TRANSLATING CULTURES: EXPLORING TRANSLATORS’ SELF-CONCEPTS

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TRANSLATING CULTURES: EXPLORING TRANSLATORS’ SELF-CONCEPTS

Event Name Translating cultures: Exploring Translators’ Self-Concepts
Start Date 27th Mar 2013 5:30pm
End Date 27th Mar 2013 6:30pm
Duration 1 hour
Description

Abstract

Over the last quarter of a century, translation studies has moved from an near-total focus on products towards considering workplace and cognitive processes and the effects of those processes on translation quality. With a large part of translation process research being driven by a pedagogical interest in the nature and development of translation expertise, there has also been a growing awareness of the potential held by process-oriented translator training and evaluation. In this seminar, we outline how translation process research methods such as screen recording, retrospection and interviews can be applied to the investigation of translators’ understanding of the roles, loyalties and responsibilities that comprise their self-concept, which occupies a key position in influential translation competence models (Kiraly 1995, Göpferich 2008) and has been related to professionalisation (cf. Tirkkonen-Condit & Laukkanen 1996, Gross 2003, Katan 2009). The data we use are drawn from a large corpus built up in a longitudinal research project exploring the relationship between translation competence, its acquisition and the translation process. By a recursive process of encoding retrospective comments made by beginners, advanced students and professionals viewing their own translation performances, we have been able to infer similarities and differences in translators’ self-concepts across experience levels, language pairs, target languages and translation directions. In this seminar, we will present the findings we have obtained so far and explore their implications for training and professionalisation.

References

Göpferich, S. (2008). Translationsprozessforschung. Stand – Methoden – Perspektiven. Tübingen: Narr.

Gross, A. (2003). Teaching translation as a form of writing. Improving translator self-concept. In: Baer, B. & Koby, G. (eds). Beyond the Ivory Tower. Rethinking translation pedagogy. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 83-93.

Katan, D. (2009). Translation theory and professional practice: a global survey of the great divide, Hermes – Journal of Language and Communication Studies 42, 111-153.

Kiraly, D. (1995). Pathways to Translation: Pedagogy and Process. Kent: Kent State University Press.

Tirkkonen-Condit, S. & Laukkanen, J. (1996). Evaluations – a key towards understanding the affective dimension of translational decisions, Meta 41, 45-59.

Profile

Gary Massey is the deputy director of the ZHAW Institute of Translation and Interpreting, head of its MA in Applied Linguistics and co-investigator of the Capturing Translation Processes and Cognitive and Physical Ergonomics of Translation research projects.

Maureen Ehrensberger-Dow is Professor of Translation Studies in the ZHAW Institute of Translation and Interpreting and principal investigator of both the Capturing Translation Processes and the Cognitive and Physical Ergonomics of Translation research projects.

Recent joint publications include:

Ehrensberger-Dow, M. & Massey, G. (forthcoming). Indicators of translation competence: Translators’ self-concepts and the translation of titles, Journal of Writing Research (Special Issue on Translation).

Massey, G. & Ehrensberger-Dow, M. (forthcoming). Evaluating translation processes: opportunities and challenges. In: Hansen-Schirra, S., Kiraly, D. & Maksymski, K. (eds). Innovation in Translation and Interpreting Pedagogy, Tübingen: Narr.

Massey, G. & Ehrensberger-Dow, M. (2012). Evaluating the process: implications for curriculum development. In: Zybatow, L., Petrova, A. & Ustaszewski, M. (eds). Translationswissenschaft interdisziplinär. Fragen der Theorie und der Didaktik. Forum Translationswissenschaft 15, Frankfurt a. M.: Lang, 95-100.

Massey, G. & Ehrensberger-Dow, M. (2011). Commenting on translation: implications for translator training, Journal of Specialised Translation 16, 26-41.

Massey, G. & Ehrensberger-Dow, M. (2011). Investigating information literacy: a growing priority in translation studies, Across Languages and Cultures 12/2, 193-211.

