[lg policy] New Contribution to IAMCR=?windows-1252?Q?=92s_?=Language Policy Debate

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jun 19 21:44:02 UTC 2011

New Contribution to IAMCR’s Language Policy Debate


Following Professor Gabriel Kaplún's address to the International
Council Meeting, Braga, July 2010, a debate on conference language
policy was started. Read the latest contribution from John Downing to
the debate:

Dear John Downing, and IAMCR language task force colleagues,

In the interests of contributing to the discussion we need to have
over the next month, let me begin by commenting on Gabriel Kaplun’s
intervention at our final IC meeting in Braga.

I think Gabriel, in his ‘Camino 8’ sets out the ideal implementation
of a language policy, but is realistic in recognising the barriers to
achieving it.  Specifically, simultaneous translation is a
highly-skilled and expensive service, so its use is necessarily
limited for its prohibitive costs in an era in which the members’ ever
more insistent demand is for lower conference fees.  However, local
organising committees often are able to make appropriate arrangement
for plenaries and formal sessions.  As for the hours we spend in
General Assembly and International Council meetings, there is no way
the membership would bear the cost of simultaneous translation.

No se puede pagar por la traduccion simultánea de las Asambleas
Generales y las reuniones del Consejo Internacional, sólo tal vez de
algunas sesiones plenarias por el comite organizador local.

On the other hand, the actual situation is not as bad as described in
Gabriel’s ‘Camino 7’  In my own experience, with the Media and
Diasporas Working Group and the Political Economy Section, abstracts
and oral presentations in Spanish and French can be and have been
made, albeit rarely.  So, it is not so much a matter of ‘reconocer y
formalizar la situación actual’, but rather, to ensure that Sections
and Working Groups (SWG) adopt uniform practice in calling for and
evaluating abstracts in Spanish and French (Gabriel’s 8. a.), and
providing for informal translation by bilingual participants of oral
presentations (Gabriel’s 8. c.).

Es cuestión y prioridad para las Secciones y los Grupos de Trabajo la
organización de evaluaciones y traducciones informales.

SWG heads need to be encouraged to take on some ownership of language
policy as an issue.  We should recommend that they put the
implementation of language policy on the agenda of their business
meetings, specifically in how they should call for and evaluate
abstracts in Spanish and French, and of how they can provide informal
translation when such papers are presented.

I realise that Spanish and French speakers are sensitive about the
dominance of English in IAMCR, but this merely reflects the real-world
situation outside, in that English has become a global language, not
least because it is the world’s most widely-spoken second language
(David Crystal, English as a Global Language, Cambridge University
Press, 1997, pp. 3, 53 ff.).

It would take an audit to be sure, but my impression is that there are
many more native Spanish and French speakers in IAMCR who understand
English, than vice versa, which is why English has become the default
language for so many of its activities.  Furthermore, language policy
is not just about rivalries between three imperial languages of
Europe.  One other quite major consideration is that there are many
more languages other than Spanish and French which are spoken by
members of the organisation, such as those of our colleagues from the
many countries of Asia.  However, they do also speak English, and
could not participate without it.

Hay muchos otros idiomas que las tres lenguas coloniales que se hablan
entre los miembros de la IAMCR, sin la utilización del inglés la
participación de ellos sería imposible.

My view is that English has thus become the lingua franca of IAMCR for
quite practical reasons, and I think this should be seen as a positive
asset, not a problem, as its use minimises otherwise insuperable
language barriers.  However, we do need to ensure that Spanish and
French speakers are able to participate in SWG activities, as outlined
above, and that simultaneous translation be provided for formal
sessions of the organisation to the extent we can afford.

In brief, I think that the guiding principle for language policy in
IAMCR should be rather like multicultural policy in Australia, by
which I mean that the use of English as a lingua franca should be
affirmed as a common benefit, but that the right to conduct academic
exchange in the other official languages must be upheld at the same

Un guía sería la política multiculturalista de Australia, en la que la
utilización de la lengua inglesa como lengua franca se ve
positivamente, pero el derecho de comunicar en otros idiomas oficiales
sería aportado al mismo tiempo. Por ejemplo la lengua nacional del
país del congreso, es decir Português en Braga, Turco en Estambul.

There is also the question of policy with regard to the language of
the country in which a given conference is held.  Sometimes this will
be Spanish (e.g. Mexico) or French (e.g. Paris), but also in cases
like Braga and Stockholm, conferences attract large numbers of
in-country participants, for whom integration in SWG sessions and
plenary sessions have been made in the in-country language.  This is
as it should be, and extended and pursued as a matter of policy.  A
small thing from our discussion in Braga was the suggestion that a
subtitled in-country feature film might be screened at conferences –
something for local organising committees to be made aware of.

Yours truly,

John Sinclair


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