre known as the Robinsonade. Robinsonades are imitations in the
sense Lefevere assigns to the term: the source text will simply serve as a source of
inspiration and the writer produces a text which must be considered a different
work (Lefevere 1975: 103). Interlingual translation has very little to do with the
creation of such texts. However, the same intercultural dimension is involved,
since the semantic area and etymology of translation imply the idea of carrying
over, moving across and removing to another place. In this sense, the Robin-
son myth, concept, archetype or meme, as this form of cultural import has been
referred to from various perspectives, has repeatedly crossed Romanias borders,
giving rise to original creations that somehow suggest what Robinson or his story
may stand for. Although none of these responses has reached the popularity of
Defoes novel, they are interesting as target-culture facts triggered by translations
of the original, some of them even inscribed in the cultural debates of the time at
which they were produced.
Ioan Goruns Robinson in Wallachia, published in 1904, is one of the best
examples of this kind of rewritings. The Wallachia of the title is a former principal-
ity situated in the south of Romania. When creating this Robinsonade, the author
had in view the educational function of Robinson Crusoe: the book was meant to
instruct people from the rural areas on how their condition could be improved.
The English Robinson and Nechifor Pdureleanu, the Romanian one, belong to
the same social category. They start from a crisis between themselves and the
world around them, rely on the material civilization they are carriers of, try to re-
balance their lives in building up a new environment and finally come to terms
82 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

with the natural environment and their inner selves (Baciu 1999: 116). However,
there is no shipwreck for the Romanian hero. As he lives in a predominantly agrar-
ian country, the desert island motif has been domesticated in his case, being
replaced with a secluded village in which people initially act as cultural others.
One of the main aspects that the Romanian author selects from the underlying
paradigm of the English novel is Robinsons organization of the island before leav-
ing it, his own text being an attempt to find a remedy for the social problems
Romania was confronted with at the time.
On the literary plane, the Romanian writers imitation is to a great extent the
outcome of the norms established by a nationalist literary orientation known as
Semntorism (The Sowers Movement), which was very active on the Romanian
literary scene at the time. This movement encouraged, among other things, the
creation of novels inspired by an idealized rural life, where the specificity of Roma-
nian culture could best be found. Thus, paradoxically, Goruns cultural translation
of the foreign figure of Robinson was meant to serve the patriarchal ideology of
one of the most conservative literary orientations in Romania.
With Robinson in Wallachia the heros metamorphoses in Romania have
reached (and perhaps transgressed) the overlapping borders between Translation
Studies, Literary Studies in general and Cultural Studies. Analysis of the reception
of Robinson Crusoe, through translations of various kinds, thus supplements the
heros adventures with Farther Adventures in the target culture.


1. Sorin Bacius published doctoral dissertation Robinson Crusoe Echoes in Romania (1999)
deals with the reception of the novel, including its translations and adaptations. It is mainly
undertaken from the perspective of traditional Comparative Literature. The few translation
analyses are restricted to linguistic-rhetorical descriptions at word and phrase levels. Still, I am
indebted to the author for the comprehensive bibliography he provides, part of which I have
used for my own analyses.
2. This does not contradict in any way the validity of Hermans concept of constitutive
norms focusing on what a given community regards and accepts as translation [] and those
modes of expression [] which go by some other name (Hermans 1997: 42). Indeed, I pre-
serve the denominations that the target culture uses for all these texts (if and when they occur).
3. With regard to his marriage, which occurs towards the end of the novel, Robinson (only)
says: I married and that not either to my disadvantage or dissatisfaction, and had three chil-
dren, two sons and one daughter. But my wife dying (Defoe 1994: 297). What follows is the
start of a new series of adventures.
Translating from across the channel in
nineteenth-century France

Philarte Chasles, Thackeray and Jules Janin

Gabriel Louis Moyal

McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada

Discursive analysis of several political newspapers of 18151848 shows that

specific cultural and ideological factors influenced the practice of translation in
France and England, particularly with respect to the negative consequences of
commercial priorities. These factors are situated in terms of their continued
relevance to contemporary Descriptive Translation Studies. Examples are selected
from the French writers Philarte Chasles, and Jules Janin, as well as the British
author and journalist William M. Thackeray who at the time reported on the Paris
cultural scene for a number of English periodicals.


Translation, like all cultural practices, is subject to the conflicting economic, insti-
tutional and political forces that govern all forms of exchange within a society and
that set the norms of its discourse. However, because it must also negotiate passage
between two cultures, translation has an added measure of constraint: it may be
held to answer to the norms of accuracy of the culture from which it borrows a text
and to the standards of legibility of the culture for which it interprets and repre-
sents that text.
Our work here is part of a longer project called Channel Surfing: The Politics
of French-English Literary Translation 18151848, on the ideology of literary
exchanges between France and Great Britain in the Romantic period. The project
seeks to examine how political events and writings in both nations influenced the
selection of texts for translation, primarily from English to French, as well as the
particular methods applied to translate them. The chronological period under
study is the same as that examined in a long-term project undertaken some time
ago by Jos Lambert, Lieven Dhulst, and Katrin van Bragt (1985), who focused on
84 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

the evolution and the relative status of various genres in French literature. The
focus of our project is nevertheless rather different. Our object is not literary his-
tory itself but literary history as part of History in a more traditional sense: of
social, economic and political history
One of the principal working hypotheses of the project is that all translation
somehow fits into a larger ideologically determined undertaking. In general terms,
in France during the period under study, translations can be categorized as either
supporting a conservative agenda and a return to a more traditional monarchy, or
in favor of retaining and protecting the civil liberties that had been acquired dur-
ing the Revolution of 1789 and more or less nominally maintained during the
reign of Napoleon. This division became particularly important following the rev-
olution of July 1830 and the advent of the Orleans Monarchy, when those who had
been most critical of the Restauration Bourbons found themselves with more
access to power.
The hypothesis that translation projects were openly either for or against civil
liberties is easily demonstrable in the countless cases of political texts and pam-
phlets translated and circulated in France during this period. However, the ideo-
logical use of translations of non-political texts, though less evident, is nonetheless
real. Translations of English literary texts, in particular, involved considerations of
the political biases of the original authors. This played a role in the selection and
presentation of the texts to a French reading public that was still very much aware
of the political changes primarily the restoration of an English model-based con-
stitutional monarchy imposed on France after the defeat at Waterloo. Aside from
the texts actual content, the style adopted for the translation and the tone of the
texts presentation played a part in the kind of reception that different political fac-
tions within the reading public gave the text. Nothing in the translation of an
English text indeed nothing that implied any relation to England could be
expected to leave the French indifferent. Conflicts in French political opinions
were reflected in attitudes toward England and indeed toward all things British. In
this regard, individuals attitudes generally reflected their own and their families
pre- and post-Revolution social and financial status. In the tumultuous political
climate of the Restauration, with the strong sense of nationhood newly instilled by
revolutionary (and, in some odd cases counter-revolutionary) rhetoric, represen-
tatives of every political faction felt entitled to speak for the good of the nation as a
whole. In a sense, this was simply a continuation of the political debates that had
begun in earnest in the late stages of the ancien rgime and in the first months of
the Revolution. In another sense, these representatives were engaging often
knowingly in the kind of parliamentary debate that their English counterparts
had by this time honed into a fine art.
Translating from across the channel in nineteenth-century France 85

There were thus many subtle uses of implicit comparisons in the presentation
and selection of a multitude of texts imported and translated from England and
from the flourishing British periodical press of the period. These were texts that
ostensibly had little to do with politics but nonetheless quietly served to remon-
strate the French government and bureaucracy for their retrograde, inefficient
handling of all the aspects of daily life that they were given to administer.
This is especially true of two major monthly journals with relatively large cir-
culation that began publication in this period and whose content was dedicated to
the translation of articles from British periodicals: La Revue britannique and
Lcho britannique. Both were of liberal tendency and both were dedicated to the
use of translation as implicit comparison and political reproach.
The cases of Philarte Chasles who, aside from his own learned publications,
translated for La Revue britannique and Jules Janin perhaps the best-known
journalist of the period will serve to illustrate the varying translation practices of
this period.

Philarte Chasles: freedom of/and translation

Translation standards in France in the first half of the nineteenth century were, to
say the least, elusive. Recognizable norms of accuracy were for all practical pur-
poses non-existent.
Consider as an instance the following extract from the 1864 edition of the Dic-
tionnaire de la Conversation, from its entry on the then well-known French publi-
ciste and translator, Philarte Chasles:
La Revue britannique, recueil consacr suivre le mouvement social et litt-
raire de la Grande-Bretagne et llucider au profit de notre nation, dt une
partie de son succs la collaboration de M. Ph[ilarte] Chasles, qui tradui-
sait pour elle, comme on ne les avait encore jamais traduites, les pages les plus
intressantes des Reviews et des Magazines de nos voisins. Sassimilant, avec
une rapidit et une nettet admirables de coup dil, la pense mre dun arti-
cle, il la dgageait de tout le fatras de phrases prtentieuses, ou, comme aurait
dit Rabelais, supercoquentieuses dans lequel le Reviewer la noyait le plus sou-
vent plaisir, et il la dveloppait ensuite sa faon, refaisant quelquefois dun
bout lautre le thme de son modle, qui, si la fantaisie lui prenait plus tard
de se regarder dans la Revue Britannique [sic] tait bien tonn de ne pas sy
reconnatre; mais qui force tait alors davouer que, contre lusage, son tra-
duttore avait eu la perfidie de lui prter une richesse drudition, une profon-
deur daperus, une puissance dimagination, une vivacit de coloris, une
86 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

vigueur et un clat de style qui lui taient le droit et lenvie de crier au tradi-
tore. (Duckett 1864, 3: 311)
We might be tempted to interpret Chasless idiosyncratic approach to translation
as anecdotal evidence confirming the marked absence of clear professional or cul-
tural standards in early nineteenth-century translation practice in France (cf.
Lambert et al, 1985: 149163; Dhulst 1990, Jones 1939: 115138). We could also
dismiss it as a variant sample of the persisting influence of the belles infidles in
French culture. But doing so would involve ignoring other pertinent elements of
Chasless biography and numerous historical circumstances that probably
informed the clearly deliberate choices he made in thus supplementing the origi-
nal texts with his own erudition. A very close paraphrase of this anecdote can be
found in the Grand dictionnaire universel du 19e sicle entry on Chasles, and more
than likely in other contemporary biographies. And in his tudes sur la littrature
et les moeurs de lAngleterre au XIXe sicle, Chasles himself elaborates on his dissat-
isfaction with the quality of writing widely fostered by the English system of
Reviews and Magazines, a relatively recent invention at the time:
mme en Angleterre, lexistence et la popularit des Revues ont des dangers
considrables; elles invitent le talent produire vite, trop stendre en
paroles, trop rsumer les ides, [...], inventer des thories pour le besoin
de chaque article... (Chasles n.d.: 300301)
Chasless benign distortions of the texts he translated ought not simply be ascribed
to negligence or ignorance of standards. Chasles was well aware that translation
practice in France was in need of reform, that there was a need for minimal stan-
dards of accuracy. Some of those who were calling most vigorously for such reform
(Guizot, Chateaubriand) were his friends and political allies. Understanding
Chasless translation practice requires us to shift attention from fidelity to the orig-
inal to responsibility to the target culture in a wider sense. Contemporary biogra-
phies of Chasles all speak highly of his wide-ranging erudition, but they underline
even more strongly his long-standing commitment to Republican values. The long
entry on him in Larousses Grand Dictionnaire universel du XIXe sicle, an encyclo-
paedia known for its support of the Republican cause in the second half of the
nineteenth century, concludes as follows:
Ayant crit et publi plus de quarante volumes sur tous les sujets, il na pas
trac une ligne qui ft en contradiction avec une autre ligne de ses oeuvres, ni
mis une pense, qui ne ft consacre lindpendance de lesprit, la libert
humaine et la morale.
Translating from across the channel in nineteenth-century France 87

Chasless unorthodox manipulations of source texts were justifiable in his own

eyes. This was basically because he thought the political culture for which he was
translating Restauration France was in need of alternatives to the limited
choices it confronted, and that this priority was greater than any need that the
English authors of periodical literature had of accurate stylistic representation
something the Dictionnaires anecdote confirms by its conclusion.
Those among Frances public intellectuals who felt it vital to preserve the civil
liberties that had been gained during the Revolution readily pointed to England as
a model of more advanced, more effective constitutional democracy. In their eyes,
France was struggling yet again with the same intolerable inequities that had char-
acterized the ancien rgime while Englands industry and economy were thriving
and its empire was expanding. Scrutinizing any aspect of English culture would
almost inevitably expose Frances comparative inadequacy in the same domain.
Reporting on Englands successes was intended to shake Frances political and
educated classes out of their complacency.
With the revolution of July 1830, those who had been most critical of the Res-
tauration Bourbons found themselves with more access to power. But the demo-
cratic values they had professed were gradually supplanted in importance by
material ones. For many, assuring economic stability and enhancing industry,
commerce and technology by giving free rein to the captains of industry appeared
as the best way to insure the continued progress of democracy. Others, Chasles
among them, were more skeptical and remained critical of the new government,
particularly as gaps in the distribution of wealth widened instead of narrowing.
With the new constitutional monarchy, now dominated by liberals, commerce and
industry came to exert a nearly hegemonic influence on French society. Journal-
ism had played a pivotal role in bringing down the Bourbons, and the industrial-
ists who had used it to establish the new monarchy a government far more
responsive to their interests realized the importance of managing the influence
of those who could sway crowds with their style and subtle rhetoric. As a result, lit-
erary production, which had never been free of financial constraints, now found
itself nearly subjugated to economic interests. In this conjuncture, the practice of
translation by and large followed suit. French curiosity about England tended to
focus more and more on its technological progress, on the administration of its
economy and that of its colonies. On the other hand, reactions to Englands litera-
ture, to its philosophy and arts varied widely between envious emulation and
vehement criticism. But all along, curiosity remained intense and reciprocal. The
new tenor of the relations between the two countries, the role translation played in
them can perhaps best be illustrated by the following episode.
88 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Janin, Thackeray and the business of translation

When, in March 1843, Balzac published his Monographie de la presse parisienne, a

bitterly satirical denunciation of the corruption of the press, Jules Janin, who had
not been directly named by Balzac, somehow felt obliged to respond. Janin was at
the time one of Frances most influential journalists. He chose to impugn Balzac
himself rather than try to discredit his arguments. This was a relatively simple
task, since Balzac had himself been a journalist and had, of necessity, participated
in many of the very activities he was now denouncing. Janin could then choose to
dismiss the whole matter as a personality issue, as a problem of pride, and proceed
to denounce pride rather than money, as Balzac would have it as the root of all
contemporary evils:
De toutes les maladies qui sattachent, dans ce sicle, la malheureuse car-
casse des gens de lettres et des artistes, la maladie la plus triste et la plus incu-
rable, cest lorgueil. Lorgueil leur sort par toutes les pores : ils en vivent, et
surtout ils en crvent. Le moi de ces gens-l stend tout aussi loin que la peau
dun mortel peut stendre. Moi, dis-je, et cest assez! Je marche, faites-moi
place. Je parle, coutez-moi! Je dors, regardez-moi dormir! Moi et non pas
dautres. Moi hier, moi aujourdhui, moi demain, moi toujours, et aprs moi,
moi encore. Je suis celui qui suit. (Janin 1859: 106)
Diverting the focus of criticism from material conditions to individuality was an
all too facile strategy for discrediting those who voiced criticism of the new order.
Focusing on personality also served to distract attention from collective problems
and fragment possible reaction. Balzacs criticisms could, after all, severely under-
mine the credibility of a subservient press. Balzacs own credibility thus needed to
be undermined in order to minimize the impact of his criticism.
Although this exchange has been obscured by some 160 years of French liter-
ary history, the incident clearly was then considered quite significant. Its impor-
tance is evidenced by the fact that W. M. Thackeray, who at the time served as Paris
correspondent for a number of British journals, reported on the exchange in some
detail in the April 1843 issue of the Foreign Quarterly Review.
Thackeray initially adopts Janins individualist stance. He translates Janins
opening question as With whom is M. de Balzac angry? but simply quotes Janins
concluding paragraph in a final footnote, claiming translation of Janins very idio-
syncratic style to be quite out of the question (1843: 187). While basically agree-
ing with Janin, Thackerays interest in reporting the incident seems to lie
elsewhere. As foreign correspondent, he of course felt compelled to make explicit
some of the details of the quarrel, supplying facts where he [Balzac] deals but in
allusions, and giving names which, familiar to the Parisian public, would not be
Translating from across the channel in nineteenth-century France 89

easily recognizable on this side of the channel (1843: 182). Although he charac-
terizes Balzacs text as more curious than edifying, he does translate and quote at
length the conclusion of the Monographie, which compares the ethics of French
journalists with those of their English counterparts:
An English journalist is an Englishman first, a journalist after. The French
journalist is above all things a journalist. Thus the English journalist would
never commit the fault of publishing cabinet secrets, if such were calculated
to mar a public advantage; while for the sake of a few subscribers, a French
journal would blab anything. Abd-el-Kader said his best spies were the
French journals. [...] Between the chances of an overthrow and the liberty of
the press Napoleon did not hesitate. (1843: 186)

Thackerays claim here that Balzac overstates the case appears to be false navet.
Underestimating the critical tradition of the French press would be to abstract his-
tory, to deny the central role played by political newspapers in the 1830 revolution,
for example. But Thackerays attitude toward French culture was at best conde-
scending (when not entirely negative) throughout his tenure as correspondent.
Moraud (1933) does claim that Thackerays scathing moralistic criticisms of
French novelists as evidenced, for example, in his Paris Sketch Book (Thackeray
1911) were unjustly held responsible for French novels not being translated in
England. Thackerays representation of French attempts to understand or adopt
elements of English culture was nevertheless consistently patronizing, as the fol-
lowing remark about Janin exemplifies: He does not know a word of English but
he translated Sterne and I think Clarissa Harlowe (1849: 79).
The word translated here cannot simply refer to some reformulation into
French of original English texts. As Thackeray likely well knew, for French pub-
lishers and readers the term translation had come to include, among other senses,
stylistic revisions of a primary translation draft. In the cases named here, Janins
actual contribution to the translations may have been even more limited than that.
That is to say, given his reputation at the time, Janins translation role may have
simply consisted in his lending his name and penning prefaces. Thackerays sar-
casm clearly relies for its effect on a more mechanical understanding of transla-
tion. This confrontation of different meanings for a term (be it translation or
traduction) might at first appear to reflect the relative evolution of English trans-
lation norms. And we would thus read Thackerays self-righteous sarcasm as
intended to underline the relative inconsistency of translation standards in France,
as exemplified in the case of Chasles above.
Still, for Janin, translation was not utterly an indifferent domain. In a series of
tableaux that he published in 1829, he identified translation as one of the newly
dominant genres of the first half of the nineteenth century. In his terms this popu-
90 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

larity appears as a kind of by-product, an accidental outgrowth of a renewed inter-

est in history, which itself appears to him to have been prompted by the
unprecedented success of Walter Scotts historical novels in France:
Lhistoire a reu un grand mouvement; elle est enfin rentre dans lhistoire
gnrale dcouverte par Bossuet, et le sicle a devin, grce Walter Scott,
que pour agir sur les esprits, elle tait plus puissante mme que la fiction.
Enfin, un genre de littrature, secondaire, il est vrai, mais utile, mais honora-
ble, la traduction a acquis une immense supriorit. (Janin 1829: 341)
However, Janin did not share Chasless or Balzacs critical attitude toward the July
Monarchy. Popularity for him is measurable by commercial success. In thus listing
the newly prevailing trends of French literary culture, he seems less interested in
what might motivate the popularity of history or historical novels, for example,
than he is in their potential profitability. For him, translation emerged from cul-
tural obscurity because Walter Scotts novels sold exceedingly well in France. In
effect, what Janin is retracing is the evolution of a freed supply-and-demand mar-
ket in literary goods, a market that not only sets its own prices but also determines
the standards of literary value. And this, as Balzac and a few others will denounce
it, is the darker side of July Monarchy France. Whereas liberal theorists in the Res-
tauration used translations of English texts to question the Rgimes real or poten-
tial abuses of power, Janins concept of the uses of translation is of another ilk
altogether. As his prefaces make clear, Janin is not out to make his readers adopt
new values by adopting texts that are foreign to them. Rather, his intent seems to
be to neutralize the foreignness of these texts by claiming them for French culture,
in other words, by domesticating them. Here is what he says about Lawrence
Sterne in his preface to the translation of A Sentimental Journey:
Il y avait chez cet homme un peu de Rabelais, beaucoup de Swift, quelque
chose de Montaigne, do il suit quavec de pareils lments on ne pouvait
gure composer un esprit mdiocre. Il avait la raillerie incisive de Rabelais, la
malice bonne et ferme de Swift, lobservation un peu triste de Montaigne.
coup sr Sterne est lesprit le plus franais, mme en comptant lcrivain du
Spectateur et le pote de Caton dUtique, deux uvres franaises sil en fut,
qui ait [sic] jamais paru dans la littrature anglaise. (1841: xxii)

Everything essential in Sternes work is French; its being counted as English litera-
ture is merely accidental. If there were any authority cited, any implicit theoriza-
tion or rationalization behind such affirmations, they might induce us to raise
questions of definition, of national identity in a period otherwise rife with public
debates on questions of nationalism and sovereignty. But this is not the case: we
are not given any hint as to what might be more essentially French about Rabelais
Translating from across the channel in nineteenth-century France 91

or Montaigne than the same arbitrary geographical contingency that makes Sterne
English. In the end, any author, any cultural artifact, is potentially subject to Janins
whimsical appropriation. Even if we were to read Janin's attempts at domesticating
Sterne as a marketing ploy, as an attempt to neutralize potential anti-English
resentment in order to facilitate the sale of copies of his translation, his appar-
ently blithe ignorance of national and cultural differences still signals the capacity
of financial interests to transcend all boundaries.
The arbitrariness of the effect is exacerbated in the case of the translation of
Clarissa Harlowe. Janins prefatory text in this case comes in the form of a dedica-
tory epistle to a former school friend now become a prominent jurist (1846: 4).
This time it is not the author who is subject to appropriation but the text itself.
What serves to justify the takeover is not some intrinsic quality of the text but the
ecstatic reception it received from the pantheon of eighteenth-century French
authors. Diderot, for instance, proclamait, du haut de son trpied du caf Pro-
cope, lexcellence de ce chef-duvre, lhonneur de lesprit humain (1846: 4), while
Rousseau, who had been commissioned to write an abridged translation of the
novel by the famous publisher Pancoucke, gave up in despair leaving Janin to
quote his letter as a form of testimonial.
Here again we might feel entitled to some way to account for the assimilation
of a very Protestant heroine intensely preoccupied with innocence and guilt into a
French culture whose essence Janin defined elsewhere as licentious.
All this is not to say that the original Clarissa played an insignificant role in
Diderots (and Rousseaus) renewal of the French novel as a defense of the quiet dig-
nity of bourgeois values and hence of a class meriting more than subservience to a
decadent aristocracy. But we would be at pains to understand this from Janins way
of proceeding. What we are left with instead is the sense that translating or adapt-
ing these texts is not for Janin a potentially subversive gesture. Janins impressionis-
tic, irrational categorizations end up trivializing the political potential of the texts.
In the end, the only essence of Frenchness we can distil from Janins discourse is
Rabelaisian grivoiserie or gauloiserie, both of which are subsumed by the sense of
licentiousness they carry. While the eighteenth-century philosophes did adopt
licentiousness in their arsenal, they integrated its appeal into the framework of
rational ideological arguments. That is not what Janin offers us. With him, gaulois-
erie, Rabelaisian humor, is reduced to a clich, a worthless substitute for any plausi-
ble understanding of cultural identity. Its principal value can only be commercial.
From this perspective, Thackerays offhand dismissal of Janins translations
seems more justified. This is not because the translations might in themselves be
worthless or inaccurate, but because the texts have been reduced in intent to banal,
marketable entertainment. With Janin, translating Sterne or Clarissa is buying into
a dominant market.
English translation in Gujarat

Emerging consensus

Rita Kothari
St. Xaviers College, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

Although commonly thought to unify cultures, translation can also be used in

order to create separate cultural identities. This functional complexity can be seen
in the case of translation into English in the state of Gujarat, India. Although
translations into English were previously seen as an index of cultural inequality,
different social agents now view them in positive terms. Official policy sees
translation into English as a way of projecting Gujarati culture beyond its borders;
a wide range of expatriates use those translations as a means of keeping in touch
with home; educational institutions use translation as a way of opening new
subject areas in literary studies; publishers use it as a means of tapping new
markets. Translation into English thus means different things to different social
agents, enabling a wide consensus to emerge in its favor.

I consider English as a language for international trade and commerce

and therefore, it is necessary that a few people learn it [] and I would
like to encourage those to be well-versed and expect them to translate
the masterpieces of English into the vernaculars.
(Mahatma Gandhi, in Patel, 1959: 255; our translation)

In a multilingual country like India, translation plays some unconventional roles.

While state institutions like the Sahitya Akademi (Academy for Letters) and the
National Book Trust romanticize its unifying role, private publishers capitalize on
its foregrounding of diversities. Translators, researchers and publishers seldom
acknowledge that translation sharpens, makes and unmakes hierarchies among
the Indian languages. Translation into English from Indian languages, in particu-
lar, adds a new and complex dimension to existing hierarchies, to the extent that
linguistic communities rely on English translation for representation at the
national and international level.
Here we will examine the relationship between translation into English and
the linguistic/literary inequalities between Indian languages. The examination
94 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

focuses on Gujarati, the official language of the state of Gujarat in India. The latter
part of the paper highlights the processes of consensus formation regarding the
translation of Gujarati literature into English. These twin concerns aim at throw-
ing light on the phenomenon of English translation in India and the legitimacy it
has gained.

Translation to and from Gujarati

Gujarat has had a very long-standing tradition of translation. The corpus of trans-
lated works from other languages into Gujarati is one of the largest for any lan-
guage in India. This corpus mirrors not only the Gujarati communitys openness
to texts from other languages, but also the deep impact those texts have had on the
literary subjectivities and readership practices. The multiple versions of the Bible
in Gujarati have opened up ways of thinking about an indigenized Christianity.
Playwrights like Ibsen, Shaw, Becket and Brecht have come to the Gujarati theatre
in myriad forms translated, modified and perhaps, appropriated. The so-called
adaptation of Pygmalion as Santu Rangili created immediate modes of under-
standing class and language. By the Western test of faithfulness, many of these
translated works might risk being dismissed as too liberal. However, what needs to
be underscored for our purpose is the receptor status of the Gujarati language.
We must call to mind that the twentieth century record of translations into Guja-
rati shows more than 300 works from Bengali, over a 150 from Sanskrit, 100 odd
from Marathi and a substantial number from Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi and Malay-
alam. Gujarati also has translations from French, Arabic, Swedish, German and
needless to say, an extremely large number from English (see Chaudhuri 1994).
Interestingly, recognition of this storehouse of translations has become less a
matter of pride than wistfulness for the Gujarati literati. It is an index of the indif-
ference Gujarati has faced from other languages, since there are hardly any trans-
lations from Gujarati into other Indian languages or English. In the official
discourse on Gujarati literature, complaints about this lack of attention to outgo-
ing translations are commonly heard (see Kothari 2003: 20). Neither Bengali nor
Marathi has ever received translations from Gujarati. Bengali has been a donor
language for Gujarati for over a century, but it cannot claim even five works from
Gujarati in its own language. These comparisons recur in public talks, conversa-
tions and articles on translation. The indifference may be attributed to several fac-
tors, one of which may be a misplaced perception of Gujarati literature as being
devoid of literary merit since it is the product of a mercantile, business-oriented
community. The dearth of translation from Gujarati may be seen as both a conse-
quence of this perception and as one of the factors responsible for the perception.
English translation in Gujarat 95

Similarly, the supposed richness of Bengali literature is as much a consequence

as an antecedent for many translations from Bengali into other Indian languages.
Translation thus emerges in the minds of the Gujarati literati as an index of
inequality. A possible corollary to this realization would have been to make con-
certed efforts to have Gujarati texts translated into other Indian languages. How-
ever, given the significance of English as the only language of the urban
bourgeoisie (Ahmad 1994: 78), the Gujarati community has sought to have Guja-
rati texts translated into that language. The underlying assumption is that transla-
tion into English would correct the linguistic/literary balance by representing
Gujarat, making it available to a wider readership. The feeling that Gujarati litera-
ture has not been given its due at the national level makes leading literary figures
in Gujarat advocate English translation to correct this historical wrong (Kothari
2003: 76).
This forms the general backdrop of the official and private support extended
to English translation today. The whole-hearted support for English appears in
odd contrast with the long history of hostility Gujarat had previously shown
towards English.

English in Gujarat

Historically, Gujarat has been a state steeped in the mercantile and trading culture.
It was one of the centers of sea-trade, and business values and business sense
were always valued more than conventional education. In the nineteenth century
Gujarat did not look to English for economic prospects although it did partake of
the cultural legacies of English education. The group of extremely Anglicized civil
servants or brown sahibs, an embodiment of Macaulays ideal (brown in color,
English in taste) was of negligible size in Gujarat. Given the states propensity for
business within India and also for diasporic trade, the community did not need to
invent brown sahibs. This may in turn explain Gujarats lack of enthusiasm for
English, reinforced further by Gandhis suspicion of English in the twentieth cen-
tury. According to Gandhi, the English language put excessive strain on Indian
students and also damaged the Indian psyche. Gandhis stress on education in the
mother tongue found whole-hearted support in Gujarat, where Gandhi was born
and worked most of his life.
The reluctance to introduce the English language at an early state in schools
resulted in heated controversies in the seventies. Although the state has an increas-
ing number of English-medium schools today and the desire to be globally com-
petitive has forced Gujaratis to turn to English, some residual suspicions persist.
The polarization of the media into the English and Gujarati camps and the gov-
96 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

ernments pronouncement that the English media are disloyal to the Gujarati
spirit point to a continuation of anti-English sentiment. At the same time, Gujarat
has a very large number of English language classes compensating for poor levels
of English in the state, while also serving as finishing schools for young men and
women aspiring to marry non-resident Indians living in the United States and the
United Kingdom. Given the states propensity for migration on matrimonial and
entrepreneurial grounds, it clearly needs English. The enthusiasm for translation
into English thus needs to be viewed in the context of expanded uses of English in
the Gujarat of post-liberalization India.

Official policy

The acceptance of English translation has nevertheless received other kinds of

support as well. The first source of consensus has been the government of Gujarat,
specifically the government in power for the past five years. Poised between a need
to create a purist version of the state and to be at the cutting-edge of capitalism,
the government couches Gujaratiness in global forms. The target group for this
Gujaratiness-in-global terms is largely the diasporic Gujarati, one of the largest
diasporic communities in the United States, the United Kingdom and Africa. This
diaspora is very affluent and it basks in a frozen, romanticized, unchanging notion
of its home. Chief Minister Narendra Modis visit to the United Kingdom to
propagate the Gujarati dance festival was as much to supply fodder to the
diasporic psyche as to garner economic investment in Gujarat. Back home, the
new literary and cultural aspects of Gujarat appear as signs of a new self-defini-
tion, re-creating the old glory of garvi (proud) Gujarat. The exuberance about
culture at home and abroad also sends messages about Gujarats normalcy, seri-
ously threatened after the communal riots in February 2002.
Translation into English thus fits the bill for Gujarats self-perception today. It
propagates Gujarati literature, much needed at a time when the state is re-furbish-
ing its image, and also it makes that literature available for the consumption
among the second-generation Gujarati diaspora. The generation of Gujaratis born
and brought up in the United States can access its literary and cultural roots
through English. In both economic and cultural terms, it makes perfect sense.
State-sponsored institutions such as the Gujarati Sahitya Akademy (Gujarati
Academy for Letters) and the Sahitya Parishad (Conference of Letters) have re-
activated their publishing lists with large components of translated works. Gujarati
works in English translation fiction, poetry, childrens literature are displayed
in bookshops and are sold to immigrant Gujaratis in the United States and the
United Kingdom.
English translation in Gujarat 97

The literatis perception of translation into English

The Gujarati literati, especially the urban-dwelling writers and critics, share a
belief with the urban classes of India that English is the language through which
one can be heard, noticed, and acknowledged. For most of the urban bourgeoisie
in India, English is the language for fulfilling public and private desires. Gujarati
literati thus look to English not only for representation but also for correcting ste-
reotypes about the Gujarati peoples mercantile and non-intellectual life. Writers
are also interested in literary awards requiring that works be available to selection
committees in English. Even those who oppose English and seek to defend Guja-
rati can nevertheless accept translation into English, since it provides a wider
forum and accolades to a native text without threatening its relationship with the
linguistic community. The assumption underlying the communitys support for
English translation is that the disseminating power of English can by enjoyed
without succumbing to its alienating influence. Consequently, a translated text
from Gujarati goes beyond the community for a wider readership and exposure,
but its referent still lies within the community. In a manner analogous to a classic
Indian situation, the ideal son goes abroad for education and business, but does
not snap his ties with the family.

Consensus in educational institutions

In the network of educational institutions, the curriculum is the chief site where
the needs of various stakeholders merge, particularly teachers, students, research-
ers and publishers who supply textbooks. Curricula in English literary studies in
India in recent times have shown a remarkable leaning towards Indianization.
These changes may be seen as a reflection of shifts in institutional outlooks as
wells as larger sociological changes. For instance, the substitution of Charles Dick-
ens and Jane Austen by Salman Rushdie and Anita Desai is not only a structural
change, but also a reflection of a postcolonial ethos and a shift from English liter-
ature to literature in English. This Indianization thus goes hand-in-hand with a
diminishing of Anglicization, especially in English literary studies. Both move-
ments have made room for many Indian texts available in English translation, cre-
ating an institutionalized consensus for translation.
Students, teachers, researchers and publishers all stand to gain from an Indi-
anized curriculum today. As far as students of literature are concerned, especially
those from smaller towns and non-metropolitan centers, an Indian text makes for
easier access than an Anglophone text, in other words texts from the English-
speaking, ex-colonial and new-colonial worlds. Teachers also need not rely heavily
98 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

on the students leap of imagination to understand the text. This is not to imply
that every Indian text, at any given time, is equally accessible to all Indian students.
An assumption of this nature would border on essentialization and would falsify
the linguistic, ethnic, class and caste diversities of India. However, some minimal
familiarity with the ethos in any Indian text may be taken for granted and, to that
extent, the classroom teaching of an Indian text becomes more manageable and
perhaps meaningful. Translated texts appear in courses on Indian literature and
Translation theory and practice at the Masters and M.Phil levels. In Gujarat
alone, five universities offer postgraduate courses on translation theory and prac-
tice. Prescribed texts in the syllabi create, at least in India, sizable markets for the
books. They form the chief attraction for publishers, who can justify the economic
cost of a book most effectively if it is prescribed as a textbook. The institutional
need for Indian texts has created a unique but crucial market segment for trans-
lated works. The education market has the highest potential growth and serves as
the most economically viable demand for published translations.
Although Indian texts in English translation are easier for Indian students to
relate with, students also select American or European works in translation (elec-
tives that continue to be offered in Indian universities, including in Gujarat). How-
ever the numbers have begun to dwindle, at the least in Gujarat. Simultaneously,
there has been an increase of student enrollments in courses on Indian Literature
and Indian Writing in English. If students and publishers provide economic justi-
fication to each other, teachers and researchers reinforce this link by providing the
academic reasons for translations. Lecturers equipped with multilingual or bilin-
gual skills turn to translation as academic production, since translations also qual-
ify as research publications. Translation as an academic activity has also
empowered students, teachers and researchers from smaller towns. Translation
allows them to use their knowledge of local dialects to their advantage. Whereas a
more Anglicized student educated in one of the major cities of India would be
armed with Anglicization and literary theory, more provincial students may know
their dialect well and put it to academic use.
In the competitive race for new subjects, translation has thus opened up new
possibilities. In Gujarat University a course on Translation Studies had only one
student enrollment from the year 1985 to 1992. Defunct for five to six years, the
course was revived in 1997 and it included translated texts as well as theory. Much
had changed by then; the student enrollment went up to fifteen out of a group of 30.