Massey, G. & Ehrensberger-Dow, M. (2011). Technical and instrumental competence in the translator’s workplace: Using process research to identify educational and ergonomic needs, ILCEA 14/2011. ilcea.revues.org

Pelo Malo (Bad Hair)

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The film Pelo Malo, directed and written by Mariana Rondón, and winner of Best Film in the San Sebastian Film Festival 2013, was screened to an audience at Cineteca, Matadero Madrid, on Thursday 13th March ahead of its global release outside of the festival circuit, and was followed by a talk with the director. By chance I found out about the screening at work, and was intent on going as I was curious ever since seeing a poster for the film tucked away in the basement of co-working space Utopic_US. Firstly, I enjoyed the film; Pelo Malo depicts the strained relationship between a single mother and her two sons amidst the chaos of Caracas, Venezuela. I don’t want to go into much detail as to what was shown as it was what wasn’t shown, and what is often difficult to show, that interested me the most.

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The title translates to ‘Bad Hair’, and is a topic which for me as a black person requires no explanation. It is normally a private or intercultural topic, so witnessing it shared with a majority white audience was bound to be interesting. However, in the question and answer session, the racial consideration of this topic barely arose. The issue wasn’t entirely ignored, rather overshadowed by the very powerful and arguably more universal topic of family; love, sacrifice, and the depth of the family dynamic was mastered wonderfully in the film. The audience responded to themes of violence and its specificity to Venezuelan society. But the strand which ran through whole film was literally that of hair, particularly that of the mulato / mix raced son, Junior, who dreams of himself as a singer with straight hair and is determined to appear this way in his school photograph.

My connection to the character was immediate, with his hair immersed in water and momentarily untangled, loose and free. I remember doing the same. His struggle throughout the film is to make this state permanent and obsesses with the texture of his hair to the despair of his mum. They struggle to see eye-to-eye on a range of topics and live battling for attention and recognition, both at work and at home, from others and from each other. Their complex love-hate relationship is expressed through entangled displays of affection and violence. But Junior’s cosmetic ambitions are more complicated than simple infantile vanity. He tries a variety of methods to achieve straightened perfection; blow dryers, oil, mayonnaise, all of which were met by laughs by the majority white audience that night. I crumbled a bit inside as I wanted everyone to realise how serious this topic is and that their reaction was ignorant of practiced afro hair care.

The scenes of Junior staring, gazing and cross-analysing the envied appearance of others with that of his own and carrying out these acts of desperation on his hair demonstrated to me an intimate form of violence, one without any obvious aggressor. The director engaged sensitively with this difficult issue so as not to over-determine or articulate it as racial-self hatred, rather Rondón contextualised it within the difficult period of infancy and youth complicated further by the differences between Junior and his mother. This is probably where the delivery of the message diverges to my receipt of racial self-hate and to others’ reception of the film’s portrayal of social marginalisation, domestic violence, plus a range of readings shared that night. I appreciate the multiple discourses but it was this racial strand which I wanted to be explored and understood further by the audience.

The day-to-day hair rituals and risks taken to achieve the straightened mane come as no surprise to anyone versed in afro hair care, and though his straight-hair pursuit was never extreme, presenting this often private aspect in the film called into question the audience’s understanding of difference. I was annoyed that Junior’s acts of hairstyling in the film were laughed at in the theatre, reminding me how ridiculous non-black people have found the methods I use to care for my hair. I was actually deliberating with myself about greasing my hair with olive oil before the show, something I do in private to avoid awkward conversation with flatmates on a subject which is peculiar for them, but so natural for myself and others. It is not to say that the scenes didn’t contain some humour, but Junior’s mother’s reaction to the carry-on seemed to be more representative of the lack of sensitivity I sensed from the audience. She struggles to get to the root of Junior’s issue. Her frustration with Junior’s experimentation polarises their relationship further. She considers all that she does to provide a male influence as a single mother rejected by Junior; however the distance between Junior and his mother, whilst probably sexual, unbeknown to her is racial also. She is aware of his racial difference as a mixed-raced boy, but cannot see the psychological depth of that difference which her assurances about his hair cannot remedy. Her anger at junior’s application of dairy products to his hair, busting in to the bathroom should have signalled to her not his defiance, but another episode in his desperation to reconcile his identity. Junior makes some progress with his hair by my preferred application of olive oil, which should be noted isn’t as absurd as considered by the audience, but this still isn’t the resolution that his mother desires. It leaves a question as to how much she can provide to her mixed-raced child, her boy child, her singing child, her sit-down when goes to the toilet child. What is brought into question is the complexity and depth of identity and the compromises we make to our own character for the world and the people we love.

