14.1094, Review: Sociolinguistics/Translation: Tosi (2002)

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LINGUIST List:  Vol-14-1094. Sun Apr 13 2003. ISSN: 1068-4875.

Subject: 14.1094, Review: Sociolinguistics/Translation: Tosi (2002)

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Date:  Sun, 13 Apr 2003 15:14:32 +0000
From:  Mekki Elbadri <yamekk at hotmail.com>
Subject:  Crossing Barriers and Bridging Cultures

-------------------------------- Message 1 -------------------------------

Date:  Sun, 13 Apr 2003 15:14:32 +0000
From:  Mekki Elbadri <yamekk at hotmail.com>
Subject:  Crossing Barriers and Bridging Cultures

Tosi, Arturo, ed. (2002) Crossing Barriers and Bridging Cultures: The
Challenges of Multilingual Translation for the European Union.
Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/13/13-1284.html

Mekki Elbadri, Vienna, Austria


This book is a collection of articles edited by Arturo Tosi. It
consists of contributions written by people who are closely involved
with the work of translation in the European Union/European
Parliament. These contributions are mainly based on the proceedings of
a conference held within the Translation Service of the European
Parliament in November 1998. The book contains fourteen chapters of
varying length and depth. It is divided into three main parts:
Overviews of Languages and Cultures in Contact, the Making of a Single
European Voice, and the Debate Between Insiders and Outsiders.

In his introduction to the book, Arturo Tosi puts the different
contributions in context. After a description of the structure of the
book and how the papers were presented in the conference itself, he
reviews succinctly each contribution as it relates to the objective of
the book which is ''mapping out and discussing the most relevant
theoretical and pragmatic issues about multilingual translation''
(p. ix).

In Chapter 1, ''The Translation Service in the European Parliament'',
Barry Wilson traces the historical development and outlines the legal
and political aspects of translation in this European framework. His
discussion focuses mainly on practical dimensions of multilingualism,
to translators as well as to Members of the European Parliament. He
touches as well the budgetary questions and the prospect of enlarging
the European Union to 22 Member States and 22 languages.

In Chapter 2, John Trim starts his article, ''Multilingualism and the
Interpretation of Languages in Contact'', by drawing a distinction
between '''societal multilingualism', the existence of more than one
language community in a society and 'individual plurilingualism', the
ability of the individual to communicate through more than one
language, which builds bridges between them'' (p. 8). Then he proceeds
to placing translation in a general frame of language activities. He
classifies translation as an act of mediation, as opposed to
production, reception and interaction. He further draws lines between
translation and interpretation as distinct activities of mediation. As
a vivid example of multilingualism, the author traces the development
of English, its contacts with different languages and their influence
on the language, with the implications of this development on the
translator's work. He concludes by confirming that it is inevitable
for cultures and languages to influence each other and that
translators are in a privileged position to see this process in

Christopher Rollason discusses in Chapter 3 ''The Use of Anglicism in
Contemporary French''. Following a short reference to the historical
'cross-contamination' between English and French, he tackles the
current American influence as a major source of Anglicism in modern
French. He gives examples of this phenomenon in different fields, with
emphasis on computer (mainly the internet) and trade. He attributes
this to different reasons ranging from terminological rigor to
unconscious pro-American reflexes, and, paradoxically, ironic
anti-Americanism. The author moves then to the situation in the
European Parliament. France being the dominant Member State at the
time of creation of the European institutions, French was dominant as
a lingua franca. Its influence is still present in many terms of the
European institutions language (eurolect). However, in recent texts,
Anglicism has started to appear in French texts, again starting with
the computer field. The author calls for more rigor in such
multilingual institutions in order to preserve their 'linguistic
diversity' and consequently their 'cultural diversity'.

In Chapter 4, ''Translation of EU Legal Texts'', Renato Correia
outlines the complexities of translating legal texts within the
European Union context.  Translation is essential for drafting
legislation in 11 official languages. However, translators in this
institutional multilingual setting are faced with a complicated
situation where they have to understand and take decisions in dealing
with such problems as the originals' lack of clarity and 'deliberate

Arturo Tosi's paper, ''European Affairs: The writer, the Translator
and the Reader'' is one of the major contributions to this work. The
author introduces his paper by an overview of the evolution of
translation according to different approaches. He tackles questions
such as: the impact of machine translation, multidisciplinarity,
language policy and translation service, the translator as mediator,
language standardization and national attitudes, emphasis on good
communication. Given the remarks made about the difficulty of
understanding the language of the eurolect, He emphasizes the
importance of clarity and innovation in translation. The author refers
to Newmark (1976) to provide 'rules of thumb of good cultural
translation' (p.64).