Conclusions: consensus for translation, and beyond

A process of consensus formation has allowed translation into English to emerge as

a major area of interest. There is something in it for everyone. Translation helps the
English translation in Gujarat 99

state construct a desirable image beyond its linguistic boundaries; it offers the
young student fresh pastures: it gives the writer wider reach; it puts the publisher in
touch with a new market, and so on. However, not all translations are in the service
of the state and the community, nor is the state controlling every translated text.
By and large, the official literary discourse on Gujarat is upper-caste and male-
stream, and translation output from state institutions reflects this. However, state-
sponsored institutions are not the only ones engaged in producing translations.
For instance, institutions such as the Dalit Sabha (the institution of groups mar-
ginalized by the Hindu caste-system) and Dalit Sahitya Akademi (Literary Acad-
emy of those marginalized by the Hindu caste-system) patronize creative writing
by writers oppressed by the Hindu caste system and publish translations from
Dalit literature (literature of the scheduled, untouchable castes). Such marginal
texts do not receive sufficient official patronage from the state body (except in
token forms), but their English translations overcome the boundaries of the state
and also expose socio-political inequalities to a different audience within the state.
Translations of womens texts also have the potential to act as counterpoints to the
glorious images engineered and propagated by traditionalists. Under such circum-
stances, translation into English emerges as a site of contestation for different ver-
sions of truth and representation.
The production of translations into English nevertheless occurs simulta-
neously with translation into Gujarati. And by no means all translations are driven
by the reasons we have discussed. Individuals respond to personal sets of needs,
not always possible or even desirable to identify. In the city of Ahmedabad, it is
possible to find individuals making Tagore available in Gujarati for the sixth time,
or learning French to translate Baudelaire or German to read Rilke. Without
undermining the existence or the value of such discrete gestures of linguistic and
cultural translation, the prestige now attached to translation into English can nev-
ertheless be understood through relations of social consensus.
Between Translation and Traduction

The Many Paradoxes of Deux Solitudes

Agns Whitfield
Universit York, Toronto, Canada

Several translation paradoxes underlie the writing and translation of the classic
Canadian novel, Two Solitudes, whose very title has come to symbolize the
irreconcilable gap between Anglophones and Francophones in Canada. These
paradoxes reflect the intercultural nature of the books themes, the contrary cross-
readings of both the original and its translation (the book was well received by
both groups for opposite reasons), the colonial position of both nascent English
and Qubcois literary institutions, and the absence, in both cultures, of any
clearly defined horizon of expectations for literary translation. Using Antoine
Bermans distinction between the actual translation (or traduction) of a text and
the reception process (or translation) in the receiving culture, one appreciates the
need for a more extensive analysis of the reception (translation) process, an
analysis that looks both backwards in time to identify the hidden translation
intertexts within the original text (Two Solitudes is in fact a translation of a Qubec
novel, Trente Arpents), and forward in time to clarify how a translated text can
inform the more general intercultural process of translation between two


Undoubtedly the first and perhaps the most striking paradox of Hugh MacLen-
nans canonical novel Two Solitudes is the curious sea-change its title has under-
gone in Canadian cultural history. Some time after the novel appeared in 1945
(locating the exact moment would in itself make an interesting study), the expres-
sion two solitudes took on a life of its own, in both English and French, as the
national metaphor for Anglophone and Francophone relations in Canada.
Inspired by Rilke, the term initially expressed the love and respect that could be
shared by two human beings whose fundamental desire, despite their inevitable
differences, was mutual knowledge and understanding.1 Some fifty years later, in
102 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

the Canadian/Qubec context, it has come to mean the complete refusal of the
other, a kind of no mans land of cultural non-communication.
How the title of a book written at the end of World War II in a spirit of recon-
ciliation could come to symbolize the insurmountable gap separating the Anglo-
phone and Francophone communities in Canada is indeed difficult to fathom.
Like many English-Canadian writers of his generation, McLennan was anxious to
rescue Canadian literature from the imperial grip, and he accordingly sought
inspiration in subjects directly related to Canadian reality. Born on the East Coast
of Canada on Cape Breton Island, but a resident of Montral since 1935, he real-
ized that one of the particularities of his young country, and perhaps its most pro-
found characteristic, was its linguistic and cultural duality. Two Solitudes reflected
his interest in looking more closely at this complex reality, and his conviction,
which he was to qualify some thirty years later as optimistic, that the two soli-
tudes were bound to come together in Canada (MacLennan 1975: 118).
The purpose of this article is not to return to the sociological and political
dimensions of what some observers have called the impossibility (and others the
challenge) of Canada as a country. Rather, I would like to explore the question
from a new, translation perspective, using the late Antoine Bermans distinction
between the actual translation of a work (traduction in French) and its reception
and resonance (or translation) in the host culture.2 As Berman observes, the
translation of a literary work into another language/culture does not occur solely
through its translation per se (traduction) but through reviews and numerous
other forms of textual (or even non-textual) transformations not necessarily trans-
lative in nature. It is the sum of all of these texts and transformations that consti-
tutes the translation of the work (1995: 17). How the new text is received, some
might say re-written, is therefore an important part of this translation process: To
truly unfold and engage in the host language and culture, Berman continues, a
translation must be supported and accompanied by critical studies and non-trans-
lative re-writings (1995: 18). From this point of view, in the context of under-
standing the fate of Two Solitudes, it is useful to determine whether the reversal in
meaning of its title and themes occurred as a result of shifts in the actual transla-
tion or traduction process, or whether the sea-change is more accurately related to
issues raised during the novels reception or translation into French.

Deux Solitudes and the vicissitudes of translation

Surprisingly, and this is the second paradox in the books history, it took eighteen
years before this important Canadian novel was available in French. Furthermore,
the translation appeared not in Qubec, but in France. The delay was not due to
Between translation and traduction 103

any lack of interest on the part of the Qubec/Canadian Francophone community

or Francophone translators. According to MacLennans biographer, Elspeth Cam-
eron, as soon the original appeared, French reviewers urged a translation, and
several translators contacted [MacLennan] personally offering to carry this out
(1981: 193). Cameron suggests indirectly that the source of the problem may have
been MacLennans New York agent, Blanche Gregory. In her account of how she
came to translate the novel, Qubec translator Louise Gareau-Des Bois confirms
this hypothesis, citing difficulties with MacLennans American and English agents,
the negative influence of the New York/London/Paris connection, as well as the
precarious status of translation in the Qubec publishing milieu.3
The saga of the translation is a strange mixture of persistent obstacles and
happy coincidences. In 1945, through Gregory, MacLennan signed a contract for
the translation with the Montral publisher Lucien Parizeau, a choice that may
reflect Parizeaus contacts with a number of French writers living in exile in New
York during the war. However, as French publishers took up their activities again,
the Qubec publisher found himself in financial difficulties. When Parizeau
declared bankruptcy three years later, as MacLennan told Gareau-Des Bois, it
seemed too late for a French translation (Gareau-Des Bois 1994: 114).4
In another irony of Canadian/Qubcois intercultural relations, Andr dAlle-
magne, who would later found a political party in favor of Qubec Independence,
the Rassemblement pour lindpendence nationale, wrote to MacLennan in 1952
from Paris indicating his interest in translating the book. Perhaps the changing
political context dampened his enthusiasm for the project.5 MacLennan in any
event lost contact with him, and the project stalled. Caught in the London/Paris
web, the author was not hopeful of finding a publisher: My London agent has
long ago given up trying to interest a Paris publisher in Two Solitudes (Gareau-
Des Bois 1994: 114). The difficulty, as MacLennan expressed it, was primarily
commercial: It is not easy to persuade a French firm to publish a book which is
(or will be) fifteen years old by the time it reaches the French market (Gareau-Des
Bois 1994: 114).
Gareau-Des Bois, who had just graduated from the Universit de Montral
with a degree in literature, discovered the novel, quite by chance, in April 1958.
The same week, reading an article in the Montral newspaper Le Devoir, she
learned, much to her stupefaction, that the novel had been translated into Dutch,
Swedish, Spanish, Czech, German and Japanese, but not yet into French. She
immediately contacted MacLennan, but the author was unwilling to authorize a
translation without first speaking to DAllemagne. Again chance circumstance
intervened. Gareau-Des Bois caught sight of DAllemagne at a Montral bus stop.
MacLennan was able to ascertain that he no longer wished to pursue the project,
and agreed to let Gareau-Des Bois translate the book. However, it was up to her to
104 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

find a publisher (MacLennan suggested that she try to find a Qubec press), and
up to the publisher to pay for the translation (Gareau-Des Bois 1994: 114). The
task was not easy. Gareau-Des Bois knocked at several doors before the Montral
publisher Pierre Tisseyre agreed at least to take a look at her text, on the condition
that she submit half the translation, some three hundred pages, for evaluation. In
May 1959 he refused the project, ostensibly on stylistic grounds, Gareau-Des Boiss
use of the subjunctive having been found to be somewhat careless. More likely, in
the translators view, the publisher was unwilling to rely on a young writer and a
girl at that for such an important and enormous task (1994: 116).
The French adventure began in November 1960. At MacLennans suggestion,
Gareau-Des Bois met with Mademoiselle Dumat of the ditions Spes in Paris who
agreed to publish the translation. In a letter dated December 10 1960, MacLennan
gave Gareau-Des Bois the translation rights for one year, and on July 31 1961 the
translator submitted a complete translation to the French publisher. There fol-
lowed a series of laborious negotiations. Particularly at issue was Gareau-Des Bois
use of French-Canadian expressions. ditions Spes was adamant in wanting to
impose standard continental usage; MacLennan sided with his translator. After a
lengthy and voluminous correspondence with the author, his agent in New York,
Miss Gregory and mostly Mademoiselle Dumat (Gareau-Des Bois 1994: 118), the
translation finally appeared in Paris two years later, in December 1963. In April
1964 MacLennan participated in a book launch organized by the publisher at the
Canadian Embassy in Paris. However, the book was poorly distributed in France, a
situation that only deteriorated a few years later when ditions Spes declared
Two months before Deux Solitudes appeared in Paris, in October 1963, some
extracts from the translation were published in Canada in the popular monthly
magazine Chtelaine. In 1966 and 1967, encouraged perhaps by the publication of
Deux Solitudes, the Montral press HMH published a French version of two other
books by MacLennan, Barometer Rising (Le temps tournera au beau) and The
Watch that Ends the Night (Le matin dune longue nuit), both translated by Qubec
writer Jean Simard. However, HMH Hurtubise only acquired the rights for Deux
Solitudes in 1978, most probably as a result of the publicity generated in Montral
by the 1977 film version of the book directed by Lionel Chetwynd and produced
by Harry Gulkin and James Shavik (Cameron 1981: 193). The original translation
was reprinted the same year, and a new version, corrected by the translator,
appeared in paperback in 1992 under the prestigious Bibliothque qubcoise
imprint at ditions Fides.
Between translation and traduction 105

The Francophone reception

In terms of critical reviews and the non-translative transformations that together

constitute what Berman defines as the translation of a work, the Francophone
reception of the book can be broken down into three stages. An initial salvo of
Francophone reviews occurred in 1945 in the wake of the publication of the origi-
nal book, followed eighteen years later by reviews of the French translation. In the
early 1980s, perhaps as a result of the new HMH edition, there was renewed Fran-
cophone interest in the book, predominantly in academic circles.
In his comprehensive study of the reception of Two Solitudes, Antoine Sirois
locates at least a dozen reviews, including eight of the original, English text vol-
ume (1982: 114).6 Writing in the Montral newspaper La Presse, Jean Braud con-
sidered the novel the most important book of our time. Roger Duhamel, in
Action nationale, called it one of richest and most moving works in English-Cana-
dian literature (quoted by Sirois 1982: 114). The general opinion, concludes
Sirois, was extremely positive: Critics drew attention to the artistic qualities of the
novel: MacLennans admirable ability to create authentic characters, his vigorous
and sensual style, and the captivating plot, but most of all they emphasize the qual-
ity of his description of the two solitudes (1982: 114, my translation). Especially
praised was the cultural dimension of the book: the critics are unanimous, with
only a few reservations, in recognizing the intelligence and generosity [of the
author] in his portrayal of the two communities (Sirois 1982: 114). There was
only one dissenting voice. In Le Devoir, Albert Alain reproached MacLennan for
having given Anglophone, non-Catholic readers in Canada and the United States a
false idea of Catholic, French Canada (quoted by Sirois 1982: 115). On the whole,
however, critics all seem to have [had] the feeling that French Canada ha[d] been
finally given its due and was appreciated by English Canada (Sirois 1982: 115).
Paradoxically, the reception of the translation, eighteen years later, was much
more critical. Of the four Francophone reviews of the book, two were quite mixed.
The longest, and most positive, by Jean ONeil, appeared in the arts supplement of
the Montral newspaper La Presse. MacLennan was touched by ONeils praise, all
the more so because the reviewer had approached the book with some scepticism
and even a certain hostility (Gareau-Des Bois 1994: 123). However, Nam Kattan,
writing in Le Devoir, described the book as more of a document than a work of
literature. In his review in the Montreal Star, Jean-thier Blais observed that he
didnt believe that French Canadians, from a sociological point of view, would
accept the books conclusions (Sirois 1982: 115).
In the handful of academic studies following the 1978 re-edition of the book
by HMH, the validity of MacLennans portrait of French-Canadian society was
questioned even more insistently. Jacques Brazeau found many failings in
106 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

MacLennans simplistic conception of Qubec society. There is no mention of

such village institutions as the municipal office, the local school, the village
hotel, and the local doctor and notary public. The village is presented in isola-
tion, without any local business, and Tallards conversion to Protestantism at
the end of the book lacks credibility (Brazeau 1982: 3637, my translation). In
short, in his view, the portrait of Saint-Marc was not representative, and the
description of Montral is even less so. Too few aspects of Francophone Montral
are presented; Francophone society with its social, economic and political insti-
tutions is absent (1982: 3738, my translation). Finally, writes Brazeau, the
French-Canadian family is given short shrift: the women are absent and charac-
ters have no recourse to their larger circle of relatives (1982: 39, my translation).
Several factors account for this reversal in the reception of Deux Solitudes.
Sirois points to changes in the social and literary context between 1945 and 1963.
Citing such journals as La Nouvelle Relve (19411948) and Cit Libre (1950
1966), he suggests that the intellectual elite that emerged in Qubec after World
War II up until the 1950s was more open to the outside (1982: 118). In contrast
to all periods before or since, it was between 1945 and 1960 that the image of the
Anglophone in the Qubec novel was the most favorable (1982: 119). Qubec
writers could identify with MacLennans desire to free himself from imperial
shackles and explore his own Canadian reality in his fiction. Commenting on
ONeils review, MacLennan underscores this shared view: I am totally in agree-
ment that in general a writer should write at home [] [ONeil] has understood
that when I wrote Deux Solitudes, one has to remember that Canada was not
known as a country (Gareau-Des Bois 1994: 123).
By the middle of the 1960s, however, decolonization and independence were
the spirit of the times, rather than cultural reconciliation. While MacLennan him-
self felt a certain sympathy towards the young Front de libration du Qubec
(FLQ) militants, he did not adopt their cause. This new, more polarized context of
reception necessarily shed a different light on the books ending. The intercultural
marriage between Paul Tallard and Heather Methuen, by which MacLennan had
intended to evoke the happy reconciliation of the two peoples, was more problem-
atic, and could easily be interpreted as an example of Anglophone assimilation.

The original as translation

While brief, this survey of the Francophone reception of Two Solitudes/Deux Soli-
tudes serves to highlight the growing gap between the books themes and changing
social values in Qubec. More specifically, a closer look at critics comments on
both the original and the translation suggests that what is at stake is not MacLen-
Between translation and traduction 107

nans conciliatory attitude towards Francophone culture, that is to say the theme of
cultural rapprochement per se, but rather the validity of his representation of
Qubec society. In other words, what Two Solitudes is most criticized for is the way
it translates, or rather mistranslates, the French-Canadian milieu. To return to
Bermans distinction, the novel is considered a poor translation of the milieu it
Indeed, and this is another important paradox of Two Solitudes, through its
characters and themes the original is itself a translative text. Written in English by
an Anglophone author, Two Solitudes is in fact the story of a Francophone family
headed by Athanase Tallard, seigneur of Saint-Marc-des-rables, a small village
located on the north shore of the Saint-Lawrence river not far from Montral.
Entitled 19171918 and 19191921, the first two sections of the book set the
increasing tensions within the main character against life in the village under the
vigilant eye of Father Beaubien, the local priest.
Tallard is caught between his respect for the traditional, Catholic values of his
society and his own desire for technological progress. On the political and eco-
nomic, as well as the family and religious levels, his life is one disappointment after
another. As a member of the federal Parliament in Ottawa, in an effort to reconcile
Anglophone-Francophone relations, he supports his Anglophone colleagues in
the vote for conscription, only to incur the wrath of his fellow Francophones. A
free-thinker, he questions the authority of the village priest, even converts to Prot-
estantism, but ends up returning to the Catholic faith on his deathbed. His family
is also divided. Marius, his son from a first, unhappy marriage with a devout Fran-
cophone, is an ardent Qubec nationalist. Paul, from his second, more emotionally
fulfilling marriage with an Irishwoman, shares his federalist views. However, nei-
ther son really offers him the filial affection he is looking for. On the economic
front as well, his efforts are to no avail. He dreams of modernizing his village by
setting up an electricity generating plant on the local river, but his plan fails due to
the obstinate opposition of the Church and the treachery of his associate, Huntley
McQueen, an important but unscrupulous Montral businessman.
More compressed, set for the most part in Montral, the last two sections of
the novel take place in 1934 and 1939. The focus shifts to Athanases son Paul Tal-
lard, who, like his father but on a different plane, struggles to reconcile his per-
sonal goals and the expectations of his society. In order to finance his education,
he plays hockey, but his real dream is to become a writer. Through John Yardley, a
retired navy captain and a former neighbor of his fathers in Saint-Marc, he meets
Heather Methuen, whose family belongs to the Montral Anglophone establish-
ment. Transcending their linguistic and cultural differences, and despite the oppo-
sition of the Methuen family, Paul and Heather finally marry. The books ending is
nonetheless ambivalent. On the eve of World War II, it remains to be seen whether
108 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

their intercultural marriage, and the possibility of national reconciliation it repre-

sents, will be able to withstand the great upheavals to come.
As Elspeth Cameron points out in her extensively researched biography,
MacLennan was well aware of the challenge he faced in endeavoring to represent a
society which, to all intents and purposes, he knew only from the outside.
Although he lived in Montral, the circles he frequented (his colleagues at Lower
Canada College, a private school for children of the English establishment, and
friends and acquaintances at McGill University) were almost all Anglophones. As
Cameron puts it succinctly, He was not French-Canadian; he did not speak
French fluently; nor was he a Roman Catholic. How was he to go about portraying
French-Canadians with even the slightest degree of credibility? (1981: 168169).
Cameron does point out three important Francophone contacts. The first was
MacLennans only Francophone colleague at Lower Canada College, S. E. H.
Pron, although, as a Protestant, Pron, did not necessarily share the opinions of
the French-Canadian majority. In November 1942, MacLennan participated,
along with French-Canadian writer mile Vaillancourt, in a broadcast on Qubec
and the question of Canadian unity. He was receptive to Vaillancourts presenta-
tion of why Francophones were against conscription, a deeply divisive national
issue. Vaillancourt also opened his eyes to the important changes taking place in
Qubec at the time, and the rise of a new class of francophone engineers and busi-
While Athanase Tallards enthusiasm for technology can be traced in part to
Vaillancourts ideas, the major Francophone influence on Two Solitudes is unques-
tionably Trente Arpents, a novel by Qubec writer Philippe Panneton, under the
penname Ringuet. First published in French in 1938, Ringuets book is now con-
sidered by literary scholars to be the first French-Canadian novel to offer a realistic
picture of the tensions generated in traditional Qubec rural society by the forces
of industrialization and urbanization. As a physician working in Trois-Rivires
and Joliette in daily contact with the local inhabitants from all walks of life, Pan-
neton had a first-hand knowledge of his fellow citizens, their customs, manner of
speaking and way of thinking. MacLennan, who read Trente Arpents when it came
out in French, and again two years later, in English translation, readily expressed
his debt to Ringuet: Had I not read Trente Arpents, I could never have written Two
Solitudes (Cameron 1981: 169). Indeed, he relied completely on the book,
observes Cameron, for the details and atmosphere of daily life in French Canada
(1981: 170), even setting his story in a fictitious village, Saint-Marc-des-rables, in
the heart of Ringuet country.
In terms of its plot structure, characters, and main themes (tensions between
traditional and modern values, the role of the Catholic church, inter-generation
conflict between father and son) and despite slight differences in how the latter are
Between translation and traduction 109

worked through, Two Solitudes readily falls into the category of what Berman
would call a non-translative translation of Trente Arpents. When they met in Mon-
tral after the publication of Two Solitudes, both authors expressed their debt of
gratitude to each other. Although an English translation of Trente Arpents existed,
Panneton explicitly recognized in the work of his Canadian colleague a way of
bringing his ideas to the attention of the international Anglophone community.
You have brought to Two Solitudes an international perspective I could never have
possessed, he told MacLennan, the latter recounts, caught as I am in the narrow
milieu of my own people (Cameron 1981: 170).

Two Solitudes: problematic portrayal of Francophone culture

In the original, however, this translative dimension of Two Solitudes is curiously

discreet, to say the least, particularly in terms of the representation of linguistic
difference. At stake is the arduous question of how to represent, in a novel written
in English, conflicts and conversations between Anglophones and Francophones,
not to mention dialogues between Francophone characters presumably speaking
with each other in French.
MacLennan was aware of the complexities of such a task, and the impact on
the verisimilitude and readability of his novel. Although he makes no explicit ref-
erence to Trente Arpents, he does use a brief Foreword to draw his readers atten-
tion to the intricacies of linguistic relations in Canada:
Because this is a story, I dislike having to burden it with a foreword, but
something of the kind is necessary, for it is a novel of Canada. This means
that its scene is laid in a nation with two official languages, English and
French. It means that some of the characters in the book are presumed to
speak only English, others only French, while many are bilingual (MacLen-
nan 1992: Foreword).
While this statement may be understood as an implicit invitation to readers to use
their imagination to compensate for the inevitable failings of a unilingual repre-
sentation, it may also be simply informative. It should not be forgotten that Two
Solitudes first appeared in 1945 in New York. Indeed, the rest of the Foreword is
clearly aimed at the American public, if one can judge from the external point of
view MacLennan adopts to present the paradoxical nature of linguistic duality in
No single word exists, within Canada itself, to designate with satisfaction to
both races a native of the country. When those of the French language use the
word Canadien, they nearly always refer to themselves. They know their
110 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

English-speaking compatriots as les Anglais. English-speaking citizens act on

the same principle. They call themselves Canadians; those of the French lan-
guage French-Canadians (MacLennan 1992: Foreword).7
Paradoxically, other than these short, albeit pertinent preliminary remarks, there
are very few explicit textual traces of French in Two Solitudes. Francophone char-
acters, of course, have French names (Blanchard, Dansereau, Drouin, Beaubien,
Marchand, Frenette, Latulippe). Some are also given typically French nicknames
or diminutives such as Ppa (51) or Minou (172), although the fact that these
forms Pit Gendron for Petit Gendron (21), for instance may reflect effects of
pronunciation is not necessarily made clear to the Anglophone reader. On occa-
sion, a French term is used: Athanase Tallard observes that several of his compatri-
ots were already warmed by whiskey blanc (21).
In a few very rare cases, Francophone characters display a slightly gallicized
syntax in English. At the beginning of the book, Athanase explains to his Anglo-
phone guests that his wife was in bed with grippe and he must see how she was. It
was a great pity, her illness (11). When Marius speaks, presumably in French, to
his girl friend, milie, she replies in somewhat approximate English, I guess
maybe you go back to college, no (227). Generally speaking, however, even in dia-
logues between Francophone characters, the novel contains relatively few French
MacLennans main technique for reminding the reader of the implicit linguis-
tic duality underscoring the novel is simply to have the narrator, or a character,
make a direct reference to language. Since such comments are most frequent in
contexts where both linguistic groups are present, it is curiously in these bilingual,
as opposed to unilingual French situations that the francophone other is most
visible. As somewhat neutral territory, the village store offers several examples.
The narrator describes the products aligned in a strange mixture of French and
English: La Farine Robin Hood, Black Horse Ale, Magic Baking Powder, Fumez le
tabac Old Chum (4). Reference is made to the bilingual signage: Lately Drouin
had put up signs which he felt would help the public to understand better what he
sold. In raised white letters on one window were the words piceries and Groceries;
on the other Magasin gnral and General Store (58). At times, the narrator
reminds us that some characters are actually speaking in French: Get a chair,
Jacques, Drouin said in French (146).
Such comments also occur in more confrontational settings where they serve
to emphasize changes in cultural, social or political perspective from one group to
the other. Underlining the economic inequalities associated with linguistic differ-
ence, Marius Tallard observes that all the poor I met were French (159). In a
visual reminder of each groups opposing views towards conscription, he is struck
Between translation and traduction 111

by the contrast between two posters on the war effort: Lord Kitchener beckoned
from one of them, saying in English: I WANT YOU. Beside him a man with a sad
expression asked: AVEZ-VOUS AUSSI DE LA PEAU MORTE? (53).
Nor does MacLennan hesitate to use such linguistic remarks to dramatic
effect. When Marius is arrested because he has refused to be conscripted, the nar-
rator provides the linguistic identity of his captors: Marius was asleep when the
English sergeant and the French plainclothesman flashed their electric torches on
him [] A voice said in English, Its him, all right (181). Similarly, MacLennan
uses linguistic details to foreshadow Athanases final reversion to Catholicism,
having him speak in French to his second wife, as though he was back again with
his first spouse, the devout Catholic Marie-Adle: Then, after at least a minute, he
said in French, Take my hand! (237).
While such indications are consistent with a certain cultural or dramatic
effect, others appear less logical. Where one would expect a reference, such as the
title to Dumas famous novel, to be given in French, for instance, MacLennan sur-
prisingly sticks to English: Paul had taken two books to bed with him. One was
The Three Musketeers in French, the other Treasure Island in English (172). Oddly
enough, the character whose French is the most commented upon is also the most
Francophile of all the books English characters. Captain Yardley, an Anglophone
friend of Athanase Tallard, always pays his bills in cash (no doubt a subtle refer-
ence the Canadian stereotype of Scottish customs), and spoke French, but with a
terrible grammar and a queer accent mixed with many English wordsworse
than an Indian Polycarpe Drouin said (21).

The translation as original

Combined with MacLennans approach to the main themes of the book, these lim-
ited and ambiguous traces of the French other, at once visible but for the most part
effaced, do little to improve the effectiveness of Two Solitudes as a translation of
Trente Arpents, and no doubt contributed to the poor Francophone reception of
the original. However, confusing as they may be for the readers of the English
novel, such linguistic markers become an almost impossible challenge in the
French translation. The dialogues between Francophone characters have to be
reconstructed in their original French, the registers they would have used must
be carefully identified and replicated, the narrators and characters linguistic com-
ments must be repositioned according to the new context. In short, the translator
has to dig behind the English translation to find the initial original, while at the
same time keeping in mind her text will be published not in Qubec but in France.
112 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

In this complex crisscrossing of linguistic signs, Gareau-Des Bois has given

priority, for the most part, to keeping the text realistic and credible for her Franco-
phone readers. She has reintroduced Qubec oral speech patterns in the dialogues
between Francophone characters. Respecting differences in social status and reg-
ister, she has chosen a range of expressions from both international msieu le
cur (MacLennan 1963: 36)8 and Qubec French. In contexts such as the Gen-
eral Store or when Marius is speaking to milie, she opts for typically Qubcois
syntax and expressions: Et pis, Paul, quoi de neu (100), Is se sont rendus che
tienne Laflamme et z-ont pris Napolon. Is ont t le quri dans son lit (101),
Tabernacle (101). On occasion, spelling changes are introduced to reflect
Qubcois pronunciation: Cest de a qualle revenait pas (101). On the other
hand, the narrators speech is left in standard French, in accordance with publish-
ing practices in Qubec at the time.9
As for the Anglophone characters, those who use standard English in the orig-
inal speak standard French in the translation. For those whose English is non-
standard, however, the situation is more complex. Captain Yardleys situation is
particularly problematic. His English is a dialect from the Canadian Maritime
Provinces. While his spoken French, as MacLennan indicates, is poor, he nonethe-
less makes a sincere and enthusiastic attempt at communication, in keeping with
his openness to the cultural other. To remain faithful to the non-standard dimen-
sions of his English, Gareau-Des Bois has him speak a variety of French from the
Qubec region at the mouth of the Saint-Lawrence River, a kind of maritime echo
of his Nova-Scotian English: Mts-to pas tte que jtrouve me plaindre de
quque chose. Monsieur! Y faudrait t un fou du Bon Guieu pour avoir eu ane vie
comme mo et pas apprcier sa chance (470). In the passages where he is convers-
ing with Francophone characters, at the General Store, for instance, and where
logically he would be using his imperfect French, Gareau-des Bois sprinkles the
regional Qubec dialect with English words.
This strategy has the advantage of differentiating the Captains speech from
that of his fellow Anglophones by reproducing the non-standard dimension of his
speech in the original English text. Its effect in French, however, is equivocal at
best, if not contradictory. From the linguistic point of view, the Captain appears,
paradoxically, to be more Francophone than the Qubcois characters. Another
character in the book, Clayton Henry, poses a similar problem. In this case, the
translators decision to represent the American accent shown in the original by
sprinkling some colloquial French-Canadian expressions throughout Henrys
conversations, lending him a Francophone appearance, is again confusing for the
Francophone reader.
Often a very difficult task, translating social and regional dialects can border
on the untranslatable. In the linguistic and cultural system of the target language,
Between translation and traduction 113

some choices can produce ambiguous, if not contradictory effects. In the Parisian
context, Gareau-Des Boiss decision to integrate a rural Qubcois vernacular was
certainly an audacious one, given the French tradition of non-representing
sociolects (Chapdelaine 1994: 12, my translation).10 There was, in fact, consider-
able resistance to this choice on the part of her publisher, les ditions Spes, who felt
compelled to add a Publishers Note at the beginning of the translation. MacLen-
nans text is described as a novel, written in English, about characters living in
Canada, a country with two official languages, English and French (Note de
lditeur, my translation). Undoubtedly for the benefit of readers in France, the
note also includes the following remarks on the use of Qubec expressions
throughout the text:
In certain dialogues, to retain the flavor so particular to the French Canadian
way of speaking, the translator has felt obliged to maintain as is such words or
expressions that, with the same intention, the author has himself included in
the English version. In such cases, a footnote has been added at the bottom of
the page to clarify the meaning. (Note de lditeur, my translation)
Given how commonplace the terms are (most are in fact from international
French) and especially how rare French expressions are in the original, such a note
is rather surprising, all the more so when one observes that the expressions war-
ranting a footnote are almost always words used in English in the original, or
Qubcois terms introduced by the translator. Only on a few rare occasions do
they refer to words already in French in the original. For instance, the Qubcois
term robineux, which the translator uses to translate loafers, is described as fol-
lows in a footnote: Hobos generally found in certain parks given to drinking la
robine, a kind of alcohol for external use only or Rubbing Alcohol. Hence the
name. (94, my translation, except for the term, Rubbing Alcohol which appears
in English in the French text). Other footnotes serve to explain the meaning of a
term left in English in the translation, such as Lee-Enfields identified as mili-
tary firearms (323). Far from being rigorously accurate, such recourse to the
authority of the author to explain or justify (if not excuse) the presence of French-
Canadian expressions in the translated text is more likely simply a way of forestall-
ing any criticism the text might incur from French readers unaccustomed to
Qubcois colloquialisms.
Clearly, the French institutional context in which the translator worked did
not improve the reception of the book in Qubec. However effective, or legitimate,
such a footnote strategy may have been in France, in Qubec it could only be seen
as inappropriate, if not irksome. Furthermore, the negative effect undoubtedly
increased over time. In the early 1960s Qubcois writers themselves tended to use
Qubec expressions or canadianismes sparingly, and for the most part in dia-
114 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

logues. However, by the 1980s Qubec French of all registers had become the
norm in Qubec literary works, and Qubec readers were well accustomed to
reading texts in French-Canadian slang or joual.
Similarly, while consistent with certain translation practices giving priority to
the letter of the text, the decision to use a marked variety of Qubec French to rep-
resent the marked English speech of Yardley and Henry in the original text was
also problematic. Although the translators intentions may have been laudatory, by
increasing the confusion between Francophone and Anglophone characters such
translation strategies may well have had a negative impact on the Francophone
reception of the novel, by undermining the validity of Deux Solitudes as a repre-
sentation of Francophone society. This remains nonetheless a hypothetical expla-
nation; the question is not commented upon directly in the book reviews. Finally,
it should be noted that readers expectations of the translation were all the greater
in so far as the translators unacknowledged task was to reconstruct a pre-English,
French original.


Based on how the French translation was received, it would appear that the trans-
lation of Two Solitudes, to return to Bermans terminology, faced essentially two
main challenges. The first is a system-level problem related to the particular struc-
tural weaknesses of Canadian publishing, in both English and French, at the time.
It should be remembered that the original novel first came out in New York, and
that the negotiation of translation rights was in the hands of MacLennans Ameri-
can and British agents. Notwithstanding a first, poorly managed arrangement with
the Qubec publisher, ditions Lucien Parizeau, the effect of this situation was to
give priority to French, rather than Qubec presses. Indeed, the influence of the
American publishing milieu was such that it was only with his third novel, The
Precipice, which appeared 1948, that MacLennan was able to negotiate a separate
contract with a Canadian publisher, Collins, for the Canadian publication rights
(Cameron 1981: 213214).
In the case of Deux Solitudes, the most immediate consequence of the colonial
status of Canadian publishing was to prolong unduly the inevitable delay between
the publication of the original and that of its translation. The result of this delay,
given the important sociopolitical changes that took place in Qubec society
between 1945 and 1963, was to transform radically the sociopolitical context in
which the translation was received in the target culture. Furthermore, the domi-
nant position of the French publishing milieu also substantially affected editorial,
and especially translation strategies. There again, the effect was far from neutral
Between translation and traduction 115

on the way the translation was received, since these strategies undermined the
verisimilitude of the translated work as a representative portrayal of French-Cana-
dian society.
To this structural difficulty must be added another problem related to the
social and cultural status of both literary and non-literary translation in Qubec.
From this point of view as well, the eighteen years intervening between the print-
ing of the original novel and the publication of the translation were to see dramatic
changes, again to the detriment of the reception of Deux Solitudes. To return to
Bermans distinction, the first step in the Francophone translation of Two Soli-
tudes, was not, as one might regard as the usual case, the reception of the trans-
lated text, but rather Francophone readings of the original. At the end of the 1940s,
translation was not the principal means of access, among the Qubec francophone
elite at least, to English-Canadian literary works, nor was translation itself neces-
sarily perceived negatively. By the time Gareau-Des Bois published Deux Solitudes,
however, translation had become clearly identified, in Qubec anti-colonial dis-
course, as an instrument of English domination. As early as 1957, the Qubec lin-
guist and militant Pierre Daviault pointed out how devastating the influence of
translation was for a culture exposed on a daily basis to the English language and
American culture (quoted by Simon 1994: 43, my translation). Such a change in
the social and political perception of translation from English to French could not
fail to affect readings of literary translations into French at the time.11
Finally, surprising as this may be in view of the themes and importance of Two
Solitudes, although the expressions two solitudes and deux solitudes have pros-
pered in their respective languages in Canada, the intercultural dimensions of the
novel itself and how it functions both as traduction and translation have received
surprisingly little scholarly interest.12 The fact that Translation Studies is still rela-
tively new as a discipline is certainly a contributing factor, but much of the expla-
nation undoubtedly lies in the institutional difficulties faced by Comparative
Literature in Canada. In a postcolonial context, the priority for both Canadian and
Qubcois literature has been the creation of their own independent institutions,
rather than the promotion of intercultural exchange. As a result, translation has
been slow to stake out its own place within each literary institution.13 This is
reflected in the absence of a specific horizon of expectations for literary transla-
tions in Canada. In this respect (and this may be its most profound paradox), by its
title alone, and despite the inversion of the meaning of the expression, Two Soli-
tudes has been itself a remarkable stimulus for the production and reception of lit-
erary translations, as Montral publisher Pierre Tisseyres Deux Solitudes
collection so aptly illustrates. The singular destiny of MacLennans book, it would
seem, has been to create, through both its textual and non-textual translative
transformations, albeit over some five decades, the conditions necessary for a
116 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

more substantial analysis and a better understanding of its own functions as both
traduction and translation.


1. The term two solitudes comes from an observation Rilke made on marriage in a letter
dated May 14 1904 and addressed to his friend Franz Xaver Kappus (Cameron 1981: 172).
2. As this distinction cannot be expressed as succinctly in the English language, for the pur-
poses of this article, I will on occasion use the two French words in italics.
3. This same New York/Paris connection also played a role in the post-war period for another
Canadian novel, Gabrielle Roys Bonheur doccasion. In that case, the Francophone novel was
first translated into English in New York by an American, Hannah Josephson, before winning a
prestigious French literary prize, the Prix Fmina, in 1947 (cf. Godard 1999).
4. Gareau-Des Bois quotes MacLennan when setting Parizeaus bankruptcy in 1948. In a
detailed analysis of the publishers activities, Sylvie Bernier notes that it occurred in 1946, and
this is more consistent with the resulting abandonment of the translation project (1991: 58). It is
possible that MacLennan had the impression that Parizeau might resume activities, or he may
have had some reservations about a French translation that only further archival research could
clarify. What is certain is that the Qubec publishing milieu was under considerable financial
strain in the post-war period as French publishers resumed their activities (cf Michon 1991).
5. Unfortunately it is not possible to put this question to the translator himself, as Andr
dAllemagne died on February 1, 2001 at the age of 71.
6. Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations from Sirois are given in my translation.
7. All subsequent quotations from Two Solitudes are from this edition.
8. All subsequent quotations from Deux Solitudes are from this edition.
9. For a more detailed analysis of the way popular Qubec French has been transcribed and
represented in Qubec literary texts, see Whitfield and Lessard 1991, 1992.
10. In linguistic terms, a sociolect can be defined as any language particular to a (sub) group
in society (Chapdelaine and Lane-Mercier 1994: 7, my translation).
11. The increasing sense of linguistic security among Qubc Francophones and a more struc-
tured approach to translation have contributed to a change in Francophone attitudes towards
translation (cf. Bouchard 2002).
12. In her presentation of the proceedings of the MacLennan Conference held in 1982 at the
University of Toronto, Elspeth Cameron in fact suggested how relevant a Translation Studies
approach might be: much critical sleuthing in the troubled territory of translation and the
exciting field of Rezeptionskritik could uncover much of interest to both founding cultures
(1982: xvi).
13. Two recent volumes on contemporary Francophone and Anglophone literary translators
shed much light on the institutional dimensions of the history and practice of literary transla-
tion within Canada (cf. Whitfield 2005a, 2005b).
Bilingual translation/writing as intercultural

Daniel Gagnon
Universit du Qubec Montral, Montreal, Canada

This article explores the particular Canadian/Qubec practice of bilingual

"translating as writing" within the varied tradition of expatriate writing, and
contemporary post-modern and post-colonial practices of the plurilingual text.
The analysis focuses on two examples: Nancy Huston's Plainsong, published in
French as Cantique des Plaines, and my own The Marriageable Daughter, published
in French as La Fille marier. Among the issues addressed are the context and
motivation for this particular process of bilingual writing; the creative dimensions
of inter-cultural writing; differences between the original and the translation in
terms of transgression of literary conventions. As experiences of writing/
translating between two colonial cultures, both texts work towards decolonizing
literary practice. More specifically, within their own Canadian/Qubec
intercultural context, they open up an unusual shared space for cultural exchange.

I propose to examine two bilingual translating as writing experiences in the

Canadian/Quebec context, Nancy Hustons Plainsong, published in French as Can-
tique des Plaines, and my own The Marriageable Daughter, published in French as
La Fille marier. As experiences of writing/translating between two colonial cul-
tures, both texts offer a complex commentary on the relationship between writing,
translation and culture.
Let me begin by identifying a variety of forms of writing or contexts of writing
that involve more than one language. This will enable me to situate more clearly
the specific characteristics of the particular form of translation/writing that I
would like to explore in more detail.