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I am not trying to privilege the discourse  which I write above any other in the film, I just wanted to highlight it as I didn’t get a chance to in the presentation and don’t want the opportunity to pass and to not have done so. The director referred to the international differences in terms of audience reception and perception of the film; in Latin America the film is a question of government and politics; in Turkey religious issues are cited; in Toronto my missed aspect of race and identity is drawn from the film. The film’s multiple discourses are its triumph and I feel that my frustration comes as I have a different background to this quintessentially Venezuelan story that is perhaps more binary in terms of racial identity. If anything, in Spain, the concept of family and its complex dynamics are the overriding features of the film. I hope most of all that this consensus and the laughs throughout don’t also demonstrate indifference to racial difference and identity here in Spain.

Pluricentric/Polycentric Spanish (a few notes)

I was interested by a podcast on RNE: Radio 3 which aired at 05:00, 08/03/14. I wasn’t able to catch any names but wrote a few notes to follow up later. The show talked about the diversity of the Spanish language and the academic research into its development. If I heard correctly, then there are 22 countries where Spanish is the official language, and each have their own Academy of Spanish. These account for the variation of Spanish regionally, nationally and internationally.

The show also explored the assimilation of cultures in the Spanish language, referencing them geographically. For example, there is evidence of Arabic influence in the Spanish of Andalucia, Quechua in the Spanish of Peru…(I also remember previously reading about the influence of Yoruba in the Spanish of Cuba). The Spanish language has always been in development wherever it is spoken and references its historical, social, and cultural framework. The more recent development which was cited in the programme was the Spanish of the United States of America which research shows can be distinguished as its own version of Spanish. America has the third largest population of Spanish speakers behind Spain and Mexico, and the linguistic assimilation in this case is of the English language. There are already regional differences; on the West coast the accent is distinctly Mexican and central American, whilst on the East, Antillean (Caribbean). The history of migration from various Hispanic regions to the States and social relations explain present trends in that despite cultural heritage, Antillean models of Spanish are commonly spoken. In New York, this exact example was given describing Mexican descendants speaking with Antillean accents. Traditionally, integration and progress meant losing the Spanish language which had been the case for Mexican migrants, whilst those Caribbean had intended to maintain their mother tongue. Presently, the question of speaking Spanish in America is far from shameful for most, and is a sign of empowerment personally and socially.

The development of Spanish across these various locales, particularly in America, has decentralised Spain as the main reference point for the Spanish language. It is a polycentric language and shouldn’t be uncommon to hear Latin American accents and vocabulary in Spain. This is Panhispanismo, Pan-Hispanic. I have experienced this here in Madrid, where the use of acá is as frequent as aquí by Spanish natives, meaning here (which I guess signifies Latin America here in Spain / America Latina acá en España). During my language learning, I have also been interested to find that even in England, the Pan-Hispanic influence seems to me slightly more evident than that of Spain. A lot of the material I came across to learn Spanish was from Latin America, I encounter more frequently Latin American accents in London, and am exposed to Spanish of the United States more commonly in the media. I suppose that this is inevitable with the influence of American culture particularly in British media. The American-Spanish cultural link in the States is similarly an American-English-Spanish cultural link and seems to me more easily transferrable to Britian due to it being based in an already shared culture, albeit articulated in Spanish.

The linguistic systems of English and Spanish were considered impermeable in the podcast, especially in rejection of Spanglish as a language. Neither would it be possible to talk of a grammer of Spanglish as it is spoken to suit the speaker and is too varied. I take issue with considerations that speaking Spanglish is a sign of a lack of education as this is based on assumption that there is always a correct and proper way of doing things, which is normally the way of the person who rejects other ways to their own. Also it presupposes that someone speaking Spanglish has poor understanding of both English and Spanish rather than considering that person as sufficiently comfortable in both languages and understanding their complexities enough to play with their structures and create spontaneous forms of expression. The point is still taken however; we are always taught never to translate when learning Spanish, as both language systems, whilst related, exist independently. What interests me in regard to linguistic assimilation is the possibility of a version of Spanish with evident traces of English – not that I’m looking for shortcuts. But if there are to be variations of Spanish, I see no issue in picking one that I have a closer connection and greater disposition to, and better yet if its is emerging as a central language system within the States in the Pan-Hispanic lexicon.

