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The Routledge Handbook of Translation


Edited by Carmen Millán & Francesca Bartrina


Routledge Handbooks in Applied Linguistics

Abingdon: Routledge, 2013

Hardcover. xvii + 571 p. ISBN 978-0415559676. £140.00


Reviewed by Christine Raguet

Université Paris III-Sorbonne Nouvelle



This new volume in the Routledge collection of Handbooks in Applied Linguistics provides up-to-date views on the field of Translation Studies. The five sections cover a wide range of topics from a variety of perspectives:

- Translation studies as an academic discipline

- Defining the object of research in translation studies

- Theoretical frameworks and research methodologies

- Specialised practices

- Future challenges

The book is divided into 40 chapters written by specialists from around the world on the main current issues and possible further developments [chapter 5]. Each chapter offers both an overview of the question and bibliographical references divided into two sections: ‘further reading’ and ‘bibliography’, as in the other volumes of Routledge Handbooks. The number of references in the ‘further reading’ section is limited to the essential. Each title, a major work on the question, is followed by a short description of the content of the book, giving equally useful key information for both advanced researchers and students. The ‘bibliography’ section is far more developed and can cover several pages so that anybody wishing to delve into the topic is offered a large selection of reading suggestions–either books or articles.

The two editors of this volume are lecturers in Translation Studies: Carmen Millán is a former lecturer at the University of Birmingham, UK; Francesca Bartrina is a lecturer at the University of Vic, Spain.

Though not the first handbook on the subject, The Routledge Handbook of Translation Studies comes as a complement and offers a rather different approach to the question. Routledge published Mona Baker and Gabriela Saldanha’s Encyclopedia of Translation Studies in 1998, revised in 2009; John Benjamins published a Handbook of Translation Studies, edited by Yves Gambier and Luc Van Doorslaer in 2010; Oxford published Kirsten Malmkjær and Kevin Windle’s Handbook of Translation Studies in 2011. The present volume is not a repetition of these former volumes, but rather an extension of them. Even if some topics are addressed in all the volumes, like ‘translation and ethics’ (and authored by the same scholar as in Benjamins’ book, i.e. Ben Van Wyke) or ‘functionalism’ (also authored by the same scholar as in Benjamins’ book, i.e. Christiane Nord), some other contributors, like Jean Boase-Beier, address close but different questions (stylistics in the Oxford book and poetry in the present edition) and many others are new contributors. There are new subdivisions to specific approaches like ‘the relevance of theory in translation studies’ by Rosemay Arrojo or ‘Quality in translation studies’ by Juliane House, to quote only a couple. Some fields are treated quite differently and the general presentation is not comparable. The Routledge Handbook attempts to revisit traditional approaches and to reconsider theoretical frameworks and methodologies, specialised practices and ensuing challenges, reaching the core of the question by taking different paths.

The volume opens on José Lambert’s ‘The institutionalization of the discipline’, which paves the way for the subsequent studies. He raises several questions about the role played by academia in the recognition of translation studies, pointing to the gap between professional practice and theoretical research, and he reassesses the role played by various organisations and individual scholars in the birth of the discipline. Then he discusses its recognition and the challenges it had and still has to face, leading the reader seamlessly to the first part.

The first part is a rather short section divided into three chapters, which look into translation studies as a discipline. It opens with a question: ‘Where are we?’, studying the development of this new branch of learning from the 1970s to the present, and it is illustrated with Toury’s representation of Holmes’s map of translation studies (dating back to 1972). The other two approaches deal with audiovisual translation (AVT) and interpreting studies. Both are directly linked to practice, and concern questions of communication. After having pointed out the change new technologies may entail both in the profession and in research, Gambier lists a number of concepts to be ‘revised, extended and rethought’ [55] when applied to AVT, thus leading to new research perspectives. Pöchhacker explores both what translation and interpreting have and don’t have in common, insisting on ‘the synergy between models of interpreting and of translation’ [66] and tries to reconcile various positions such as the basic distinction between experimental and observational studies. Finally, he positions himself as an advocate of the ‘ever-closer union’ [70] between translation research in general and interpreting studies, though, in my opinion, this point is still open to debate.