Expatriate or exiled writers

Examples of expatriate and exiled writers are, of course, numerous. The difference
is that expatriates choose to live outside their native country, while exiled writers
are obliged to leave their country for political reasons. The vast majority of writers
of both groups continue to write in their language of origin. Paris is the site of
118 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

many examples: Rilke wrote much of his poetry in German while living there, Elsa
Triolet continued to write in Russian in the French capital. The list of American
and English expatriates in Paris is long: Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest
Hemingway, Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell.
Italy also has attracted many writers: the English writer E. M. Forster, and the
Norwegian playwright Ibsen, who wrote his two most famous plays, Peer Gynt and
Brandes, while he was living in Rome. The English Romantic poet Byron wrote in
Pisa, Venice, Rome, Ferrara, Ravenna and Rimini. James Joyce spent time in Tri-
este. Shelleys ashes are buried in Rome. Closer to us in time, one thinks of the
French writer Marguerite Yourcenar, who spent most of her writing life in the
United States, the Trinidadian writer Naipaul who wrote some of his books in
Montpellier, France, the English-Canadian writer Mavis Gallant, who has been liv-
ing in Paris since World War II, and the Moroccan writer, Tahra Ben Jelloun with
his beautiful novel about Naples. One could also count in this category the exiled
Argentine writer Julio Cortzar and the Romanian-born German-language poet
Paul Celan, both of whom lived much of their adult life in France.
Examples of expatriate or exiled writers who choose to write in the language of
their exile are less numerous, but perhaps more interesting from the point of view
of translation. Spanish writers Jorge Semprn and Michel Del Castillo chose
French as their literary language.
Some expatriate writers and writers in exile have also used their bilingualism,
and, in particular the experience of translation, as a way to generate or re-generate
their writing. Samuel Beckett wrote in both English and French, and translated his
own works from one language to the other.1 Nabokov, who wrote in English, Rus-
sian and French, often used the translation process as a way to re-create his texts,
to such a degree that the reader is never certain whether he or she is reading the
original text, its translation by the author, a translation revised by him or a transla-
tion by someone else (Christine Raguet-Bouvart 1995: 119, my translation).

The plurilingual text

While the above deliberately loose categories are associated with the movement of
the writer him or herself, in another type of category, the plurilingual text, two or
more languages co-exist within the same text. Often the motivation for this type of
writing springs from the context of writers who, through exile or expatriation, are
exposed to linguistic and cultural difference and incorporate several of these
dimensions into their own writing.
However, the plurilingual text is more than just the addition of another lan-
guage to provide for local color. Joyce, for instance, writing as an Irishman, uses
Bilingual translation/writing as intercultural communication 119

the plurilingual text to contest the cultural hegemony of English. The plurilingual
text can also be a reaction to colonial linguistic issues. The Caribbean writer
Patrick Chamoiseau introduces Creole into his French texts. African writers such
as Achebe (Arrow of God, Things Fall Apart) and Oyono (Une vie de boy) use code-
switching or different languages in the text to capture and convey the different fac-
ets of African life, as well as to address issues in colonialism. Modernist and post-
modernist writers have also ventured into the plurilingual text for aesthetic rea-
sons. The destabilizing power of the plurilingual text has become a leitmotiv of
French modernist thought [with such concepts as] la traverse des langues (Sol-
lers), la langue infecte (Jacques Hassoun), la bi-langue (Khatibi),linterlangue
(Rgine Robin) (Simon 1994: 27). Or, as douard Glissant states, such chos-
monde enable us to give form to the turbulent encounters between cultures
which constitute our chaos-monde (Glissant 1990: 10, my translation).

Bilingual translation/writing

It is a further category, which I have called bilingual translation/writing, that I

would like to analyze in more detail. The experience of self-translating and writing
in the language of the other is becoming frequent among English and French writ-
ers in Canada, particularly in Quebec, Acadia and Ontario. That the phenomenon
exists owes itself in part to an increase in the number and the quality of intercul-
tural exchanges within the Canadian and Quebec context.
On the Anglophone side, such bilingual writers include Nancy Huston, who
lives in Paris, writes in French and more recently in English as well, Robert Dick-
son, who has become an integral part of the Franco-Ontarian literary community
and writes his poetry in French, and Agns Whitfield, who subtitled her first book
of poetry traduction sans original. Francophone examples include Lola Tostevin,
a French-speaking Ontarian who prefers to write in English, Paul Savoie, a Franco-
Manitoban who writes in both languages, and Grald Leblanc, an Acadian poet
who includes complete stanzas of English in his French texts. While Huston could
be considered an expatriate writer, this is not the case with the other examples I
have given, who work within the common/uncommon ground of the Canadian
and Quebec reality. In my opinion, this Canadian context of bilingual writing/
translation has given rise to unique forms of intercultural writing.
For the purposes of this article, I would like to examine in detail two examples
of such bilingual translating as writing experiences: Nancy Hustons Plainsong,
published in French as Cantique des Plaines, and my own The Marriageable
Daughter, published in French as La Fille marier.
120 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Plainsong and The Marriageable Daughter in context

Nancy Hustons Plainsong was published in Toronto in 1993, and the same year in
French under the title Cantique des Plaines, in a French/Qubec co-edition. To all
intents and purposes, one could consider that the two versions were published
simultaneously. Born in Calgary, Alberta in 1953, Huston grew up in western Can-
ada and New England. She first started to publish fiction in French, after her
arrival as a student in Paris where she studied at the cole des Hautes tudes under
the well-known literary theorist Roland Barthes. From this point of view, the first
part of her writing career links her more with the expatriate tradition. She has
stated that, compared to her mother tongue, French was less emotionally
charged for her, and consequently offered her a great freedom of expression in
her early writings, almost too much freedom (Huston 1999: 64: my translation).
The subject of Plainsong, Albertan history, drew her back to the language of her
childhood.2 It is her first book written in English.
In my case, and I must say mine was, I believe, the first example of bilingual
writing/self translation in Canada and Quebec, I also wrote my first version of The
Marriageable Daughter in English. However, English is not, as in Hustons case, my
mother tongue. I grew up in French in the Eastern Townships area near Montral,
although I was often exposed to English through the customers of my fathers
store. My French translation of The Marriageable Daughter, La Fille marier, was
published in 1985 in Montral. The original English text appeared only in 1989 in
Some basic information about both books is necessary in order to understand
the examples I will be quoting. Significantly, given the intercultural context of
these bilingual writing/self-translation experiences, both books use the epistolary
form. The movement between languages is associated with directly addressing
another character. In The Marriageable Daughter, Jeanne Desprs, a 12-year-old
girl living in Sherbrooke, Qubec, imagines the existence of a pen-pal, Phyllis Dal-
ton, who lives near Medicine Hat, Alberta, in the Canadian West. The book is
composed, structurally, as a series of letters from Jeanne to Phyllis.
In Plainsong, the young adult narrator, Paula, an Anglophone living in Mon-
tral, addresses her dead father, Paddon, who lived in Alberta. The text is not pre-
sented as a series of letters but the constant direct appeal to Paddon, and the
chronological, entry-form organization associates the text with the epistolary
Perhaps significantly, in the context of intercultural communication, neither
Phyllis Dalton nor Paddon reply. Nonetheless, the evocation of the other is an
important technique for generating the narrative text. In Plainsong, Paulas reflec-
tions and questions to her father propel the text forward, as she endeavors to
Bilingual translation/writing as intercultural communication 121

understand her father and his life. This is also evident in The Marriageable Daugh-
ter, where Jeanne calls out to Phyllis, and by so doing, develops new subjects and
new themes.

Comparing Texts

Before I comment further on the experience, let us see what the texts actually look
like. In the following passage from near the beginning of Plainsong, Paula is
remembering the place-names of her native Alberta, and her return from a sum-
mer camp as a young adolescent. She quotes a well-known camp song, sung by
Canadian children. There is also an ambiguous allusion to a theme developed in
the book: the First Nations (or Indian) presence in Alberta. Paddon, we will dis-
cover, had a long and happy liaison with a First Nations woman:
It went on and on. Some of the names set me dreaming. Peace River, Enchant.
Peace River, Enchant. Oh I remember too how much you despised that
song This Land Is Your Land, how you refused to allow it to be sung within
your earshot. The time I came home from summer camp with those words
on my lips was the one and only time you aimed your ire at me such beauti-
ful words I thought wed been singing them in harmony night after night
around the campfire then all the way back to Calgary on the bus As I was
walking that ribbon of highway I saw above me that endless skyway I saw below
me that golden valley This land was made for you and me -and hearing me you
harrumphed and muttered something like Cut the fucking crap, and
Grandma pulled you away and shushed and fussed and said Paddon for
Heavens sake she cant be expected to understand, its just a song she learned
at camp, and meanwhile, filthy from a week of learning to follow trails
through the woods and recognize stars and bird-calls and sleep in a tent, a
week of pretending to be an Indian in my group of rosy-cheeked blue-uni-
formed blonde-pigtailed Girl Guides called the Sarcees, I had gone up to my
room and thrown myself fully dressed on the sparkling white coverlet and
cried myself to sleep. (Huston 1993a: 8)
Here is Hustons own French translation:
Il y en avait dautres, bien dautres encore. Ces noms me laissaient rveuse.
Peace River, Enchant. Peace River, Enchant. Ah! je me souviens aussi
comme tu dtestais la chanson Cette contre est toi, comme tu refusais quon
la chante en ta prsence ; le jour o je suis rentre de colonie avec ces paroles
sur les lvres a t le seul jour o tu as braqu ton courroux contre moi. De si
belles paroles, pourtant, pensais-je : on les avait chantes plusieurs voix,
122 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

chaque soir autour du feu de camp et dans le car qui nous ramenait Calgary
Par-dessus ce ruban de route Je vois linfini la cleste vote mes pieds la
valle dore Pour toi, pour moi, Dieu ft cette contre mais mentendre tu tes
mis grogner et grommeler quelque chose comme Quest-ce que cest cette
merde et Mamie a d tentraner dans la pice ct en disant Chut et flte et
pour lamour de Dieu Paddon, comment veux-tu quelle comprenne, ce nest
quune chanson quelle a apprise au camp; pendant ce temps, noire de salet
aprs une semaine passe suivre des pistes dans la fort et apprendre
reconnatre les toiles et les chants doiseaux et dormir sous une tente, une
semaine passe faire lIndienne avec les autres scoutes de mon groupe
nomm les Sarcis, des filles aux joues roses et luniforme bleu et aux couet-
tes blondes, jtais monte dans ma chambre me jeter tout habille sur la
courtepointe dun blanc blouissant et pleurer toutes les larmes de mon
corps. (Huston 1993b: 1617)
One can see immediately that the author has taken certain liberties. In some ways
the translation choices seem arbitrary. In the French text, for instance, Huston has
left the place names in English, although some could have been translated, as offi-
cial French names exist in Canadian atlases. On the other hand, she has translated
the words of the song, although no official version exists in French since it is not a
song sung by Canadian Francophones. In fact, the song is American in origin,
although English Canadian lyrics have been developed. More significantly per-
haps, she has often used French, as opposed to Qubcois, vocabulary. This is par-
ticularly evident with such continental French expressions as Mamie, chut et
flte, scouts (where Qubcois would say guides when the reference is to
girls), and Quest-ce que cest que cette merde?, for which the Qubcois would
have a number of more colorful expressions.
Both texts by Huston use standard grammar, as though in one Paula is a
North-American Anglophone, and in the other, a Francophone from France (or at
least somewhere over the Atlantic). In the context of the novel itself, Huston's pref-
erence for European French expressions appears rather paradoxical, since Paula,
the narrator, lives in Montral and the reader might well expect her to speak a
more Qubcois form of French. No attempt has been made to represent the lin-
guistic transposition involved in re-working the English text into French.
As one can see from the following passage, the intercultural style of The Mar-
riageable Daughter is quite different:
Dear Phyllis,
I asked my humpbacked professeur danglais in Sherbrooke au Qubec to
give me the names of young girls like me living in Canada from time imme-
morial, analogous to me, do me the favour of telling me, I said, the name of
Bilingual translation/writing as intercultural communication 123

the young girl to whom I will write as my sister, O Phyllis, you are my dear
sister in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, arent you? Do you understand me
well, Excuse my so bad English, mister Smith mon professeur danglais gave
me your precious name, if it will cure your pernicious anemia, he said, and
now I have my kindred soul, I am twelve and I believe it is immoral for a
woman not to give herself completely to a man she loves unless she has had
the poor judgment to fall in love with a man who is bad for her, then she
should run a mile from him, do you, Phyllis, on the quiet, secretly read the
blacklisted books in the library room of your parents, at night with a flash-
light, in your pyjamas, to have the shivers, to make you shudder, to be thrilled
with delight, to have a tickle in your organism? (Gagnon 1989: 9)
The English is quite strange, with a kind of unusualness that can only be arrived at
by someone who is not a native speaker. Certain expressions are left in French.
However, this mixture is not at all how an average Qubcois Francophone would
actually speak English. It is a playful creation, using, or should I say, misusing,
expressions taken right out of the English dictionary: to have the shivers, run a
mile from someone. Some of these expressions, to have a tickle in your organism
for instance, are manipulated slightly to create an amusing effect. This playful lan-
guage remains nonetheless in some small way credible, or at least partly justified,
as the representation of the written language of an imaginative twelve-year-old girl
writing in her second language. Here is the corresponding passage in French:
Chre Phyllis,
Jai demand mon professeur danglais, genre pont en dos dne, in Sher-
brooke au Qubec where I live with my parents, de me donner des noms de
jeunes filles comme moi vivant au Canada depuis des temps immmoriaux,
analogues moi, et alors mister Smith ma dit dans un discours pompeux,
ma chre Jeanne Desprs mon anmone, si jtais sr que ta pernicieuse an-
mie svanouirait et sanantirait, je te donnerais des centaines dadresses de
jeunes filles au Canada, cher english professor, ai-je rpondu, considrant
toute la force de mon dsir de me faire des amies, il serait amoral daccumuler
et de dpenser de vastes sommes de non et de refus dans lespoir damollir
mon coeur, faites-moi la faveur de me dire le nom dune jeune fille qui
jcrirai comme une soeur. ... Phyllis, tu es ma chre soeur Medicine Hat,
en Alberta au Canada, ne les-tu pas? arent you? do you understand me well?
excuse mon si mauvais anglais, mister Smith my english professor ma promis
de corriger mes fautes, il ma donn ton prcieux nom et maintenant jai une
me soeur, jai douze ans, et je crois quil est immoral de la part dune femme
de ne pas se donner compltement un homme quelle aime, moins quelle
nait eu le mauvais jugement daimer un homme qui nallait pas avec elle (papa
124 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

et maman), alors elle devrait sen fuir toutes jambes, est-ce que, Phyllis, en
silence et secrtement, tu lis des mauvais livres dans la bibliothque de tes
parents, la nuit avec une lampe de poche, dans ton pyjama, pour avoir des
frissons, pour trembler, pour tre divinement excite, pour avoir des cha-
touillements dans ton organisme? (Gagnon 1985: 13)
One can see that I have taken considerably more liberties than Huston as a writer/
translator. The initial dialogue has been developed. I have left some words in
English, but not the same ones that are in French in the English text. Some of these
English expressions are slightly ungrammatical (do you understand me well?),
and an explicit reference is made to excuse mon si mauvais anglais. In fact, it
would have been quite impossible for me to recreate in French exactly the same
effect as in English. To do so, I would have had to offer Phyllis Daltons reply to
Jeanne, in playful and broken French. But that would be another book! (In fact, I
did start a series of poems in English entitled, Phyllis Daltons No Poems, but I
did not attempt to have Phyllis write in French in her poems).
In this and the following passage, one can observe how the narrative frame-
work of Jeanne writing to Phyllis corresponds to an important desire to communi-
cate with a kindred spirit, une me soeur. Language and the letter form actually
propel the text forward. Although Phyllis is only an imaginary friend, the dialogue
Jeanne sets up with her literally generates the text. The place-name itself, Medicine
Hat, lends itself to a string of fantastical images:
I am hypnotized by the formidable hat, the holy hat coming down from
heaven, lighting upon the Canadians, teaching them, leading them into all
truth, giving them the bold zeal to preach the Medicine Hat unto all prov-
inces, whereby we have been brought out of darkness and error into the clear
light and true knowledge of thee, where we are with angels, O Phyllis my pure
angel, do not listen to my blasphemies, throw my letter out of the window, I
hope I will never send you this string of absurdities, I write only for myself in
the obscure hell of my dead love in the family vault. (Gagnon 1989: 15)
In French, the passage reads as follows:
Je peux te parler mon cher fantme, mon double vivant dans un chapeau de
magicien si loin dans le Far West, o il est bon pour moi dentendre le diseur
de bonne aventure fabriquer une nouvelle histoire damour, je suis hypnotise
par lui et son formidable chapeau, le saint chapeau descendant du ciel, clai-
rant les Canadiens, pour les guider sur le chemin de la vrit, leur donnant
courage, ferveur et zle pour quils annoncent dans toutes les provinces le
divin chapeau, par qui nous avons t tirs de la noirceur et de lerreur et le-
vs dans la claire lumire de sa vraie connaissance, donc avec les anges,
Bilingual translation/writing as intercultural communication 125

Phyllis, mon pur ange, ncoute pas mes blasphmes, jette ma lettre par la
fentre, jespre que je ne tenverrais jamais ce tissu dabsurdits, jcris seule-
ment pour moi dans lobscurit, dans lenfer de mon amour mort dans le
caveau de famille. (Gagnon 1985: 2425)
While I was unable to keep the broken English effect in French, a good part of the
playfulness generated by idiomatic expressions used out of context is maintained:
jette ma lettre par la fentre for throw my letter out of the window, le saint
chapeau descendant du ciel for the holy hat coming down from heaven. I was
also able to keep the allusions to biblical language to equal ironical effect, in a
comical image of Canadian provincial unity around a supernatural shaman. All in
all, however, I would have to agree that the French text remains more conven-
tional, linguistically, than the English text.


I would like to conclude with some more general comments about the bilingual
writing/self translation experience. One of the most surprising dimensions of the
experience is that it seems to have upset standard Canadian and Qubec publish-
ing expectations of what is a translation and what is an original. Through a typical
Canadian/Quebec irony, both books won a major award, not in the language of
their original, but in their translated form: Cantique des plaines won the Canadian
Governor-Generals Award in 1993, and La Fille marier was awarded le prix Mol-
son de lAcadmie des Lettres du Qubec in 1986.
In both cases, as well, the search for an original was problematic, but in differ-
ent ways. Cantique des plaines generated considerable controversy when it won the
Governor-Generals Award in the French novel category. The question most hotly
debated, particularly in Qubec, was whether it was the original text or a transla-
tion. In the latter case, it was argued, the book should have been submitted in the
translation category. In the case of The Marriageable Daughter, the French transla-
tion appeared first, as if it were the original. The English original was published
four years later in Coach Houses Translation series, under the banner, Translated
by the author, despite my efforts to have it recognized as the original text.
A second important point concerns the motives for bilingual writing/self
translation. By choosing to write in the other language, both Huston and I were
writing for a new public, but there was more than just a mercantile interest
involved. As a writer, I wanted to escape the confinement of the French language,
and to reach out to English Canada. Jeanne Desprs writes in English to avoid her
mothers censorship, but also in order to be understood by Phyllis. For Nancy Hus-
ton, writing for the first time in English, the choice of writing language reflects her
126 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

return to childhood memories where English has a particular emotional value. As

a consequence, the choice of a language for writing is intimately linked to the plot
structure, although in different ways and to different degrees in each book.
A third important aspect of the experience is its postcolonial dimension. Both
Nancy Huston and I are writing in the context of a postcolonial culture, but our
positions are not the same. In Plainsong, the return to English is perceived by the
author as a return to a weaker, non-culture. The terms in which she describes the
anglophone culture of her Albertan childhood in Nord perdu are clearly ambiva-
lent. The plot structure of Plainsong partially distances her from Alberta by plac-
ing her narrator in Qubec, although she remains Anglophone. There is also a
displacement of colonial issues through the evocation of First Nations reality.
However, this post-colonial critique does not survive the translation process. To be
more precise, it is partly displaced and partly reduced. The use of Parisian French,
and a literary structure that is more conventional, in French literary terms, makes
her book more likely to please the imperial French literary norms. Her malaise as
an Anglophone Albertan writer is distanced and submerged in French. At the
same time, the First Nations references and Albertan reality are re-colonized as the
exotic for the French public. Not surprisingly, the French version of her book has
sold better in France than in Canada.
In my case, I sought to distance myself from French/France cultural hegemony.
Using English was a way to break up language patterns and find a new creative
space. However, there are political issues for a Qubcois writing in the dominant
language, English. I dealt with this by imagining a young character, only twelve
years old, with a desire for absolute truth. By having her misuse English, I was able
to mock and play with imperial English, and achieve a certain literary revenge on
the English for their conquest of Qubec in 1759. Jeannes English is not realistic,
but creative and subversive. This subversive function is more difficult for me to
achieve when I return to French. The mirror image would be, as I have said, quite
another book. The English book is slightly freer, the French book, more conven-
tional. La Fille marier nonetheless remains transgressive to some degree in
French by this very communicative structure, the calling out to young Phyllis, and
by those creative and playful linguistic elements I have been able to keep in French.
Within the particular Canadian-Quebec postcolonial context of cultural
exchange, the calling out to the other can also be seen as a strategy to decolonize
literary practice, or, in Hustons case, at least to displace the site of colonization.
Paradoxically, although perhaps logically enough, given that translation practices
not involving authors translating themselves often favor existing literary norms,
the translation process is more affected by imperial norms than the writing stage.
As translated texts, both Cantique des plaines and La Fille marier appear more
conventional stylistically than their corresponding originals. Returning to one's
Bilingual translation/writing as intercultural communication 127

first writing language (French for both Huston and myself) would appear to bring
one back to the literary or linguistic conventions one wanted to subvert by choos-
ing another language of writing.
To conclude, these Canadian experiences in bilingual writing/translation dif-
fer in an important way from the expatriate tradition in their motivation.3 In both
cases, and I believe this is also true of other Canadian bilingual writing/translation
experiences, the language shift has a real intercultural communicative and affec-
tive dimension. While shifts in language can also lead the expatriate writer to
explore new creative avenues, in Plainsong and particularly in The Marriageable
Daughter, the emotional and aesthetic motives underlying the language change
come together to generate the language, the plot and the narrative structure of the
texts, and more specifically to highlight intercultural communication within a
particular shared cultural and linguistic space. Perhaps this explains why the lan-
guage change is such a powerful text generator.
The complex intercultural dimensions of all four texts point to the possibility
of an innovative intercultural sharing of postcolonial experience. In this way, they
work to encourage intercultural scrutiny and communication from new view-
points. Perhaps most importantly of all, in my opinion, this intercultural inquiry
opens up a new creative writing space.


1. There is considerable critical work on the relationship between Beckett's English and
French works, as originals or translations. See, for instance, Fitch 1988 and Long 1995.
2. She has also stated that she returned to English, because she felt the need to recover a cer-
tain theoretical naivet (Huston 1999: 50, my translation).
3. In terms of content, Plainsong is Huston's only novel set in Canada. In the case of her other
texts, her writing may well be identified more appropriately with the expatriate tradition.
The female state of the art

Women in the translation field

Michaela Wolf
University of Graz, Austria

Feminist translation is playing an increasing role in German-language countries.

A large empirical research project on this development indicates changes in the
social contexts of translation. The contexts are analyzed by focusing on the
(mostly female) social agents involved and the relations between them. The
empirical data are discussed against the background of the theory of symbolic
forms developed by Pierre Bourdieu. Socially regulated and regulating factors are
found to be operative at the different stages of the translation process, engaged in
a continuous struggle. In such a context, the attempt to reconstruct the
translational field with mostly women as protagonists shows that translation is
framed by cultural, political, economic and other values that constantly need to be
negotiated by the agents involved.


In the wake of the cultural turn, the 1990s saw the emergence of domains in
Translation Studies such as postcolonial translation, ethnographic approaches, or
feminist translation. These new approaches redefined traditional concepts and
helped to give shape to a view of translation as cultural practice. Questions con-
cerning the conditions of the production and also reception of translation reveal,
however, that discussions have only occasionally touched upon social implications
like the interaction between translation and institutions, or the role of social
agents and agencies in the translation process. Several scholars have repeatedly
pointed to the high degree of social contextualization of translation, without pro-
viding, however, a coherent framework for analyzing translation as a social prac-
tice. Recent attempts to present such models, such as Gouanvic (1999, 2002),
Hermans (1999: 120 ff.), Simeoni (1998) or Wolf (2002), draw on approaches
developed in sociology, mainly by Pierre Bourdieu and Niklas Luhmann. These
moves should contribute to the foundations of a sociology of translation. One
130 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

aspect that seems to be missing, however, is the correlation between social impli-
cations in translation and the question of gender.
Here we pick up the issue of gender in translation and discuss editorial policies
and practices of translation in the field of feminist and female literature. For us,
female literature is associated with the conscious, gender-related writing of
women and/or for women, whereas feminist literature implies the conception of
writing with the aims of womens movements and political concerns (see Schmid-
Bortenschlager 1989: 50f.). However, the two domains should not be thought of as
two different issues, but as the result of reciprocal influence. Here we shall use a
large body of empirical research to explore the factors conditioning the produc-
tion of female and feminist translation. Is it mainly the presumably constructive
collaboration between the agents involved in the field? Or is there a gender-spe-
cific role assumed by the translator? This paper aims at opening up social spaces of
translation with the help of Bourdieus theory of symbolic forms, focusing on the
female agents involved and attempting to point to the relations between them.

Theory and practice in feminist translation

Before dealing in detail with the specific topic of female and feminist translation in
publishing houses, I will give a short summary of the present state of theory and
practice in feminist translation.
In 2000 we started a project at our department1 to explore the state of feminist
translation in research and teaching in German-speaking countries as well as the
social situation of female (mainly literary) translators (Messner and Wolf 2000). In
a first step, questionnaires were sent to 53 universities and technical colleges, with
a return rate of 67.9 percent (or 36 universities/technical colleges). The data show
that feminist translation as an institutionalized academic discipline is still in its
infancy. Nevertheless, a great variety of research fields are being dealt with in these
institutions, ranging from historical topics to feminist linguistics and bible transla-
tion. This research is almost exclusively carried out through the individual initia-
tives of engaged scholars.
As far as teaching and research institutions are concerned, ten out of 21 trans-
lation departments in Germany, Austria and Switzerland sent back the question-
naire (a return rate of 47.6 percent). Particularly revealing seems the question
whether the departments curriculum contains gender-oriented subjects: 12.5 per-
cent did not answer this question, 87.5 percent answered no. Gender questions
do not seem to be held in high esteem in departments of translation and interpret-
ing. However, 25 percent of the respondents answered that from time to time they
offer seminars or lectures on feminist translation on a facultative basis, whereas
The female state of the art 131

12.5 percent try to integrate gender questions in various lectures on translation

practice and theory. Some 75 percent of all departments have never supervised
theses on feminist topics, and the few theses dealing with feminist issues focus on
feminist linguistics. None of the departments run projects on feminist translation;
just one project is in its planning stage.
A second phase of the Graz project focused on the practice of feminist transla-
tion. For our survey, we approached feminist translators through professional
associations, publishing houses and several networks and mailing lists. Of the 46
translators who responded to this survey, 85 percent work as translators of literary
and scientific texts for publishing houses, and only 15 percent work as translators
for agencies and companies. Most of them say they suffer from the bad public
image of translators, exacerbated in many cases through the invisibility and social
isolation additionally imposed on (mainly female) translators through the Internet
and telecommunications.2 Feminist translation is mostly done in the literary field,
mainly female detective novels and lesbian novels, as well as general texts that
address women as readers. Translators of advertisements indicate that recent years
have seen an increase in political correctness, which calls for the adoption of fem-
inist translation strategies, at least in a restricted sense. The rather unstable work-
ing conditions of many (female) translators often force them to take on a second
job, which they call working for a living (actually their bread job, Brotberuf).
About 40 percent of the women who answered our survey work as secretaries,
journalists or teachers in adult education, but stress that they are fully engaged
emotionally and professionally in their translating activity.
A third step of the project involved the analysis of three further domains,
which will be mentioned here only briefly. First, translation agencies or bureaus
seem to have a rather limited interest in gender questions, as is shown by the low
return rate of our questionnaires (12 percent of the 85 agencies or bureaus con-
tacted). Second, we sent a short questionnaire to ten translators associations in the
German-speaking countries, with a return rate of 50 percent. These associations
generally do not want to close their eyes to changing conditions in language use,
but nevertheless suggest rather half-hearted solutions to their members: inclusive
language should be used, but in a way that nobody notices. Third, we contacted
102 international organizations and ministries in Germany, Austria and Switzer-
land (the UN system, NGOs, etc.) and received a return rate of 32.4 percent, with
some quite surprising results. Many of the organizations use manuals, handbooks
and guidelines in order to adopt inclusive language in translation, and some insti-
tutions even use feminist dictionaries and encyclopedias for the production of
feminist translations.
132 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Gender questions in editorial policies

What seems particularly revealing for female or feminist translation is the area of
publishing houses. The period we considered in our survey was 1998 to 2000.3 We
asked 56 publishing houses that call themselves women publishers (Frauenver-
lage) to send us their catalogues and backlists. Women publishers in this context
are rather small publishing houses owned or/and run by women, producing
mainly literature by and/or for women.4 Responses were received from 41 percent
of the publishers contacted. Translations accounted for 33.2 percent of the titles by
these publishing houses, 64.1 percent were German originals, and 2.7 percent of
all books were bilingual editions.
Three points shed some light on the translation practices in the female pub-
lishing field: the mentioning of translators in the catalogues of publishing houses,
the collaboration between publishing houses and translators from the publishers
point of view, and the translators point of view.
The translators name shows up in nearly 69 percent of all publications in the
women publishers catalogues. Out of these translations, as many as 91 percent are
done by women, only 3 percent by men, and the rest by mixed teams.
In a second step, we worked on the catalogues of womens series. These are
series of books published for and/or by women within larger publishing houses
that, in addition to their general program, also edit special series. All seven pub-
lishing houses we contacted sent us the programs of their womens series. One
third of the literature published in womens series comprises translations. Surpris-
ingly, only two series out of seven indicate the translators name. This means that
only 17 percent of all publications in womens series show the translators name.
The comparison with women publishers shows a major difference in the distribu-
tion of sex: in the series, 50 percent of all translators are women, 33 percent are
men, the rest are mixed teams.
In order to analyze the collaboration between publishing houses and
translators from the publishers point of view, we worked with Martina Hofer, a
student who wrote her Masters dissertation which I supervised at our depart-
ment on female and feminist translations published by women publishers in Ger-
man-speaking countries (see Hofer 2001). She contacted 234 womens publishing
houses in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The return rate was 47 percent.
The questionnaires in this case focused on the expectations and requirements
of translators and women publishers, in search of the power relations in the field.
Most women publishers (about 60 percent) maintained that they had clear ideas of
what they required of their translators in terms of gender questions, but a closer
look reveals enormous differences between womens publishing houses and the
womens series. Some 60 percent of all womens publishing houses call for knowl-
The female state of the art 133

edge in feminist theory as well as experience and sensitivity with regard to femi-
nist and gender-related issues, whereas the editors of womens series never
mention any of these requirements. They rather concentrate on the translators
qualifications as a mediator between languages. As far as the use of inclusive lan-
guage is concerned, the results are quite surprising: only 20 percent of all womens
publishing houses and 4.5 percent of the womens series are explicitly in favor of
women-sensitive language in translation. Collaboration with the translators is
encouraged by two thirds of all womens publishing houses and only by about half
of the womens series (56 percent). It seems striking, however, that in most cases
collaboration is nearly exclusively limited to establishing contacts between authors
and translators, without touching on aspects such as discussion of the target audi-
ence, specific translation strategies or similar aspects (see Hofer 2001: 89ff. and
Hofer 2002: 158f.).
The data from womens publishing houses and the editors of womens series
are partly confirmed by the translators of female and feminist texts. As mentioned,
our project included a survey of feminist translation practices. The 46 translators
who responded gave quite detailed information on their collaboration with
women publishers. They complain that publishers still believe translations have to
be beautiful and inconspicuous, in accordance with the belles infidles paradigm.
Translations are meant to be fluent and transparent, in the sense elaborated by
Venuti (1995), without the translators presence being marked in the text. Indeed,
translators prefaces, epilogues, comments or footnotes are generally only admit-
ted if the translator is also the editor of the text. The adoption of inclusive or femi-
nist language is mostly rejected by proof-readers through comments such as this
does not read fluently or aesthetically it does not match. And beginners are not
the only ones who meet with opposition when adopting feminist language;
renowned translators also find disapproval if their texts are too conspicuous.
Despite these problems, many translators emphasize that in the past few years
women publishers seem to be showing a certain awareness toward feminist issues
in translation, and that creative feminist writing seems to be gaining more ground.
One example is the publishing house Argument in Hamburg, which uses a specific
style sheet for translators in order to make female and feminist discourse visible in
translated texts.
Our survey of the practical experiences of women translators shows that if the
translator suggests adoption of feminist translation strategies in the widest sense
of the word, 55 percent of the womens publishing houses react positively, 30 per-
cent say this is not in the interest of their clients, and 15 percent flatly refuse such
strategies (Messner and Wolf 2000: 46f.).
134 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

A heuristic approach to Pierre Bourdieu

In what follows, the various factors conditioning the situation of female and femi-
nist translation in womens publishing houses will be framed in terms of Pierre
Bourdieus theory of symbolic forms. We will outline the main categories of Bour-
dieus sociology of culture, followed by a detailed discussion of the female transla-
tional publishing field.
Pierre Bourdieu, the French sociologist and philosopher who died in 2002,
was without doubt one of the most productive contemporary thinkers. According
to his sociological epistemology, social reality can be seen as the sum of practically
constructed relations. These relations reflect the mutual dynamics of individuality
and society. They reveal the mechanisms of how social agents (individuals or insti-
tutions) are constructed by society and how society is constructed by these agents.
Bourdieu establishes an interrelation between these epistemological levels
through the categories of field, habitus and capital, which, once they interact
through their agents and agencies, result in what Bourdieu calls social practice.
Fields are defined by the resources that are at stake: cultural goods, housing,
education, employment, social class, etc. A field is a structured system of social
positions occupied by individuals and institutions, the nature of which defines the
situation for their occupants (Bourdieu 1984: 113). Like all other categories, it is a
sociological construction that allows for a view of society as the result of the power
relations between identity and difference. Within social fields, agents struggle for
the maintenance or change of power relations on the basis of their habitus and the
various types of capital they have.
Habitus is acquired by individuals through experience and socialization in
early life. As an abstract construction, it organizes the incorporated disposition
systems, those durable and transposable set[s] of principles of perception, appre-
ciation, and action, capable of generating practices and representation that are
(usually) adapted to the situation [] without being the product of an intentional
search for adaptation (Bourdieu 1991: 29). The dispositions values, norms, atti-
tudes are incorporated in such a strong way that they can no longer be separated
from the agents personality, thus structuring the agents personal life style. As a
result, the habitus is characterized by at least two principles: the relational princi-
ple, which establishes the agents relationship to certain social objects (such as cul-
tural products) and to other agents, and the generative principle, which illustrates
that through this relationship between the agent with other agents or social prod-
ucts, new aspects of the habitus are created (Bourdieu 1994: 29). Finally, the agents
capitals are at stake. Capital as accumulated labor in the form of material and in
an incorporated form (Bourdieu 1997: 49) is described as the sum of the social
agents determinations, i.e. the qualities or distinctive features he or she develops,
The female state of the art 135

incorporates and represents. In order to distinguish between the agents resources,

Bourdieu assigns the various capitals to four different capital types: economic cap-
ital (material possessions), social capital (networks of family relationships, friends,
colleagues etc.), cultural capital (education, knowledge, titles, etc.) and symbolic
capital (prestige or social honor). The distribution of these various capital types
corresponds to the structure inherent in the social world and its forces, which are
responsible for the permanent functioning of social reality.
On the basis of their habituses and capitals, social agents are continuously
engaged in competition within the field and are successful according to the con-
centration of the various forms and quantities of capitals they put at stake. The
relationships between habitus, capitals and field are, as already mentioned,
abstract constructions, which only become real once they have been confirmed
through practice in everyday life. The functioning of the field depends on four
principles. First, the fields constitution, determined by its social autonomy,
enables it to exist within social space. Autonomy is gained through the agents
struggle for the manifestation of specific interests. A second principle is the fields
structure, which Bourdieu views as constituted through power relations between
the agents involved; the fields stability is maintained through institutions. The
third principle is permanent struggle in the field, which mainly depends on the
accumulation and conversion of capitals on behalf of the agents, which in turn
determines the agents social positions. The final principle is the reproduction of
the field, which is guaranteed through the permanent and continuously renewed
interest of the fields agents and institutions (Papilloud 2003: 60ff.).