We Traders (Cambiamos Crisis por Cuidad)

Matadero Madrid, Nave 16.3
31.01.14 – 16.03.14

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This was one of the first openings during my placement at Matadero Madrid. It is a good reference point for thinking about sustainable place-making; I was speaking today with some other interns about sustainable place-making and we discussed how giving groups of people spaces and projects to work with each other can help to build communities and generate empathy between groups in society. This social element, especially in terms of cultural difference is something which I consider necessary and saw in practice at the Templo  Afro event at La Tabacalera.

The We Traders event also demonstrates another element which we discussed which is the dissemination of information to further reinforce community. In the Nave for the exhibition, there are various information points and multilingual videos explaining the community run projects in various European cities. The international element of the exhibition helps build ties between the projects in their various locales and share information on community initiatives. The exhibition also has polling stations asking the public their opinion on social action and change, allowing for discussion on community and the actions which can be taken to shape the places we live in.

Link: http://www.mataderomadrid.org/fichaand04/we-traders.html

WOSAP

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WOSAP!
c/ Cabestreros, 5, 28012, Madrid, Spain

I have to mention it in this project as for me it has become the most important performing arts space in my stay. The only place I have found and needed to find Hip Hop dance styles. I’ve been going for over a month now and having a great time there. The teachers and choreographers are great and it reminds me of Pineapple in London where I danced for a while whilst at university. If I was to create a cultural map of Madrid, WOSAP would be on it marked boldly in Lavapies. They offer a range of styles and taught classes, more information of which can be found at: WOSAP.com

23.02.14 La Tabacalera, Templo Afro

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So despite having decided to halt my search of Jamaica in Madrid, Jamaica came searching for me via La Tabacalera’s artisan market day and concert. This was a great event and I’m still hyped up a week later. The DJ was playing some reggae music which I had been desperate to hear and it was great to see how this was the international language for that night. Despite being built as an African event, Jamaica definitely had a strong influence on some of the acts, including the Hip-Hop ones who broke out a bit of Dancehall, not to mention the Dancehall queens who injected some energy into the night. I knew that the island’s reach was far but even for the strong African community Lavapies to have such an affinity to Jamaican culture I was surprised. From what seemed apparent, I was the clearly the only Jamaican on the dancefloor but enjoyed the efforts by those I was surrounded by who interpreted the music in a different fashion, and I was swiftly ushered off when the night reverted to African music and I actually got to experience some of what I hoped to see. I love how there was this cultural exchange musically and better yet, this was an open event.

Here is a link to La Tabacalera’s statement on free culture: http://latabacalera.net/cultura-libre/

So on top of the fun that I had at this event, I got to witness an approach to arts and culture live and direct. Relating it to sustainable communities, a free event that celebrates such cultural diversity and more importantly that night, raised awareness of the tragic and sometimes fatal experience of immigration, the event brought the community together, a range of colours, genders, ages under the same roof. A truly international night in the heart of Madrid, yet the search for Jamaica is still incomplete.

Food, Culture & Identity

I want to cover a few different things in this entry as I’ve been reflecting a lot this weekend.

I came to Madrid not expecting it to be as culturally diverse as it is. It feels so similar to London in that respect that I’ve had no problems feeling at home. I mentioned earlier how the Spanish language seems to unify everyone, and perhaps the diversity that is reflected is the diversity of the Spanish language at its internationalism. I remember how pleased I was in the first week to see not only Latin Americans but Asians also, adding to the sense of familiarity that I feel here. I have since become very familiar with areas such as Lavapies where this diversity is unmissable. I guess another way to look at internationalism and Madrid as an international city is the availability of international products. Whilst my typical household stock is a fair bit pricier here, I am happy to know that I can get the range of produce that I’m used to at back in England. I take it for granted however how easy it is to walk into a supermarket and find international products, however this isn’t so easy in the supermarkets here. I’ve seen very little international or internationally inspired food ranges in supermarkets, but again this is compensated by a walk in Lavapies.