The second part functions as a parallel to the first as it focuses on research; the four authors of this section question translation studies as an object of study. It also begins with a question ‘What is (not) translation?’, switching from the subject (we) to the object (what) as the centre of concern. The initial step is meant to define and identify the object of research as such and the whole part opens up various perspectives to be further developed in the subsequent parts. Among other things, Theo Hermans discusses Benjamin’s perspective (his rejection of translation as an act of communication) and the recent realisation, in the Western tradition, of the multiplicity of languages and cultures, which raises the question of the prevalent concepts of translation. The next two chapters consider both translation process and vocational training. In so doing, they examine the bridge between practice, theory and the common reflection on practice and theory, taking into account education, methods, tools, technologies, various practical data and their evaluation. Interestingly, these two chapters evaluate the links between training and reflection (translation and interpretation) as a practice in a rather didactic approach to the question. They insist on the way research has evolved in the domain as ‘experience-based anecdotal accounts’ [103] and given way to more advanced exploration, using ‘full-fledged’ studies ‘with expanded data’ [110] or ‘multiple research methods and different types of data-collecting methods’ [110], and resting on theoretical frameworks. Quite logically, this part concludes with a chapter on ‘the relevance of theory’ as an object of study, in which the author, Rosemary Arrojo, insists on how theory has shaped itself on translation as an activity, and how practice and teaching have finally shaped themselves on theory. She reflects on the construction of theories–referring to major scholars in various fields of the discipline–, their relevance, the expansion of translation studies as a discipline, and the increasing diversity of perspectives, which started developing in the course of the 20th century. Her overview prepares the reader for the next part on more specific approaches.

The third part, centring on ‘theoretical frameworks and research methodologies’ covers many areas ranging from gender to postcolonial to corpus linguistics and other fields of investigation. It reasserts some main concepts as applied to each domain as well as the research methodology used. It is introduced by a chapter on ‘translation history’ as opposed to ‘historiography’, pointing to our fragmented historical knowledge of translation and reminding us that past practices and ideas may have a major impact on present-day research and practices. To illustrate his point, the author, Sehnaz Tahir-Gürçaglar, discusses the position of several scholars and underlines the fact that ‘various methodological issues (…) still need to be addressed by translation historians’ [139], recalling Koskinen’s suggestion of an ‘understanding of both agency and causality in translation studies’ [139]. Then Nitsa Ben-Ari writes two chapters on Even-Zohar’s polysystem and Toury’s descriptive theories. Not only does she present these theories in context, she also discusses their evolution and future. She reaffirms the fact that the polysystem theory contributed to the ‘legitimization (of) translation as a central activity in culture and (… in) literature’ [147], and that it supplied a new framework for analysis. She shows how Even-Zohar’s and Toury’s approaches were non-normative and how they led to new turns in translation studies. The following chapters are more concerned with ideological approaches, covering topics like: postcolonial translation, gender, sociology, functionalism, linguistics, cognitive and psycholinguistic approaches and multimodality. Most chapters provide outlines of the research carried out in each of these fields, covering a larger span of activity in a few pages so as to supply the necessary information to tackle each of these subjects. Most reconsider the theoretical frameworks and methods used both in research and practice, analysing the importance of translation practices in connection with the stance taken (postcolonial, gender), or else they reappraise the practical tools (contrastive linguistics) and new methodologies (corpus linguistics; cognitive science and psycholinguistics) used for research. This part concludes with an article meant to open onto the following chapter as it broaches the question of texts in their non-textual dimension and the various practices they entail. After having defined ‘multimodality’ (taking into account all forms of non-verbal elements), Klaus Kaindl presents it as a new issue, which calls for interdisciplinary research. In a few pages he investigates the fields and methods and raises new challenges such as the fact that there are still no instruments for non-language modes.