Women in the literary translation field

In these terms, we may hypothesize the existence of a female publishing field, to

be understood as part of the publishing field (which, in its turn, is a sub-field of the
literary field). The agents operating in this field are editors, publishers, authors,
proof-readers, booksellers, critics, the reading public, mass media, translators, dis-
tributors, and others, all of them involved in the publication of female-oriented or
feminist literature. The translation field coincides with the female publishing
field only to some extent, and its nature is quite different. The translation field
only exists temporarily, mainly because it lacks institutionalization. One of the
reasons for this is the fact that many translators work freelance and on the basis of
short-term contracts. Another reason is its explicit mediating character, which is
constitutive of its existence.5 Together, these factors suggest that it might be better
to rather adopt the term translation space. This needs some explanation.
136 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

I would argue that the translation field or space is always situated between var-
ious fields, such as the literary field, academic field, political field, and others. The
mechanisms underlying its functioning are, however, quite different from theirs.
According to Bourdieu, agents are continuously struggling for permanent posi-
tions in a field. In order to guarantee such a position, the field must be quite
strongly structured, with long-term positions and hierarchizations allowing for
competitive struggle between the agents. This is not the case of the more or less
continuous re-formulation and re-creation of the terms of the mediating processes
required in the translation space by its very nature (see Wolf 2005). The fact that,
according to our survey, no feminist translator has a degree in translation seems to
contribute to the weak structure of the translation field/space.
In what follows, two groups of agents will be discussed on the basis of Bour-
dieus categories: women publishers and women translators. The publishers habi-
tus is quite difficult to detect. Generally, it can be described as oscillating between
resistance to established (mainly man-made) publishing practices and adaptation
to the practices of a market that is still determinant. In any case, the commitment
of feminist publishing houses and their agents make female literature an integral
part of the international book market today. The reasons for this success story
are to be found, among others,6 in the practices of female and feminist editors,
which can be traced back primarily to their habitus.
Bourdieu points to the time dimension of habitus and distinguishes between
two types: a primary habitus, which is the result of incorporated socialization dur-
ing early childhood, and a secondary habitus, which develops its social relations
on the basis of the first and through experiences that in terms of time go beyond
and interact in a more intensive way with other forces in the field such as capitals
or other agents positions. It is obvious that the habitus in question here is for the
most part the secondary kind, which has also been called gender specific habitus
(Krais 1993: 217).
The translators habitus has been described as submissive and subservient.
According to Daniel Simeoni, the internalized position of the translator in his
field of practice is responsible for his or her view as efficient, punctual, hard-
working, silent and yes, invisible translator. Simeoni goes as far as to say:
To become a translator in the West today is to agree to becoming nearly fully
subservient: to the client, to the public, to the author, to the text, to language
itself or even, in certain situations of close contact, to the culture or subcul-
ture within which the task is required to make sense (Simeoni 1998: 12).
We might thus think of translation as the classical secondary activity it has been
labeled over the last two thousand years or so. The reasons for this sort of subser-
vience, at least with reference to female translators, might be found in Bourdieus
The female state of the art 137

argument that men and women contribute equally to masculine domination, men
as primarily dominant and women as primarily dominated agents in society.
Bourdieu claims that masculine domination is so anchored in our social practices
and our subconscious that we are hardly ever aware of it. It is so much in line with
our expectations that we find the phenomenon difficult to question. Bourdieu
analyzes masculine domination as a prime example of symbolic violence the
kind of gentle, invisible, pervasive violence exercised through the everyday prac-
tices of social life and argues that in order to understand this form of domination
we must also analyze the social mechanisms and institutions family, school,
church, and state that transform history into nature and eternalize the arbitrary.
Only then can we open up new possibilities for a kind of political action that can
put history in motion again by neutralizing the mechanisms that have naturalized
and dehistoricized the relations between the sexes (Bourdieu 1998). It might be
argued that this subservience is not always gender-related and that it has also been
applied to men translators. This, of course, has been the case over the centuries,
although not in all times and places, and certainly always in relation to questions
of prestige. In the context of this paper, we would rather focus on the female/fem-
inist stance that a reproach of subservience might be doubly conditioned: first,
by society in general, where the symbolic (and non-symbolic) violence is still per-
vasive in all imaginable forms, and second, by the gender-related working condi-
tions of translators in the closer sense, where in many cases women, despite
constituting a numerical majority in the field, still lag behind men in terms of rec-
ognition and all other of Bourdieus forms of consecration, as well as (and closely
related with recognition) economically profitable positions in the field.
It thus seems particularly interesting that, according to our empirical research,
female translators in the female publishing field do not really join in the game of
masculine domination. Of course, there are many translators who say they act
according to the clients expectations (but who knows what the expectations are
exactly, and above all, who and what forges them?). In view of the economic situa-
tion most translators are confronted with, this is only too understandable (Mess-
ner and Wolf 2000: 47). Such subservience emphasizes and confirms Bourdieus
theory of symbolic goods. Some translators in our survey argue that they cannot
intervene in the text in favor of inclusive language because they have to be faithful
to the original or want to meet the commissioners demands. On the other hand,
some women suggest negotiation and argue in favor of creative strategies in
order to eliminate phrases that are overtly discriminatory in terms of gender. Oth-
ers go as far as to break off any contacts with womens publishing houses after neg-
ative experiences with the adoption of feminist strategies in translation and
behavior one of the few cases where Bourdieus notion of doxa, i.e. social prac-
138 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

tices, which are considered as normal and self-evident and which are not bound to
be questioned, obviously does not work.
According to our research, most women publishers own small publishing
houses (about 95 percent). As a result, womens or feminist publishing houses dis-
pose of much less economic capital than many of their male counterparts who
operate in mass publication. Various womens publishing houses edit only small
quantities of female literature in order to reduce the risk of economic collapse, and
countless female publishers work to the point of total exhaustion in their busi-
nesses. The precarious financial situation certainly has its impact on the payment
of translators. Some 70 percent of all translators we interviewed complained about
under-payment. Many female translators put up with low pay because of their sol-
idarity with the feminist issue; they tried to increase their income by translating
less committed literature for commercial publishers. In contrast, some translators
pointed out that the lack of adequate payment was discouraging and prevented
them from engaging more actively in feminist translation. In general, many femi-
nist translators are disappointed and feel exploited because they expect womens
publishing houses to play a fair game. Thus, in this specific field cultural capital
cannot be converted into economic capital, simply because financial reward is not
one of the driving forces of the field.
The female publishing field places high demands on cultural capital, that is,
education, special training, knowledge, works of art, books, degrees and certifi-
cates. The female editors expectations are clear: they require their translators to
have experience in feminist issues, knowledge of feminist theory, familiarity with
problems arising from feminist topics, feminist perspectives in argumentation, the
adoption of inclusive language, and, in particular, sensibility in the handling of
feminist concerns (Hofer 2001: 90). The translators cultural capital is focused on
competence in feminist issues and of course skills in translation practice, but as
already mentioned, none of the feminist translators in our survey has a degree in
translation or has attended academic courses in translation.
In the female publishing field, social capital, that is, networks of any kind of
social relationships, is supposed to be a key element and the major resource of the
agents involved. In the first stage of their establishment, in the 1970s, womens
publishing houses went beyond the limits of traditional publishing activities (see
McLeod and Rectanus 1980: 251). They built lobbies, prepared workshops and
organized public events with female authors and their readers. Present reality
shows, however, that although social capital is more evident and effective in this
field than is cultural capital, it is still fragile and in the opinion of many transla-
tors would need a boost in order to promote the production and consumption of
female and feminist translations. As already mentioned, 67 percent of all womens
publishing houses and 56 percent of all womens series editors are in favor of an
The female state of the art 139

exchange of ideas between publisher/editor and translator, but most of them, in

practice, do not take the initiative to establish these contacts (Hofer 2001: 95). One
exception is the Swiss publisher Unionsverlag, which launched a project to pro-
mote the translators visibility and to emphasize the interaction between publisher,
editor, translator and readership. A letter on its homepage and in its catalogue
draws attention to the translators achievements and efforts, paying tribute to their
work (Unionsverlag 2001). In addition, the homepage presents translators
reports, relevant links and a discussion forum.
The translators social capital7 remains almost exclusively limited to the
aspects illustrated above. As already mentioned, many translators suffer from
social isolation imposed on them through work at home, further aggravated by the
increased use of the Internet factors that tend to reduce social contact. Our sur-
vey shows that many female translators do not always benefit from the social net-
works built up by womens publishing houses. Others plead for categorically
breaking with masculine domination and strengthening alliance with the agents
participating in the field (Messner and Wolf 2000: 45f.).


The dynamics of the female publishing field as in any other field are a result of
the interplay between the agents habituses, capitals and their stakes in the field.
The common interests of the female agents operate in favor of fostering the femi-
nist issue. Despite some opinions to the contrary, the networks seem to be tighter
in terms of social capital than is the case in other publishing houses, and womens
publishing houses show even tighter networks than womens series. The mention-
ing of the translators name and the comparably high profile of women translators
undoubtedly indicate the existence of well-functioning social networks in the
field. This argument might be brought home by the fact that in womens publish-
ing houses some translators have the feeling that they have greater freedom in
adopting feminist translation strategies and strategies of creative writing than in
womens series (Messner and Wolf 2000: 49). Bourdieu characterizes the type of
small publishing houses marked by the strong engagement of its agents in a coher-
ent way:
Plus souvent provinciaux, plus souvent dirigs par des femmes et dotes
dune forte culture littraire , dpourvus de toutes les instances dvaluation
et de slection (comits de lecture), qui sont aussi des lieux daccumulation
dun capital social de connexions utiles la promotion des auteurs et des
livres, ces petits diteurs sont absents (ou exclus) de tous les jeux du grand
140 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

commerce ditorial, comme la course aux prix littraires, le recours la

publicit, lart de cultiver les contacts mondains et les complicits journalisti-
ques (ils sont, pour la plupart, dpourvus dattachs de presse), la concur-
rence pour lachat des grands best-sellers internationaux. (Bourdieu 1999: 14)
In addition, Bourdieu claims that modern societies are characterized by the fact
that the relevance of cultural and symbolic capital tends to grow with respect to
economic capital, without the latter losing its fundamental function in the config-
uration of the class structure (see Peter 1998: 46). However, the results of our sur-
vey and our analysis on the basis of Bourdieus theory of symbolic forms seem to
show that the situation is different in the female publishing field. The agents are
equipped with a great amount of social capital as well as forms of cultural capital
that are not always put at stake in the field. In addition, they seem to lack economic
capital and show a nearly complete absence of symbolic capital. This shortage
could possibly be compensated for by the introduction of gender-specific prizes or
stronger lobbying for greater financial support for gender (female and feminist)
publications. In addition, a stronger public presence would also give a boost to the
image of the female and feminist publishing field, to mention just a few examples.
In order to guarantee permanent dynamics in the field, the capitals should be
strengthened through closer collaboration between the agents involved. This
should promote a publishing field able not only to reinforce the social positions of
its agents, but also to foster feminist consciousness.


1. This project was financed by the Oesterreichische Nationalbank, project number 7396.
2. This is, of course, also true for men translators. Traditionally, the translation profession is
carried out by women, and a great many women work at home, which in many cases gives them
the opportunity to additionally take care of their children. Unfortunately, there are no official
data on the sex of freelance translators, as their work contracts or fiscal status is not homoge-
neous in the various settings and countries. This problem equally applies to the following sec-
tions of this paper.
3. Spot checks in publishers catalogues for 2002 indicated that very little was changing in this
4. Given the specificity of the womens translational field, the involvement of men in the
functioning of the field is neglected here. It could, however, bring interesting insights if male
and female publishing and translating activities were compared on the basis of large-scale ques-
tionnaires. This was not the purpose of this study.
5. One could say the same of all publishing, which mediates between writers and readers.
However, according to Bourdieu, the writing activity in the literary field is mostly determined
by its autonomous character. This independence is much less important for the translation
The female state of the art 141

activity, where the mechanisms of transfer are always created anew and, above all, follow com-
pletely different rgles de lart (Bourdieu 1992) than does original literature. Further, cultur-
ally different agents and institutions are involved in these transfer processes. For more details
regarding the differences between literary field and translation field see Wolf 2005.
6. The success story is, of course, also due to the rise of feminist studies in the academy, as
well as the publication activity of prominent feminists.
7. Symbolic capital does not seem to be at stake in the female publishing field. This tends to
be symptomatic of this specific field, as the prestige of female literature and female work in gen-
eral is quite limited in society, at least compared to the social honor acknowledged to men in
the general publishing field. The existence of prestigious feminist writers (in the original and in
translation) is of course gradually helping to change this image.
Translation as discursive import

Changes in the transfer of proper nouns in Latvian

Ieva Zauberga
University of Latvia

Global communication is giving rise to unprecedented movements not only of

goods, services, capital and people but also cultural facts, which become
common property. Proper nouns for people and places now rank among the
most shared items in the globalizing world. Traditionally, the Latvian language
has used phonetic-based transcription as the basic strategy for representing
foreign proper nouns. Under the new circumstances, however, transcription is
proving to be inadequate. Analysis of the Latvian translations of Dorling
Kindersley travel guides shows that a variety of transfer procedures are being used,
including non-translation, transcription, calque, semi-calque, deletion, and
different combinations of these operations. Translators thus emerge as active
agents who have a considerable say about linguistic and cultural processes. At the
same time, these translations show traces of post-national, globalized blending
and hybridity. As it becomes harder to draw the line between the national and the
international, so it becomes more difficult to distinguish between translation and


Depending on its historical, geographical and economic circumstances, each

culture takes a stand toward other cultures and, more specifically, toward the
admission of foreign culture elements. Today the ease and rapidity of global com-
munication accounts for unprecedented movement not only of goods, services,
capital and people but also cultural facts, which become common property.
Intensive discursive importation (Lambert 1995) is taking places in many spheres,
triggering off noticeable changes in home conventions. What is amazing is the
speed and scope of this importation.
From this perspective, translation may be seen as discursive import that can
change home conventions and enrich literary systems. This view relies on recent
144 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

emphasis on translators agency and on their power to introduce changes into the
linguistic and social contexts they work in (cf. Venuti 1995, Robinson 1991, 199,
Chesterman 1997, Chesterman and Wagner 2002: 106). In order to test the claim
that translators today are in a strong position to manipulate texts and situations,
here we will draw on the example of the transfer into Latvian of foreign proper
nouns that so far, unlike in other languages, have been transcribed and not trans-
ferred in their original form.

Linguistic prescriptivism

The Latvian language can be characterized as conservative, purist and having offi-
cially cultivated suspicion to linguistic change of any kind. Purism is a characteris-
tic feature of nations that have been constantly subdued by foreign powers and
cultures, like, for example, Iceland (Ragnarsdottir 1996). Purism as a trend
emerged already in the middle of the 19th century with the first book of poetry in
the Latvian language. Official Latvian linguistics has always been prescriptive, tak-
ing a firm stand against influences from other languages. Latvian has always been
seen as an endangered language because of the strong presence of other, bigger
languages, especially German and Russian. In fact, as to its size, Latvian ranks
150th in the world (1.4 million native speakers and 0.5 million who use Latvian as
a second language). Considering that there are about 6700 languages in the world,
and that the minimum threshold for self-sufficiency of the language is thought to
be about 10,000, Latvian officially does not fall into the category of endangered
languages. Latvian linguists, however, consider the Latvian language to be endan-
gered due to the presence of the large competitive languages. Russian and English,
with high economic value, are often seen as killer languages (Druviete 2002: 35).
They argue that if different languages with large numbers of speakers co-exist
within the same territory, the languages have a natural tendency to compete. Mea-
sures are thus taken to strengthen the position of Latvian, and there is strong offi-
cial resistance to changes of any kind. The refusal to admit the need to modify the
system of transfer of proper names is one manifestations of this phenomenon.

Traditional transcription and its limitations

Latvian and Albanian are the only languages based on the Latin alphabet that con-
sistently transcribe proper nouns. In transcription, many names are changed
beyond recognition and are difficult to use in modern communication. The prob-
lems include the following:
Translation as discursive import 145

Although one might identify such well-known names as Bils Klintons,

aks iraks, Valer iskrs dEstns, people like Ginters Ferhoigens
(Gunter Verheugen) nevertheless fare worse in the international informa-
tion space. The same thing happens with place names like Orhza (Aar-
hus), elne (Cologne), Soltleiksitija (Salt Lake City) or Horvtija
(Croatia), which are meaningful only within the confines of the local
Latvian information space.
Names are difficult to find on the Internet.
In translations a double effort is needed to transfer a foreign name from
Latvian into a foreign language (Oktvija Batlere Octavia Butler;
Doanna Rasa Joanna Russ). Because of the lack of precise correspon-
dence between original phonemes and Latvian letters, Latvian tran-
scribed versions of foreign names cannot be simply back-translated into
their original versions. In order to reconstruct the original, the name
needs to be found in its original form in a foreign source, which is often
time and effort consuming.
Transcription creates legal problems. For example, legal proceedings were
started due to complications triggered off by the modification of a name
through transcription. The Latvian citizen Juta Menzen, married to a
German citizen, is forced to undergo complicated procedures to convince
the court that her surname should not be Latvianized into Mencena in
her passport as this creates problems of legal nature. In any other context
but Latvian Menzen and Mencena are seen as two different names and the
bearer of the name(s) finds it problematic to prove the familial link with
her husband.
In cases where phonemes do not correspond between languages, one and
the same proper noun can be transcribed differently or else one and the
same name can be re-created in Latvian differently. For example, English
Miller and German Muller can only be transcribed as Millers in Latvian.
English Antony can be transcribed as Antonijs or Entonijs, Crosby is Kros-
bijs or Krozbijs, Holmes becomes Houmss or Holms, Monro could be
Monro or Manro, Marlene corresponds to Mrlina and Marlne, and
Abraham might be brahams, Eibrahams or Abrahams.
Transcribed place names fail to serve as signs of orientation for tourists as
they do not correspond to road signs in their original location.
Nevertheless, Latvian linguists insist on retaining the system. They give two basic
arguments: the name also needs to be pronounced (Skujia 2000), and the histor-
146 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

ical tradition should not be changed now, given the complicated language situa-
tion in Latvia (Druviete 2002).
The opening up of countries and cultures and the emergence of a single infor-
mation space has rendered transcription of proper nouns inadequate. Within the
confines of a closed society, which severely restricted the movement not only of
people but also of ideas, transcription was more or less acceptable. Today the
world is open and much more mobile. There have thus been several attempts to
discard transcription. One of the publishing houses has developed a consistent
system of dealing with the problem by retaining the proper noun in its original
form. There have also been angry newspaper articles reproaching the official lin-
guistic institutions for treating the issue as a sacred cow that must not be
touched. The official stand nevertheless remains staunch.

Actual translation practice

While ideological battles rage on a theoretical plane, many translators display pro-
fessional agency by introducing their own solutions to the issue. This can be seen
in the Latvian translations of Dorling Kindersley travel guides.
Dorling Kindersley is a markedly new type of a travel guide in Latvian culture.
Since Latvia was a closed country until 1990, there was no need for travel guides.
There were a couple of ideology-drenched books on Riga, and today there are a
few new guidebooks that nevertheless read more like an encyclopedia than a prac-
tical, handy guide. The Dorling Kindersley Latvian translations have considerably
challenged home conventions of this genre. Within a short period, the Riga-based
publishing house Zvaigzne ABC has published books on Prague, London, Paris,
Germany, Spain, Italy, Israel and Budapest in the Latvian language aimed at
Latvian language users intending to go abroad. This type of a travel guide com-
prises maps, drawings and brief descriptions, providing information as simply and
as accessibly as possible.
Place names are of great importance in such texts, and the publishers had to
revise their transfer system in order to ensure the practical applicability of the
books. Translators were instructed to follow the functional principle, i.e. to use
translation strategies that would enable the recipient to use the translation for the
purpose it was commissioned. In this case they were to provide travel information
in a user-friendly way. Consequently the translators have come out with six ways
to transfer proper nouns: direct transfer, transcription, calque, semi-calque, dele-
tion and various combinations. This variety is quite unusual in a culture like
Latvian, where official prescriptions dominate.
Translation as discursive import 147

Here we present examples of each of these strategies:

1. In the maps all proper nouns are retained in the original (direct transfer)
to ensure the correspondence between what the recipient reads in her/his
map and inscriptions in the target culture situation.
2. Well-known proper nouns are transcribed and often adapted: Spnija,
Andalzija, Madride, Barselona, Kanriju salas, Maljorka, Beleru salas.
3. Most of toponyms are transferred directly in titles and transcribed in the
subsequent text:
Gvadalaharas bagts vstures liecinieki liel mr pazd pilstas moder-
naj apbv, tau zintjs atrads taj spoas renesanses laikmeta pdas.
4. Sometimes place names are transferred directly in the title but deleted in
the text:
El Albaicin
aj pilstas rajon,[in this part of the city] kas atrodas uzkaln iepretim
Alhambrai, vislabk var izjust pilstas arbisks pagtnes elpu.
5. Sometimes proper nouns are transferred directly and calque is added:
Coves de Sant Joseph
Svt Jzepa alas [the caves of St.Joseph], kuras pirmo reizi izpttas 1902.
gad, ir izveidojusi pazemes upe, kura vl joprojm plst pa savu gultni.
6. Occasionally translators resort to semi-calque:
Auglg El Pla ldzenuma vid paceas 543 metrus augstais Randas kalns
(puig de Randa)[mount of Randa].
There are numerous pages where several of these methods are used within one
paragraph. For example, in the description of Montjuic in Barcelona the translator
has used direct transfer, transcription, direct transfer plus calque, and semi-
MONTUIKA [transcription]

Barselonas dienvidda iepret tirdzniecbas ostai paceas 213 m augstais

Montuikas [transcription] kalns pilstas lielk atptas zona. Daudzie
muzeji, mkslas galerijas, atrakciju parks un naktsklubi padarjui to par
iecientu pulcans vietu k vakaros, t dien.

Iespjams, ka aj kaln bijusi eltu apmetne vl pirms tam, kad romiei tur
uzcla templi Jupiteram, dodot kalnam vrdu Mont Jovis [direct transfer].
Varbt no nosaukuma clies kataloniskais Montjuic [direct transfer], lai
148 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

gan pc citas teorijas tas savu vrdu Ebreju kalns [calque, the mountain of
Jews] ieguvis no ebreju kapstas, kas kdreiz tur bijusi. dens trkuma d
kalns bija mazapdzvots ldz pat 1640. gadam, kad t gal tika uzcelta pils.
1929. gad Montuika [transcription] beidzot ieguva savu patstvgu nozmi,
kstot par Starptautisk gadatirgus norises vietu. Kalna ziemeu pus tika
uzceltas jaunas mjas, bet no Spnijas laukuma [semi-calque; the Spanish
square] ldz kalnam izbvta iespaidg Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina
[direct transfer] gar kuru pacls milzgi izstu paviljoni. Avnijas vid tika
izbvta Font Magica [direct transfer] (Maisk strklaka) [calque, Magic
Fountain], ko reizm izgaismo daudzkrsaini proektori. Virs ts paceas
Palau Nacional [direct transfer], kur glabjas lieliska mkslas darbu kole-
kcija. Poble Espanyol [direct transfer] (Spnijas ciems) [calque, Spanish vil-
lage], ir amatniecbas centrs, kuru veido ku kopijas no visiem Spnijas
[adapted transcription] reioniem. Pdj liel celtniecba Montuikas [tran-
scription] kaln saists ar 1992. gada Olimpiskajm splm, kad tika uzceltas
pasaules klases sporta bves.
In the description of Cordoba, direct transfer, transcription, and semi-calque are
used alternately:
Iela pie ielas: Cordoba [direct transfer]

Kordovas [transcription] sirds ir senais ebreju kvartls, kas atrodas uz rietu-

miem no moejas (Mezquita) [direct transfer] augstajiem mriem. Pastaiga pa
o kvartlu izraisa sajtu, ka eit maz kas ir mainjies kop 10. gadsimta, kad
Kordova [transcription] bija viena no varenkajm Rietumeiropas [semi-
calque, Westeuropean] pilstm. Dzelz kalti rei rot aurs, bruts
kjmgjju ielias, kur darbncs juvelieri darina smalkas rotaslietas. aj
pilstas da atrodas lielk daa trisma objektu, bet tlk uz ziemeiem, Ten-
dillas laukuma [semi-calque, Tendillas square] apkrtn, skas modernie
kvartli. No Tendillas laukuma [semi-calque, Tendillas square] uz austrumiem
atrodas Plaza de Corredera [direct transfer] 17. gadsimta tirgus laukums.


On the translators agency

Douglas Robinson argues that normative rules intended to govern the transla-
tors choice of target language words and phrases are not only irrelevant to the
practice of translation; they are, insofar as they alienate translators from their best
intuitions about texts, actively pernicious (1991: 260). Translation practice shows
Translation as discursive import 149

that many translators make responsible decisions and are ready to challenge the
governing prescriptions. In the case of Latvian versions of travel guides the green
light to translators was given by the editor in charge (data from an interview with
editor Dzintra Stelpe), who admits that in the process of translation they have
mainly been guided by the interests of the Latvian user and have resorted to sev-
eral different strategies for foreign proper nouns, which is quite unusual in Latvian
translations. Having become self-governing entities relatively recently, Latvian
publishing houses generally do not yet impose strict guidelines on their authors
and translators. Agreements on translation strategies are mostly reached through
processes of negotiation between publishers on the one hand and translators and
authors on the other. Thus translators have a certain impact on the nature of their
A good translation can be described as one that enables users to attain the goal
they have purchased the translation for. A good translation ensures the user that
action will not fail because of the translation (Robinson 1997: 77). If Latvian
translators simply followed tradition and used transcription, the users would not
be able to find the desired objects. If, on the other hand, the translators consis-
tently retained proper nouns in the original foreign form, the users would lose the
information embedded in semantically motivated names (e.g. quadrat dOr, Illa de
la Discordia) and they would perhaps be unable to share their impressions with
their Latvian friends due to pronunciation difficulties. The timid just a transla-
tor has evolved into the translator, with a considerable say about linguistic and
cultural processes. This is, first, because of the purpose of the translations, second,
because of mass-scale importation of discursive units of various kinds, enhanced
by the intensive movement of people, goods, services under globalization; and
third, due to the all-pervading spirit of liberalization, including the liberation of
translation from the grip of the source text, as legitimized by Skopos theory. As we
free ourselves from the reptile claws of idealized mainstream theory, translation
can increasingly become a humanizing process (Robinson 1991: 258).

On discursive import and its impact

The analysis of these travel guides shows that in the last five years translations have
changed the conventions of style in an unprecedented way. Translations have even
changed the function of several text types. In the same way as Latvian cookery
books, which for more than a century have had solely an informative function,
have acquired a strong expressive function; travel guides have developed from
ideological monuments into pragmatically applicable informative texts.
It is largely because of translations that the Latvian language itself has become
much more flexible. Although the theoretical discussion about the need or possi-
150 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

bilities of changing the transfer system for foreign proper nouns may well have
ended up in fruitless mutual accusations, many translators simply use alternative
transfer methods, proving the inadequacy of the theoretically guarded transcrip-
tion. The language is showing itself able to accommodate variants. It is thus prov-
ing its viability, rather than losing it.

On Globalization

Translations are inevitably hybrids to some extent (Zauberga 2001). Depending on

the degree to which foreign elements are concentrated in them, target texts acquire
a higher or lower level of hybridity. In travel guides, the concentration is naturally
high. Retention of foreign place names in their original form points to the direct
presence of a foreign language and culture. Should we be concerned about this?
Should we start looking at translation as an activity that destabilizes cultural identi-
ties? Is translation perhaps becoming the basis for new modes of cultural creation?
Translations are products of the environment in which they are created. We
could argue that today the Latvian language no longer serves as a mere symbol of
national identity as it has been perceived through centuries of foreign domination.
It has rather developed into evidence of post-national, globalized blending and
hybridity, where the line between national and international becomes increasingly
hard to draw. Similarly, the line between translation and non-translation becomes
harder and harder to draw. The very ambition to standardize language and to pro-
hibit foreign languages (or to submit translation to strict target-side rules) is part
of the attempt to apply territorial principles to all values. This is not very natural
today. In cases of sudden social and political change, translation activities of all
kinds tend to borrow their rules and values from the dominant political environ-
ment (Lambert, 1995). Discursive import can thus change home conventions
within a short period of time, as we have seen in the case of Latvia.
This is not something to worry about. The world is growing smaller; we live in
the global village; more and more often we eat the same things, visit the same
places, read the same books, share the same values (a buzz word in the context of
EU and NATO enlargement). We thus develop discursive similarities, irrespective
of the language in which a text has been created. Translations both mirror and
contribute to the reality we live in.
Translation culture in interpreted
asylum hearings

Sonja Pllabauer
Karl-Franzens University, Graz, Austria

Research on interpreting in asylum hearings has largely been neglected in

Translation Studies. However, the steadily increasing number of asylum seekers
suggests that interpreting in such settings is by no means peripheral. In order to
address this growing field, a research project has been based on a corpus of
hearing transcripts. In presenting some of the research results, the concept of
translation culture is used to sketch some specific factors influencing the
interactional structure of asylum hearings. The cornerstones of translation culture
(cooperativity, loyalty and transparency) are discussed on the basis of empirical


This paper presents some results of a research project (Pllabauer 2003) that
focused on interpreting in asylum hearings. The major impetus was the realization
that research on such settings has largely been neglected so far in Translation Stud-
ies. Indeed, judging by the number of articles on the subject to date, one might
arrive at the mistaken conclusion that interpreting in asylum interviews is just a
peripheral field of work for interpreters and does not merit much attention. How-
ever, the steadily increasing number of asylum seekers, who can often only be
interviewed through interpreters, suggests otherwise. People who have had to
leave their home countries in fear of their lives or in the hope of better conditions
in Europe need interpreters in order to be heard. Those interpreters, in turn, may
exert a major influence on their future. This influence is particularly apparent in
the case of misunderstandings, which are liable to mean damage to the applicants
self-image, incorrect diagnosis, misleading information or financial loss. In
extreme cases, misunderstandings are liable to result in deportation back to the
applicants home country, and may be tantamount to a death sentence.
The study presented here is based on transcripts of authentic asylum hearings
that took place at the Federal Asylum Office in Graz, Austria.1 The aim was to
152 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

investigate the role of interpreters and to identify specific factors influencing the
speakers behavior. Special attention was paid to role conflicts, discrepant role
expectations, asymmetrical power distribution, and the validity of existing (tradi-
tional) norm systems. Even though the corpus only includes excerpts from asylum
interviews in Austria and is restricted to the language pair English/German, it may
be worthwhile to compare the results of this study to the situation in other coun-
tries in which the practice of interpreting in such settings is similarly under-
Interpreters in asylum hearings are confronted with speakers whose knowl-
edge of the social and cultural conventions of the host country may be very differ-
ent. Often there are gaping disparities in the educational levels, institutional
patterns and sociocultural backgrounds of the interactants. The highly asymmet-
rical power relations cause refugees and asylum seekers to feel very insecure, a
feeling that is all the more acute when one is confronted with an invisible and
seemingly Kafkaesque organization operating behind the official representatives
of the host country and laying down the (unspoken) rules (see Barsky 1996). Dis-
parity between the primary participants in the interaction is characteristic of asy-
lum hearings, and interpreters must constantly seek to establish and maintain a
fragile balance between them. Due to the discrepant roles they have to assume,
interpreters are often faced with role conflicts and moral dilemmas, as well as
issues of loyalty and cooperation between the primary interactants. Those con-
flicts are at the heart of the present paper.

Translation culture as a concept

The concept of translation culture was introduced into Translation Studies by

Erich Prun (1997, 2000). It includes aspects such as loyalty, cooperation and
transparency, and has proven useful in describing the interactional structure of
asylum hearings. A translational culture can be defined as the diachronically (and
diaculturally) variable set of norms, conventions and expectations framing the
behavior of all interactants in the field of translation (see Prun 2000: 59). In this
paper, I will concentrate on certain micro-level aspects of the translation culture
found in the recorded and transcribed asylum hearings.2 The results of the study
prove that a translation culture is not a static system but one that has to be con-
stantly re-negotiated. There is no doubt that a basic polyvalence of translational
norms and conventions (Prun 2000: 60; my translation, here and throughout) is
operative in the field under review.
Translation culture in interpreted asylum hearings 153

Cooperation between officers and interpreters

Cooperation includes not only the functional division of labor (Holz-Mnttri

1984) but also mutual respect for the interests of all participants in the communi-
cative situation and the willingness to negotiate viable, conflict-settling conven-
tions to ensure the balancing of competing interests (Prun 2000: 60). An
asymmetry of power is included in the concept of cooperation.
In the asylum hearings, cooperativity primarily emerges between the officers
and the interpreters. The officers concede to the interpreters the right to coordi-
nate talk and elicit information. The interpreters try to resolve conflicts if and
when they perceive some threat to the personal image (face) of the asylum officer
or, in some cases, the asylum seeker (see Brown and Levinson 1987). When their
own face is being threatened, they initiate corrective measures (Goffman 1976) to
prevent a potential communication breakdown. However, when it comes to asy-
lum seekers, their cooperativity is limited. The asylum seekers chances of initiat-
ing corrective measures and cooperating on an equal basis are nearly non-existent.
This is for two reasons: first, they are unfamiliar with Austrian sociocultural con-
ventions, and second, the interpreters are either unable or unwilling to bridge the
power asymmetry between the participants.
All of the interpreters in our corpus are called upon regularly and have ample
experience in interpreting in asylum hearings. For the transcripts under review,
their behavior seems to form a general pattern. It may be hypothesized that inter-
preters who work in language pairs other than English/German would adopt sim-
ilar behavior in similar situations, if only because many other countries also have
underdeveloped language policy standards in asylum cases.
In the following example (see Excerpt 1), the interpreter attempts to cooperate
with the asylum officer to ensure that the officer achieves his communicative goals
(BAG9: 263268).3

Excerpt 1

The officer initiates the second part of the hearing, in which asylum seekers are
asked about their reasons for leaving their home countries, with a standard phrase
in line 263: Wann und wie hat sie die Heimat verlassen? (When and how did
she leave her home country?). The interpreter transforms the officers indirect
form of address (When and how did she?) into a self-including form (tell
us). The (female) asylum seeker, however, does not understand the question and
starts to make a comment, in which she probably seeks to explain in line 265 why
she left her country of origin (Because my father/). She is promptly inter-
rupted by the interpreter, however, and advised that she is not supposed to state
154 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

the reasons for leaving her country at this stage of the hearing (Im not asking for
the reason, line 266) and that the officer merely would like to know which route of
escape she took to get to Austria.

This is a clear example of an interpreter assessing the relevance of an asylum

seekers answer and, if they deem it necessary, signaling that the answer is not yet
regarded as adequate. By transforming the deictic structure and shifting from the
third person to the first person singular, the interpreter assumes the role of auxil-
iary interrogator. In a second sentence (line 267), the interpreter then provides an
additional explanation about the usual procedure of asylum hearings (In the first
part) in line 267. After the asylum seeker again asks for clarification in line 269,
to check whether she has understood correctly, she is able to provide the desired
answer, which, however, prompts another series of clarifying questions on the part
of the interpreter. It is not entirely clear whether the fragmented and relatively
imprecise explanation given by the interpreter in line 266 (Im not asking for the
reason) is sufficient to signal to the asylum seeker what is expected of her.
In the following excerpt (see Excerpt 2), the interpreter again seems to have
assumed the role of the asylum officers assistant (BAG7: 296299).
Translation culture in interpreted asylum hearings 155

Excerpt 2

Up to this stage, the person who had accompanied the (female) asylum seeker, as a
person of her confidence (her husband), has participated very actively in the hear-
ing, repeating and reformulating questions for the asylum seeker and encouraging
her to provide answers. In this excerpt, however, the officer seems to be under the
impression that the hearing is about to get out of control, due to the interventions
of the accompanying person. Therefore, he very definitely points out to the asylum
seeker that she herself is required to provide the relevant answers and should not
rely on her husbands help: Question and answer run on this level and not other-
wise (meaning that the interview should take place between him and the asylum
seeker only). He reinforces his statement non-verbally by first pointing to himself
and then to the asylum seeker. In her rendition, the interpreter splits the officers
remark into two parts. As she obviously assumes that the non-verbal signal used
by the officer to underline his remark was unmistakable, she translates the second
part of the officers comment first: It works only in this way. Only then does she
take up the first pair of words (Frage und Antwort), and explains You are the
one who gets the questions and you are the one who is going to answer these ques-
tions. In her role as auxiliary police officer (cf. Donk 1994), she apparently feels
obliged to emphasize the officers statement, which was very direct, but without
special intonation. The interpreter, however, additionally underlines the impor-
tance of the officers request by overstressing the you (see lines 297 and 298). Her
choice of tense also reveals her position: the future form (to be going to) signals
a strong belief that something will indeed happen and that it has already been
156 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

decided. The interpreter thus signals to the asylum seeker that she has no other
choice than to answer the officers questions. If she had used a modal verb like
should, she would have at least signaled to the asylum seeker that she could opt
for an alternative (even though it might be unfavorable to the outcome of the hear-
ing), that is, to refuse to provide answers to the officers questions.

Loyalty to the other interaction partners

Loyalty presupposes a mutual agreement not to corrupt the interests of the part-
ners in the interaction (see Prun 2000: 61). A threefold principle of loyalty was
introduced by Christiane Nord (1989, 1991): loyalty to the authors of the original
message, to the initiators of the translation, and to the target audience. Prun
(1997: 111) expands this to a fourth dimension: loyalty of the translators to them-
selves. In the transcripts, we can clearly identify the loyalty of the interpreters to
the officers, as they try to resolve any conflicts that might threaten their coopera-
tive working relationship. The officers expectations seem to dictate their actions
and decisions. The interpreters also show loyalty to the asylum seekers, but only so
long as this does not conflict with their primary interests of establishing a positive
communicative basis with the officers.
In the following excerpt (BAG2:351355), the interpreter seems to feel that her
personal face is being threatened. When she back-translates the record of the hear-
ing (the asylum seekers personal data), the (female) asylum seeker interrupts her
with a question that might imply to the officer that the interpreter made a mistake.

Excerpt 3

The interpreter provides a sight translation of the asylum seekers particulars in

indirect speech. In line 351, she uses the word elementary and in line 352 she
adds elementary school. The asylum seeker does not understand and asks for
clarification in line 352. Contrary to other similar situations, the interpreter does
not provide an explanation of her own, but simply renders the asylum seekers
question into English. The officer switches to English and repeats the term used by
the interpreter. When the asylum seeker again asks whether the interpreter meant
primary school, the interpreter confirms this in line 354. The officer also simul-
taneously repeats primary school. The interpreter obviously feels obliged to offer
an explanation for the communication problem. She blames the asylum seeker for
the misunderstanding in line 354 (Sie hat zwar ah elementary gsagt, aber macht
nix.; in English: Well, she said elementary, but never mind) and thus attempts to
maintain her personal positive face. After this brief comment, she continues with
Translation culture in interpreted asylum hearings 157

the back-translation of the record. Taking a look at the transcribed text of this par-
ticular passage of the hearing, it turns out, however, that she was wrong. The term
elementary was not used by the asylum seeker, but was introduced by the inter-
preter herself as a synonym for primary school.

Interpreters often provide meta-comments when they feel obliged to justify

their translations or to explain why their interpretations are (not yet) adequate in
their opinion (BAG21:418419).