In Chapter 6, Freddie De Corte discusses ''the Contribution of
Freelance Translators''. He maintains that freelance translators serve
as a bridge between the institutions and the general public. Living in
their own countries with direct contact with the living language, free
lancers are expected to impart ''new life into the 'eurolect'''

In Chapter 7, Anne Tucker discusses ''Translation and Computerization
in the EU Parliament''. She traces the different developmental stages
in the use of computer aids to the service of translation. She
presents the different tools that are used either for automating the
translation of certain types of texts: e.g. repetitive and evaluative
texts, as well as the applications that help translators concentrate
on the translation activity per se and relieving them of efforts such
as typing or formatting final production. The importance of
applications such as translation memory software, voice recognition
and workflow applications has been stressed.

In Chapter 8, Luca Tomasi discusses ''Translating Transparency in the
EU Commission''. He takes over from Anne Tucker's contribution and
touches the influence of the electronic media in the approach to
translation in the EU institutions. He gives a few examples of machine
translations done by different systems and points out the necessity of
post-editing to such products.

The question of clarity is taken again in Chapter 9 by Christopher
Cook in his article ''Helping the Journalist to Translate to the
Reader''. He compares and contrasts the roles of translators and
journalists and their views of each other. He presents the concept of
the ''empty chair'' referring to the importance of taking in
consideration the audience to whom the text is presented.

In Chapter 10, ''Linguistic Interpretation or Cultural
Contamination'', Helen Swallow reviews the proceedings of Workshop 1
on linguistic aspects of multilingualism, with special reference to
lexical contacts and borrowings across languages.

Nichole Buchin and Edward Seymour summarize in Chapter 11,
''Equivalence or Divergence in Legal Translation'', the proceedings of
Workshop 3 which dealt with the principle that translation cannot be
regarded as a straightforward, neutral process.

Workshop 3 is reviewed by Christopher Rollason in Chapter 12, ''Opaque
or User-Friendly Language''. This workshop was concentrated on the
accessibility and comprehensibitly of Parliament's documents to the
general public and the role of translators in facilitating the quest
for this goal.

In Chapter 13, Sylvia Ball reviews the proceedings of the ''Round
Table on Multilingualism: Barrier or Bridge?''. In that round table,
participants reacted to each other's contributions and heard the
impressions of other members of the round table.

In Chapter 14, ''Conclusions'', Arturo Tosi emphasizes the importance
rethinking the role of translators in the largest translation agency
in the world and to help in spreading ''a new translation culture in
support of multilingualism in Europe'' (p. 131).


The book contains a variety of articles pertaining to different
aspects of the major theme which is translation in a political,
multilingual and multicultural context. The contributions are of
varying quality. Some articles are real in-depth research papers,
while others are mere personal accounts or reflections of individual
experience. However, the whole inputs highlight the subject matter
from different, complementary angles. The book contains a wealth of
information for researchers and translation students who are
interested in the development, complexities and procedural aspects of
translation in an institutional context such as the European
Union/European Parliament. It poses, and attempts to answer, different
questions related to languages in contact, the role of translators as
mediators, facilitators and decision makers in a complex communicative

One of the major issues recurring in a number of articles is the
question of dominance of certain languages over others leading to
linguistic 'contamination' and 'impoverishment'. Nevertheless, most of
the articles are mainly concerned with the 'big' languages, namely
English, French, and to some extent Italian. Little or no reference is
made of most of the current 11 languages or the future 22
languages. Since the book consists of a collection of articles
presented at a conference, it is not easy extract and discuss an
overall methodological approach guiding the entire work. The editor
managed, yet, to group the articles and present them in a logical and
smooth order of transition. This work opens further the door for more
discussion of translation methods, approaches and procedures in
similar multilingual settings. It might be taken as an example for
studying and analysing translation activities in other institutions,
at the international or regional levels, with more linguistic
diversity, less cultural homogeneity and more political
variations. For further discussion of the topic, see Pym (2001).


Newmark, P. (1976) The theory and Craft of Translation. Language
Teaching and Linguistics: Abstracts (Jan.). Reprinted in V. Kinsella
(ed.) (1978) Language Teaching and Linguistics: Surveys
(pp. 79-100). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pym, A. (2001) Translation and International Institutions. Explaining
the Diversity Paradox. Paper presented to the workshop ''Translation
and Institutions'' at the conference 'Language Study in Europe at the
Turn of the Millenium', Societas Linguistica Europea, Katholieka
Universiteit Leuven, 28-31 August 2001. Reproduced in the site:


Mekki Elbadri is a translator and researcher with interest in
translation studies, terminology and discourse analysis, and is
currently conducting doctoral research in Critical Discourse Analysis.


If you buy this book please tell the publisher or author
that you saw it reviewed on the LINGUIST list.

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