I was also surprised to see such a strong Chinese community here, and have remarked how it seems peculiar that there aren’t any denominated Chinatowns like in Britain. I prefer it this way actually and can see that ethnicity doesn’t need to be mapped and monetised in this way. I know where I can buy the Chinese produce I’m used to and don’t have to be signposted along with several tourists. Actually Lidl seems good for international produce and I fully appreciated the cut price Asian goods they had last week. This was something else that I wanted to mention in this appraisal of culture difference, Lidl and several shops selling Chinese imports seem to have a higher standing here than in Britain. In no way do they seem looked down upon, and if I’m to make sweeping generalisations, I even see posh people furnishing their flats and stocking their cupboards from these shops. I just find it fascinating how my ideas of class and culture have been challenged by such a short time in Madrid. I must also mention the Chinese music radio stations I heard during the first week but cannot find again; there isn’t even a Chinatown!

But what has really been interesting for me has been trying to find Jamaica in Madrid.

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So as far as I’m aware, there is no Jamaican food here, as if it would be as good as my mum’s cooking. But being of Jamaican heritage, I am amused to find little outlets of Jamaica in the city, normally associated with ‘natural’ and ‘herbal’ products. The weed and Rasta iconography isn’t a surprise, as my peers reminded me jokingly about Snoop Dogg Lion. It’s a little annoying that this always the first line of thought but I just nod and smile when encountering this as I feel assured that the truth and the depth of my culture hasn’t been commodified as such. I feel more Jamaican than ever as I feel more alone as a Jamaican than ever. But this is fun as I feel like I’m the only authority on my culture and can author it as I like. In fact, despite the pseudo-Jamaican pretence, this has been remarked as a genuine factor which distinguishes me from my British peers here, as it conveniently explains why when I speak Spanish it evokes more of a Caribbean accent which is identifiable in the Spanish language group rather than sounding like an English-man speaking Spanish. It is thus some validation that my efforts to assimilate Caribbean Spanish have gone some way and I can pass in some circles with this identity. Nationality guesses so far: Cubano, Dominicano, Boricua, Colombiano. (I’m still waiting for a guess at Venezolano, my new favourite accent).

Whatever I’ve created for myself, the ambiguity is a dynamic that I’ve grown up with and I like not being completely different but different nonetheless. It is always hard though when you’re with an all white British group who perhaps looks at the world differently to you. For example, my issue with the Spanish word ‘mono’ is not that for a female monkey the word is ‘mona’, and that it also translates as ‘cute’, rather its that I feel uncomfortable as a black British person being described as a monkey even if someone may happen to find me cute (not that they have yet!). I stress the word British because the English language cannot so easily be erased from my mind, nor can its politics and history. So sharing a different and more troubled relationship to language than by British counterparts here on the exchange can be frustrating, along with the assumption that jokingly exclaiming ‘Jah Rastafari’ won’t offend me as this ignores the element of difference which I value, and homogenises me within the majority white British culture to which I don’t fully identify.

Back to food, and I got as close as I could to Jamaica at Kukaramakara in Legazpi, Madrid. I went on break from work across the world (meant to say road) to a Dominican (Republic of) restaurant and ordered, for some reason in appalling Spanish, fried chicken with plantain. ‘Pica Pollo’ would have done it!

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Que rico! However the plantains could have been sweeter. It was nice and I had to take some home with me as I hadn’t realised the portion was to share. There were about 6-10 bits of chicken and 12 bits of plantain, mashed down and fried how my uncle Barry (the chef) cooked them for us in Portmore, Jamaica. Caribbean at best, Jamaican it still was not, and despite only Haiti between us and the cordial encounters I’ve had with Dominicans in the past, the differences are evident. These are just differences neither for good or bad, but a confirmation that I should perhaps put the Jamaica quest to rest for now, no matter how close I get in Madrid.

Keziah Callabo & Street Art

I have been collaborating with my lovely flatmate Keziah Hughes who is conducting a research project on public art in Madrid. I’ve been helping her by translating the online interviews and conversations with street artists for her, which also enables me to practise my language skills further in this area. She’s also been helping be form my ideas for my own project. From this collaboration, I have become interested by the street art that I’ve been seeing in Madrid and it’s been fascinating to get insight from local artists about their practice and the art scene locally and internationally. I will start to post some of the photos I’ve been taking of street art and places that I’ve been interested by in Madrid.

Here’s a link to find out more about the project and read the interviews, Keziah’s Blog: http://artepublicomadrid.wordpress.com

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