Excerpt 4

In Excerpt 4, the interpreter places the blame for her inadequate translation, which
prompts a clarifying question from the officer in line 418, on the asylum seekers
faulty delivery (Well, he says / that was a sentence which had no beginning and
no end.).
158 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

We can occasionally observe a sort of pseudo-loyalty (see Grbi 1997: 301)

to the asylum seekers. In internal turns of talk between the asylum seekers and the
interpreters, the interpreters do show loyalty and cooperation with the asylum
seekers. However, in the interpreting mode or in internal turns between the offic-
ers and the interpreters, this supposed loyalty turns out to be disingenuous or at
least transient. The interpreters endeavor to maintain positive communicative
relations with both parties and succeed in doing so by shifting their loyalty. As
long as these shifts do not confront them with a moral dilemma for themselves,
they are also able to remain loyal to themselves. The results of this study do not
suggest that interpreters deliberately favor the more disadvantaged interaction
partners, as could theoretically be assumed in asymmetrical power constellations.
Nor do the asylum seekers seem to regard the interpreters as helpers or assis-
tants, as is often assumed in community interpreting settings.
The following excerpt (see Excerpt 5) may point to the norms governing the
interpreters (BAG16:445449).

Excerpt 5

In line 445, the officer threatens the asylum seekers positive face by claiming, Nor
do I believe that he is seventeen. Before the interpreter translates this comment
Translation culture in interpreted asylum hearings 159

into English in line 447, she asks the officer whether she is supposed to translate
this remark. This is a clear indication of her solidarity with the officer.
It appears, then, that in situations of conflict (i.e. in situations in which the
face of one of the participants is being threatened), the interpreters try to meet the
officers expectations, even though the role often ascribed to them in traditional
codes of ethics (that of a neutral translation medium) would have required the
interpreter to translate the message as is.
In the above example, the interpreter also clearly marks the authorship of the
statement (the officer says) and thus transfers responsibility for the statement to
the officer. In doing so, she is able to establish a certain degree of solidarity with
the asylum seeker and maintain (relatively) undisturbed communicative relations
with the asylum seeker, while at the same time maintaining her working agree-
ment with the officer.
Loyalty also means that translators try to establish the kind of relation
between the original and the target text that is expected by all partners involved in
the translation situation. Prun refers to this as the implicit Skopos [purpose]
(2000: 61). It is difficult, however, to identify the implicit purpose of asylum hear-
ings as the two primary parties (the officers and the asylum seekers) may have dif-
fering expectations and two different implicit purposes can be identified. The
interpreters tend to comply with the expectations of the asylum authorities and
thus reinforce the prevailing inequality in the power relations. Although their loy-
alty seems to be lopsided, manifesting alliances with the officers, this does not
necessarily mean that they show uncooperative behavior in relation to the asylum
seekers (see Scheffer 2001: 62). In this respect, the interpreters definitely have to
maintain a very precarious balance between the two parties.
If the implicit Skopos was regarded by the interpreters as being inadequate for
achieving the communicative goals of the hearing, then new translation conven-
tions would have to be negotiated, always taking into consideration the principle
of loyalty and the interests of all the participants. Any deviation from the implicit
Skopos would have to be declared openly, and would then become an explicit Sko-
pos (see Prun 2000: 62). In interpreted asylum hearings, if the interpreters
decided, with the consent of all the communicative parties, to resort more exten-
sively to culture-sensitive explanations and to make a more concerted effort to bal-
ance power deficits by means of explanatory comments and conflict-resolution
strategies, they would be required to declare an explicit Skopos.
160 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Transparency of the interaction situation

Transparency, as the third cornerstone of the concept of translation culture, may

be defined as the psychological barrier against the partners fear of discrimination
and cheating (Prun 2000: 61). In asylum hearings, complete transparency of all
events only applies to the interpreters. Still, for the asylum officers too, most events
and actions are relatively transparent, due to their command of English. Perhaps it
is this relative transparency that accounts for the officers willingness to allow
interpreters to participate so actively in the interaction and to exercise such a
major influence over the communication. For the asylum seekers, on the other
hand, the entire asylum procedure is far less transparent. They do not have a suffi-
cient understanding of the procedure, nor of the sociocultural factors influencing
the hearings. Sporadic culture-sensitive explanations provided by the interpret-
ers are not sufficient to offset this deficit.
The following excerpt (BAG7:359364) demonstrates that the interpreters
cultural value system influences her translations:

Excerpt 6
Translation culture in interpreted asylum hearings 161

In line 359 the officer makes sure he has understood the asylum seeker correctly.
In the translation, the interpreter shifts her footing by rendering the officers I
(Do I understand that correctly?) into an inclusive we (Do we understand you
correctly?). She seems to regard herself as the officers assistant and as part of
the officers in-group. According to Ruth Wodak, such structures can be referred
to as discourses of inclusion and exclusion (us vs. them). Such forms of dis-
course enable the speakers to identify with the in-group and mark outsiders as
members of the out-group (Wodak 1994: 271). In line 361, the officer dictates the
record to the typist, while the interpreter simultaneously renders his last question
into English. In line 362, she then reformulates the asylum seekers answer (Yea,
but you were expecting...), informing the asylum seeker about her translation
suggestion (...lets say so) in line 364. In line 364, we can again identify a change
of position. While she usually translates the asylum seekers answers in the first
person singular, she suddenly effects a change of deixis and renders the asylum
seekers answer in the third person in order to mark the authorship of the com-
ment. This paraphrase also reveals a strong value judgement: according to the
interpreters value system (and probably that of the asylum seeker as well) prostitu-
tion is not a correct or proper job, and she is obviously trying to distance her-
self from such indecent activities.
In the case of culturally specific terms in particular, it becomes evident that
the unequal sociocultural backgrounds of the primary participants hamper com-
munication. The interpreters do not seem to realize that misunderstandings may
also be due to their lack of awareness of culturally determined verbal and nonver-
bal phenomena. Misunderstandings may arise because the interpreters lack infor-
mation on the sociocultural background of the asylum seekers and are therefore
unable to understand and translate specific terms or to provide adequate informa-
tion about culturally determined behavior on the part of the asylum seekers. In
such instances, they often blame the asylum seekers for any misunderstandings
that arise.

Concluding remarks

The examples discussed above clearly suggest that interpreters in asylum hearings
often assume discrepant roles that are not clear-cut and, in fact, often seem rather
blurred. The role of interpreters, as described in traditional codes of ethics, seems
to be valid on paper only (see Kaufert and Putsch 1997). It is important to bear in
mind, however, that they exert considerable influence on the outcome of asylum
hearings. Notwithstanding the valuable services they render to both parties, there
is also considerable potential for manipulation.
162 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting


1. The corpus of the project includes audio recordings of 20 asylum hearings, recorded
between October 1, 2000 and July 5, 2001 at the Federal Asylum Office in Graz. The average
length of the hearings was 62.3 minutes. The total length of all recordings was 20 hours and 46
minutes. The longest interview lasted nearly three hours (175.34 minutes) and the shortest
hearing was 19.05 minutes. The corpus only includes hearings with English-speaking asylum
seekers, and the interpreters translate from English into German and vice versa. Three different
officers (B1, B2 and B3), who were all male, and three different interpreters (D1, D2 and D3),
who were all female, were involved in the hearings. B1 conducted fifteen interviews, B2 three,
and B3 two. D1 interpreted in eight interviews, D2 in ten and D3 in two, (interpreters D1 and
D2 were professional interpreters, whereas D3 had no official training, but ample experience as
an interpreter in asylum settings). In total, nineteen different asylum seekers (five women and
fifteen men) from four different countries (Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Sudan) were
2. The audio recordings were transcribed using the HIAT transcription system (see Ehlich
1993). The transcription conventions are as follows:
. short silence (less than 3 seconds)
.. longer silence (more than 3 seconds)
/ false starts
underlining Emphasis
((xxx)) non-verbal features or explanatory comments
(xxx) inaudible passage
CAPITALS anonymous information (names, place names, etc.)
3. The information given in brackets refers to the name of the respective transcript (e.g.
BAG1) and the lines of the excerpt (e.g. 114118). B [Beamte] = Officer, D [Dolmetscher] =
Interpreter (the numbers 13 stand for the respective officers or interpreters), AW [Asylwer-
ber] = Asylum seeker, SK [Schreibkraft] = Typist, GV [Gesetzlicher Vertreter] = Legal Repre-
sentative, VP [Vertrauensperson] = Person of confidence; for text passages in German, an
English translation (in italics) is provided on the line below the German text.
Interpreting at an immigration detention
center in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Communication and power

Guillermo R. Navarro Montesdeoca

Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain

Modern interlingual situations are becoming ever more varied and complex.
Interpreters are thus confronted with increasingly diverse situations that require a
global approach to the communicative process. This article exemplifies one such
situation, namely the experience of interpreting at an Immigration Detention
Center in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, in November-December 2001.
Several factors are found to condition the communicative relationship between
immigrants and the State, with the extra-linguistic variables playing as important
a role as the linguistic ones. This is especially true in view of the significant power
structures involved, which have consequences for the low social prestige of both
immigrants and interpreters in such settings. Power relations also structure
contextual constraints at professional, legal, translational and communicative
levels. A semiotic approach is considered able to cover this wide range of variables
and may ultimately lead to a more global understanding of the interpreting


In this article I will reflect on my first-hand experiences as an interpreter at the

Barranco Seco Immigration Detention Center in Las Palmas in the Canary
Islands, Spain, in November and December 2001. I had the opportunity to observe
the impact of migrations from Africa to Spain and the Canaries, as well as the lin-
guistic and extra-linguistic difficulties of interpreters working with detained
immigrants. The complexities of this work will first be dealt with by considering
the nature of the contexts involved. We will then look at the communication acts
in terms of money, power and lies, all of which have an influence in many situa-
tions where cooperation and understanding are not always the overriding goals.
164 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Modeling the Context

As globalization makes interlingual situations more complex and varied, inter-

preters face ever more diverse situations. As Robert de Beaugrande (1994a: 221)
points out:
The modern interconnections among people and among their languages
and cultures have become so far-reaching and diversified that many people
have only vague or overly narrow ideas of where they fit in and how their
actions affect each other. The overall trend constitutes an explosion of data
whose complexity and novelty have reached overload proportions.
This paper describes my experience as an interpreter in an Immigration Detention
Center in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain. I had the opportunity to reflect on
the nature of interlingual communication, and communication in general, from
different points of view. I will try to establish a general framework into which
many of the data referred to by Beaugrande can be incorporated. The contextual
model presented below is considered to be both a framework for this debate, and
its conclusion.
The importance of context in translation is widely recognized. For Wilss, con-
text is a complex, multi-dimensional phenomenon, influenced and modified by
multiple situational perspectives (Wilss 1994: 37). It follows that words are
invested with meaning by virtue of their use within a context and their exchange
between users (Mason 1994: 25). Even Newmark, who seems to have a more text-
oriented approach (1987: 1213), later accepts (1991: 25) that many words are
profoundly affected by their contexts both linguistic, cultural and situational and
cannot be translated in isolation. However, he adds that more words are relatively
context-free than relatively context-bound. Even if context is frequently seen as
mere words surrounding words, it should in fact be approached from a social per-
spective, because users do not act in a void. Thus, it seems self-evident that trans-
lation can only be contemplated as a communicative process which takes place
within a social context (Hatim and Mason 1990: 3), and that pragmatic and semi-
otic dimensions form part of interlingual communication (i.e. translation and
interpreting) (Hatim and Mason 1990: ch. 4).
However, context is often treated as though it were detached from the text
itself (whether original or translated). Moreover, we tend to focus on the general
characteristics of a given context. For example, we tend to associate the French
language with French culture and not with that of Switzerland, Belgium or Can-
ada, let alone Cameroon, Senegal or the Congo.
The Communication Model for Interpreting (Fig. 1) attempts to account for
different communicative situations from different perspectives by offering a frame-
Interpreting and immigration: communication and power 165

work for what we know about the specific context of a particular text. In the center
we find the source text (oral or written). For instance, we might be involved in an
interpreting situation where we have to mediate between the doctor and an immi-
grant about menstrual pains or fever. Texts relating to menstrual pains seem clear
enough, since these pains can be understood as more or less the same in all cul-
tures. On the other hand, texts relating to fever are not as clear because fever can be
easily understood as yellow fever in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. If we agree
that a language belongs to all of its speakers, the English term fever can be consid-
ered a superordinate for many particular kinds of fever. The term, or the text,
should be placed at the center of the model, as texts or messages to be interpreted.

Figure 1. The Communication Model for Interpreting.

The inner circle of the model includes the social and linguistic characteristics of
the text type. An example would be knowing when and where to use vous or tu in
French or du or Sie in German. Another example would be the different discourse
styles used for writing an academic paper in different languages. As it is not always
easy to establish clear boundaries between language and the non-linguistic world,
the inner context is necessary to understand and communicate the text fully, as we
have seen in the case of fever. Moreover, sociolinguistic exchanges between a
doctor and a patient can also differ within Europe or within Africa. If these differ-
ences operate according to a typology, they would be inserted in the inner context.
The difference between the inner and the outer contexts lies in the possibility
of establishing clear types of exchange situations. The inner context implies the
166 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

knowledge that interpreters assume as their own. It basically refers to the links
between language and culture from a sociological point of view.
In the outer circle we find the unexpected knowledge required to succeed in
communication. For instance, detained immigrants may have a request accepted
or refused depending on whether a police officer they are addressing is going off
duty soon. The outer context implies more ad hoc knowledge needs. For example,
when dealing with an immigrant with menstrual pains, the interpreter should
know that a male doctor or a male interpreter could make the communication
with the patient extremely difficult because of gender taboos. And when talking
about fever, many immigrants do indeed understand fever to mean yellow
fever, or believe that they risk immediate expulsion if they admit having suffered
from it. The example of menstruation might belong to either the inner or the outer
contexts, depending on our focus. The example of fever can be placed in the outer
context, where power and political relations have a role to play.
The communication process exists in the text and in both the inner and the
outer contexts. It permeates the three and thus establishes diverse connections.
The different axes in the model indicate disciplines that go from the text to the
contexts and from the contexts to the text. That is, we can consider all communi-
cative situations from different perspectives, and the more perspectives we can
take into account, the more likely we are to reach decisions that will enhance com-
munication. Translation has to expand toward disciplines such as sociology, psy-
chology or medicine to be able to achieve understanding.
We could thus assume that the general purpose of translating should be to
facilitate communication (i.e. understanding). In practice, however, this assump-
tion needs to be reconsidered, as we shall see.

Immigration: out of Africa

Globalization is not new, but its effects on mass culture may well be, and this is
why more and more people are becoming directly affected by it. Since the inde-
pendence of the European colonies in the twentieth century and the fall of the Ber-
lin Wall, there has been a marked rise in immigration into Western societies.
In the case of the Canaries, most irregular immigrants come from Africa
(58.31 percent) and from Latin America (25.51 percent) (Daz Hernndez et al.
2001: 5). The work described here is with sub-Saharan immigrants, with whom
interpreting was performed in English, French and Spanish (although many other
languages were used at the center).
According to the Spanish Ministry of Social Affairs (in Bel Adell and Gmez
Fayrn 2000), 21,834 sub-Saharan immigrants arrived in Spain in 1998. Despite
Interpreting and immigration: communication and power 167

this figure, we will never know the exact number of illegal immigrants residing
in Spain (Daz Hernndez et al. 2001: 5, my translation), as the State lacks mecha-
nisms to control this type of migration. The immigrants come from more than
thirty countries, mostly from West Africa. However, even such a simple task as
establishing their country of origin is not easy. Some immigrants acknowledged in
informal conversations with lawyers and interpreters that they had declared they
came from countries at war (Sierra Leone, Liberia) in order to plead for asylum.
Quite often the interpreters working with immigrants have no more than a
general idea of Africa and its peoples. Even if they knew which country a particu-
lar immigrant was from, what would this mean to them? What does a European
interpreter know about African countries? When it comes to interpreting in a par-
ticular communicative situation, sub-Saharan countries is as arbitrary a group as
are brown-eyed Europeans. These Borgian lists can be useful, however, when
communication (i.e. understanding) is not the real intention. Indeed, the concept
of country does not help much. Cameroon, for example, has around 16 million
inhabitants belonging to 268 different ethnic groups. It has two official languages,
English and French, but not everybody can speak them, since there are 24 different
languages in the territory. This is but one example of the situations faced at the
Detention Center, where having a clear a priori idea of an Africans context is often
With the influx of irregular immigrants, Spain and the Canary Islands are
facing a new reality. The problems associated with this situation have been com-
monplace in other European countries since their former colonies gained inde-
pendence. The possibilities of benefiting from those experiences, however, are
limited by the general lack of infrastructure and structures to deal with immigra-
tion, not to mention the particular communication needs of immigrants. In other
words, the poor knowledge of the immigrants countries is due to the shortage of
human and material resources.

Interpreting: no-states land

For interpreters to be hired at the Immigration Detention Center in 2001, they first
had to be unemployed, since the Ministry of the Interior provided the interpreting
jobs through the Spanish Institute for Employment. More than 90 percent of the
salary was paid directly by the Institute for Employment, as the Ministry budget
did not allow for interpreters to be contracted. Economic resources were scarce:
there was only enough money to contract one part-time interpreter and one part-
time doctor, and just for five months a year. The doctor was paid normal fees, but
the interpreter was paid as a secondary school graduate, even though all the inter-
168 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

preters working for the Ministry in fact had a university degree in Translation and
Interpreting. The interpreter at the center had two main responsibilities. The first
was to welcome the immigrants on arrival; i.e. to inform them of the three main
rules in the Center. The first rule could be summarized as: All immigrants must be
respectful toward all people working at the Center. The second rule stated that
immigrants must maintain high hygienic standards. The third stipulated that no
fights would be tolerated. The interpreters second responsibility was to mediate
between the doctor and patients during medical consultations.
In both situations, immigrants were in a position of social and communicative
inferiority. They were instructed what to do and, in the case of the medical consul-
tations, were expected to let the physician control the situation. For their part, the
interpreters could try to enhance communication, but they were not neutral par-
ticipants since they were paid by the State to fulfill specific communication tasks.
As Lambert (1994: 20, original emphasis) puts it:
The impact of institutions on translation is much more than an occasional
aspect of the problem: it occurs from the beginning to the end, since the deci-
sion to translate (or not to translate) as well as the (implicit/explicit) instruc-
tions given to the translator (e.g. his style sheet) and the expectations of the
user are indebted to the societal situation, even and especially when there is
an attempt to react against it.
The main underlying question is whether the interpreters role can legitimately be
other than facilitating understanding.

The communication process: money, power and lies

Communication processes may be approached from the perspective of money,

power and lies. By money I refer to resources (wages, police officers, facilities,
interpreters). As for power, I follow Fowler (1985: 61) who says that it is the abil-
ity of people and institutions to control the behavior and material lives of others
(although I would not confine this control to the material level). By lies I mean
that language, signs and communication exist when we can use them to lie (cf. Eco
1977: 67). For example, the fact that certain legal rights have been fulfilled for-
mally does not necessarily mean that people (immigrants) in fact benefit from
them and are aware of what is happening.
The first thing to be said about the Center under study is that most of the per-
sonnel were sympathetic to the personal tragedies of the immigrants. This did not,
however, reduce the overriding importance of the hierarchical structure, both
Interpreting and immigration: communication and power 169

explicit and implicit: police officers at the top, followed by the doctor, then the
interpreter and other staff, and finally the immigrants.
As a result, communication did not occur on a socially equal basis. Police
officers issued orders and immigrants obeyed them; the doctor ordered a treat-
ment and patients could follow it; patients were not allowed to ask for their own
Money was an important factor, since it was often a shortage of resources that
prevented individuals from communicating. For example, immigrants could not
address the institution directly, but had to address doctors or police officers who
decided how to distribute resources. If the authorities could not or did not want to
resolve a particular problem, their natural tendency was to avoid communication.
This was just another obstacle to the set of linguistic and extra-linguistic factors.
Lies played an important role in communicating with the immigrants. In fact,
lies play a key role in communication in general. From a semiotic point of view, a
sign system (including a linguistic system) does not exist unless it can be used to
lie. Eco applies the following reasoning (1977: 7; original emphasis):
A sign is everything which can be taken as significantly substituting for
something else. This something else does not necessarily have to exist or to
actually be somewhere at the moment in which a sign stands in for it. Thus
semiotics is in principle the discipline studying everything which can be used in
order to lie. If something cannot be used to tell a lie, conversely it cannot be
used to tell the truth: it cannot in fact be used to tell at all.
In our study, immigrants often lied regarding their country of origin and their
medical record, as they frequently assumed that a medical history that included a
tropical disease (such as malaria) was liable to lead to their expulsion from Spain.
This made interpreting more difficult, since most of the immigrants were not pro-
ficient in the European languages of the interview. In other words, neither the
interpreters nor the immigrants were speaking their mother tongue. Few of the
immigrants had a good command of the colonial language, and many could not
even speak it at all, so sometimes another immigrant had to mediate as an inter-
preter. Thus, additional explanations were often needed. For instance, a question
such as Have you ever suffered from scabies? had to be changed into Have you
ever suffered from a disease that caused your skin to itch?.
In a translation school or at the EU Parliament, this translation would pre-
sumably have been labeled unacceptable, and in some US courts such explanatory
interpreting is expressly forbidden (Mikkelson 1998: 3236). However, authors
like Beaugrande (1994b: 16) claim that translators should enhance communica-
tion even if they have to discreetly develop the original message for it to be under-
stood. In our experience, communication seemed to work for medical diagnosis
170 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

and treatment although immigrants sometimes lied and lacked linguistic

resources. In very rare cases of doubt, the immigrant was sent to a hospital for
The interpreters at the Center were working for the Ministry of the Interior,
and their main function was to convey orders from the State. Generally, communi-
cation aimed at informing immigrants, but not necessarily at listening to them.
This is probably due to two different factors, both related to economic resources.
First, as we have mentioned, Spain lacks the necessary funding to handle irregular
immigration. This is why decision-makers feel that they do not have the leeway to
implement policies promoting immigrants rights as individuals. Acknowledging
deficiencies in the system would amount to opening a legal can of worms and
might generate accusations of racism. Second, police officers at the Center were
regularly overextended, since there were sometimes no more than two or three of
them for more than eighty immigrants. Not surprisingly, they wanted the inter-
preter to help them rather than burden them with special requests from the
The interpreters, whose qualifications were not officially recognized, thus
found themselves at the center of communicative situations in which one of the
parties (representing their employer) was often reluctant to cooperate. They could
hardly feel at ease under such circumstances, especially when those challenging
them were technically the party that had hired them.
This incompatibility between the participants in the communicative situation
leads us to reconsider the nature of translation and communication.

Conclusion: thoughts about signs

Linguistics has traditionally been important for translation (e.g. Catford 1965,
Newmark 1992) and still is, even if it cannot fully account for translation. In soci-
ety at large, translation (and communication) is often still considered no more
than the replacement of words, a presumably successful search for linguistic
equivalence. This represents an obstacle for the translation profession. Moreover,
although authors such as Fowler (1985), Lambert (1994) or Wolf (1995) empha-
size culture, power and society as concepts needed to understand interlingual
communication, as translators and (less often) as interpreters we tend to concen-
trate more on words than on context. Perhaps this is true of communication in
general; perhaps we have developed and refined more tools to focus on language
than on messages.
In his Memes of Translation, Chesterman (1997: 8) says that the term transla-
tion means to carry from one place to another but that messages are not brought
Interpreting and immigration: communication and power 171

or transported in translation; rather they are replicated. In this sense, we have to

take into account the fact that signs (or semiotic functions, Eco 1977) are social;
they do not have meaning in themselves; only social contexts give meaning to
texts. Therefore, in certain instances, the message may be linguistically correct and
yet will not come across adequately, due to contextual constraints such as those
described in this paper.
Translation as an institution is subject to norms of social interaction (Her-
mans 1995). When we engage in interlingual communication, we encounter the
other, but the encounter does not generally take place on an equal footing (cf.
Wolf 1995: 125), as indeed we found in the Detention Center. Whenever there was
cooperation, communication worked, but cooperation cannot be taken for
granted in communication (Vermeer 1998: 46). Interpreting at the Center was
thus more dependent on the contextual conditions than on the linguistic
Power relations underlie almost every utterance, and interpreters do their job
within those relations. Power influences what is said, how it is said and when it is
said. In representative democracies, power does not usually involve violence but is
manifested through control over communication (or over its absence). In many
cases, citizens brought to justice have the right to be informed but do not have the
right to understand what they are being told (whether or not they speak the lan-
guage of the court). We therefore agree with Fowler (1985: 62) when he states:
Seeing language as a practice that contributes to inequality, rather than as an
innocent medium that simply reflects inequality, forces linguists to be more
critical and gives social purpose to their own investigations.
Negotiating linguistic and cultural identities in
interpreter-mediated communication for
public health services

Mette Rudvin
University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy

This paper explores ways in which identities are negotiated (linguistically,

culturally, institutionally, ethnically) in interpreter-mediated communication for
public services with particular emphasis on medical interpreting. Given that
cultural/ethnic identity is made manifest in language, cross-cultural interpreter-
mediated communication is consequently also perhaps essentially about
negotiating identities (albeit fluid rather than static ones), and thus negotiating
perceived and in-built perceptions of Self and Other. Not only must the
interpreter in a cross-cultural encounter negotiate a position and a role for him/
herself (professional as well as personal) with both interlocutors, but s/he must
enable that position-taking and role-negotiation between two interlocutors who
may be conceptually and textually worlds apart. Based on the premise that
each actor brings to the encounter their own socially and historically constructed
identities, the paper illustrates some of the ways in which identities and the
process of identity-construction/negotiation are manifested verbally.

A few working premises

In order to prepare the ground for the arguments to follow, two premises should
be established. The first can be dealt with summarily and, although seemingly
obvious, it must nevertheless be made explicit, namely that the process of inter-
preting and translating is far from being a mechanical affair. Indeed, a large part of
the interpreters job is to manage communication strategies at both individual and
collective levels and in this process non-verbal skills are as important as termino-
logical accuracy. As Fairclough (1995) reminds us, language always functions as a
representation of the world, an experience of the world, rather than a pre-existing
code; consequently texts are not simply terminological systems, but systems of
knowledge and belief. Text production (by writers, translators, speakers, interpret-
ers) is not just language, but social interaction between participants in a verbal
174 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

exchange, and verbal interaction is therefore a mode of social action, presupposing

a shared knowledge of structures. Managing (co-ordinating to use Wadensjs
term) communication strategies is a delicate and complex affair in a monolingual
situation, and clearly even more so in a triadic interpreter-mediated cross-cultural
The second premise, more specifically related to the subject matter at hand, is
that institutional systems, such as the health system, are precisely that systems.
And systems are not universal or absolute, but culture-bound: Western scientific
medicine, just like Native American healing rituals or homeopathy, is in many
ways only a system. As early as 1980, Arthur Kleinman, a psychiatrist trained in
anthropology, stated that The health care system is a concept, not an entity; it is a
conceptual model held by the researcher. (Kleinman 1980: 25). Health care activ-
ities, he wrote, are
[] organized responses to disease that constitute a special cultural system:
the health care system. In the same sense in which we speak of religion or lan-
guage or kinship as cultural systems, we can view medicine as a cultural sys-
tem, a system of symbolic meanings anchored in particular arrangements of
social institutions and patterns of interpersonal interactions. In every culture,
illness, the responses to it, individuals experiencing it and treating it, and the
social institutions relating to it are all systematically interconnected. (Klein-
man 1980: 2425; italics in the original).
The health care system is thus an institution with a specific culture-bound, time-
bound discourse community generating norm-governed behavioural patterns
reflecting (but not necessarily fully matching) those of the wider community. The
same way in which business culture has been described as corporate culture, so
too the health care system can be described as corporate, in the sense that it
reflects and is governed by a precise institutional mandate as well as by unique
communication and discourse modes. The health care providers role and job-
description are also culturally defined, and s/he is bound by a specific code of pro-
fessional ethics defined by the institution and by the larger community. This will
clearly define and delineate the healthcare providers mandate: for example, from
empirical science or from the realm of the supernatural. It will establish the
demarcation between folk/traditional/alternative and officially recognized health
care. It will establish whether the clinicians role is holistic or mechanical and nar-
rowly targeted towards specific symptomology, whether the clinician is a care-
giver or a treatment-machine, a figure of absolute authority or simply there in an
advisory capacity. Another issue leading on from this is information-sharing: with
whom are you allowed to share delicate information doctor, priest or only family?
Negotiating linguistic and cultural identities 175

Many non-Westerners regard Western biomedicine as alternative medicine. As

Charles Numrich argues, ethicists
[] are also increasingly cognizant that normative autonomy-based bioethi-
cal reasoning is not shared universally. These trends are directing health pro-
fessional educators to provide proactive preparation for cross-cultural care
and communication. For example the shaman may represent a powerful com-
plementary health care professional for whom there is no equivalent health
professional in Western biomedicine. The shamans training is provided
almost entirely from the spirit world and his function is holistic. ... up to 75%
of the people referred by community leaders, who volunteered to be inter-
viewed in our study, use shamans for spiritual healing on a regular basis. ... It
is only by asking as many appropriate questions as necessary, and listening
carefully, that practitioners can find the appropriate path to effective healing.
Hmong shamans recognize this need for themselves as well as others. (Num-
rich, 2002).
If the symptoms of culture-bound understanding of illness are to be recognized
and treated, the cure needs to be coherent with those underlying parameters i.e.
giving anti-psychotic medication to a patient who sincerely believes that a neigh-
bour has put a spell on her might not be that effective, psychologically, whilst call-
ing in a priest from her community to break that spell or rather a combination of
the two, might be more effective. A patient from a so-called traditional culture
will generally have to put aside his/her metaphysical or spiritual explanatory
framework and accept the exclusively physiological explanatory framework of
Western health care. Although treatment may be effective, the patient may be left
dissatisfied and feeling that important traditions and rites e.g. allowing the soul
to leave the body appropriately, cleansing rituals associated with birthing, etc.
have not been respected (there are of course thousands of examples relating to
food, cleanliness, bodily functions, birthing traditions, the process of dying, grief,
pain etc. that could be mentioned). Studies have shown that such a sense of dissat-
isfaction may actually jeopardize the treatment process: Galantis data (1997) show
that when health care professionals are willing to take on board these expectations
and accommodate the patients own cultural framework even if it has no rational
basis in Western medicine, rather than imposing an exclusively Western scientific
treatment plan, results are considerably better, as are the patients general disposi-
tion and his/her will to collaborate. For example, the patient might be allowed to
consult a priest or an exorcist as well as the doctor or psychiatrist, to keep the win-
dow open to facilitate the departure of the soul at the moment of death, or simply
to have his/her family present around the clock.
176 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

To illustrate the schism between the viewpoint of a patient from a so-called

traditional background and that of the typical Western clinician, it might be use-
ful to apply the linguistic/anthropological notion of etic and emic perspectives. In
referring to the emic perspective we consider the insiders own perspective, the
native view, whilst the etic perspective is that of the outsider (Galanti 1997: 89).
Oftentimes, in Western health care, it is the patient rather than the clinician who
has to negotiate the incompatibility between the etic and emic perspectives and
bear the brunt of that incompatibility. This paper argues that when an interpreter
is involved in the communication between patient and doctor, the patient will
often rely on the interpreter as an ally and communication facilitator to co-ordi-
nate that negotiation process. Fortunately, in the health sector far more than in
the legal sector health care workers are becoming increasingly sensitive to the
difficulties posed by cross-cultural differences in the hospital, certainly in coun-
tries such as the US, the UK, Canada, the Scandinavian countries and Australia.
This is perhaps because the objective of the health care worker is very different
from that of the lawyer or judge: whilst the ultimate goal of the former is effective
treatment of the patients symptoms, the objective of the latter is to accommodate
the norms of the communitys legal framework and demands (arrested, brought to
trial, sentenced, punished, acquitted, pardoned, etc.) and to dispense justice
according to that particular communitys understanding of the concept of justice.
Whilst the health care worker can afford to take on board the emic perspective if
s/he believes this will facilitate treatment the judge cannot. The legal worker is
limited by the formal judicial parameters of that particular community and can
only obliquely accommodate cross-cultural difference in the understanding of the
law and justice, at most in the form of allowing mitigating or extenuating circum-

Levels of communication

Public institutions, as systems, are historically, socially and culturally constructed,

varying significantly from culture to culture both in their function and in their
modes of execution. It follows then that when a migrant requests a service from an
institution in the host country, his/her expectations as patient, asylum-seeker, wit-
ness to a crime, defendant, job/benefits applicant, may not necessarily coincide
with those of his/her interlocutor(s). As mentioned, the very division of settings
and domains into institutions is culture-bound (e.g. health/medicine or spiritual-
ity, public vs. private morality and justice in the legal arena). It also follows that the
agenda, the objective of the migrant may not necessarily coincide with that of the
institution: the patient may be seeking someone to confide in and to relate the
Negotiating linguistic and cultural identities 177

vicissitudes of exile (exile metaphorically or literally speaking), the job/benefit

applicant may be after information on how to beat the system and save up money
to send to the family at home, and the defendant may wish to ingratiate him/her-
self or seek patronage from the judge, etc. None of these aims would conform to
the strictly segregated and narrowly targeted functions of Western institutions.
Even more different are the communication forms pertaining to each of these
institutions. It is obvious that institutional language varies greatly from one institu-
tion to another, even within the same culture, but it is easy to forget that the same
setting (e.g. a medical consultation) is governed by different communication and
verbal rules in different cultures or micro-cultures. In addition, one might men-
tion the general differences in everyday communication codes. This may even
apply to the same language and community especially for geographically exten-
sive lingua francas such as English, French or Arabic. Gumperz (1982) reports the
case of a West Indian Londoners use of please being misunderstood by his inter-
locutors because of the difference in tone grouping between standard British
English and West Indian London English. In an interpreter-mediated communica-
tive event taking place in one of the above-mentioned contexts, typically encom-
passing very different cultural codes and discourse modes, to what extent might
the two primary interlocutors then be speaking at cross-purposes and more
importantly for our purposes how does the interpreter manage the different lev-
els and modes of collective and individual identity that emerge in these encoun-
One might argue that there are three levels of differences in public service
discourse that are most relevant to the issues being discussed in this paper: struc-
tural institutional differences, differences in institutional discourse, and everyday
differences in communicative behaviour. Institutional differences, it has been said,
govern the organization of institutions as cultural systems, the way in which they
are defined and delineated, and differences in user expectations of the service
encounter. Differences in institutional discourse and communication patterns
relate to the appropriacy of interpersonal communication between interlocutors
in a particular setting. When an interpreter is involved, relationship-building
through discourse strategies would naturally apply at all levels of interaction: cli-
ent vis--vis service provider and interpreter, service provider relating to client
and to interpreter, etc. The boundaries between institutional discourse and gen-
eral everyday discourses are not always clear, and may vary significantly within
one and the same communicative encounter. Indeed, discourse roles and identities
constantly fluctuate even within one single communicative event, for example,
chatting or narrating anecdotes and stories during a medical consultation, or
baby-talk in a pediatric consultation.
178 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

While Kleinman provides a theoretical framework and an overview of culture-

based differences of professional organization in the health sector, Galanti pro-
vides a host of examples about how the different expectations related to the treat-
ment of mental health are profoundly affected by the patients understanding of
what constitutes mental health, physical health and the realm of the supernatural/
spiritual, of the causes of disease (etiology) and of the dichotomy between mind
and body and between spiritual healing and medicine. Galantis examples are valu-
able in illustrating the levels of communicative divergence mentioned in the pre-
ceding paragraph. She shows how patients from some cultures, in order to respect
hierarchies or general politeness rules, are reluctant to contradict a superior (espe-
cially a doctor but also a nurse) and will therefore nod and say yes to the explana-
tion of a treatment plan that they have not understood (Galanti 1997: 2021); or
how some patients code of politeness does not allow them to request pain medica-
tion so as not to disturb the care-giver (Galanti 1997: 35ff). Or indeed the exam-
ple of the Middle Eastern patient who thought it was silly to sign an informed
consent form because the doctors, being the technical experts in the field, should
be the ultimate authority and not have to consult the patient on medical matters
(Galanti 1997: 22). Furthermore, an authoritative society will probably not be pre-
pared to tolerate the consequences of frequent litigation cases typical of the more
egalitarian-type American society. An example of the opposite tendency would be
that of the young, upper-class Iranian male patient mistreating the hospital nurses
whom he considered to be inferior because of the way he perceives their social sta-
tus and because of the fact that they were women (Galanti 1997:25). Fadiman, in
her superb book on the clash of Hmong and Western medical ethics The Spirit
Catches You and you Fall Down, provides the following example of the clash
between Western bioethics and traditional etiology in the case of a Hmong child
with a harelip whose American doctors insist on surgery, a routine operation
which rarely has complications:
[] the parents fled the hospital with their baby. Several years earlier, while
the family was escaping from Laos to Thailand, the father had killed a bird
with a stone, but he had not done so cleanly, and the bird had suffered. The
spirit of that bird had caused the harelip. To refuse to accept the punishment
would be a grave insult. (Fadiman 1997: 262)
Not only is the understanding of what causes disease worlds apart, but the goals of
medical therapy and the success of treatment are not compatible. Like Galanti,
Fadiman demonstrates the effectiveness of conjoint treatment as a methodological
approach i.e. a treatment plan that includes both Western medicine (etic for the
patient) and traditional/holistic therapy (emic for the patient), for example sur-
gery as well as various healing rituals performed by a shaman (ibid 266).
Negotiating linguistic and cultural identities 179

The communication process

We could identify the various levels of communicative co-ordination in a medical

consultation according to a rough Hallidayan schema (following Tebble 1999) at
the following levels:
Field of discourse: the subject matter, health and illness, covering the full bio-ethi-
cally, cross-culturally diverse ontological range, as manifested in the construction
of the local health system;
Tenor: the interpersonal relationships as negotiating roles, relationships and posi-
tions of status between participants (corporate, ethnic, gender, age-related, social
relations, etc.);
Mode: the role of language, the discoursal practice, the medical jargon and linguis-
tic models, the channel (spoken or written, or a combination of the two). As Teb-
ble (ibid.) notes, mode would also relate to what participants are expecting the
language to do for them in that situation, the symbolic organisation of the text, its
status and its function in the context.
In the overview above, I have attempted to indicate how the understanding and
categorization and/or definition of the field of discourse (illness and health) is
profoundly culture-bound. The field of discourse itself has been thoroughly anal-
ysed by linguists, socio-linguists and T/I scholars from the perspective of institu-
tional terminology and discourse, and need not concern us further here, except as
it relates to interpersonal role negotiation (i.e. a shift from patient to family mem-
ber to social superior to member of the general public), bringing us to the level of
tenor. Interpersonal relations at the level of tenor operate in the rapport both
between service provider and client and between the two primary interlocutors
and the interpreter. In monolingual situations, the interlocutors have a wide range
of strategies at their disposal to negotiate interpersonal role and relations, includ-
ing a broad range of politeness formulae (especially positive face); hedging or
euphemisms (e.g. relating to social attitudes towards the body, especially bodily
functions and explicit sexual language); indirectness or directness; honorifics and
titles; grammatical markers for social management of pronouns (denoting social
role); greetings; approval-seeking strategies such as acquiescence or repetition of
the interlocutors words; and marked social deixis. Supra-linguistic and kinesic
behavioural norms that would govern interpersonal roles would include using or
avoiding eye contact; avoiding physical proximity/touch; gestures; gender dis-
tance; avoidance of inappropriate topics of conversation; silence or verbosity indi-
cating respect or lack of respect; floor management and speech organization such
as group-speaking conventions, distribution of floor rights and directionality of
180 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

talk; level of affect signalled through intonation pattern; lack of contradiction; and
pause tolerance and levels of tolerance for simultaneous speech/ interruption.1 As
Tebble notes, in conveying not just the content but how that content is expressed,
the interpreter must convey interpersonal features and must know how to deliver
the findings in a way that will reassure the patient and ensure compliance (ibid.).
The interpreter actively exploits the communication tools offered at the level of
tenor to co-ordinate relationships and identities governed by social group conven-
tions (culture), corporate conventions (institutions), as well as the individual
actors idiosyncrasies. Naturally, the linguistic rules of tenor vary enormously
between languages, as do the rules and parameters of interpersonal relationships
and role (such as the cases of the Vietnamese patients reported below); this ren-
ders the textual negotiation and manipulation of cross-cultural discourse at the
level of tenor profoundly complex.