The fourth part is entirely devoted to specialised practices, ranging from audiovisual translation to news to legal or poetry translation, to cite only a few. In other words, this section covers many diverse activities, each being examined according to the way it links between theory, research methodology and practice. The first two chapters address the question of audiovisual translation, one dealing with subtitling, the other with dubbing. They both reconsider the usual constraints these activities face, like space and time, reading speed or synchronisation, but their approach broaches the questions of new technologies as applied to translating but also as used in research. Though these practices have often been studied from a professional perspective, research has focused on descriptive translation studies backed up by case studies [281] for subtitling whereas recent trends in dubbing research have led scholars to ‘establish epistemological links between AVT and translation studies’ [289]. All in all, these two pieces review the situation in the field and suggest new perspectives for investigation, like the cultural turn. Cristina Valdès’s overview of advertising translation covers the short history of research into the questions and indicates further options for investigation in the field. The short section on stage translation proposes a record and summary of the various debates on the activity itself and research, starting from the reassertion of the two main characteristics of stage translation: the immediate and two-way communication between performers and audience; the uniqueness of each performance. Similarly, Robert Holland in his piece on news translation offers an outline of the state-of-the-art, its implications, issues and constraints, and he also concludes by proposing future directions in academic and professional activities. These two articles are interesting for the overview they present, along with further research suggestions. A following set of articles is devoted to interpreting. It begins with a presentation of ‘localization’ (e.g. making things fit for a target audience). ‘The commercial aspect of localization is of primary importance’ [360] and it represents one of the issues of globalisation, though there is still little research on the question. Then four articles address interpreting from diverse professional perspectives: simultaneous and consecutive interpreting in conference and non-conference settings; community interpreting; legal interpreting. They are complementary and give historical accounts of each practice, provide definitions, raise the questions of training and practice, examine the role of interpreters, and finally tackle research and methodology. The next two chapters examine two types of specialised translation: legal and scientific. As each activity requires specific lexical knowledge and has definite functions, it calls for relevant competence. Research perspectives seem to centre on skills and context. Though central as activities, they have been rather neglected as fields of research. The last four sections deal with literature at large (narrative prose, children’s literature, sacred texts and poetry). In a few pages Emily Wittman’s piece on narrative prose covers a central question of translation. Her approach is rather historical, summing up the various turns in translation studies and methodologies. Her conclusion on the methodologies of the future, hinging on ‘translation in a globalized world’ [447], is slightly too short-sighted to offer really new perspectives on the subject. The next articles discuss more specialised questions: they raise key issues, supply practical information for research, mention the specificities of each practice and field of research, but also mention how they can benefit from other disciplines and approaches.

Finally the last part, devoted to future challenges, is divided into five sections: globalisation, new technologies, multilingualism, quality and ethics. As should be expected, Michael Cronin examines the first with its main issues and derived questions such as representations of space and time, migration, global information networks, and all the preoccupations of life in the age of globalisation—raising the question of ‘universal understanding’ and of the centrality of translation to ‘the human story’. Minako O’Hagan, in her chapter on the impact of new technologies, ‘attempts to provide a critical analysis of unfolding technological changes’ [503]. She surveys the various tools available and discusses their shortcomings and their assets. Concerned with ‘the absence of intimate connection between technology and the main translation theoretical discussions’ [507], she foresees new directions in technology-oriented research, which will enrich the discipline. Reine Meylaerts’s chapter disputes the idea that translation takes place in a binary system and acknowledges the co-presence of several lects and cultures. If literary studies have ‘a solid tradition’ of ‘research on multilingual texts’ [520], translation studies have only recently paid attention to this phenomenon. Henceforth a new form of translation will have taken place and research ‘points to the need for a reconsideration of disciplinary boundaries’ [528]. Juliane House’s study of quality in translation studies broaches a sensitive question and discusses the ‘main issues in translation quality assessment’ [534]. She debates such concepts as ‘frame’, ‘frame-shifting’, ‘discourse world’, ‘world shifting’ and ‘cultural filter’ [536-7]. She also reminds scholars of the distinction between analysis (scientifically based) and social judgement, and she disclaims the use of psychological categories for evaluation. As a conclusion, translation quality assessment remains a challenge for translation studies. The last question addressed is that of ethics and the relation of translation and translation studies with systems of values and moral principles. Ben Van Wicke reappraises translation from the Platonic tradition to the present day, challenging the neutrality of the translator. He also draws scholars’ attention to the dissimilarities between translations made from a peripheral or from a central culture. He mentions the new interest in ethics in translation studies research and therefore insists on the role played by translators in intercultural exchanges.

There may be some disparity in style and length between the articles, but the unity of treatment of each question confers the volume overall harmony and it makes it quite pleasant to read. Obviously the editors set their minds to producing a well-balanced volume. The Routledge Handbook of Translation Studies is certainly a very useful book for students in Translation Studies, but also for young scholars and practitioners. It is another entry into Translation Studies as a discipline and the valuable and well-organised references presented with each article may even make this handbook useful for more advanced scholars. The only pending question remains that of updating references. All in all, this handbook should be acquired by libraries as it will help students become more familiar with specific topics and enable them to find further information about them.


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