Negotiating identities

Perhaps it would be appropriate at this point to narrow down what we mean by

identity. For the purposes of this paper, I would differentiate between what one
might call personal identity and public identity. Personal, or private identity oper-
ates both at the collective cultural level and at the individual level (the individual
self, conditioned by the experiences of a lifetime and by conflicting forces as well as
some that consolidate disparate experiences). Cultural (also national, ethnic) iden-
tity would be less idiosyncratic, more group-based and based on values and behav-
ioural patterns derived on a consensual basis from a particular community. It would
be this form of identity that gives the individual a sense of place and territorial
belonging, crucial for the psychological socialization process of the young child.
However, the individual self unless isolated from contact with other cultural
groups will invariably be composed of a range of cultural identities brought to
bear upon the individual in a complex network of identities. The impact of cul-
tural hybridity of this sort will be particularly visible in the migrant (seeker of pub-
lic services and interpretation services) who is invariably required to adapt to the
host environment and take on board its values and customs increasingly so with
the passing of time. Frequently, cultural hybridity impacts even more intensely on
the community interpreter him/herself, often a naturalized citizen of the host
country, a second-generation migrant or one who has lived many years in the
host country and has partly assimilated (consciously or not) the values and behav-
ior of that group as well as those of his/her own original group(s). Innumerable
studies of second-generation migrants, and their own firsthand accounts, have
shown how complex and often painful the integration process really is: the values
Negotiating linguistic and cultural identities 181

of the parent generation oftentimes collide with those of the new home country.
The most obvious examples are perhaps those of traditional Muslim migrants in
liberal Western countries where it may be very difficult to reconcile conservative
gender and sexual behavioral codes, or attitudes towards human rights (arranged
marriages, infibulation) with post-war liberal societies of the West. It is sometimes
excruciating for the individual to manage, balance and co-ordinate his/her iden-
tity as a good and obedient Muslim and daughter/sister/granddaughter with his/
her identity as a young, independent western teenager seeking to comply with the
demands of his/her new peer group. Although this may not bear directly on inter-
preting, it illustrates well how the self must balance often intensely conflicting
identities simultaneously. At a collective level (especially for the second generation
of migrants) this balancing act is a highly dynamic process, leading to new forms
of collective and personal identities. A good example of such identity formation
although it has nothing to do with interpreting as such is the young Pakistani-
born Norwegian comic actress Shabana Rehman whose refreshing thinly veiled
parodies of the conservative Pakistani community are enormously successful pop-
ular entertainment. Ironically, her attack on conservative gender codes have
angered both anthropologists and feminists, not to mention conservative mem-
bers of the Pakistani community (although not her own family). A recent inter-
view in the magazine of one of the conservative newspapers portrayed her
photograph on the cover nude, clad only in a Norwegian flag. A more intensely
symbolic icon of the clash (and creative merging) of identities would be hard to
find: a naked female of Muslim extraction clad in the flag of one of the most liberal
societies in the world.
It is important, then, to remember that identities at both collective and indi-
vidual levels are apt to change over time, and must not be stereotyped. Indeed, as
Solomon reminds us, within one ethnic group there is likely to be a wide range of
personal preferences, so it is critical not to stereotype on the basis of cultural or
ethnic identity. There is no substitute for individual decision-making and the
building of mutual understanding. (Solomon 1997: 92). The interpreters contact
with the home country is further removed not only because of her integration in
the host country, but also because the home country has changed in the mean-
time. Discussing his/her positioning in the communicative event, Inghilleri makes
an important qualification about the interpreters own space between the two
interlocutors cultures as being far more complex, and far less neutral, than the lit-
erature so far has been willing to accept, further complicating the interpreters role:
Moreover, the idea that interpreters compensate discursively for inadequate
legal representation, cultural/political ignorance or bias, and other institu-
tional constraints is based on an assumption that interpreters occupy an
182 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

effectively neutral space between different cultural/linguistic practices. This

idea of in-between, frequently appealed to in translation and interpreting
studies, suggests that these 'intercultural spaces' occupied by translators and
interpreters are ideological voids, rather than inherently heterogeneous and
hybrid places where cultures/meanings overlap. (Inghilleri 2004: 45)
Interpreters are positioned not so much between two neutral cultures, but rather
between subjective representations of the various contexts, situations and cultures
involved. The following quote from Kleinman (referring also to Berger (1973))
shows how complex the identity-building process is:
[] the individual not only fashions his own sense of personal identity with
the aid of this internalized view of the real, but also externalizes (objectiv-
izes) it and by so doing affirms or discovers the same social reality out there
in the real world, like a self-fulfilling prophecy. The tremendous power of
social reality is in large part due to this fit between inner (personal) and outer
(social) beliefs, values, and interests. (Kleinman 1980: 36)

Interpreters negotiating strategies

The other level of identity is precisely that more public one, the individuals insti-
tutional-corporate identity governed more strongly by consensus-based group
behaviour and in many ways perhaps more rigid than the more private forms of
identity. Furthermore, professional identity is often dictated by rigid professional
codes of ethics. The community interpreter too is in many ways caught in between
various professional identities here: the institutional-corporate (the hospital,
clinic, Western scientific medicine, etc.), the patients or patients familys under-
standing and expectations of the institution, the patients own view of health and
illness, and his/her own professional code of ethics as interpreter. It is precisely at
this interface between different professional-institutional identities that the
parameters of the interpreters role can become very confusing indeed. A language
transmitter and terminological databank, cultural bridge, psychological support
provider and hand-holder, information-provider, fellow-citizen? The problems
that tend to crop up when discussing the interpreters role impartiality-neutrality
bonding are precisely those that are affected by the balancing or negotiating of
professional identities. The process of negotiating, by which I mean fought out,
played against each other, come into conflict only to converge, adapted and moul-
ded, give and take will always contain some degree of opposition and will always
be a battleground of sorts. And yet this does not preclude, but rather anticipates,
the reaching of a conclusion, arriving at a compromise and understanding
between the various interlocutors. Wadensj and many other Interpreting Studies
Negotiating linguistic and cultural identities 183

scholars have demonstrated how the interpreter is deeply involved in this commu-
nicative negotiation process. It would probably be safe to say that the mechanical
conduit model has been disproved beyond any doubt: numerous studies have
shown how cultural factors govern both the linguistic and non-linguistic aspects
of interpreter-mediated communication. Following this approach, this paper
argues that the interpreter is governed by his/her own cultural background, and
his/her identity is actively negotiated in the triadic exchange through linguistic
The literature in institutional discourse, and more specifically in medical dis-
course, has demonstrated abundantly how roles are negotiated verbally and non-
verbally in institutional settings. Also, it must not be forgotten that field-specific
discourse is far from homogenous, even in its more technical manifestations, and
that the very categorization of different identities in the institutional setting
patient/service-seeker/family-member/child/old person or nurse/technical advi-
sor/care-giver/colleague/elder is fluid and hybrid. In an analysis of a patient-
doctor dialogue an informed consent briefing interpreted by the patients niece
(in Brunette et al. 2003). Meyer et al. show how the conversation follows an insti-
tutionally pre-organized pattern, which the ad hoc interpreter is not always able
and/or willing to follow, even though both the doctor and the interpreter-niece
share the aim of enabling the patient to follow the doctors explanations. One
might say that she is positioning herself in her identity as niece rather than hos-
pital interpreter, and consequently her interpreting strategies follow suit. In the
same volume, Hanneke Bot (Brunette et al. 2003) shows how the interpreter nego-
tiates interpersonal roles in therapeutic settings by moving from the first- to third-
person pronoun. This is perhaps even more evident in the case of ad hoc interpret-
ers (and particularly family members, where all three parties are aware of their
kinship and social ties with the patient) than in that of professional trained inter-
preters; in his/her twin capacity as kin and interpreter the ad hoc interpreter must
negotiate between composite and sometimes conflicting identities (conflicting
especially as this concerns such issues as impartiality vs. advocacy and informa-
tion-seeking/providing). Bots examples shed light on ways in which patients han-
dle interpreter bonding, conflicts of interest and impartiality. Given that we are
dealing with human and social communication, albeit in institutional contexts,
role or identity boundaries (Bot makes a distinction between boundary violations
and boundary transgression) will seldom be entirely clear-cut or straightforward,
but more often than not will be susceptible to some degree of negotiating, even
with highly professional interpreters. It is clear that the interpreters persona
(both professional and arguably personal) is activated and called upon at all three
discourse levels mentioned above. Illustrating this, Inghilleris data (Inghilleri
2004) from the context of refugee asylum applicants show that interpreters could
184 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

be seen to make informed, strategic choices with regard to codes of ethics, e.g.,
when to adhere to them and when to ignore what they deemed to be their irrele-
vant or impossible demands. The interpreters role (and therefore identity) is gov-
erned not only by social, cultural, institutional, political and individual factors, but
also by his/her specific positioning within the context of his/her institutional role.
In the asylum context, she notes, this role is constituted in macro-social issues
like social inclusion and exclusion, immigration policies, global politics, and the
constitution of nation-states (ibid.). A number of complex questions and issues
arise at this point: Do interpreters tend to mutate, culturally, in that moment and
take upon themselves the identity of first one interlocutor and then the other as
they change ground or their participation status (Goffman 1981: 137)? Or do
they maintain some form of stable, if hybrid identity? With which party does their
primary loyalty lie when their allegiance is challenged? If/when the question of
allegiance becomes explicit, when and how does bonding interfere, and with what
consequences? Analyses of real data examining alignment and changes in footing
would no doubt shed light on such questions.
Galanti gives two examples of the use of ad hoc interpreters at an American
hospital. The first is that of an Hispanic woman who had to sign an informed con-
sent form for a hysterectomy. Her bilingual son was interpreting for her, and
seemed to be translating accurately enough and the patient signed the form. How-
ever, when the patient learned the following day that her uterus had been
removed, she was very angry, and threatened to sue the hospital. Because it is
inappropriate for an Hispanic male to discuss her private parts with his mother,
the embarrassed son explained that a tumour would be removed from her abdo-
men and pointed to the general area (Galanti 1997: 22). The patient felt her status
deriving in large part from the number of children she was able to bear had
been undermined. In the second example an Arab patients mother-in-law was
interpreting health material to the new mother. Coming from a culture that valued
large families, the mother-in-law refused however to translate the information on
contraception. It is just as likely that she might have pretended to convey the
information while actually talking about something else (ibid 22.). Robert Pol-
lacks video Mental Health Interpreting: A Mentored Curriculum contains the fol-
lowing vignette: a young female Vietnamese interpreter and an American female
psychiatrist are having a pre-session briefing. When the interpreter asks the doctor
if there is anyone accompanying the patient, it becomes clear that several family
members are present, including the patients grandfather. The interpreter then
advises the psychiatrist that she should adopt a number of verbal and non-verbal
communication strategies with the grandfather that will facilitate communication
to optimize collaboration (dont look him straight in the eye, lower your tone of
voice, use your first name, etc.). Galanti provides a similar example where she
Negotiating linguistic and cultural identities 185

discusses how family members of a Vietnamese patient all sought the approval of
the family patriarch, the grandfather, as they spoke. In that case, the teenage
daughter served as interpreter (Galanti 1997: 23). Although roles and identities are
expressed at the macrostructural level, they are thus naturally played out through
interpersonal linguistic strategies at the level of tenor or non-verbal politeness
strategies. In the first case, in the briefing session, the interpreter is also acting in
an advisory capacity as a cultural expert, or informant. The interpreter alone is
aware of the complex interplay and potential mismatching of the various actors
identities and as such is in a unique position to coordinate strategies and to guide
the other actors in their chosen strategies.

Negotiating identities in a triadic relationship, an example from the mental

health setting

I have previously shown (Rudvin, forthcoming) how an Iranian interpreter inter-

preting for Kurdish female patients had to constantly negotiate and re-negotiate
her interpersonal role through a host of politeness strategies in order to establish
and maintain communication with the patient. Considerable time was spent sim-
ply overcoming the patients initial resistance to the interpreter a laborious and
tiring process, but one that eventually allowed patient and therapist to communi-
cate successfully. It was interesting to note just how complex the interpersonal sta-
tus negotiation process was at the macro-structural level (played out at the
linguistic micro-level, or at the level of tenor). The interpreters various identities
collective and individual were constantly challenged and called into question.
The actors are a small group of Kurdish women refugees all victims of torture
and all from rural environments, an Iranian interpreter from Tehran who had
lived many years in the host country, and a Finnish-Norwegian psychologist. The
languages used were Farsi and Norwegian.
The main identity-building factors could be summed up as follows:
Ethnicity: for a Kurdish patient, the Iranian interpreter represented one of the
oppressors in that she was a member of the urban upper-class as opposed to the
patients who came from rural, traditional backgrounds, and also, more impor-
tantly, the political majority and political oppressors;
Language: finding an interpreter who was a native speaker of Kurdish was
impossible and the next best thing was the patient's second language, Farsi. How-
ever, for the patient, the symbolic weight of using the oppressors language was a
significant obstacle;
186 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Age: older patients would automatically behave as superiors and could there-
fore allow themselves to behave in a more familiar fashion with interpreter and
Social status: the family status in the home country. The patients would often
go to great lengths to discover social links between themselves and their interloc-
utor(s) and consequently their own social positioning vis--vis the other;
Loyalty: the patient often saw the interpreter as someone who had fully
adapted to the customs and values of the host society and who had come to terms
with her life in exile while she herself had been forced to flee and could not recon-
cile herself to life in the host country; in other words, the interpreter was seen
almost as a traitor. Recent interviews with language mediators in the health sec-
tor in Italy conducted by myself, a colleague and our students have confirmed this.
Many mediators-interpreters felt that the allegiance-factor was very complex and
could work both ways: patients were initially resistant to an assumed institutional-
cultural bond between mediator and doctor, and their own shared culture with the
mediator could be both reassuring and threatening in that they were very afraid
that confidential information could be leaked into the community (see Rudvin
forthcoming and Rabbini 2006).
Level of integration in the community: the interpreter was an insider/outsider
in relation to the patients own community. A high degree of integration in her
own ethnic community in the host society can in some cases be an advantage to
the establishment of a good working relationship, but in this case lack of integra-
tion was an advantage because the clients were concerned that the information
they furnished in therapy sessions (highly delicate material, for example sexual
abuse of themselves or their children) might leak out into the community or even
to their own family.
The complex negotiation of interpersonal role was played out through a wide
range of verbal and non-verbal strategies. Forms of address were crucial. The
interpreter used marked social deixis and respectful forms of address on her own
initiative i.e. not prompted by the therapist to gain the patients trust and to
allow the therapist to save face. At a non-verbal level, social distance or intimacy
between the interlocutors (in particular interpreter and patient) was shown in
modes of greeting and leave-taking, precedence in seating and eating arrange-
ments, or other gestures displaying the status and kinship positioning of the inter-
locutors. Other strategies to indicate a position of inferiority-superiority were cold
reserve, histrionics, requesting favours, and the acceptance or refusal of gifts and
hospitality. The negotiation process was broken twice when the patients felt that
the interpreter was not upholding the required codes of communication. The face-
saving aspect and explicit demonstration of respect were crucial in the relation-
ship-building phase because the patients had previously refused the services of
Negotiating linguistic and cultural identities 187

another interpreter who did not adopt these strategies, an indication of the hierar-
chical structure of Kurdish society and the wide range of communicative strategies
available to express this structure. It was noted above that strategies at the level of
tenor vary immensely from language to language and the case described here
illustrates that difference particularly well. Ahlberg notes how the Farsi language
contains a number of stylistic devices to help individuals to communicate to each
other the hierarchical aspects of relationships (such as forms of address) that are
not contained in the more egalitarian, or horizontally structured European cul-
tures and languages. It is important that these delicate but crucial signs of respect
are not only used correctly, but conveyed to the therapist because that is the
patients way of negotiating her bond with the service provider, often with great
effort. It is interesting to note also that the patients expectations of the interpreter
and judgement of her performance were more severe (at the level of communica-
tion/behavioral appropriateness) than they were with respect to the therapist.
The communication strategies adopted by the interpreter to negotiate the rela-
tionship operated at the levels of politeness as well as courtesy strategies intended
to signal distance or superiority, forms of address (marked social deixis), social
distance or intimacy, and acceptance or refusal of gifts. All three parties were in a
position of having to manage complex and extremely delicate socio-cultural
behavioural codes complicated by factors such as religion, status, kinship, ethnic
affiliation, age, urban/rural identification, gender, etc.

Conclusions: Creating shared meaning?

A quote from a Hmong community member, reported by Numrich, illustrates the

frustration of not having shared concepts and shared terminology:
I think, the workers and doctors, the way they ask questions and listen to
Hmong explain their illness is very important, because the person may have
many illnesses in their body or may be stressed and want to inform a doctor
and would like for him/her to listen. Although the doctor may not consider it
to be important, but the doctor should try their best to listen to what we are
saying and to see what is. Because English is not our language and we may
want to say a lot about our illness, we may not be able to because of the lan-
guage barrier. And if there is an interpreter, they may only say one-third of
what one really wants to say about their illness to the doctor because there are
many words in the Hmong language so its not very satisfying. Therefore the
trust for the doctor may not be there because there is no connection therefore
you cannot build that trust. (Numrich
Hmong%20Shaminism.doc my emphasis)
188 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Subjects belonging to the same group have to a lesser or greater extent shared and
agreed-upon knowledge bases, they share a knowledge of language codes, of prin-
ciples and norms of language use, of situation. These factors all contribute to cre-
ating the individuals perception of self, and also the resulting perception of the
interlocutor or the interlocutors group the Other; it is this level of perception
that the interpreter must grapple with in mitigating those differing communica-
tive strategies. If knowledge schemas and participation frameworks (participants'
expectations about people, objects, events and settings in the world) (Tannen and
Wallat 1987: 207), frames and the linguistic cues and markers through which such
shifts in footing become manifest (see Goffman 1981: 124159) and indeed the
frames themselves are culture-bound, part of the interpreters verbal and interpre-
tative competence will consist in identifying which frame is intended (humour,
irony or quiet hostility are not always that obvious) and being able to align, switch
and coordinate the speakers often mismatched and culture-governed knowledge
of schemas and frames. Not only must s/he be able to do what is required of a dex-
terous monolingual speaker, namely to jump back and forth between frames (see
Goffman 1981: 124159, esp. 145), but she must do this on two sides, bridging
incommensurable knowledge schemas (such as illness ontologies) and frames
(medical consultation and power hierarchies between doctor and patient) in two
different cultures and languages, such as the mental health interpreter negotiating
ethnic, gender, kinship identities with the client and therapist. Indeed, the inter-
preter must also negotiate an additional frame: her own relationship to the inter-
locutors as a professional and her role as interpreter, one of the practical
manifestations of this sometimes confusing role adaptation being the shift
between the first and third person: Very often even when an interpreter speaks in
the first person singular in accordance with mainstream interpreting theory, his/
her interlocutor might switch to third person because s/he is less conscious of the
interpreters role (or in moments of difficulty, emotivity or tension between inter-
locutors), and she will not only have to align footing and negotiate her own iden-
tity as outside her own self but will also have to align other interlocutors
switches of footing in relation to her own role.
The Farsi interpreter mentioned above was switching and aligning identities at
an extraordinarily complex level (including the rapport with the patients hus-
bands, whose approval was sought at various times throughout the therapeutic
process), and showed dexterity, patience and creativity in resolving the communi-
cation obstacles between the patient and herself, and ultimately between patient
and therapist. It takes a confident, self-assured, intelligent and professional inter-
preter to persist in the treatment plan when her own social status, the status of her
family, and her ethnic allegiance is being challenged. Although this is not explicitly
stated, one might presume that the most difficult identity conflict at the level of
Negotiating linguistic and cultural identities 189

affect was between the pull from the host countrys hold on her as one of their
own and the pull of her own and/or the patients own home culture. This was
manifested in the data from a somewhat different perspective that of the patient
rather than of the interpreter: namely, the patients distrust of the interpreter as
ostensibly representing the host community. Of course, such individual combina-
tions of ethnicity and level of integration are unique to each individual interpreter
(depending also on the time s/he has spent in the host country). In this particular
example, the interpreter had lived in the country for decades and had married a
citizen of that country; from personal conversations with her it seemed that she
regarded herself as a naturalized Norwegian and that her allegiance lay primarily
with the host countrys customs and communication forms. Paradoxically, identi-
fication with the host country and lack of integration in the patients ethnic com-
munity may be a motive of distrust, but may thus also hold an advantage in that
the patient is less liable to be concerned about a breach of confidentiality.

The interface of role and identity

It seems likely that a clear difference in identity negotiating would emerge between
trained and untrained professionals due to their respective understandings of their
own mandate and of the professional code of ethics governing levels of participa-
tion and distance for example. An even greater difference would be found in iden-
tity-negotiation between the trained interpreter and interpreters recruited among
family members and friends (such as the Hispanic interpreter-son, the Arab
mother-in-law or the interpreter-niece) whose identity as kin impacts heavily on
the interpreting strategies to the extent that essential information is withheld, or
indeed misconstrued. In the case of the Hispanic interpreter-son, it is clear that his
private identity as son upholding the (presumed) social rules and taboos of the
ethnic community and of the intimate son-mother relationship took precedence
over his professional role and institutional identity at that moment as interpreter.
Identity-negotiating then impacts on the interpreters understanding of his or her
own role: Is it that of language transmitter and terminological databank, for which
the trained interpreter has been prepared? Is it that of a cultural bridge, psycholog-
ical support provider and hand-holder, for which the trained interpreter is often
unprepared but which is often implicitly expected by employers in the medical or
welfare sector? Is it that of an information-provider, sharing time, knowledge and
experience with a fellow-citizen, which might often be the patients stated or
unstated expectation? It is important (if obvious), I believe, that these aspects be
clarified with employers and ideally with the users too (patient, defendant, appli-
cant, etc.) in the form of a contract (as Tebble coins the interpreters role-clarifica-
tion at the beginning of a medical consultation) so that the interpreter has a clearly
190 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

defined and targeted Skopos in mind as a base from which to adopt and adapt
appropriate translation strategies. I also believe it is important to be flexible, and to
keep an open mind, rather than impose a narrow code of ethics. The following
quote by Solomon, a medical doctor, is an encouraging note on which to end: We
need further empirical research to learn more about the subtleties of how really
expert interpreters build shared meaning and where the obstacles and barriers to
understanding reside among different cultural groups (Solomon 1997: 92).
Interpreters are not alone in confronting these issues, of course. The neutrality
axiom (the conduit metaphor) that was previously the foundational epistemology
of a number of professions in the human sciences for example anthropologists
observing passively the object of study and noting down unaltered factual obser-
vations, psychologists being sounding boards and impacting on the course of their
patients lives only on the latters own premises, the teacher impassively imparting
pre-ordained stocks of information and knowledge have long since been chal-
lenged on the grounds that human relationships and human systems are infinitely
complex, changing, dynamic and unpredictable rather than rigidly structured,
uniform and predictable. In the same way, all those professions whose primary
aim is human interaction will inevitably engage in a dialectical negotiation of roles
and identities. In our profession, however, this aspect comes so much more
intensely to the fore not only because we are dealing with cross-cultural multilin-
gual relationships where interlocutors identities are not based on Fully shared
knowledge, but because we are negotiating (or attempting to negotiate) those same
identities on behalf of ourselves as well as on behalf of the other interlocutors.


1. All discourse communities have predictable moments for turn-taking. Foley discusses
some of the different ways in which speech is organized with respect to turn-taking (for exam-
ple in Aboriginal English or Illingot. Some of the guiding principles in English for turn-taking
(see Jaworski, 1999:20) are: avoid gaps and overlaps in conversation; speak one at a time; keep
to a well-established script with clearly delineated roles; and respect the appropriate slots to
intervene; signal willingness to give up the floor by directing gaze to the next speaker through
gestures synchronising with final words or by altering pitch.
Babel rebuilt

A survey of social welfare institutions and

interpreting and translation services in Flanders

Katrien Lannoy
Hogeschool voor Wetenschap en Kunst, Vlekho, Brussels, Belgium

Jan Van Gucht

Centrale OndersteuningsCel Sociaal Vertalen en Tolken, Brussels, Belgium

The Flemish government aims to ensure the full participation of all ethnic and
cultural minorities in society and its institutions. This policy requires a number of
well-organized professional interpreting and translation service providers, who
offer a wide range of high quality services. An extensive analysis of these services
and their users, as well as a comparative study of the systems used in two
neighboring countries, allows a number of recommendations to be formulated
with respect to their structure, development, service provision, quality control,
and funding.


Belgium is a federal state divided into three regions: Flanders, Wallonia and the
Brussels Capital Region. These regions are each responsible for their social wel-
fare. In that capacity, the Flemish Region sponsors Babel, the Flemish central tele-
phone interpreting service, as well as its end-users, the social welfare services.
There are seven major professionally organized social interpreting and trans-
lation services in Flanders. Four of these are urban and operate on a local level, in
the cities of Antwerp, Ghent, Louvain and Malines; one is based in the province of
East Flanders (one of the five provinces in the Flemish Region) and two are
regional. Brussel Onthaal works exclusively with volunteers, while the other one,
Babel, employs only professionals. As a government-sponsored agency, Babel is
also charged with the development and professionalization of the field of social
192 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

The research reported on here was carried out for the Flemish Government.
The project was officially entitled Onderzoek naar het sociaal tolkenlandschap in
Vlaanderen and ran from January 2003 to June 2003. Its initial brief comprised
three main objectives:
1. To carry out a comprehensive analysis of the state of the art of social
interpreting in Flanders,
2. To formulate recommendations with regard to the role of Babel as the
central telephone interpreting service,
3. To formulate recommendations with regard to the provision of social
interpreting and translation services in Flanders.


In order to be able to formulate any recommendations, we first needed to perform

a Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats (SWOT) analysis of the field of
social interpreting. We opted for a two-pronged strategy, surveying both the ser-
vice providers and their users
The survey of the providers included the following elements:
Structured interviews
Field trips were made to all seven professional interpreting and transla-
tion service providers and interviews were held with their key personnel.
The information gathered in the interviews was used to generate a num-
ber of items for a questionnaire focusing on needs analysis and the cur-
rent means and strategies for service provision.
Data verification
Two meetings were held with the directors of the interpreting and trans-
lation services, providing an opportunity to verify, validate and possibly
rectify the research data gathered.
The elements in the survey of users were as follows:
Telephone survey
A representative sample of two hundred registered users of interpreting
or translation services was contacted for a telephone survey. All partici-
pants were also asked to answer a more extensive questionnaire by mail,
focusing on the users needs and wants.
Babel rebuilt 193

The 108 questionnaires received allowed us to complement and qualify
the research data obtained in the service provider survey.
Our research method also incorporated comparisons with the British and Dutch
models. Although both the UK and the Netherlands can boast highly effective ser-
vice provision models, their approaches have been radically different. The Dutch
have opted for a single highly professionalized central provider, whereas the Brit-
ish have developed an essentially decentralized system with centrally governed
quality and training trajectories.
To find out which of these approaches would be appropriate for the Flemish
context, we conducted interviews with key players in the respective service provi-
sion systems.

Results and observations

Provider survey

An essential element in our brief was to identify possible lacunas in the service
provision. In this context, we set out to chart both the geographical and the secto-
rial coverage provided by the various social interpreting and translation services.
Based on the interview cycle and the provider survey, we drew up a social map
of interpreting and translation service provision in Flanders, divided into eleven
major sectors of activity (corresponding to various Flemish Government budget
lines), and again by specific user type. The eleven major domains were:
Associative sector
Local authorities
Justice (welfare aspects only)
Specific action: youth
Specific action: refugees, newcomers and established minorities
Specific action: the elderly
Health Care (general, mental and care for the handicapped)
Social welfare services
Employment services
Social housing departments
We also developed a system for standardizing the records of each of the providers,
to be published in a Reference Guide for Users.
194 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

For the provincial and regional providers, geographical coverage was also stud-
ied. Figure 1 shows an example of the type of density maps that were drawn up.

Figure 1. Babel density map: number of incoming calls per year and per municipality

The dense areas typically correspond to urban zones such as Antwerp, Ghent and
Brussels. The white areas show that nearly 50 percent of the regions territory is not
effectively covered yet.
We found that most of the interpreters and translators are volunteers (see
Table 1). However, preliminary research data would indicate that the professionals
carry out the majority of the actions.

Table 1. Status of interpreters and translators

Type Number Percentage

Volunteers 472 69
Self-employed 96 14
Employees 24 4
Other (e.g. students, pensioners, welfare recipients) 85 13
Total 677 100

Within the social interpreting and translation community, the status and income
of the personnel is still a matter of concern and discussion. The providers were
also queried on matters related to service provision, their own organization, their
relationship with users, the staff, and best practices.
Using assessments by the service providers, we made a strengths and weak-
nesses analysis of three methods of interpreting: personal (consecutive or whis-
pered), telephone and video (the latter being added on the basis of an experiment
set up by the Antwerp Stedelijke Tolken- en Vertaaldienst). The results are shown
in a series of radar plots (Figures 2 to 4).
Babel rebuilt 195

Figure 2. Strengths and weaknesses of personal interpreting

Figure 3. Strengths and weaknesses of telephone interpreting

196 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Figure 4. Strengths and weaknesses of video interpreting

We have tried to put opposing characteristics in opposing quadrants in order to

facilitate reading. The greater the area a certain dimension covers, the more
important it is for that form of interpreting. The lighter gray area indicates a max-
imum or near-maximum score, whereas the dark denotes an average score. Where
visible, the shaded part indicates the minimum score. Thus, a large light-gray sur-
face denotes a divergence of opinions among the providers (some giving very high
scores and others very low ones), whereas a mainly dark surface stands for relative
Telephone and personal interpreting seem to have complementary strengths
and weaknesses. The advantages of telephone interpreting include its short inter-
ventions and its simple and informative content, with situations that favor anonym-
ity and no more than two speakers. The telephone may be used to help at a counter
or in a crisis situation (because of its greater availability). Personal interpreting, on
the other hand, is suitable for longer communications of a more complex and inter-
active nature, possibly including more than two parties, or the use of documents. It
may be used in situations where personal contact is required and, like its counter-
part, may also prove useful in a crisis (because of its more personal nature). Video
interpreting combines some of the individual strengths of these types but, on aver-
age, scores significantly lower than either of them.
Babel rebuilt 197

Given the complementary nature of telephone and personal interpreting (and

to a lesser extent video interpreting), both modes of interpreting are required to
meet needs in the field.

User survey

Users were surveyed on their current use of interpreting and translation services.
They were asked about financial aspects as well as their needs and expectations.
Most reported that they did not have a separate budget for interpreting or transla-
tion services and most of those who did found it to be insufficient.
The users were also asked to rank the most commonly observed solutions to
language mediation needs by frequency of use, with the lowest rank indicating the
most frequently used solution. As is shown in Table 2, use of a common contact
language is the highest-ranking solution, followed by the use of simplified Dutch
and gestures, then the use of friends and relatives or untrained colleagues as ad
hoc interpreters. The use of professional telephone and personal interpreters still
appears to be quite limited.

Table.2. Ranking of language mediation solutions (Lowest rank indicates most frequent use)
Contact Simplified Friends Colleague Telephone Personal Referral Not
language Dutch and or relatives interpreter interpreter helped
1,602 2,606 3,020 3,373 3,987 4,000 4,467 7,211

The users were also asked to rate these language mediation solutions in terms of
their effect on the quality of service provision (see Table 3). Not surprisingly, the use
of a contact language and of ad hoc interpreters was valued rather highly. Perhaps
more of a surprise was the overall neutral rating of simplified language use and
hand gestures. However, since telephone interpreting obtained the second highest
evaluation, the users seem convinced of the quality of professional interpreting.

Table 3. Quality of language mediation solutions (Numbers represent absolute answer frequen-
cies per category)
Positive Neutral Negative
Contact language 78 26 16
Simplified Dutch and gestures 28 28 40
Friends or relatives 47 30 27
Colleague 34 24 27
Telephone interpreter 59 11 8
Personal interpreter 39 15 7
Referral 6 11 7
Not helped 1 4 11
198 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting


The best of both worlds

Though our comparative analysis of both foreign models (Dutch and British) was
by no means comprehensive, we soon concluded that neither model could readily
be transposed to Flanders. We nevertheless tried to include some of the strengths
of each and to adapt them to the field. Our recommendation was to entrust a cen-
tral agency with the quality care and control functions and to provide the basic
regional coverage by means of telephone interpreting, while personal interpreting
would effectively remain decentralized.

A three-tier structure

We have recommended that telephone interpreting be organized at the regional

level, for reasons of economy of scale. For personal interpreting and translation
the provincial level would probably be the most effective. Full regional coverage
could be attained through five provincial providers, thus guaranteeing a basic ser-
vice provision for all users. Where the local situation warrants it (i.e. in the major
cities), the Flemish authorities could engage in partnerships with local providers
as well. The overall structure would thus be as presented in Table 4.

Table 4. Babel rebuilt: service provision

Authority level Structural level Quality trajectory
National level
Flemish region Flemish Telephone Interpreting Flemish Central Interpreting Service
Service and Quality Circle
Province Five provincial services
Municipality A number of local initiatives

A regional support structure

The current double role of Babel as both a telephone-interpreting center and the
official agency for developing the field of community interpreting in the Flemish
Region has proven to be a source of tension and confusion of roles in the field.
We have recommended the creation of an autonomous support structure: the
Flemish Central Interpreting Service (FCIS). To ensure that decisions are made in
a fully representative and transparent way, this body will be supported by the
Quality Circle, a steering committee with representatives of all professionally
organized providers, and its main mission will be to initiate and supervise a com-
Babel rebuilt 199

prehensive quality trajectory, focusing on training and accreditation for profes-

sional as well as volunteer interpreters and translators.
To be registered by the FCIS, volunteers will have to undergo a basic training
cycle, guaranteeing basic interpreting techniques and a grasp of the principles of
professional conduct and good practice. To be registered as professionals, candi-
dates must complete a 72-hour training course, which should extend to 200 hours
over the coming five-year-period, as new modules are added.
The FCIS will also be a center for knowledge management, a central reposi-
tory of training and screening materials, tools and records of best practices. It will
support both neophyte and established providers in their development. Academic
support should be provided by a Flemish documentation center.
Currently, the most suitable professional status for social interpreters and
translators seems to be that of employee or self-employed. In the long run, the lat-
ter status is tenable only for the most dedicated and successful professionals. That
is why we have recommended the study and drafting of a new and more flexible
statute for self-employed social interpreters.
Even though we strongly encourage further professionalization of the field,
the volunteers will always have an important role to play because they bring much-
needed flexibility to the field. For whole communities of newcomers, they are the
only interpreters and translators available. Another important argument in favor
of the volunteers is that the professional interpreting and translation services only
work for the social welfare services.
Volunteers are the only group that will work directly for the foreign client
group. Given that we have established a certain tendency of welfare services to
leave the organization of language mediation to their clientele (notably because of
a lack of financial means to pay for interpreters or translators), volunteers are all
the more important.

A social rate policy

In light of the fact that a mere 30 percent of the users reported having a separate
budget for translation or interpreting and that these budgets quite often proved to
be insufficient, our recommendation was that the telephone interpreting services
provided by Babel be kept free of charge for social welfare institutions, that they be
offered at a social rate to other institutions working for the same allophone clien-
tele and that third organizations (such as the media) be offered assistance at com-
mercial rates as long as this does not impede the main mission of the providers.
200 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

In conclusion

We hope that this study in its methodology and the proposed three-tiered struc-
ture of social interpreting and translation services may prove useful as a template
for research and implementation in other countries. Conversely, we would greatly
welcome comparative research including other regional or national approaches
and experiences in this field.
From 10-minute wedding ceremonies to
three-week spa treatment programs

Reconstructing the system of sign language

interpreting in Styria

Nadja Grbi
Department for Translation Studies, Karl-Franzens University, Graz, Austria

The practice of sign language interpreting in Austria has undergone dramatic

changes since 1996. Interpreters have attended further education courses,
founded an Interpreter Association, and started to work on systematically
defining their profession. However, we still do not know much about the kind of
work they do. This paper presents a comprehensive empirical study of the
assessments of sign language interpreters in the region of Styria, using the concept
of social systems as a theoretical framework.


Until recently, sign language (SL) interpreters in Austria were mostly natural inter-
preters. They were the sons and daughters, friends, social workers, teachers or
educators of the Deaf 1 and typically had strong emotional bonds with the Deaf
person(s) for whom they worked. They had undergone no training, had no
defined professional profile to follow and, as mostly isolated individual workers,
had not yet developed any kind of group identity, i.e. constructed a common social
system. Owing to this fundamental lack of interaction and exchange and the con-
sequent lack of monitoring mechanisms, those who were engaged in interpreting
had highly diverging views both of the basic competencies that other groups of
interpreters tend to regard as essential, and of the factors constituting interpreting
quality. What they did have in common was their individual commitment to the
Deaf whom they often viewed as helpless, due as much to their personal experi-
ence as to the social and cultural representations of the Deaf in society (for a more
detailed description including empirical data see Grbi 1994 and 1998).
202 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

A fundamental process of change was initiated in 1996 when the Department

of Translation Studies at the Karl-Franzens University in Graz began work on a
curriculum for a further training program for Austrian SL interpreters within an
international project funded by the European Union. In 199798 and 19992000,
two one-year part-time courses for 48 interpreters were organized (see Grbi
2001). Subsequently, the Austrian Association of Sign Language Interpreters was
founded in March 1998. Some of the interpreters who had undertaken this train-
ing and were founding members of the interpreter association embarked on a pro-
cess of professionalization with great enthusiasm (see Keckeis et al. 1998).
Since November 1998, our department has been holding twice-yearly exams
for SL interpreters before a national examining board together with the Interpret-
ers Association and Associations of the Deaf. Since 2000 only those interpreters
who have passed this exam or who have attended a (further) training program are
officially accredited by the Austrian authorities, which bear many of the costs of
interpreting services for Deaf persons. In autumn 2002, the first students started
the newly introduced five-year full-time program, studying two languages: Aus-
trian Sign Language and a second foreign language of their choice.2

Theoretical framework norms and systems

To provide comprehensive training for a profession for the first time, it seems nec-
essary to analyze thoroughly the factors and processes that affect professionaliza-
tion, especially as the provision of academic training has a considerable impact on
the social matrix within which a profession is exercised. One of the essential issues
should thus be to investigate the basic ideas which lie behind more or less diverg-
ing concepts like professionalism and quality: How do the agents and institutions
involved in the professionalization process (re)construct such concepts, how do
they view and sustain them?
Extensive empirical studies are needed to investigate these issues further. Such
studies, however, have to be integrated into a larger theoretical framework which
allows us to identify relevant research questions, select adequate research strate-
gies and interpret the results with respect to their relevance for the social practice
of interpreting. One theoretical tool regarded as useful is the norm concept, which
has for years been an important theoretical construct in Translation Studies and
has now been taken up by Interpreting Studies, albeit marginally. Miriam
Shlesinger (1989), who questioned the possibility of operationalizing the norm
concept, and the more optimistic Brian Harris (1990) were the first to discuss the
norm concept in Interpreting Studies. Only a few have so far taken up this concept
in their work. Anne Schjoldager (1994, 1995) performed a comparative study on
From 10-minute wedding ceremonies to three-week spa treatment programs 203

translations and interpretations produced by students and professional translators,

while Peter Jansen (1995) presented a case study on the influence of situative
parameters on the interpreting strategies of court interpreters. Both studies are
based on the analysis of transcripts. Other authors are Ebru Diriker (1999), who
analyzed written discourse on simultaneous interpreting (SI) with respect to the
prevailing norms in extratextual sources, and Garzone (2002), who discussed the
applicability of the norm concept for studies on SI quality.
There should be a consensus that translation and interpreting are partly gov-
erned by norms that, while having a regulative potential, are unstable and contin-
gent. We should also agree to the point that both translating and interpreting are
cognitive as well as social and cultural phenomena (cf. Gile 1999 for a discussion on
norms as a neglected factor in interpreting research). Norms, however, should be
regarded as one of the constituent components of a larger system. Tourys norm
concept (1995, 1999) and especially Chestermans expanded model (1993, 1997)
are useful heuristic tools but they do not exist in a vacuum. Norms are ideas about
expectations of preferred forms of behavior that are regarded as correct and ade-
quate, and ideas like norms are categories that always develop in a larger context.
It thus appears useful for a theoretical approach to norm systems to start with
the construct of social systems. This allows us to investigate the concept of norms
in a larger and more complex framework as norms are established by the interact-
ants in a system. Hermans, for instance, states, Description is not enough. It has to
serve a purpose, such as explanation. This requires that phenomena are put into a
context, and that we have an apparatus to bring that context into view. That is
where [] the notion of systems comes in (1999: 102). Like norms, social systems
are heuristic constructs for observing and describing reality; they have no ontolog-
ical status per se. According to Hejl (2000), the conditions for constructing a social
system are a parallelization of the cognitive states of the individual members of the
system, interaction between these members, and a common construction of reality.
The individual members of the system are at the same time components of other
social systems; they live and interact in a network of interlinked social systems and
function as the nodes between these systems. They can be part of systems but will
always remain individuals. Because of the necessary parallelization of the cognitive
states of the members, Hejl (2000: 136) regards social systems as syn-referential
systems3. Such systems are characterized by conservatism and social change alike,
therefore we can find novices and veterans, deviants and dropouts.
Based on these assumptions we would like to refer to and investigate the orga-
nized group of Austrian sign language interpreters as a social system. This will
make it easier to investigate specific factors and processes that developed owing to
the interaction between the different components of the system and influences
from other systems. With Hejl (2000: 140), we start from the assumption that
204 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

social systems are not stable entities. Within social systems, we can find incompat-
ible realities and conflicting demands, the results of influences from other social
systems. The direction in which a social system will develop in such a situation
largely depends on the distribution of power within the system.

The study goal, method and informants

The aim of this study was to reconstruct the social system of sign language inter-
preters based on concrete interpreting situations over a longer period of time4:
Who interprets, what is interpreted, which strategies are used, for whom do inter-
preters interpret, which problems arise? The method was based on a survey of sign
language interpreters by means of a standardized questionnaire. The expected
result was information on key aspects of the respondents interpreting practice as
well as personal experience. The survey was conducted between January 2001 and
December 2002. All nine accredited sign language interpreters in the Austrian
region of Styria agreed to take part in the study. They were asked about all assign-
ments in the given period, which means that they had to fill in a questionnaire for
every single interpreting job they had in 2001 and 2002. In this paper I would like
to present the first part of the study, which is the analysis and interpretation of the
questionnaires for the year 2001.
The questionnaire consisted of 25 questions on the following topics: assign-
ment, i.e. booking of interpreters (who, when and how), pre-interpreting prepara-
tion (e.g. terminology), Deaf clients, time and place, type of assignment,
individual evaluation (with respect to difficulties and satisfaction) and payment.
For research purposes, I had to distinguish between interpreting assignments and
actual interpreting situations (or jobs) as I knew that some assignments involved
more than one interpreting situation, for example an assignment from a theatre to
interpret several performances of the same play, or an assignment for the interpre-
tation of a computer course which involved several interpreting situations over a
longer period of time. In sum, the interpreters had 496 assignments involving 889
actual interpreting situations in 2001.
Of the nine interpreters taking part in the survey, eight were female and one
was male. Three of them had studied at university (1 linguistics, 2 translation/
interpreting: 1 English/Russian and Austrian Sign Language/GS, 1 French/Hun-
garian and GS5), two had not finished university (one had studied English, one
pedagogy), three had finished a teachers training college and 1 had not completed
secondary school (no A-levels). All of them had completed the one-year part-time
course for SL interpreters at the University of Graz. In January 2001, when the sur-
vey started, they had been working as SL interpreters for a duration of between
half a year and eight years. As for their professional backgrounds, four were work-
From 10-minute wedding ceremonies to three-week spa treatment programs 205

ing within language teaching institutions (e.g. university, further training institu-
tion) and three within educational institutions (e.g. as teachers and educators of
the Deaf), one person was still a student (pedagogy). Only one person worked full
time as a freelance SL interpreter. One of the nine interpreters had Deaf parents.
This personal background of the interpreters shows that (hypothetically) there are,
apart from the social system of the interpreters themselves, at least three different
social systems that may influence the interpreters decisions: the Deaf community,
Deaf education and interpreter training at university.

The study results

Assignments and interpreting jobs

As for the actual interpreting jobs the interpreters had per year and per month, I
could distinguish four groups (see Table 1). One group had fewer than 25 inter-
preting jobs in 2001, that is up to two interpreting jobs per month. A second group
had between 50 and 100 interpreting jobs, that is five to seven interpreting jobs per
month. A third group had between 100 and 200 interpreting jobs, that is 8 to
14 per month. In addition, one person had more than 200 interpreting jobs, that is
21 per month this is the only person working full time as an SL interpreter. The
mean value was 99 per year and 8 per month; the median was 78.

Table 1. Interpreting jobs per year and month (n=889)

Group IJ in 2001 IJ per month Persons
1 < 25 <2 2
2 50100 57 3
3 100200 814 3
4 > 200 21 1
Mean value 99 8
Median 78 6,5

The wide extreme values show that within the system of interpreters there were
two groups with atypical behavior: Group 1 could be referred to as hobbyists, and
the one person in group 4 was the only full-time freelance interpreter among the
respondents. Prototypical interpreters belonged to group 2 and 3; these interpret-
ers worked in some other profession (usually in regular employment) and inter-
preted on a freelance basis 5 to 14 times a month. We can assume that the differing
extent of interpreting leads to a different understanding of the profession.
When we compare the number of assignments (n=496) with the number of
actual interpreting jobs (n=889) we can see a difference in the type of jobs carried
out by the individual interpreters (see Table 2).
206 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Table 2. Assignments vs. interpreting jobs

Interpreters Ratio
C 1 : 1,1
G 1 : 1,4
D 1 : 1,5
B 1 : 1,6
mean value 1 : 1,8
H 1 : 1,9
I 1 : 2,0
E 1 : 2,1
F 1 : 2,5
A 1 : 2,9

Interpreter C had on an average approximately one interpreting job per assign-

ment, which tells us that this interpreter mainly worked in one-time community
interpreting settings (doctors appointments, staff meetings, bank, funeral, etc.)6.
Interpreter A on the other end of the scale had about three interpreting jobs per
assignment which tells us that this person worked more often in settings with
more than one job per assignment, e.g. in educational settings.
The average number of interpreting assignments per month was 74. This
number, however, is only relevant if we take into consideration how many jobs
were actually performed per month (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Distribution of interpreting jobs.

From 10-minute wedding ceremonies to three-week spa treatment programs 207

Most jobs took place in March (118), whereas the bad months for the interpret-
ers in terms of income were January, February, July, August, September and
December. This was of special concern to the interpreter who works full time.
Some 88 percent of the 889 interpreting jobs took place in Graz, the capital of
Styria, and only 11 percent outside of Graz. This could indicate that there were not
enough interpreters in rural areas.

Booking of interpreters

In 31 percent of the assignments (n=496) the interpreters were booked by an

agency and in 69 percent of the cases they were contacted personally, either by
phone or by fax. The commissioners in most cases were Deaf individuals them-
selves (see Figure 2):

Figure 2. Commissioners.

Hearing individuals or institutions that recruit interpreters usually either have

problems with a Deaf person which they cannot solve without interpreters (e.g.
courts and employers), hire sign language interpreters with the aim of creating
publicity (institutions in the fields of politics, art and culture), or wish to integrate
Deaf persons into their community (e.g. religious communities).
Quality of interpreting and satisfaction with the job largely depend on
whether interpreters are booked in time and given information material in
advance. Most interpreters were booked 1 to 2 weeks before the interpreting situa-
tion. Only in 14 percent of cases did they have the impression that they had not
been booked in time. With respect to information material, the situation was dif-
ferent. Only in 20 percent of the assignments (n=496) did they receive adequate
information material, while in 48 percent of the assignments they did not receive
any background information. Sometimes they tried to find relevant information
on their own (5 percent) and sometimes they both received material and looked
208 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

for additional sources on their own (7 percent). In some cases, which were viewed
as standard cases by the interpreters, no preparation seemed to be necessary
(also 20 percent). There was considerable difference with respect to which assign-
ments were regarded as standard cases (between 0 percent and 50 percent of all
assignments of one interpreter).


The complexity and time of preparation for the job had a strong influence on the
interpreters contentment with the job, their self-confidence and their motivation.
These were the results of the data analysis: In 30 percent of the interpreting jobs
(n=899), the interpreters had to ask for specialized terminology. In most of the
cases (52 percent), they asked Deaf persons; in 17 percent of the cases, they asked
a colleague; and in 31 percent of the cases, they asked both Deaf and hearing infor-
In total, the interpreters prepared for almost half of the jobs (see Table 3):

Table 3. Preparation time

Int. jobs = 889 Prepared int. jobs = 432

Jobs vs. prepared jobs 100 % 49 %
Interpreting time (hours) 2815 1500
Preparation time (hours) 586 586
Interpreting time ( percent) 83 % 72 %
Preparation time ( percent) 17 % 28 %
Mean value preparation/job 40 minutes 1 hour 20 min.

In 2001 the interpreters worked a total of 2815 hours, and spent 586 hours on
preparation. If we only take into consideration the jobs for which the interpreters
had to prepare (432), we see that the preparation time per job was on average
1 hour and 20 minutes. This is a ratio of about two thirds interpretation time and
one third preparation time. Here one should mention that interpreters usually do
not receive compensation for the time they spend preparing an assignment.7


In more than half of the interpreting jobs (54 percent), the Deaf client was female
and in only 23 percent of the cases male. On the basis of these figures we could
draw the cautious conclusion that Deaf men attend further education courses, go
to the doctors or contact authorities less often than women. In the rest of the cases,
the groups of clients were of mixed sex. In 70 percent of cases, the Deaf were
From 10-minute wedding ceremonies to three-week spa treatment programs 209

adults, in 12 percent young people, in 2 percent pensioners, and in 16 percent of

the cases the assignment was for a group of persons of varying ages.
As sign languages are not fully standardized and many Deaf persons have
received inadequate schooling, some of the Deaf use varieties of sign languages
that cause problems for the interpreters. When asked about particular characteris-
tics of the Deaf signers, the interpreters answered that in 21 percent of the inter-
preting jobs they had difficulties understanding them. Figure 3 illustrates the
reasons for communication problems as stated by the interpreters.

Figure 3. Language-related difficulties.

In 24 percent of the cases, the Deaf client used an old variety of GS, including
sign lexemes that are no longer used by younger generations. In another 24 per-
cent of the cases the Deaf had minimum language skills; that means the Deaf per-
son knew neither German nor GS properly, which is an alarming result showing
that Deaf education is not working as it should in Austria. In 17 percent of the
cases the Deaf used signed German instead of GS, that is a system using signs
but structuring them according to the grammatical devices of German and not
according to SL rules. In another 17 percent of the cases the interpreters had other
problems understanding the Deaf, e.g. the Deaf used home signs (idiosyncratic
signs created within the family), talked loudly while signing or had an additional
handicap, e.g. they were spastic or schizophrenic. In 14 percent of the problematic
cases, the Deaf used another regional SL dialect, and in 3 percent of the cases, the
client used another national sign language, for example, in cases where the Deaf
client was a refugee.

Actual interpreting jobs

The interpreters worked in teams in only 11 percent of the interpreting jobs. The
reason for this small percentage is that both public authorities and private custom-
ers avoid recruiting two interpreters for one job. According to a recommendation
210 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

made by the Austrian Association of Sign Language Interpreters and approved by

the competent ministry, two interpreters must be recruited if an interpreting job
lasts longer then 1 hour, if the topic is very specific or in the case of discussions
with more than two speakers. Our statistical analysis of the duration of the differ-
ent assignments proves that clients do not adhere to this recommendation: the
average working time of a single interpreter was three hours. Thus, it is not sur-
prising that the interpreters complained about not having a team interpreter in
some interpreting situations. Several studies confirm that such strains may lead to
professional illnesses. In the field of industrial medicine, Mamann (1995), refer-
ring to Danish studies, describes sign language interpreting as a one-sided,
repeated job leading to repetitive and static strains. Injuries arising from this work
include tendosynovitis, chronic muscle inflammation, tennis elbow (lateral epi-
condylitis), carpal tunnel syndrome,8 and tensions in the shoulder muscles. More-
over, one should also mention the cognitive demands of interpreting for too long a
period (cf. for instance Moser-Mercer et al. 1998).
In my analysis of the different interpreting jobs, I could single out four differ-
ent types of assignments with respect to duration and frequency:
1. Nearly half of the interpreting jobs were one-off assignments, i.e. the
assignment took place only once, e.g. one-time doctor's consultations or a
wedding (47 percent).
2. 25 percent of the assignments were periodical assignments, which means
that one assignment consisted of several jobs over a longer period , e.g.
attending a university course for a whole term.
3. Another 24 percent were jobs extending over several days, which means
that the interpreters had to work more than one day in a row, e.g. a week-
end computer course or a three-week treatment at a spa.
4. Only 4 percent were repeated assignments, for example interpreting a
theater play that was performed six times.
The shortest one-time assignment was a wedding ceremony lasting only 10 min-
utes. The longest periodical assignment was a series of team meetings in a com-
pany, which took place 31 times within a year. Moreover, the longest continuous
assignment was a two-month placement in a vocational school.
Another way of categorizing interpreting jobs is to distinguish between differ-
ent interpreting situations. Figure 4 shows that more than 100 interpreting jobs
took place in the fields of education and training (more than 70 percent of these
jobs were in the fields of vocational training and job retraining), in professional
settings, in medical settings and in further training settings. Between 20 and 50
interpreting jobs took place in the field of psychology, in political settings, public
authorities settings, social settings, legal settings, other institutions and Deaf asso-
From 10-minute wedding ceremonies to three-week spa treatment programs 211

ciations. Less than 20 interpreting jobs per year were in cultural settings, lectures
and talks, economic settings, private-life settings, religious settings, driving license
exams, conferences and sports events.

Figure 4. Settings.

With respect to type of discourse, interpreting situations can be divided into four
groups. Almost 40 percent of the interpreting jobs were triadic conversations: one
Deaf client, one hearing person and an interpreter. In 32 percent of the cases, the
interpreters had to interpret from German into GS. In 22 percent, they had to
interpret during discussion rounds involving several persons talking either in Ger-
man or in GS. Only in 7 percent of the cases did they work from GS into Ger-
man. This low number of interpreting jobs involving interpretation from GS
into German is certainly one of the reasons why SL interpreters generally do not
212 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

like to interpret into German and very often have major problems when interpret-
ing in this direction.

Individual assessment

Apart from the data described in the previous sections, which served to recon-
struct statistically the social system in which interpreters work, I also collected
personal, subjective data. I asked the interpreters about the difficulties they had
with specific interpreting jobs, the reasons for these problems, the degree of spe-
cialized knowledge and technical language, and their overall satisfaction with spe-
cific interpreting jobs.
Only one fifth of the assignments (21 percent) were judged by the interpreters
as not difficult, 33 percent were not very difficult, 34 percent were quite diffi-
cult, and 12 percent were very difficult (see Figure 5):

Figure 5. Degrees of difficulty.

The following reasons for the difficulty of an interpreting job were mentioned (in
order of frequency of mention): complicated and extensive preparation, unusual
use of SL by the Deaf, missing (specialized) signs, context of the assignment (e.g.
lighting conditions, poor ventilation, no breaks, crowded surroundings), speech of
the hearing (too fast, too nervous), conduct of the hearing towards the Deaf or the
interpreter him/herself, psychological stress (e.g. when interpreting in psychother-
apy), lack of a team, chaotic discussions (people talking and signing at the same
time), physical problems (e.g. standing for hours), conduct of the Deaf towards the
hearing participants or the interpreter, interpreting names and numbers (e.g. on
the occasion of ceremonies to honor athletes), interpreting from English into GS,
personal disposition (illness, depression, lack of concentration), problems with fel-
low interpreters when working in a team, and so called show interpreting (inter-
preting when no Deaf person is present, e.g. at political speeches).
In only 15 percent of the assignments did the interpreters have the impression
that the language used during the job was not specialized. In 19 percent of the
From 10-minute wedding ceremonies to three-week spa treatment programs 213

cases, they felt that the language was not very specialized. In 34 percent, the lan-
guage seemed to be quite specialized and in 32 percent very specialized.
Although the interpreters mentioned a high degree of specialized language
use and felt that almost half of the jobs were either difficult or quite difficult, they
felt content with their work most of the time: in 55 percent of the cases they felt
very content, in 33 percent of the cases quite content, and in only 12 percent either
not very content or not content at all. If interpreters were dissatisfied with certain
interpreting jobs, the reasons usually could not be put down to the degree of tech-
nical jargon used in the interpreting setting or to physical strains, but to the fact
that some interpreting situations were highly emotionally stressful. They men-
tioned, for instance, situations in which mothers were forced to give away their
children, interpreting after suicide attempts, interpreting during psychiatric coun-
seling or funerals or in situations where the interactants showed aggressive or dis-
respectful behavior.


This analysis of a large amount of data on interpreting situations provides a first

in-depth insight into the social system in which sign language interpreters inter-
act. I would like to thank all respondents; without their time-intensive support
such a comprehensive project would not have been possible. Even though we have
not yet focused on correlations between the different data sets, our results prove
that sign language interpreting is a multi-faceted field of work, which is influenced
by many different factors, and shows prototypical as well as less common types of
interpreting. Similarly there are typical and less typical members of the system,
who, we assume, import norms into this social system from other social systems
because of their social and professional background; and these norms have a deci-
sive influence on the system of sign language interpreting. To understand the com-
mon and diverging realities, values and norms, and the interplay between
conservatism and social change within this system, further research needs to be
undertaken; we need qualitative studies to collect a larger corpus of subjective
views and attitudes of the members of the system, and studies on the social reality
of the interactants in the interpreting process, i.e. first and foremost the Deaf
themselves. Only then will a comprehensive reconstruction of the system be possi-
ble. The results of the present quantitative study are useful not only as a basis for
further research in this field, but may also serve as a sound basis for the develop-
ment of interpreter training programs and help Austrian sign-language interpret-
ers to make society aware of the complex tasks they have to fulfill.
214 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting


1. Deaf (with a capital D) is a social description used to refer to Deaf persons as a social and
cultural community.
2. What is novel about this approach is that it is possible to study two foreign languages; so
far there have been no similar study programs.
3. Following Luhmann, Hermans (1999) views translation as a self-referential and self-regu-
lating system. According to Luhmann systems are not constituted by individuals but by com-
munications. Hejl, on the other hand, views social systems as systems that are composed by
living components and are neither self-referential nor self-organizing or self-maintaining in
order to avoid parallelisms between organisms and social systems.
4. We can only reconstruct a subsystem within a system, namely the system of SL interpreters
in the Austrian province of Styria as it would not have been possible to analyze all interpreting
assignments performed in Austria.
5. As no full-time study program for SL interpreting was offered at that time, two students
had to choose two other languages and attended courses in GS as their third language; they
did not get a degree in SL interpreting.
6. Only very seldom do SL interpreters also interpret talks (in total, 15 times in 2001).
7. The shortest preparation time was 15 minutes, the longest 10 hours.
8. Condition caused by compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel in the hand.
Going Social? On pathways and paradigms
in interpreting studies

Franz Pchhacker
University of Vienna, Austria

As researchers are devoting more and more attention to aspects of interpreting that
seemed marginal at best only fifteen years ago, the field of Interpreting Studies
seems to be undergoing a shift or reorientation. This paper is an attempt to make
sense of the changing landscape of interpreting research in terms of influential
concepts, models, and paradigms. Various ways of seeing the object of study are
described with reference to the notion of memes and to different dimensions of
theoretical modeling. Against the background of the evolution of the field in the late
twentieth century, a number of research traditions that may be accorded paradigm
status in the Kuhnian sense are discussed with special regard for their mutual
relationships. With particular emphasis on the discourse-based interactionist
paradigm that gained ground in the 1990s in association with community-based
interpreting, the option of going social is analyzed with a view to its implications
for the conceptualization and theoretical modeling of interpreting, as well as the
epistemology, methodology and research policy of the field.


It is hardly a revelation to say that more and more research attention has come to
be devoted to aspects of interpreting which seemed rather marginal one or two
decades ago. The international conferences held in our field since the early 1990s
certainly reflect this development: from the 1994 Turku Conference (Gambier et
al. 1997) to the one in Forl in late 2000 (Garzone and Viezzi 2002) and the confer-
ence on quality in Almucar in 2001 (Collados et al. 2003); from the first Lan-
guage International Conference at Elsinore in 1991 (Dollerup and Loddegaard
1992) to the more recent conference in the series (e.g. Hung 2002); and from the
8th International Conference on Translation and Interpreting in Prague in 1992
(Krlov and Jettmarov 1993) to the 10th Prague Conference in 2003. What has
been happening? What does this change mean for Interpreting Studies? Has there
been a reorientation, a turn, or a paradigm shift?
216 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

In this paper I would like to reflect on the state of the art, past and present, in
the field of Interpreting Studies, and make sense of its evolution in terms of influ-
ential conceptualizations, models, and methodological approaches. Using the
notion of memes as applied to Translation Studies by Chesterman (1997), and a
representation of various modeling dimensions, I will first review how the phe-
nomenon of interpreting has been, and can be, seen and theorized. Looking then
at how the study of interpreting has evolved since the 1970s, I will suggest a set of
research traditions which may be referred to as paradigms in the sense intro-
duced by Thomas Kuhn (1962/1996). Against this background, I will discuss the
changes we have been witnessing in interpreting studies as evidence of a social
turn in our discipline and will explore some of its implications for definitions and
models as well as research methods and policy.

Ways of seeing

In their introduction to the proceedings volume of the Forl conference on Inter-

preting Studies, Garzone and Viezzi (2002: 5) spell out what they see as probably
the most important single element of novelty in the field: the recognition that
interpreting is not only conference interpreting. The emphasis is on recognition,
not on novel forms of interpreting. After all, even two decades earlier, Brian Har-
ris, the pioneering advocate of a comprehensive translatological perspective on
interpreting, including natural translation (Harris and Sherwood 1978), had
tried to convince fellow professionals in the bulletin of the Ontario Association of
Translators and Interpreters that Theres More to Interpreting than Conference
Interpreting (Harris 1982: 4). Garzone and Viezzi (2002: 5) offer the following
very lucid explanation:
Interpreting in non-conference settings liaison interpreting, escort inter-
preting, business interpreting, court interpreting etc. had always existed,
but had traditionally accounted for only a fraction of the total volume of pro-
fessional interpreting services, at least in Europe. These modes carried no
prestige and were simply considered as poor relations to the real thing (i.e.
conference interpreting), requiring no skills other than language proficiency.
They were therefore thought to deserve neither specialist training nor spe-
cific research work.
In other words, for many in the (conference) Interpreting Studies community,
including myself, discovering other domains of interpreting was possible only
because we had previously ignored them, or chosen not to see them. Using the
word theory in its original Greek sense, i.e. as an act of looking at or viewing (cf.
Going social? On pathways and paradigms in interpreting studies 217

Chesterman 1997: 1), we can say that interpreting scholars had theorized, or
seen, interpreting in such a way as to eclipse part of their object of study.
Ways of seeing the phenomenon under study are usually formulated as defini-
tions and basic conceptualizations of a given field. Let me give two significant
examples, both involving pioneering figures in the history of our discipline, to
illustrate the implications of definitions and terms.

Definitions and terms

The first example concerns Otto Kade, whose early conceptualization of transla-
tion and interpreting proved seminal to scholars in the German-speaking area and
beyond. Kade, a self-taught liaison and conference interpreter who rose to profes-
sorial status at the University of Leipzig in the 1960s, coined the German term
Translation as a hyperonym for translation and interpreting (Kade 1968). Some
twenty-five years earlier, the head of the German professional association, one
Otto Monien, had introduced the word Sprachmittler (language mediator, lin-
guistic mediator) as a catch-all term for various types of people working profes-
sionally with and across languages, from literary translators to diplomatic
interpreters and tourist guides. Taking up this broad cover term, Kade acknowl-
edged that cross-linguistic mediation could take many, more or less highly devel-
oped forms, and chose to focus on Translation as that kind of Sprachmittlung in
which the target text met the criterion of equivalence, or invariance of sense and
communicative value with respect to the source text. Whereas Translation was
thus restricted to translation and/or interpreting which fulfilled stringent, linguis-
tically defined equivalence requirements, the broader realm of Sprachmittlung was
accepted as including also adaptations, paraphrase and proto-forms of Translation
as practiced through the ages by untrained bilinguals (cf. Kade 1968: 9).
Sprachmittlung, then, was the comprehensive term for the (more or less pro-
fessional) activity of linguistic mediation, including high-quality Translation,
which in turn included professional-level interpreting. But there is an added com-
plication: Some two decades after Kades terminological proposal, Karlfried Knapp
and Annelie Knapp-Potthoff (1985), two German linguists who came to study the
mediating behavior of untrained bilinguals in face-to-face communication, chose
to label the activity of their non-professional conversational mediators as Sprach-
mitteln (linguistic mediating). Rather confusingly, therefore, Sprachmitteln, in
the sense of natural translation, would come under the broad heading of Sprach-
mittlung but without constituting an oral form of Translation in the more stringent
sense developed by Kade in the 1960s.
218 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Figure 1. Sprachmittlung Translation Dolmetschen

Around the same time, Danica Seleskovitch developed and presented her vision of
(conference) interpreting as distinct from (written) translation often in opposi-
tion to linguistics-oriented views of interpreting such as those championed by the
so-called Leipzig School. In a 1985 paper devoted explicitly to the distinction
between professional (conference) interpreting and non-professional interpreting,
Seleskovitch (1985: 19) railed against the French term interprtariat and the fact
that Roberts Dictionary licenced its use to denote the function, profession of
interpreter. To Seleskovitch, the only legitimate term was interprtation, meaning
professional (conference) interpreting based on the grasping and re-expression of
sense. Interprtariat, in contrast, was a barbarism reflecting the underlying
assumption that translating (la traduction) merely required knowing two lan-
guages and substituting one for the other. Earlier in her paper, Seleskovitch refers
to the millennial practice of dragomans (truchements) using their double tongue,
presumably qualifying the practice of such bilinguals as interprtariat. Again there
is an added twist: When Inter-Service Migrants, a French NGO giving support to
immigrants, started offering interpreting services in 1970, the term used for the
activity was interprtariat (cf. Sauvtre 2000: 36). A graphic sketch of these basic
notions in French could thus look as follows:

Figure 2. Interprtation vs interprtariat

Kade as well as Seleskovitch drew sharp boundaries around the concept of inter-
preting (Dolmetschen, interprtation) as a form of Translation (with a capital initial
to denote the hyperonym). Relegating the not-so-professional forms of linguistic
mediation activity to the margins, they foregrounded, if not reified, the perfect,
ideal manifestation of interpreting, i.e. conference interpreting in its simultaneous
and consecutive variants. Setting up a dichotomy between natural translation
and professional interpreting, they glossed over the question of how and where
exactly to draw the conceptual dividing line. For Seleskovitch, who had no more
formal training in interpreting than Kade, being a graduate of ESIT or another
AIIC-approved training program might have served as a criterion. Kade, on the
Going social? On pathways and paradigms in interpreting studies 219

other hand, sought to rely on the linguistically defined equivalence between the
source and target texts as the standard to which real interpreters would have to
measure up. It should be pointed out that Kade (1977: 29) also stressed that inter-
preting as part of communicative interaction was a social phenomenon, condi-
tioned by social factors and serving social objectives, but these insights remained
in the shadow of the Leipzig Schools concern with linguistic equivalence.
These conceptual proposals reflect a fundamental tension between profes-
sional concerns, which, I should add, may be perfectly well justified, and the schol-
arly need for conceptual analysis and definition. My point in all this is that the
professional status of the interpreter, which is clearly a social construct, need not
be the first and foremost criterion by which the concept of interpreting can be
further differentiated. Nor do we need to use interpreters temporal working
mode, i.e. consecutive vs simultaneous, as the principal conceptual distinction. A
broader dimension in which we can consider various manifestations of interpret-
ing, I suggest, is the social context in which the translational activity takes place.
Historically, this would include isolated contacts between (members of) different
societies (tribes, groups); institutionalized forms of commercial and intellectual
transactions, like trade, diplomacy or scientific cooperation and exchange; and
communicative contacts within a complex social entity made up of various lin-
guistic and ethnic groups. This range of social contact scenarios can roughly be
plotted along a continuum between inter-social (inter-national) and intra-social
(intra-community) contacts, as suggested in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Interpreting in different spheres of social interaction

220 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Against this background, the concept of interpreting can easily be shown to lie
on a continuum which extends from inter-social (international) to intra-social
(community) spheres of interaction (Figure 4). On a related but not identical level,
the most common terms denoting formats of interaction (multilateral) confer-
ence vs face-to-face dialogue can be used to suggest two broad types of interpret-
ing activity, with considerable middle ground and overlap between them.

Figure 4. Conceptual spectrum of interpreting

This socially contexted view of the phenomenon gives us a more comprehensive

and unitary notion of interpreting. But even so, there are many different ways of
seeing the phenomenon of interpreting and thinking about it, from various theo-
retical perspectives. The notion of memes, i.e. intellectual creations which repli-
cate and spread like genes, has been used to good effect by Chesterman (1997) for
an analysis of thinking on translation, and I suggest doing the same for interpret-
ing. Let me review here in brief what I have laid out in more detail in my introduc-
tory textbook on interpreting studies (Pchhacker 2004).

Memes of interpreting

Like Chesterman (1997), I would suggest that there are some ideas about the phe-
nomenon which are so prevalent and basic as to constitute what he calls super-
memes. Apart from the definitional link of interpreting to the generic notion of
Translation (and the memes derived from that, such as source-target and equiv-
alence), the undisputed supermemes of interpreting are process(ing) and com-
municative activity. These two insights about the phenomenon permeate much of
the literature and require little further explanation. The more specific ideas about
interpreting which I would propose as ordinary memes are: verbal transfer, mak-
ing sense, information processing/cognitive skills, text/discourse production, and
Going social? On pathways and paradigms in interpreting studies 221

The most basic conception of interpreting and of Translation in general (cf.

Chesterman 1997: 20) is that of a process in which words in one language are
converted into words in another language. Such verbal transfer as an operation on
elements of the language system is of course what Seleskovitch, also in her rejec-
tion of the term interprtariat, chastised as mere transcoding. True interpreting,
she would contend, is a process of making sense. Seleskovitch emphasized this for
the interpreters understanding of the original speech, but it equally applies to the
need for the interpreter to (re)express what s/he has understood in such a way that
it will make sense to the audience, i.e. that the audience will in turn be able to
make sense of the (interpreted) utterance. The latter was foregrounded by German
scholars in the functionalist tradition, chief among them Hans Vermeer (1978).
From a rather different disciplinary perspective, psychologists such as David
Gerver (1976) viewed interpreting as a form of information processing and sought
to ascertain the cognitive skills involved in performing the task. The meme of inter-
preting as a complex information processing skill has proved most enduring in the
study of simultaneous conference interpreting, where the focus has been on cogni-
tive issues such as memory and divided attention. Yet another disciplinary frame-
work which emerged by the end of the 1970s, text linguistics and discourse
studies, highlighted the task of the interpreter as the (comprehension and) produc-
tion of text and discourse. This suggested an analysis of the interpreters input and
output in terms of textual features, such as cohesion, coherence, intertextuality
and acceptability. The notion of discourse (rather than text) was associated in
particular with dialogic modes of communication and brought into view such
conversational features as turn-taking and nonverbal communication. Finally, and
often in close proximity to the notion of discourse management, there is the meme
of interpreting as mediation, which is in fact rooted in its Latin etymology (cf. Her-
mann 2002: 18).
The five memes of interpreting introduced here can be related to one or the
other supermeme: verbal transfer and cognitive information processing, for
instance, would clearly come under the heading of process(ing), whereas text/
discourse production and mediation will necessarily be situated in the context of
communicative activity. All of the memes, in turn, can be shown to lie rather
closely together in a coordinate system made up of four more general conceptual
reference points: language, cognition, interaction, and culture (Figure 5).

The relative position of the various memes in the meme pool within the four
conceptual dimensions, as mapped in Figure 5, also reflects, ever so roughly, the
evolution of thinking about interpreting over time. Moving clockwise from the
basic meme of verbal transfer, one could discern a shift in influential thinking
from a concern with language (as a system) to cognition, and then on to the sphere
222 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Figure 5. Map of memes in Interpreting Studies

of interaction. Indeed, most of the memes appear in the triangle of language, cog-
nition and interaction, whereas the quadrant of culture is most sparsely populated.
Appeals such as those by Michael Cronin (2002) for a cultural turn in Interpret-
ing Studies may change this in the future, so that a meme like, say, hybridity may
eventually be added to the map. For the time being, however, I hope that the guid-
ing ideas and conceptual reference points of interpreting scholars past and present
are aptly summarized by the above account.
Going social? On pathways and paradigms in interpreting studies 223

Modeling dimensions

To conclude this review of the ways in which interpreting researchers have seen
their object of study, let me take a brief look at the models which have been pro-
posed to analyze the phenomenon in greater detail. I will not, of course, review the
various models as such (cf. Pchhacker 2004, ch. 5). Rather, I would like to suggest
a number of dimensions in which interpreting can be and has been modeled. It is
in the nature of models that none of them can capture the phenomenon in its
entirety, so it should be interesting to see which aspects have been most prominent
in attempts at modeling interpreting to date.
Figure 6 indicates a total of seven dimensions, or levels, of modeling, arranged
in the form of concentric circles. The outermost and broadest level would hold
anthropological models of interpreting and their role in the history of human civi-
lization, as exemplified by Figure 3. With less abstraction and historical depth, and
a more specific focus on societal structures, one could envisage socio-professional
models of interpreting as a profession in society. The professionalization model by
Joseph Tseng (1992), which has been applied by several authors to the develop-
ment of community-based interpreting, is a case in point. Narrowing the focus to
particular social institutions, such as international organizations, parliaments or
courts, one arrives at models of the institutional function of interpreting, while set-
ting ones sights on a particular type of communicative event, like a conference or
interview, would suggest an interactional model of interpreting as an activity
within a particular situation. Concentrating on the text as the material instrument
in the communicative process, the analyst would view interpreting primarily as a
textual or discourse process, whereas an interest in the mental processes underly-
ing language use would give rise to cognitive models of interpreting. Finally, the
material substrate of mental processes can be targeted with models of cerebral
organization and brain activity at the most fundamental, neural level of inquiry.

These seven levels of modeling need to be understood as variable focal points

rather than rigidly separable categories, bearing in mind that some of the more
sophisticated models manage to combine several dimensions. Nevertheless, it will
hardly be controversial to say that not all layers have attracted an equal amount of
modeling attention. In fact, it is one level in particular, that of cognitive processes,
which accounts for the bulk of models documented in the interpreting literature,
from Gerver (1976) to Gile (1985) and Setton (1999). The only other level that is a
frequent target of modeling efforts is that of interactional aspects. Examples
include the models by Kirchhoff (1976), Stenzl (1983), Wadensj (1998) and Alex-
ieva (2002). The remaining dimensions have been addressed much less frequently,
and it is hard to overlook the fact that it is the outer spheres, which correspond to
224 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

interpreters in their social and institutional context and interpreting in society,

which have been left relatively unexplored.

Figure 6. Levels of modeling

So much for the theory. Now for the sociology of the field, which after all consists
not only of definitions, ideas and models, but of human beings working in a given
social, institutional and professional context in a certain place at a particular point
in time. As participants in the essentially social (i.e. communal) endeavor called
science, interpreting scholars and their achievements should not be viewed in iso-
lation from their research community, their peers and predecessors. This premise
also informs Thomas Kuhns well-known account of scientific progress, which I
would like to apply to the field of interpreting studies.

Paradigms in interpreting studies

As in the case of memes above, a detailed presentation of my account of paradigms

in Interpreting Studies (Pchhacker 2004) is beyond the scope of this paper. I will
therefore attempt to give a brief synopsis. Even so, a few words must be said here
about the notion of paradigm.
Going social? On pathways and paradigms in interpreting studies 225

The paradigm meme

Thomas Kuhns idea that scientists work within a given paradigm, or world-view
informed by a shared set of assumptions, models, values and standard methods,
which may ultimately be challenged and replaced by a competing way of seeing the
world, is a perfect example of a powerful meme. In a way, Kuhns idea even proved
too successful for its own good. For one thing, Kuhn, himself a physicist, had con-
ceived his account of scientific revolutions with reference to the natural sciences
and was quite surprised to see it applied also to branches of science which he
thought proceeded in a process of gradual evolution. What is more, he subse-
quently found his use of the term paradigm too broad and reduced it to the
meaning of a paradigm case or exemplar within a given research tradition,
replacing its broader use for the research community as such with the term disci-
plinary matrix (cf. Kuhn 1962/1996: 182). It was the original and rather flexible
notion of paradigm, however, which spread throughout the philosophy of sci-
ence and has made repeated appearances in the interpreting studies literature
since the early 1990s.
Given the tension between the broader and the more specific senses of para-
digm (like-minded community of scholars vs exemplar of a research method), the
term has been used by interpreting scholars in various ways. Moser-Mercer
(1994), for instance, used it to distinguish two different communities involved in
the study of interpreting the liberal arts and the natural science community. Mir-
iam Shlesinger (1995), on the other hand, applied it in the more specific sense of
research approaches informed by a given theoretical and methodological frame-
work. Somewhere between these two lies my own usage, whose application to the
brief history of research on interpreting yields five paradigms of Interpreting Stud-

From IT to DI

If we take a paradigm to denote a community of like-minded peers sharing a set of

assumptions, values and methods, the prototypical paradigm in interpreting stud-
ies would have to be that of the so-called Paris School around Danica Seleskovitch
and her interpretive theory of Translation. This IT paradigm, which is well
described in Setton (1999, ch. 2), is fundamentally informed by the meme of mak-
ing sense and has an explicit methodological preference for the observation of
authentic professional practice rather than laboratory experiments even though
both of its paradigm cases (Seleskovitch 1975 and Lederer 1981) involved experi-
mentally generated data. Sharing with the IT paradigm its stated aim of explaining
the mental processes in interpreting, but not its intuition-based naturalistic meth-
226 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

ods, a diverse community of researchers with an interest in psychology and the

cognitive sciences in general has worked in what could be labeled the cognitive
processing paradigm in interpreting studies. Acknowledging the pioneering work
of David Gerver (1976), research-minded interpreters like Daniel Gile, Jennifer
Mackintosh and Barbara Moser-Mercer as well as Gervers disciple Sylvie Lambert
challenged the certainties of the Paris School paradigm in the course of the 1980s.
Gile and Moser-Mercer, in particular, sought to promote interdisciplinary cooper-
ation in order to raise the scientific standards of research on interpreting. At the
1986 Symposium at Trieste, where outspoken criticism of the IT paradigm was
voiced (Gran and Dodds 1989), the CP paradigm, guided by the meme of cogni-
tive information processing skills, came into its own and ushered in what Gile
(1994) called a Renaissance period of empirical research, more often than not of
the experimental kind. Apart from the inspiring presence of Gile and his Effort
Models (cf. Gile 2002) in the Trieste era up to the 1994 Turku Conference, neu-
roscientists at the University of Trieste and elsewhere had promoted an even more
specialized research approach based on neuropsychological experimentation.
This neurolinguistic (NL) paradigm, originally championed by Franco Fabbro and
Laura Gran (e.g. 1994), has recently shifted towards the use of brain imaging tech-
nologies to visualize the translating brain (Tommola et al. 2000/01) and is thus
heavily dependent on sophisticated research infrastructure.
At the opposite end of the spectrum of technological resource intensity is a
paradigm informed chiefly by function-oriented translation theories. An early
paradigm case is Shlesingers (1989) MA thesis on interpreting-induced shifts on
the oral-literate continuum, which included the very first discussion of Tourys
concept of translational norms in interpreting. In my own work (Pchhacker
2000) I have pointed to the common theoretical ground shared by descriptive
translation studies and German functionalist approaches, which combine to form
a translation-theoretical paradigm centered on interpreting as target-oriented text
production. Though much less cohesive than the three paradigms mentioned so
far, the TT paradigm holds particular power in that it addresses textual and inter-
actional as well as socio-cultural concerns. At any rate, this was not yet apparent to
scholars of interpreting in the late 1980s who, in search of a theoretical and meth-
odological framework for the study of interpreting beyond conference settings,
found their inspiration mainly in the work of US anthropologists, sociologists and
sociolinguists (discourse scholars). The 1989 PhD thesis by Cynthia B. Roy (2000)
on turn-taking in sign language interpreting and the work of Cecilia Wadensj
(1998) on dialogue interpreting in police and medical interviews stand out as the
paradigm cases of a research approach which situates interpreting in dialogic dis-
course-based interaction. This DI paradigm, which gained ground in the late 1990s
in association with the fast-developing domain of community-based interpreting,
Going social? On pathways and paradigms in interpreting studies 227

seeks to complement the perspective of talk as text by analyzing talk as

(inter)activity in the triadic interpreter-mediated encounter within a given social
and institutional context.


To those familiar with the literature on interpreting since the mid-1970s, the five
paradigms suggested here to account for the main research traditions in interpret-
ing studies should be fairly easy to accept. What is more difficult to grasp, however,
is the way these paradigms relate to one another, if at all. Rather than launch into
an extensive discussion of contrasts, parallels and proximities, I will try to present
my view of the five paradigms with yet another intuitive visualization (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Cluster of paradigms in interpreting studies.

Figure 7 depicts a cluster of paradigms suspended in a disciplinary space between

two different spheres that of the profession (and training), on the one hand,
and that of the (cognitive, social and linguistic) sciences, on the other. The IT
paradigm, on the left-hand side, is most fully situated within the professional
sphere. Similarly, the CP paradigm is shown as strongly rooted in the profession,
with considerable overlap with the IT paradigm, while at the same time extending
well into the realm of the cognitive sciences. There, the NL paradigm overlaps
with the CP paradigm but essentially remains beyond the disciplinary space of
interpreting studies. Rather un-scientific, in contrast, is the TT paradigm, which
is depicted as a smaller ellipse underpinning the cluster and has most of its overlap
with the IT paradigm. The middle ground, finally, is taken up by the DI paradigm,
which exhibits a number of interfaces, extending from the professional sphere well
into the domain of the social sciences.
228 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

The image clearly suggests multiple coexistence and interconnections, so my

account of paradigms is not in line with Kuhns notion of paradigm shifts, where a
prevailing paradigm is challenged and replaced by a new one. With the exception
of the once bitter struggle between the IT and the CP paradigms, personified by
Seleskovitch vs Gile, there is little evidence of one paradigm being pushed aside by
another. The IT paradigm as a proto-paradigm of sorts may have been superseded
by the sheer amount of subsequent investigations, but, as argued recently by Setton
(2002), some of its pioneering insights are still very much alive in current thinking
about interpreting. By the same token, Jorma Tommolas (1999) pointed question
whether interpreting research was going psycho or going neuro, which hints at
a competitive struggle between the CP and the NL paradigms, was probably not
intended to draw an either-or answer. There will always be great interest in neuro-
physiological findings about the interpreting process, just as there will always be a
need for studying the mental faculties involved in the comprehension and produc-
tion of discourse in different languages.
I am aware that working with the kind of personal imagery presented in Fig-
ure 7 is not without problems. And yet, I am heartened by several statements of fel-
low scholars whose observations seem to match rather well what I have been
trying to show. As early as 1995, when she cautiously referred to interpreting stud-
ies as a (sub)discipline in the making within a discipline in the making,
Shlesinger (1995: 9) came to the following conclusion from her survey of interdis-
ciplinary paradigms which seemed to hold promise for research on (simulta-
neous) interpreting: We do not have nor should we necessarily desire a
unifying paradigm. In a similar vein, Garzone and Viezzi (2002: 11) more recently
observed: Although interpretation research is still based on a number of different
paradigms, the scholars involved now show a growing sense of belonging to an
independent, self-respecting research community, which is gaining increasing rec-
ognition in the global scientific community.

A social turn?

How then, against the background sketch of memes, models and paradigms in
Interpreting Studies, do we answer the question posed in the title of this paper? Is
interpreting studies going social? And if so, what are the implications?
One basic meaning of the social turn was made clear in an earlier section of
this paper; that is, the replacement of some long-standing ways of seeing and
thinking about interpreting by a broader conceptualization which gives primacy
to the social sphere of interaction rather than criteria like professional status or
working mode.
Going social? On pathways and paradigms in interpreting studies 229

On such a broader understanding, interpreting scholars need to theorize this

dimension in more detail, enriching memes of interpreting like discourse produc-
tion in the sense of interpreting as active discourse management in social inter-
action, and exploring the meme of mediation, in particular the identity, role and
power of the mediator, in the conceptual dimensions of interaction and culture.
In attempts at modeling interpreting, attention must be given to the socio-pro-
fessional and institutional dimensions as well as to the level of interaction, the
basic unit of social processes. The way in which interpreting gets organized in a
given socio-cultural context, including such issues of professionalization as stan-
dards of practice and ethics, is thus a vital area of study. The distinction made by
Uldis Ozolins (2000) between profession-driven and institution-driven pathways
to professionalization is a stimulating case in point. Another is the recent PhD the-
sis by Ebru Diriker (2001), who draws on Bourdieus social field theory to examine
the ideology of the conference interpreting profession in Turkey. With a more spe-
cific institutional focus, conference interpreting scholars have analyzed interpret-
ing practices in the European Parliament, and other studies have been carried out
on media settings, which lie at the interface of the intra-social and international
One of the most far-reaching proposals to capture the interpreters (and trans-
lators) working environment at the socio-cultural level is the concept of Transla-
tionskultur (translation culture, translation standards) introduced by Erich
Prun (1997) to denote the set of socially determined norms, conventions, expec-
tations and values governing translation activity in a given society or institution.
Working with models that are more explicit about the socio-professional and
institutional dimensions but necessarily rather abstract has some far-reaching
implications for research methodology. The limits of experimentation in what
Robson (1993) calls the psycho-statistical paradigm have been pointed out, not
least by Daniel Gile (e.g. 1998), even for the CP paradigm, and are rather obvious
with regard to the study of socio-institutional and interactional processes. Theo-
rizing alone, on the other hand, will not do either if interpreting researchers want
to engage with the social reality of their object and its context. Most naturally,
then, the methodological middle ground would seem to lie in research approaches
from the social sciences. A number of studies on interpreting and interpreters have
indeed been carried out as questionnaire-based surveys, but these have long
ceased to be the default method of social inquiry. Rather, sociologists and cultural
anthropologists, joined by scholars in a variety of other disciplines, have increas-
ingly moved away from an empiricist belief in apparently unproblematic factual
explanations and embraced postmodern (relativist) modes of inquiry, often
summed up under the heading of qualitative research. Engaging with qualitative
data on the assumption that there is no objective reality to be captured and quan-
230 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

tified requires the researcher to become aware of the need to impose a personal
interpretation within some coherent theoretical framework. This is no small chal-
lenge for a field like interpreting studies, which has yet to consolidate its method-
ological arsenal and agree on shared standards of research practice.
A profound consequence of going social by embracing postmodern social-
science research methods is the way these interpretive approaches relativize the
position of the researcher. As in interpreting, the myth of neutrality (Metzger
1999) and the claim to an objective grasp of reality are no longer tenable, thus forc-
ing the observer to become more aware and critical of his or her own perspective,
identity and ideological stance. For the individual scholar, this means questioning
theoretical choices and ways of seeing. Recall, for instance, the conceptual
choices of Kade and Seleskovitch (Figures 1 and 2). Viewed in their social context,
both of these pioneering theorists were clearly subject to the prevailing ideologies.
In Kades case, the focus on stringent, objective criteria derived from the language
system rather than on the subjective human variables he was all too well aware of,
was very much in line with the political ideology of communist East Germany.
Seleskovitch, on the other hand, was unquestionably beholden to the professional
ideology of conference interpreters, whose status she did so much to promote. If
this is what the scholars ideological position and perspective can do to conceptual
choices, what about the truth and objectivity of his or her interpretations of the
data and conclusions?
The critical questions to be asked of and by individual researchers, whether in
the armchair or in fieldwork settings, apply also to the discipline as a whole. What
does interpreting research aim to achieve? For what purpose and whose benefit?
Are we merely describing and explaining a segment of reality? Or do we have our
own agenda in engaging critically with social practices? Most work in the CP par-
adigm of conference interpreting has been carried out with a view to efficient
training and an interest in basic research on cognitive processes, so the social
stance of the discipline has not been much of an issue. It even had little visibility
during the struggle of AIIC against the US Federal Trade Commissions charge of
anti-competitive practices, and neither the AIIC (2002) Workload Study nor the
comprehensive project on interpreting quality in SCIC (Doerflinger 2003) was
carried out by researchers from the field of interpreting studies. Can we not be
(en)trusted with research problems in such important institutions? Granted, this
may be more a matter of perceived research expertise than ideological stance, but
it nevertheless brings home an important point for our discipline: going social in
interpreting studies also means that we need to demonstrate the social relevance of
our field of research, i.e. the relevance of our conceptualizations and findings to
problems in society and its institutions, including of course the dimensions of
internationalization and globalization. Multilingual communication in the insti-
Going social? On pathways and paradigms in interpreting studies 231

tutions of an expanding European Union, the potential and implications of video-

conference interpreting, the accessibility of public services to migrants, and the
impact of interpreting on due process in legal proceedings are a few examples of
socially relevant research problems that could be seen as test cases for our disci-
pline. A critical awareness of ideological positions, of descriptive vs prescriptive,
objective vs critically engaged approaches, will be indispensable, for individual
research endeavors as well as the research community at large.
In the domain of community-based interpreting, in particular, this confronts
interpreting scholars with a fundamental dilemma: while they need to accept the
validity of not-so-professional interpreting as a legitimate part of their object of
study, they may nevertheless want to criticize and reject its practice, lest their find-
ings stand in the way of the kind of professionalization and academization to
which the discipline owes its existence. Taking the path of social commitment,
interpreting research quickly comes up against ethical values and political beliefs,
not to mention some very harsh socio-economic realities. What if there is no
money for interpreting and no institutional support for interpreting research?
How do we make our case that there should be professional interpreting and
interpreting research while keeping a critical distance from professional and
other ideologies?
In my own work on interpreting in healthcare and social service settings in
Vienna (cf. Pchhacker 2000) I have grappled with these issues, and found them
much too complex for a straightforward answer or recipe. I am therefore formulat-
ing all of this as a challenge to each of us in Interpreting Studies a challenge to be
taken up as the inevitable consequence of going social.


Based on a review of concepts, models and research traditions in Interpreting

Studies I have tried to show that the social dimension of our object of study and
of our practice as interpreting researchers has become more prominent in recent
years. I have characterized the development as a gradual shift of perception, or
widening of perspectives, for which it is difficult to indicate a particular turning
point. Any such attempt imposes a personal interpretation on a state of affairs that
others may view in quite a different light. Nevertheless, the fact that the 1986 Tri-
este Symposium has been taken as a milestone for an empirical turn in interpret-
ing research might suggest an analogous role for the International Conference on
Interpreting Studies at Forl in late 2000 (Garzone and Viezzi 2002), which can be
seen as reflecting the disciplines social turn. If we accept that such a social turn
has taken place in our field of study around the beginning of the new millennium,
232 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

it should be clear that this broader orientation has some far-reaching epistemolog-
ical, theoretical and methodological implications with which we will need to come
to grips in the years to come.
Notes on contributors

Rodica Dimitriu is a Reader in the Department of English at the Al. I. Cuza Uni-
versity of Iasi, Romania and Director of Undergraduate and Postgraduate Transla-
tion and Interpreting Programs in the Faculty of Letters. She is the author of three
books and forty articles in the field of translation studies, focusing on ideology and
cultural issues in translation, translation and pragmatics as well as on translation
teaching. Her PhD in British literature includes the investigation of translation
norms in Romanian culture in different historical periods and several translation
Daniel Gagnon-Barbeau has taught creative writing and literary translation at
McGill University, Universit de Montral and the Universit du Qubec Mon-
tral. He is the author of twenty-one books of fiction, and over fifty short stories
published in Canadian and French reviews. He is also a practicing visual artist and
member of the Rassemblement des artistes visuels du Qubec. He holds a Doc-
torat s letters from the Universit de Sherbrooke (Qubec).
Maria Goreti Monteiro is currently a teacher of Technical Translation and
English at Escola Superior de Tecnologia e Gesto, Leiria, Portugal, and a practic-
ing translator. She holds a Masters Degree in Translation Studies from the Univer-
sity of Lisbon and is preparing her PhD in Technical Translation.
Nadja Grbi is assistant professor in the Department of Translation Studies of the
University of Graz, Austria, and head of the Sign Language unit. She has studied
Linguistics and Slavic languages and wrote a Ph.D. dissertation on sign language
interpreting. She teaches translation and interpreting studies and developed a five-
year full-time interpreter training programme at university level, which started in
autumn 2002 at the University of Graz. Her research interests include sign lan-
guage interpreting, especially the social dimension, issues of translation/interpre-
tation and power, translation history, feminist translation.
Rita Kothari teaches at St. Xaviers College where she also heads a research center
on translation. She is the author of Translating India: The Cultural Politics of
English (St. Jerome, 2003) and the translator into English of The Stepchild, a path-
breaking novel from Gujarat (Oxford University Press, 2004). She has also trans-
lated Gujarati poetry and her translation of Gujarati short stories by women writ-
ers (Zubaan, New Delhi, 2006).
234 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

Pekka Kujamki is Professor of German (Translation and Interpreting) and

Director of the School of Translation Studies at the University of Joensuu in
Savonlinna, Finland. He is the author and editor of three books in the field of
translation, the most recent of which is Translation Universals Do They Exist
(BTL 49, together with Anna Mauranen). His current research interests center on
Finnish translation history and translation technology.
Katrien Lannoy is a conference interpreter. Next to her interpreting activities she
currently teaches French and Dutch and she works and publishes in the field of
community interpreting as a researcher for the Hogeschool voor Wetenschap &
Kunst, Campus Vlekho, Brussels.
Stella Linn has been teaching translation studies and translation (French and
Spanish) for 15 years at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. She previ-
ously worked as a translator for the European Union and has made contributions
to various Spanish dictionaries. Her PhD thesis constitutes a model for the
description of poetry in translation (
She is currently co-editing two conference volumes, both scheduled for 2006: one
on Translation and Interculturality. Africa and the West (to be published by Peter
Lang), and one on the reception of Dutch literature abroad.
Gabriel Moyal teaches French and Comparative Literature at McMaster Univer-
sity in Canada. He has contributed a number of articles on the history of transla-
tion in various publications and is currently working on a project on the role of
translation in the literary relations between France and Great Britain, 18151848.
Guillermo R. Navarro Montesdeoca is a Spanish Language and Literature
teacher at a secondary school in the Canary Islands as well as a researcher at the
University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. His doctoral thesis is on Tourism and
Sustainable Development. In it he focuses on the communication processes in the
islands' socioeconomic and sociocultural contexts. His past experience as an inter-
preter in an Immigration Detention Center is the backdrop for his article in this
Franz Pchhacker is Associate Professor of Interpreting Studies at the University
of Vienna. He has worked as a conference and media interpreter and published
articles and monographs on various domains of interpreting. He is the author of
Introducing Interpreting Studies (Routledge, 2004) and co-editor, with Miriam
Shlesinger, of The Interpreting Studies Reader (Routledge, 2002) and of Interpret-
ing: International Journal of Research and Practice in Interpreting.
Sonja Pllabauer is a practising translator as well as researcher, and works at the
Department of Translation Studies at the University of Graz. Her current research
Notes on contributors 235

interests lie in interpreting studies, with a particular interest in community inter-

preting. She is the author of seven papers on community interpreting and inter-
preting in asylum hearings and in 2003 completed a doctoral thesis on
interpreting in asylum hearings.
Anthony Pym is Director of Postgraduate Programs in Translation and Localiza-
tion at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain. He is the author or co-
author of 11 books in the field of translation and cross-cultural relations, the most
recent of which is The Moving Text: Translation, Localization, and Distribution
(Benjamins, 2004). He holds a PhD in Sociology from the cole des Hautes tudes
en Sciences Sociales, Paris.
Mette Rudvin has been teaching translation, English language and literature and
language mediation since 1995 at the Department of Modern Foreign Languages
and Literature, University of Bologna. She has lectured and published widely in
the fields of folklore, translation, dialogue interpreting and language mediation.
She has also worked for many years as a professional translator and court inter-
preter in Italy.
Jan Van Gucht is a social psychologist and a conference interpreter. He currently
co-ordinates the Flemish Governments development project for social interpret-
ing and translation. He has worked and published in the field of community inter-
preting as a researcher for the Lessius Hogeschool
Gaby Thomson-Wohlgemuth holds an MA in Translation Studies and is at
present writing a PhD thesis in the area of translation of childrens literature. Her
publications focus on indigenous East German childrens and youth literature,
translation of English childrens books in the former East Germany and on general
issues regarding translation, the publishing industry and cultural/literary politics
in the German Democratic Republic.
Agns Whitfield is Professor and former Director of the School of Translation,
York University (Toronto, Canada). She is the author of over fifty articles on
Qubec literature and translation, and ten books, including two edited volumes,
on Canadian literary translators: Le Mtier du double. Portraits de traducteurs et
traductrices francophones (Fides, 2005) and Writing Between the Lines. Portraits of
Canadian Anglophone Translators (Wilfrid Laurier Press, 2005).
Michaela Wolf is Assistant Professor at the Department of Translation Studies,
University of Graz, Austria. She holds an M.A. in Translation Studies and a PhD in
Romanic languages. Her areas of research and teaching are translation sociology,
cultural aspects of translation, translation history, postcolonial translation, and
236 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

feminist translation. Presently her research focuses on social aspects of translation

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A codes of ethics 159, 161, 174, experts 185, home

adaptations 75 182, 184, 189, 190 culture 189
afterwords (in East German Comarnescu, Petru 77-81
literature) 61 communication: D
agency, of translators 148 Descriptive Translation
nonverbal 155, 161, 173,
asylum hearings/ 183-186, 221 Studies 2-3, 27, 83, 226
interviews 22, 151-154, 159- facilitator in 176 discourse: community 174,
161 level 183, mode 174, 177
code 177, 186
asylum seekers 20, 151-161, obstacles 188 Dutch 27-39, poetry in 37
176 strategies 173, 174, 184, 187, literature 33
Dutch-Spanish translation 6,
B 27-39
communicative event 177,
Balzac, Honor de 88 181, 223
Basque 31 E
community interpreting 3, Eco, Umberto (on
Berman, Antoine 102 20, 158, 198, 206
bilingual writing 117ff. signs) 168-169
interpreters in 180, 182 economic conditions 43, 44
book production
Comparative Literature 9 etic vs. emic 176, 178
statistics 27-34 in Canada 115
Bourdieu, Pierre 15, 134ff. evaluation, external 54, 60,
complexity, in 61
C explanation 11-12 Even-Zohar, Itamar 2, 32, 38
Carrasquer, Francisco 35-37 conditioning, as weak expatriate writers 117-119
Catalan 31 causation 12 explanations 4-5
causation 4-5 constructivism 20 and correlations 10
censorship 12, 14 cooperation: consensus in and complexity 11-12
in East Germany 53-64, 71, Gujarat 13, 17, 98-99 extra-linguistic factors 38,
72, 125 co-production 57, 152 169
censorship files 14, 53, 54, in asylum hearings 153, difficulties 163
56, 58, 158, 163, 171
co-production 57 F
Real Mesa Censria 65ff.
copyright, fees 56 Fairclough, Norman 173
(see also self-censorship)
core-periphery model 28, 35 feminism 11, 15, 129ff., 139
Chasles, Philarte 85ff.
correlations, symmetrical/ field, in Bourdieu 25, 134-135
Chesterman, Andrew, on
asymmetrical 10 ff. of discourse 179
explanations 4
Cultural Studies 2, 14, 16, 19 Finnish language and
on transfer 170-171, 221
as resistance 21, borders literature 41-52
on norms 203
of 82 and Germany 44, 47
memes 216, 220
culture: cultural vs. social forms of address 77, 153, 186,
childrens literature 31, 32, 38
factors 14ff. 187
Molly Cottontail 56ff. 60,
intermediaries 36 Fowler, Roger 168, 171
74, 96
openness/closedness 43ff. Frankfurt Book Fair 29, 33
class, social 12, 134
systems 112, 174, 177 French 83-91, 101-127
clients 3, 133, 136, 137, 177,
culturally determined French-English
179, 186, 188, 199, 204, 208-
behavior 161, 174-176, translations 85ff.
179, 188, codes 177 in Canada 101ff
254 Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting

G institutions, public 33, 176 loyalty 152

Gagnon, Daniel 126ff. as systems 174 in asylum hearings 156-
Galanti, Gerri-Ann 176, 178, discourse/language of 177, 159
184, 185 183 pseudo-loyalty 158
Galician 31 intercultures, split 184, 186
gatekeepers 42 professional 24 Luhmann, Niklas 15
German 41-64 interpreters, conference 3,
globalization 18, 19 230
MacLennan, Hugh 101ff.
in Latvia 149-150 in asylum hearings 151ff.
memes 216ff.
and immigration 164, 166, at detention centers 163ff.
minority languages 27, 33
230 in public-health
Basque 31
Grellmann, Hans 42 services 173ff.
Catalan 31
Gujarati 93-99 experts 190
Dutch 36, 37, 38
Gumperz, John 177 as volunteers 194
Finnish 41ff.
personal, ad hoc and
H Latvian 144
habitus (Bourdieu) 15-16, interpreters 197ff. N
134, 136
professional status 199 natural interpreters 201
Hall, Stuart 14 natural 201 natural translation 218
health care systems 174-176 sign-language 201ff. Netherlands 27-39, 193
Heilbron, Johan 28, 38
in court 203 Nida, Eugene 2
Holz-Mnttri, Justa 3, 153 contracting (booking) Nobel Prize 36, 50
honorifics 179 of 204, 207 non-translation, zero
human rights 181
diplomatic 217 translation (as self-
Huston, Nancy 120ff. social status 219ff. censorship) 68ff.
I working environment 229 Nooteboom, Cees 35, 36
identity: cultural 91, 180 Nord, Christiane, on
ethnic 180, 181 Interpreting Studies 19, 215ff. loyalty 156
boundaries 183 norms, in Toury 3, 23, 24, 38,
identity conflict 188 76
Janin, Jules 88ff.
institutional 189 discovered in
Joual 114
institutional- discourse 43ff., 48, 50,
corporate 182 K 73
linguistic 111 Kade, Otto 18, 217 in Romania 75-78
national 90, 150, 180 kinesic 179 preliminary 77
personal, private/ Kleinman, Arthur 174, 178, professional 80, 82
public 180, 182, 189 182 and accuracy 83, 85, 89,
conflicting 181, 183 Kuhn, Thomas 225 114
professional 182 literary 126
ideological context 38, 48, 50 and habitus 134
Lambert, Jos 69, 83, 143, 150, and translation
imitations 81
168 culture 152, 158
immigration 96
Latvian 143-150
in Spain 163-170 and institution 171, 174
Lefevere, Andr 3, 38, 41, 69, legal 176
and interpreters 218
74, 81 behavioral 179
India 93ff.
Leito, Henrique 11, 68-72
indirect translations, of language use 188
Liber (Spanish national book of community
Robinson Crusoe 68, 74
fair) 33-35 interpreting 202-203
individuals, as causes 4-5
lies 168
and initiatives 38, 130 and social systems 213
Literary Studies 2, 13, 19 in interpreting 226, 229
Inghilleri, Moira 181-183
borders of 82
Inquisition, as cause 7-8
in Gujarat 97-98 O
in Portugal 11, 14, 65-72
in Canada 115 hquist, Johannes & Rita 41-
literary systems 42, 143 52
Index 255

P in Robinson Crusoe 66ff. transcription, in

Pchhacker, Franz 1, 3, 19- Robinson Crusoe 65-82 Latvian 144ff.
20, 226 Robinson, Douglas 148 translation cultures,
Pllabauer, Sonia 20 Romania, translation in 73- Prun 23-25, 151-153
polysystem theory 32, 36 82 and regimes 24
Portuguese 65-72 and fields 25, 134-136, 160
postcolonial literatures, in as standards 229
Seleskovitch, Danica 218, 225
India 93ff. translation flows 14, 15
self-censorship, of
in Canada 101-108 Dutch-Spanish 27ff., 50
translators 11, 49
and translation 129 French-English 85ff., 101ff.
as non-translation 68ff.
power, and translations 22 English-Indian
self-translation 5
asymmetrical distribution languages 93ff.
Shlesinger, Miriam 226
of 152, 158 translation policy 96ff.
sign language
and discourse 168 translation prizes 37, 125
interpreting 201, 202-204,
print permits 53, 54-57, 59- Translation Studies,
207, 209, 210, 213, 226
61, 63 sociological tendency
Simeoni, Daniel 25, 136
print runs, in East in 1-5, 9, 11, 13
Skopostheorie 3, 149
Germany 58ff. and the nation-state 19, 23
prizes, for translations 37, based on translations 73ff.
Skopos 159, 190
125 including adaptations 75
and interpreting 221
professions: role 189 borders of 82
social capitals
illness 210 in India 98
(Bourdieu) 134-135
professionalization 191, in Canada 115
social status 112, 178, 186, 188
199, 202, 223, 229, 231 in German-speaking
social systems 4, 7, 24, 25,
Prun, Erich 23, 152-161, 229 countries 129-130, 151,
201, 203-205, 212, 213
pseudonyms 47 152, 202, 216, 226
social factors vs. cultural
pseudotranslations 4, 47 translation, as genre 89ff.
factors 14ff.
publishers: relations with and traduction (Berman,
Sociology, as tendency in
agents 43ff. French) 102
Translation Studies 1ff.
publication process 45, 53, and Translation (Kade,
and other disciplines 14
54 German) 217ff.
attached to the nation-
evaluations 59 and Sprachmittlung
state 18
policies 34 (Monein, German) 217
Solomon, Mildred 181, 190
industry 62 translators, as objects of
Spanish 27-39, 163-171
womens 138ff. study 2, 23
Spanish-Dutch translation 6,
agency of 148-149
Q 27-39
volunteers 194
quality, literary 34, 86, 105 Sterne, Lawrence 90
transparency 152, 160
in interpreting 193, 197- strategies, translation-
199, 201-203, 207, 215, transcription 147ff. W
217, 230 linguistic 183, 185 Wadensj, Cecilia 182, 223,
Qubec 9, 101ff. 235
Wolf, Michaela 15
R teamwork 132, 209, 210, 212
on social fields 25, 136
racism, in German-Finnish Tebble, Helen 179, 180, 189
womens publishing 15, 129ff.
relations 50-51 Thackeray, William M. 88ff.
readerships 77-78 theological works 30, 31, 37, Z
reception processes 45, 73 38 Zauberga, Ieva 18-19
religion, Second Vatican Toury, Gideon, laws 3-4 zero translation, non-
Council 30, 31 explanations 5, 10, 38, 47 translation 65, 69-72
as incompatible on adaptations 74
ideology 62ff. on norms 76-77, 203, 226
Benjamins Translation Library
A complete list of titles in this series can be found on

69 DELABASTITA, Dirk, Lieven D'HULST and Reine MEYLAERTS (eds.): Functional Approaches to Culture
and Translation. Selected papers by Jos Lambert. xxiv, 242 pp. + index. Expected November 2006
68 DUARTE, Joo Ferreira, Alexandra ASSIS ROSA and Teresa SERUYA (eds.): Translation Studies at the
Interface of Disciplines. vi, 201 pp. + index. Expected September 2006
67 PYM, Anthony, Miriam SHLESINGER and Zuzana JETTMAROV (eds.): Sociocultural Aspects of
Translating and Interpreting. 2006. vii, 255 pp.
66 SNELL-HORNBY, Mary: The Turns of Translation Studies. New paradigms or shifting viewpoints? 2006.
xi, 205 pp.
65 DOHERTY, Monika: Structural Propensities. Translating nominal word groups from English into German.
2006. xxii, 196 pp.
64 ENGLUND DIMITROVA, Birgitta: Expertise and Explicitation in the Translation Process. 2005. xx, 295 pp.
63 JANZEN, Terry (ed.): Topics in Signed Language Interpreting. Theory and practice. 2005. xii, 362 pp.
62 POKORN, Nike K.: Challenging the Traditional Axioms. Translation into a non-mother tongue. 2005.
xii, 166 pp. [EST Subseries 3]
61 HUNG, Eva (ed.): Translation and Cultural Change. Studies in history, norms and image-projection. 2005.
xvi, 195 pp.
60 TENNENT, Martha (ed.): Training for the New Millennium. Pedagogies for translation and interpreting. 2005.
xxvi, 276 pp.
59 MALMKJR, Kirsten (ed.): Translation in Undergraduate Degree Programmes. 2004. vi, 202 pp.
58 BRANCHADELL, Albert and Lovell Margaret WEST (eds.): Less Translated Languages. 2005. viii, 416 pp.
57 CHERNOV, Ghelly V.: Inference and Anticipation in Simultaneous Interpreting. A probability-prediction
model. Edited with a critical foreword by Robin Setton and Adelina Hild. 2004. xxx, 268 pp. [EST Subseries 2]
56 ORERO, Pilar (ed.): Topics in Audiovisual Translation. 2004. xiv, 227 pp.
55 ANGELELLI, Claudia V.: Revisiting the Interpreters Role. A study of conference, court, and medical
interpreters in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. 2004. xvi, 127 pp.
54 GONZLEZ DAVIES, Maria: Multiple Voices in the Translation Classroom. Activities, tasks and projects. 2004.
x, 262 pp.
53 DIRIKER, Ebru: De-/Re-Contextualizing Conference Interpreting. Interpreters in the Ivory Tower? 2004.
x, 223 pp.
52 HALE, Sandra: The Discourse of Court Interpreting. Discourse practices of the law, the witness and the
interpreter. 2004. xviii, 267 pp.
51 CHAN, Leo Tak-hung: Twentieth-Century Chinese Translation Theory. Modes, issues and debates. 2004.
xvi, 277 pp.
50 HANSEN, Gyde, Kirsten MALMKJR and Daniel GILE (eds.): Claims, Changes and Challenges in
Translation Studies. Selected contributions from the EST Congress, Copenhagen 2001. 2004. xiv, 320 pp. [EST
Subseries 1]
49 PYM, Anthony: The Moving Text. Localization, translation, and distribution. 2004. xviii, 223 pp.
48 MAURANEN, Anna and Pekka KUJAMKI (eds.): Translation Universals. Do they exist? 2004. vi, 224 pp.
47 SAWYER, David B.: Fundamental Aspects of Interpreter Education. Curriculum and Assessment. 2004.
xviii, 312 pp.
46 BRUNETTE, Louise, Georges BASTIN, Isabelle HEMLIN and Heather CLARKE (eds.): The Critical Link
3. Interpreters in the Community. Selected papers from the Third International Conference on Interpreting in
Legal, Health and Social Service Settings, Montral, Quebec, Canada 2226 May 2001. 2003. xii, 359 pp.
45 ALVES, Fabio (ed.): Triangulating Translation. Perspectives in process oriented research. 2003. x, 165 pp.
44 SINGERMAN, Robert: Jewish Translation History. A bibliography of bibliographies and studies. With an
introductory essay by Gideon Toury. 2002. xxxvi, 420 pp.
43 GARZONE, Giuliana and Maurizio VIEZZI (eds.): Interpreting in the 21st Century. Challenges and
opportunities. 2002. x, 337 pp.
42 HUNG, Eva (ed.): Teaching Translation and Interpreting 4. Building bridges. 2002. xii, 243 pp.
41 NIDA, Eugene A.: Contexts in Translating. 2002. x, 127 pp.
40 ENGLUND DIMITROVA, Birgitta and Kenneth HYLTENSTAM (eds.): Language Processing and
Simultaneous Interpreting. Interdisciplinary perspectives. 2000. xvi, 164 pp.
39 CHESTERMAN, Andrew, Natividad GALLARDO SAN SALVADOR and Yves GAMBIER (eds.): Translation
in Context. Selected papers from the EST Congress, Granada 1998. 2000. x, 393 pp.